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Adeshina: Nigeria’s foreign policy is weak, just as country


Professor of History and International Studies, University of Ibadan, Olutayo Adesina, in this chat with GBENGA SALAU, said the country’s foreign policy is weak and to make matters worse, our handling of the Boko Haram insurgents and internal security issues has destroyed our global stature.

The Lagos State Governor, Jide Sanwo-Olu claimed that about 5, 000 jobs were lost to reprisals, which took place in some Nigerian cities. Was the reprisal a wise idea?
The reprisal was not a good idea. But it was clearly beyond the South African xenophobia issue. That became an excuse by the hoi polloi to vent their anger against the middle class and the ruling elite, whom they regard as oppressors, whose ill management of the economy resulted in their poverty, and the forced migration of Nigerians. To the discerning, that was a warning sign. The fault line in Nigeria is moving from the ethnic and religion to class issues.

The reprisals were witnessed only in parts of the country where the livelihood expectations were not met. The grievance was more of economic nature rather than international.

The Nigerian government is asking for compensation from the South African government for Nigerians who were attacked. Are those affected by the reprisals not qualified to also ask for compensation from the Nigerian government?
Yes, they are entitled to ask for compensation in Nigeria. But the horrendous manner in which the South African one took place is beyond the material. It is psychological, material, physical and emotional. They will pay more because they have to make things right, not only with Africa but with the rest of the world. It is a moral issue and they caused what led to the so-called reprisals. South Africa is gradually losing its soul.
With the scope of the xenophobic attacks, will all ever be the same again between Nigeria and South Africa?

It is a passing phase. Ghana and Nigeria had the same kind of problem, but we managed to rebuild our relationship. Only, in the case of South Africa, it will take time to heal.

What steps should the country have taken following the series of attacks on Nigerians before now?
On the steps we should have taken? Repair our economy at a faster and more imaginative manner. Because of our weak economy and political will, we find it difficult to develop a strong/hawkish foreign policy. To make matters worse, our handling of the Boko Haram insurgents and internal security issues has destroyed our global stature. The army is weak, intelligence services uncoordinated, and our governance at all levels lacking in depth. We have lost stature. What could we have done to South Africa under the circumstances? How strong is our balance of trade? They have an international airline, we don’t. They have a strong technical base, we don’t. Nigeria is down and has to be rebuilt.

Experts say our foreign policy lacks focus, how true is this and what is the way forward?
Yes, Nigeria’s foreign policy is tepid. Don’t forget that a country’s foreign policy is as good as its domestic situation. Our foreign policy is weak because the country is now weak

About 80 per cent of South Africa’s economy is controlled by whites, how misplaced are the attacks and killings of blacks over economic issues?
In the present circumstance, it went beyond the white control of the commanding heights of the economy. The blacks operate at the periphery and subaltern. That is where Nigerians operate and this has gone a long way to affect the South African’s sense of livelihood and identity. Nigerians are hardworking and became prosperous. They also amassed wealth, influence, notoriety and engaged in conspicuous consumption. They then became the toast of South African girls and women. South African men could not stomach that. They became third-class citizens in the newly independent land where they had assumed independence would bring them prosperity.

Xenophobic attacks will continue for as long as foreigners make good and prosper more than the owners of the land. South African elites, just like Nigeria have to repair that unhappy country.

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