Nigeria’s foreign missions and international presence
Embattled from all fronts over its corporate image and prestige amongst the comity of nations, Nigeria has had to doubly prove its worth anytime the opportunity arises. Which is why the Federal Government’s plan to withdraw its membership from 90 of 310 international organisations over redundancy and unjustified financial commitment is a very thoughtful decision to wipe the dust off Nigeria’s tainted image. If for anything, this is a symbolic gesture of frank thinking and candid action.
This plan is expeditious and decisive, not only to show the true financial state of the country, but also to highlight the contrast between empty display of pretension to wealth and the impecunious state of Nigerian foreign missions, some of which are facing threats from host countries. In this regard, the alarm raised the other day by the Senate is very instructive.
That the nation’s diplomatic missions were challenged by inability to pay home-based officers’ allowances, local staff salaries, rent for residences, chanceries and other official quarters; that the poor maintenance of some buildings of the nation’s foreign missions constituted health hazards to the host community is very sad and embarrassing. It shows administrative incompetence and willful neglect devoid of justification. It is situations of vulnerability like these that permit the discrimination, humiliation and abuse to which Nigerians are repeatedly subjected abroad. What kind of respect would a host country have for ordinary well-meaning Nigerians when their country’s foreign missions are in such terrible state of lack and inefficiency?
Generally, there is nothing inappropriate in countries being members of international organisations. If countries are to concretely perfect the idea of a modern state and also maximize the benefits of globalisation, then multiple affiliations along various areas of mutual interest tend to be inevitable. Such affiliations are invaluable in forging development agenda, and in seeking scientific, economic and technological assistance to address environmental challenges. They are also relevant in promoting genuine appreciation of human artistic, religious and cultural diversities through cultural diplomacy. They also come in handy as powerful lobbies in balancing global power relations, providing military aid, and economic as well as political support to members. In sum, their significance in promoting prosperity and peace in the long run is seen in their concerted effort to solve complex problems faced by member countries; hence they cannot be wished away.
That they are relevant to socio-economic and political development of a country, does not, however, ensure their usefulness to members. Some countries have been misguided into membership of some organisations only to be used and exploited by more powerful member-countries to which such organisations are more relevant. Other countries have joined organisations in reaction to bandwagon effects of their allies. Still, some other countries are members of organisations because an individual or a clique of persons with vested interests outside of national priorities elected to be members of such organisations.
The ridiculous nature of Nigeria’s membership in international bodies could be better understood when the records of countries’ active participation in international organiations are considered. According to the CIA Fact Book, compared to what was revealed about Nigeria by Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun, a more buoyant economy like the United States of America belongs to and participates actively in 80 international bodies; the United Kingdom 83; South Africa 62; Malaysia 60; Brazil 78; and Kenya 54. So, what point does Nigeria want to prove by belonging to 310?
The nation’s bloated presence in these organisations is an embarrassment rather than a respectable status of influence. Despite the ubiquitous standing, there has not been any corresponding remarkable effect on the country beyond the contributions from the mainly influential bodies. In the opinion of some informed analysts, Nigeria’s membership, especially in non-participatory capacity, is merely a beggarly affiliation for survival. This is especially true in cases where the mode of entry into such bodies are undemocratic. This is not only unnecessary, it is demeaning!
Besides the fact that Nigeria’s presence in some of the organisations is palpably insignificant, experts who understand the workings of these organisations say that active membership in these bodies are taxing and quite complex. Apart from annual dues that are inconsistent with Nigeria’s economic realities, the Federal Government would also need to have a mission on ground to serve the organisation.
Although the government has not mentioned names of the 90 organisations it planned to pull out from, it is assumed that a proper audit of the functional and pragmatic values of these organisations was taken into consideration before the planned decision. If that is the case, such audit should guide future aspirations for membership.
Thus, in considering organisations to belong in, Nigeria’s authorities should be guided by interests of critical value to the corporate existence of the country. Diligent adherence to guidelines and laid-down procedures should, therefore, be advised in the choice of which international bodies Nigeria wishes to join. Nigeria should be able to plot her graph of growth, understand her present circumstance and search out critically bodies and institutions that can cooperate with the country on that journey.
If an organisation is not beneficial to the collective aspirations of Nigerians, then there is no need to be part of that organisation, however, glamorous it seems. In the same vein, if a mission is not viable, please close it up.
Nigeria’s autonomy of decision should demonstrate its commitment to being self-reliant.
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