With the advent of Nigeria's Fourth republic in 1999, stakeholders reflected deeper on what should be the main focus of the country’s foreign policy. Thus, with the emergence of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as Nigeria’s president in 2007, further reflection was made on what should constitute the Nigerian foreign policy focus. In light of this, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe, was prepared to make a difference with the initiation of the principle of Citizen Diplomacy. This principle, in accordance with the constitutional directive principles, placed priority on the protection of the interest of Nigerian citizens both at home and abroad. This implies that, the protection of the rights, dignity and privileges of Nigerian citizens will be accorded priority wherever they are and whatever they may be. This shall remain the primary responsibility of Nigeria’s diplomacy.
Citizen diplomacy as the new thrust of Nigerian foreign policy is meant to focus on the basic needs, human rights and socio-economic welfare of Nigerian citizens in conducting bilateral and multilateral engagements with other countries. Citizen diplomacy entails the creation of an environment in which every citizen both at home and abroad sees himself as the symbol of his country’s foreign policy; he is expected to work towards strengthening it rather than weakening it. Citizen Diplomacy is being practised by different countries of the world with different magnitudes. Citizen diplomacy in the United States is different from that of China or of Nigeria, while that of Nigeria is different from that of Germany or Moldova. Citizen diplomacy wherever it exists is intended to support the official efforts of the government, as well as promote citizens’ well-being in general. The whole essence of a country’s foreign policy is expected to be tailored towards the benefit of that country and its citizens.
The importance of citizen diplomacy in international relations cannot be underestimated. This is because the adequate recognition and care displayed by different countries over their citizens will no doubt boost the morale of the citizens and ginger their interests in assisting their various countries in accomplishing their foreign policy agenda, including making peace. It has equally reawakened the cautiousness of Nigerian citizens. More Nigerians now perceived themselves as responsible citizens and standard bearers of the country that will promote the country’s value wherever they found themselves rather than jeopardize it. The media has equally played a prominent role in this by supplementing citizens’ efforts and communicating their values to policy actors.
Prospectively, citizen diplomacy as a policy thrust of the Nigerian government is a logical continuation of what the country’s foreign policy ought to be and is targeted at obtaining gains from the protection of the citizen’s interest. This has no doubt encapsulated great challenges as has been previously stated. With renewed political will on the part of Nigerian leaders, it is hopeful that foreign policy goals and national aspirations could be met.
Placing the citizens at the centre of the national programmes reinforces the original purpose of the government and when those in power offer necessary leadership, they will without much effort secure the trust of the general populace and establish centres of national solidarity and more agents of national progress. With that, citizen diplomacy stands a higher chance of yielding the pictured dividends and consequently makes Nigerian Foreign Policy to be robust in terms of implementation and accomplishment.
Another prospect of Citizen Diplomacy is that it is capable of re-charting Nigerian Foreign Policy pursuit towards beneficial economic and political engagements that will enhance national development and citizens’ welfare. A situation that is capable of enhancing national unity and integration in a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria.
Nigerian missions abroad must take these responsibilities as their personal goals. Operational directives must be issued to them, it will be very important that resources are made available for this purpose also. Additionally, there should be improved monitoring directed at the mission’s activities to ensure that identified objectives are accomplished.
In conclusion, the introduction of citizen diplomacy in Nigeria is desirable, and timely and must be pursued to the summit, it is a policy that is dynamic, proactive, full of potential and could achieve numerous feats.
Nigerian foreign policy should be urgently reviewed and re-packaged in line with new realities of the globalized world in order to make it more efficient, responsive, dynamic and full of punch as regards citizen diplomacy. More outlets that will complement the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, should be established to enable Nigerians to ventilate their opinions and offer inputs that could better the dissemination of foreign policy goals.
Finally, we are of the opinion that the future success of citizen diplomacy requires that, Nigerian foreign policy must be tailored towards result-oriented and directed at aggressively pursuing her interest in Africa and around the world. The era of “Big Brother” in Africa and “free food basket” for other African countries should be reconsidered in view of the new economic realities at home, particularly in a post-oil wealth era to make Nigerian citizens more efficient, responsive, inclusive and proactive based on citizen diplomacy.
PAC (2005). Foreign Policy in Nigeria’s Democratic Transition. A
Publication of the Presidential Advisory Council on International Relations. Print Serve Limited, Abuja.
Osita Eze (2009). Citizen Diplomacy. A Publication of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos.
Dr Abdulkadir is working at Skyline University Nigeria as Lecturer 1 in the School of Arts, Management and Social Sciences. He has a Master's Degree in Political Science and International Relations in the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria.
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