Nigeria’s President Jonathan Tours Africa

Many observers of Nigeria, including me, feel that it punches below its potential weight as a superpower in African and world politics. But with Libya in crisis and continental politics shifting, it’s interesting to watch Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on one of his first state visits to other African countries, in this case Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Ghana.

Vanguard emphasizes the inclusion of businessmen and industrialists in Jonathan’s delegation. One goal of the trip is to increase commercial ties between Nigeria and other African countries.

Observers will be watching to see how Jonathan’s role as an African statesman compares to that of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, under whom Nigeria played a major role in regional peacekeeping. Jonathan’s immediate predecessor, President Umaru Yar’Adua, was sick during much of his time in office, and Nigeria’s role in Africa diminished somewhat. Jonathan’s quiet style differs strongly from Obasanjo’s, so if Jonathan does re-assert a strong role for Nigeria in Africa, likely it will have a different character than the role Nigeria had in the last decade.

7 thoughts on “Nigeria’s President Jonathan Tours Africa

  1. We don’t need to “punch above or below our weight”, we just need to concentrate on fixing our problems at home.

    You might be forgetting that Nigeria is a democracy, and the common sentiment was that Obasanjo wasted too much time and energy posing as a World statesman to concentrate on problems back home. There is a common feeling in Nigeria that our leaders act as if Nigeria is “Africa’s Father Christmas” and get nothing back in return.

    (Put yourself in the shoes of an average Nigerian, what exactly did Obasanjo’s “statesmanship” achieve? The most galling sight to most Nigerians who lacked a stable electricity supply, was the sight of Obasanjo at Gleneagles or talking to Bono or at Davos. All these talk fests meant diddly squat to the average Nigerian).

    For example, when Nigeria had problems funding its own universities, Babangida was busy setting up a university in Liberia. When Nigeria has a plethora of inter-communal problems, there is no point sending 5,000 soldiers to Darfur. I went to high school with several Namibians (sponsored by the Nigerian Government) and Nigeria supported ANC during the Apartheid years – we got nothing back in return.

    As Nigeria adopts a more democratic ethos, it will be increasingly difficult to justify expensive programs like ECOMOG, Darfur or whatever America thinks Nigeria should be doing. As far back as the early nineties when Nigeria was involved in Liberia, people where asking – what is in it for us?

    Jonathan will not be judged on how many foreign junkets he goes on, but how he deals with the electricity supply problem (signs are encouraging), youth unemployment and infrastructure.

    Nigerian businessmen are yet to tap the full potential of Nigeria’s internal market. They are best advised to put pressure on the Nigerian government to improve infrastructure. These “businessmen” appear to be political jobbers looking for easy contracts.

    • What happens in Darfur will have far more immediate consequences for Nigeria than the U.S. One great advantage of our geographic position is that we do have the luxury of engaging or disengaging from parts of the world with far more ease than many nations*. Nigeria can’t simply decide to back away from a civil war in a North African country for five years the same way the U.S can. To put it another way, it’s not that Nigeria can’t ignore international affairs. It’s that those international affairs have a good chance of influencing domestic affairs.

      Also, during international crises (such as genocide and famine) backing international organizations means you have far more to work with than if you decide to ignore them, something the U.S has had a hard time showing the American public.

      *It’s true that sometimes that leads to groups like Al Qaeda but there are two points about that. The first is that usually blowback like that doesn’t happen. The second is that Al Qaeda was going to form anyway considering the state of Egypt at the time.

      • What happens in Darfur will have as much impact on what happens in Congo on Nigeria – very little. Darfur is Ethiopia’s, Uganda’s and the rest of the East African community’s problem. We spent a lot of time and lost a lot of lives fighting Africa’s fires. We neither have the time nor the resources to continue doing so.

        Our interventions in Liberia and Sierra Leone cost us a lot in lives, resources (and reputation).

        President Jonathan has already signaled that he will be a much less enthusiastic interventionist than Obasanjo – and most Nigerians think his position is right. (Jonathan’s refusal to intervene in Ivory Coast was popular with Nigerians).

        You are yet to understand that a nation that has lost tens of thousands in inter-communal crises / insurgencies cannot afford to solve another person’s problems with its limited military resources.

      • I don’t see why it has to be in terms of military power. Obviously having boots on the ground helps things go your way but Nigeria doesn’t necessarily have to use force.

      • I agree, but a nation as dysfunctional as Nigeria with poor infrastructure, barely functioning governance and inter-communal crisis neither has the time, nor frankly the capacity to solve Africa’s problems.

        And it should stop pretending it can do so.

        The Presidency of Nigeria for Nigerians is a full time job and we elect our Presidents to
        focus squarely on our problems. In the future, when our problems have been dealt with, we can attempt to “save” the rest of Africa. No one expects the leader of Congo to save the rest of Africa – and Nigeria’s problems, if not dealt with promptly could dwarf Congo’s.

  2. I recently wrote a blog post on Kagame’s Twitter rant. I didn’t mention it in the post, but I felt like the timing was interesting – Kagame has always enjoyed lecturing others, and perhaps sees a bit of a post-Gaddafi opportunity to expand his profile and influence. Will we see something of an outbreak of increased regional statesmanship over the next few years in the absence of Gaddafi’s suffocating shadow (and with South Africa pathologically averse to leading)?

    • Kagame neither has the resources nor the financial independence to pull a Gaddafi – ignore him.

      South Africa’s pathological aversion to leadership is very attractive to the citizens of traditionally activist nations like Nigeria. (Burundians must be asking why their sons are dying in Somalia – in whose interest?).

      Gaddafi’s exit is significant, because the last serious tie between the Arabised
      North of Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa has been cut.

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