Academy of International Affairs and Nigeria’s Foreign Policy of 4-Ds:Objective, Agenda, or Framework?

Bola A. Akinterinwa 

Foreign policy is variously defined in international relations, especially because the margin between foreign and domestic policy remains an issue and still remains, at best, very thin. Some scholars posit that foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy. True enough.

For  me, foreign policy is simply an instrument of self-projection, for moderating the attitudinal disposition of other Member States of the international community, and more importantly, for promoting national development. Unfortunately, while the great powers use foreign policy to export and promote their industry and national development, Nigeria is yet to evolve such a culture. In Nigeria, it is frequently argued that, without firstly fixing the domestic problems, there is very little that can be achieved at the foreign policy level. The case of the Concert of Medium Powers (CMP), initiated by Professor Akinwande Bolaji Akinyemi, refers. 

The CMP was conceived in 1987 to initially serve as a consultation forum on global questions and enable the relevance of Nigeria in the conduct and management of international affairs. 16 countries, including Argentina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Switzerland, Sweden, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, as well as Algeria and Senegal in Africa, were identified as regional influential and medium powers and were therefore invited to Lagos. But for various considerations of force majeure, the name was changed to Lagos Forum. 

Additionally, the unnecessary arguments predicated on the need to first survive domestically before active engagement in role playing in international affairs prompted the premature discontinuation of the CMP project. Whereas, the great powers continue to use foreign policy in different ways as a desideratum to advance their culture. France, for instance, insisted on the adoption of democracy as a conditionality for the grant of development aid to African countries at the 1990 La Baule Franco-African Summit. Again, when many African countries abstained or voted against the United Nations resolution seeking to sanction Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden made it clear that any country that votes against any US foreign policy interest will henceforth be sanctioned. It is against this background that we now discuss the birth of an Academy of International Affairs and foreign policy of 4-Ds.

Academy of International Affairs (AIA)

The purpose of the Academy of International Affairs (AIA) is not, lato sensu, different from the objective of the Concert of Medium Powers (CMP). As clearly and rightly explained by Dr Femi Aribisala, the then Special Adviser to Professor Akinyemi, ‘the general purpose of the Concert was to enable its membership to exert greater collective influence in world affairs. So doing, it would ensure that questions of international peace and security would no longer be the exclusive preserve of the superpowers and their respective alliance systems. This would attenuate the level of distrust and suspicion in inter-state relations.’ And perhaps, more importantly, he said that the CMP was intended ‘to strengthen the faith in multilateral cooperation by addressing global problems in the enhancement of international peace and security.’ He could not have been more correct.

A closer examination of the objective as explained, reveals four main interests: the need to exert greater influence, acting together; stop the character of exclusiveness of the power of the more developed countries in the management of global peace and security; reduce, if not totally eliminate, the distrust and suspicion in international relations; and strengthen the faith in multilateralism. What is particularly noteworthy about the objectives is the untold rationale for, and creation of, a platform to enable the discussion of the objectives. The platform served as an opportunity, not only to share ideas, but more interestingly to enable Nigeria to sustain her leadership as a regional influential. And true enough again, Nigeria served as a leader by convening the Lagos Forum. This leadership role was not inhibited by the challenges of the domestic environment. Put differently, the major concern of Professor Akinyemi was basically that there could not be any limitation to what is doable in and by Nigeria, at the domestic or international level because of the very dynamic human resources in Nigeria. 

As noted earlier, the objective of the CMP is not different from that of the Academy of International Affairs (AIA). Professor Bolaji Akinyemi does not believe that the narratives of international questions should always be given by the developed academic centres. Western perspectives should also be reconciled with African perspectives and not ignored. The truth is that the teaching and learning of international relations in Africa is mostly done from the perspectives of the western world, which, more often than not, ignore and distort the truths about Africa. The narratives about Nigeria’s roles in the anti-apartheid struggle are another case in point. The AIA was established in 2022 to respond to this challenge and enhance the understanding of international relations from an African perspective, with emphasis on the African environmental conditionings. In doing this, the AIA underscores the need for capacity building and re-strategy in the conduct and management of foreign relations and diplomacy.

The AIA, as explicated by its founder, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, is not simply an independent think tank, but one that is also seeking engagement in ‘research-based policy planning and strategic analysis, high-level dialogue, conferences and publication of policy briefs and position papers, to support the articulation of national interest, as well as strategies on international relations and national and international security.’ More important, the AIA wants to ‘conduct regular studies on global economic and financial developments, new trends  in technological advances, as well as new and evolving challenges in the national and international environments including emerging themes as climate change, terrorism and international organised crimes.’ And perhaps most significantly, the AIA commits itself to promoting ‘the continued growth of Nigeria’s capacity for effective negotiation through developing sound research outputs on the major global thematic issues and helping to provide mentorship to concerned government officials.’

Without any whiff of doubt, the AIA had engaged in several academic activities for two years before its official inauguration and investiture ceremony of Fellows on Monday, 25th March, 2024 at the Rotunda of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It also offered several opinions and advice on many foreign policy challenges before the official induction of the AIA Fellows, who are all men and women of professional integrity. Many of them are recipients of national honours, and many of them have reached the crescendo of their career. For instance, the first set of Honorary Fellows are recipients of CON. They include Chief Izoma Phillip Asiodu, former Federal Permanent Secretary and former Minister of Petroleum; Ambassador Abdullahi Atta, one of the founders of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency; Ambassador Sefi Judith Atta, a Playwright and Award Winner of Wole Soyinka for Literature in Africa; as well as Professor Benedict Okey Oramah, who is Professor of International Trade and Finance and President of the Afreximbank.  

More interestingly too, among the AIA Fellows are recipients of higher national honour. The AIA founder, Professor Akinyemi, and General (Rtd) Martin L. Agwai are recipients of the CFR. Professor Tijjani Mohammed-Bande holds the GCON, which is the second highest honour in Nigeria’s Order of Precedence. Apart from Henry Odein Ajumogobia, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria who is also a CON holder, there are the Fellows without national honour but whose name and influence go beyond the shores of Nigeria. They include Professor Akinjide Osuntokun, a former Nigerian plenipotentiary to Germany and Professor Akin Oyebode, a former Vice chancellor. 

In fact, the records of Ambassador Segun Apata, a former Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador (Dr) Jaiyeola Lewu, and Ambassador Hadiza Mustapha speak volumes in terms of achievements and demonstration of patriotism. What about Ambassador Brownson N. Dede, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the African Union. Grosso modo, the AIA cannot but be also proud of having Professors Jide Owoeye, Professor of International Relations and Pro-Chancellor of the Lead City University, Professor Hassan A. Saliu, the President of the Nigerian Political Science Association, Major-General Obidan Tahau Ethan (Rtd), the Pioneer General Officer Commanding (GOC), 7th Division of the Nigerian Army, Professor Eghosa Osaghie, Professor of Economics and former Vice-Chancellor. They all constitute invaluable assets to the Academy. With the rich experiences of Ambassador Jibrin Chinade, a former Ambassador to Russia and former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of foreign Affairs, and Mrs Joy Ogwu, Professor of International Affairs, former NIIA Director General, and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, as well as Professor Noble Lady Viola Onwuliri, a former supervising Minister and Minister and Minister of State 1 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the AIA cannot complain about the wealth of diplomatic and academic experiences waiting to be tapped.

And more interestingly, with the many academic diplomats and diplomatic academics inducted as Fellows, and particularly with the considerable intellectual resources of the Associate Fellows, Dr Akin Akinyemi and Professor J. Adewunmi Falode, Professor of International Relations and Strategic Studies at the Lagos State University, as well as induction of Ambassadors Joe Keshi and Martin Uhomoibhi, both of them recipients of the OON and OFR respectively and Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the AIA cannot but accept the challenge of joining others to assist Government in articulating a new leeway for Nigeria’s foreign policy.

Foreign Policy of 4-Ds in Context

What Nigeria currently needs is a foreign policy grandeur, a grand strategy that needs to go beyond a foreign policy doctrine of 4-Ds. In this regard, the Academy is more of a platform for critical thinking than politics playing and this is what makes it quite distinct from all other think tanks in the public and private sectors. It is against this background that the explication of the doctrine of 4-Ds should be explicated.

The inauguration of the AIA and the investiture ceremony of the Fellows at the Tafawa Balewa House in Abuja, provided a unique opportunity for Nigeria’s Minister of foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, to reassert that the 4-Ds doctrine is not about ‘objectives’ but essentially about ‘agenda.’ 

The Honourable Minister may not be wrong as the two words may have different connotations. However, there can be an agenda for objectives and there can also be objectives for an agenda, meaning that the two words may not be mutually exclusive. 

We have noted in this column that it cannot be quite right to consider the 4-Ds as a doctrine and that only the Akinyemi doctrine exists so far in the historiography of Nigeria’s foreign policy. We still insist that the 4-Ds – Development, Democracy, Demography, and Diaspora – cannot but be instruments of foreign policy in the conduct and management of political governance. Considered as an agenda, it simply means that, within the framework of every ‘D’, an agenda will be set in promotion of each ‘D’. Put interrogatively, what is the agenda for the promotion of democracy, or agenda for demography, or Diaspora, and even development? In our view, development can ideally be considered as the main objective of all Member States of the international community. No development can easily thrive in an environment of political instability and insecurity. Development can have an agenda or be a means. Perhaps more inquisitively, what type of demographic agenda does the Foreign Minister want to set when the whole world is talking about the need for population control? Will foreign policy focus on birth control? To what extent can the Government’s agenda on Nigerians in the Diaspora be, if it is not to woo them to come home and assist national development through provision of their development experiences and financial investments? 

Happily enough, a Nigerian by ius sanguinis and Minister of Health, Seniors, and Long-Term Care, Hon. Uzoma Asagwara, in Canada, recently proposed a Bill to designate October 1st for the Celebration of Nigeria’s Independence Day in Manitoba Province, Canada. What type of agenda setting can directly influence such a bill in Manitoba? Any agenda setting for Nigerians in the Diaspora can only be domestic-dynamic driven. In the same vein, what agenda does the Foreign Minister want to set on democracy, using foreign policy? Is it within the purview of foreign policy to set agenda for democracy? Is the problematic about agenda or articulation of the cardinal purpose of the 4-Ds? In other words, how should the 4-Ds be intellectually defined?

Going by the principles of Nigeria’s foreign policy, only four of them directly affect the operational modalities: consultation doctrine, foreign policy concentricism and constructive and beneficial concentricism, non-interference and non-intervention, reciprocity, and Citizen Diplomacy. All others, like non-alignment, peaceful coexistence or good neighbourliness, economic diplomacy or development diplomacy, etc. are either reactive in character or programmatic in design. The 4-Ds are nothing more than techniques of diplomacy that can be conceptualised as instruments for national development and protection of foreign policy interest. Perhaps we should also ask if there can be an agenda without an objective?

Consultation doctrine requires the need to carry Nigeria along, and not unnecessarily taking Nigeria for granted, if Nigeria’s support is needed for whatever purpose. Foreign policy concentricism is about prioritising foreign policy operations. Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari divided the whole world into four concentric circles in which Nigeria and her immediate contiguous neighbours are put in the innermost circle. The West African region is the next and second concentric circle, while the rest of Africa is the third outer circle and the rest of the world is the fourth and outermost circle.

In this regard, while Professor Gambari underscores operational areas of foreign policy, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji raised the need to first articulate the objectives of foreign policy objectives being pursued in each operational area of concern.  He said the approach should be constructive in design and beneficial to all Nigerians in outcome. Non-interference is daily occurrence in international relations. What is prohibited is non-intervention (Article 2, para 7) to which the Tafawa Balewa administration formulated exceptions in 1963. Nigeria’s anti-apartheid policy of ‘No Compromise with Apartheid,’ was part of Nigeria’s reservations. Reciprocity as a principle has not been of general application in Nigeria’s foreign policy, except in the cases of ties with South Africa and apartheid-related cases like the nationalisation of the British Petroleum and Barclays Bank under the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo. Citizen diplomacy, as propounded by Chief Ojo Maduekwe, is about using the citizens within the framework of soft power to achieve certain foreign policy goals. 

In essence, these principles are foreign policy tactics and techniques of diplomacy. The same is true of democracy, demography, and diaspora. The ultimate objective is how to enhance national growth and development in the spirit of self-reliance and capability of ensuring territorial self-defence, protecting Nigeria’s political sovereignty, as well as protecting the national assets. This is part of the challenges the AIA is also committed to addressing. As noted by Professor Akinwande Bolaji Akinyemi, membership of the Academy ‘will definitely grow in the future as the Academy settles down in its work of clinically looking at the operations of Nigerian foreign policy and how it can be improved. This Academy is strictly speaking an Academy, that is, it is independent of government and it will as it goes on, criticise the government, applaud it and make solicited or unsolicited suggestions when the occasion arises.’

Two points need to be underscored at the inauguration of the Academy. The first is the wrong impression that the making of the Academy is the brain child of Nigeria’s Foreign Service Officers. This impression can be easily gleaned in the various editorial reports on the inauguration in the print media. For example, the has it that ‘FG hails foreign service officers for launching academy.’ This report, without any shadow of doubt, is what was reflected in the statement of the Vice President, Kashim Shettima, GCON, as read by his representative at the inauguration, Ambassador Hakeem Baba-Ahmed. The Minister of Foreign Affairs only graciously accepted to play host to the inauguration. Impression should not be given to imply that the Foreign Service Officers launched the Academy. But true, and without any jot of doubt, the Foreign Service Officers who are members of the Academy played very active parts in the nurturing of the Academy. This point is underscored for records purposes only. 

In terms of quo vadis, the first and immediate challenge for the AIA is to help articulate the Doctrine of 4-Ds: should we be talking about doctrine or diplomacy of 4-Ds? Are they really an agenda or techniques of diplomacy? If considered as agenda, agenda for what purpose and for who? To what extent are they consistent with Nigeria’s foreign policy of concentricism, non-alignment, Africa as centrepiece or Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s globalist centrepiece? What about Chief Obasanjo’s policy of ‘Four Calabashes’ adopted within the context of the Conference on Security, Stability, Development, and Cooperation in Africa, proposed in 1991 at the OAU but revived and adopted in 2000 by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo? Has the principle of subsidiarity also been factored into the 4-Ds? Are the 4-Ds a replacement of the existing principles or an addendum? More important, how does the government intend to implement the 4-Ds as an agenda? Without any shadow of doubt, the 4-Ds are good elements for nation-building: strengthening democracy, involving Nigerians in the Diaspora, educating and controlling the population for manpower needs, etc. As such, the 4-Ds will be constituents of a new Nigeria in the making, as foreign policy requires the use of international environment to assist in the formulation and implementation of domestic policies. Consequently, the 4-Ds are more of techniques of diplomacy than foreign policy agenda setting. They are not objectives stricto sensu. They are frameworks.

Related Articles