1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Nigerian leaders often see their country as the “natural leader” of the African continent. And the
country‟s foreign policy is best understood and assessed in the context of its regional and
continental ambitions largely designed by the presiding head of state or president. Thus, a study
of Nigeria‟s foreign policy under military regime of Gen. Obasanjo (1975-1979) and Gen.
Ibrahim Babangida (1985 – 1993) will expose us to understand better the actors and factors that
shape the country‟s foreign policy. The primary responsibility of all framers of foreign policy is
to articulate in clear terms their country‟s national interest and to relate them to those of other
nations within the international system. The pursuit of foreign policy goals pre-supposes the
existence of a credible and widely accepted general principles on which to base an overall
foreign policy (Dauda, 2006:14). In Dauda‟s words (2006:vii), it is important to stress the fact
that irrespective of the changes in government, the principles and objectives of Nigeria‟s foreign
policy as laid down by the late Prime Minister Balewa has remained basically the same; that
what was noticeable in all the continuities and discontinuities was in the area of emphasis. The
principles which have imbued Nigeria‟s foreign policy since independence include the
following: protection of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Nigerian State; promotion
of the socio-economic well-being of Nigeria; enhancing Nigeria‟s image and status in the world
at large; respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states; non-interference in the
internal affairs of other states; promotion of the unity and solidarity of African States; total
political, economic, social, and cultural emancipation and rejuvenation of Africa, an unflinching
commitment to the liberation of countries still under colonial rule, as well as removal of
remaining vestiges of colonialism in Africa (Nigeria at the United Nations: Partnership for A
Better World 1991: 29).
Naturally, Africa has remained the centre piece of Nigeria‟s foreign policy. Nigeria‟s
major concerns in Africa have been as follows: promotion of peace, prosperity, stability and
development in Africa; promotion of political goodwill and understanding among Africa
countries despite the cultural, linguistic and economic barriers erected by erstwhile colonialism;
the discouragement of international intervention and presence in Africa; the promotion of rapid
social-economic development of Africa through regional economic integration; the strengthening
of sub-regional economic institutions and the reduction of economic dependence on extracontinental powers; the development of cultural cooperation as a means of strengthening political
ties with all African countries; and finally, self-determination for all counties on the continent
and the elimination of apartheid in South Africa and the eradication of all forms of racial
discrimination in Africa. Foreign policy conceptualized Goldstein (199:147) defines foreign
policy as the strategy used by governments to guide their actions in the international arena.
Foreign policies spell out the objectives state leaders use as guides in pursuit of relations.
Chibundu (2004:1) defines foreign policy as a country‟s response to the world outside or beyond
its own frontiers or boundaries, the response which may be friendly or aggressive, casual or
intense, simple or complex. It comprises many elements; namely diplomatic, military, trade,
economic, social, cultural, educational, sporting, etc and it varies in form and focus according to
circumstances. Some countries at different times might be friends or enemies or valued allies
within a relatively short or long period of time. In effect, every country must have a foreign
policy in order to live and survive as an independent state in the complex, sometimes dangerous
world we live in today. Foreign policy has also been defined as a strategy with which
institutionally designed decision-makers seeks to manipulate the international environment in
order to achieve certain national interest.
From 1960 to 1966, Nigeria‟s foreign policy was largely conducted by the Prime
Minister. The period, when critically examined, was marked by caution and relative inactivity.
As the Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa featured mostly in the conduct of
Nigeria‟s external relations. In fact, Nigeria‟s relation with other countries was based on the
dictates of the British government. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, being his own Foreign Minister,
he operated the country‟s foreign policy within the Commonwealth of which Britain was the
head. However, this period paved way for the rise of Nigeria to the „Regional Power‟ status in
the latter years by spearheading the formation of the Organization of the African Union in 1963.
The first military government (January 1966 to July 1966) pitched her own foreign policy
on reassuring all nations about Nigeria‟s commitment to international obligations and tried to
attract foreign investors to continue investing in Nigeria despite the coup d‟état.2
The second military government (August 1966 to July 1975) touched the three most
important areas of Nigeria‟s external relations: West Africa, Africa, the Commonwealth and the
World. The emerging issues during this period helped to define Nigeria‟s foreign policy. The
Nigerian Civil War, the problems in Southern Africa, the stand of the British government and the
Cold War all forced Nigerian leaders under Gen. Yakubu Gowon to have a rethink of the
country‟s foreign policy. In essence, Nigeria established friendship with countries considered
enemies of the West that is, Russia and also recognized the people ‟s republic of China meaning
that she is a non-aligned country.
The third military government (Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo regime – August 1975 to 1979)
maintained a confrontational foreign policy so as to assert her position on the African continent.
Nigeria challenged the activities of the US government in the Africa and worked on the
integration of West African countries. Nigeria renewed her commitment to African affairs and
this shapened her foreign policy towards African countries. The era gave birth to a
confrontational diplomacy and the formal articulation of Africa centeredness of Nigeria‟s foreign
policy. Nigeria‟s foreign policy from 1975 to 1979 placed her in a position that made other
African countries to regard her as the “Power of Africa”. She played the big brother role and
pursued the policy of decolonization of African countries. This period is very important to this
study as it marked a radical turn in the country‟s foreign policy. The period also made a
progressive preparation of transferring power to the civilians to form a democratic government.
Reminiscent of the short-lived regime of General Murtala Ramat Mohammed (July 1975
February 1976), General Ibrahim Babangida‟s administration (1985-1993) also injected certain
degree of dynamism into Nigeria‟s foreign policy.
Durotoye (2014) in his work also added that General Olusegun Obasanjo is the only
Nigerian leader to have ruled Nigeria twice first as military Head of State between 1976 and
1979, and as civilian president from 1999 to 2007 (Durotoye, 2014). Under his two
administrations, Nigeria‟s foreign policy experienced a lease of life and dynamism, and a golden
moment in both foreign policy formulation and implementation. While Obasanjo‟s leadership
qualities had played a key role in determining Nigeria‟s foreign policy in the two periods thereby
giving it a measure of continuity, obvious divergences in both the domestic and external
environments of the two periods accounted for the change (Durotoye, 2014).
Furthermore, several important diplomatic activities characterized the foreign policy
initiatives of the regime since August 1985 when it came into power in Nigeria. During that
period, the regime introduced certain foreign policy initiatives that were unique in the country‟s
foreign policy history. Among the notable foreign policy initiatives of the regime between 1985
and 1993 included the constitution of the Concert of Medium Powers (otherwise known as the
Lagos Forum), introduction of the Technical Aid Corps programme and the realignment of
Nigeria‟s foreign policy focus from political to Economic Diplomacy. In addition to this, the
regime also strengthened the Afro-centric doctrine of Nigeria‟s foreign policy and embarked on
greater involvement in African Affairs. In similar development, the regime strongly condemned
the Apartheid regime in South Africa. It also played greater role in regional conflict resolution
under the instrument of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group
(ECOMOG). These initiatives were largely driven by the domestic situation in Nigeria and
changes at the global level.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
From 1960 to 1966 (under Tafawa Balewa), Nigerian foreign policy was characterized by British
dominance and thus, restricted the country‟s policy to the commonwealth. This made Nigerian
foreign policy to be conservative and timid. When compared to the military era of 1975 to 1979
(under Gen. Murtala Muhammed and Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo), Nigerian foreign policy took a
radical u-turn and was confrontational in its approach. The causes for this sudden change in
Nigerian foreign policy posture are worth studying. More so, the long term implications these
two governments had on the foreign image of the country are to be studied. However, at
continental level, the Babangida regime also drove Nigerian foreign policy into a ditch of
inconsistency and double standards when it failed to keep the commitment it made on the
country‟s anti-apartheid stance, to invite the South African President Fredrick de Klerk to
Nigeria in late 1992. This did not only elicit criticisms both within and outside the country, it
also cast aspersions on the country‟s long commitment to work towards dismantling apartheid
and enhancing liberation struggle in Africa, especially against the backdrop of Babangida‟s vow
in his address at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA)‟s Patron Dinner in 1988
that “Nigeria is not interested in having a dialogue with the racist minority regime”. Perhaps,
Gen. Babangida regime had its best time in the conduct of foreign policy at the level of Nigeria‟s
participation in international organizations. At this level, the country did not only recognize the
usefulness of these organizations in pursuing its foreign policy goals and objectives, she also
remained unshaken in an active and loyal membership commitment.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The main objective of the study is to assess the Nigeria foreign policy under military regime,
comparing Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (1975 – 1979) with Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (1985 – 1993).
This study seeks to achieve the following specific objectives:
i. To provide a detailed background to Nigerian foreign policy with emphasis on Gen.
Olusegun Obasanjo and Gen. Ibrahim Babangida foreign policies;
ii. To review the domestic and external factors shaping Nigeria‟s foreign policy during
the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida respectively;
iii. To examine the factors responsible for the change in foreign policy in the two
iv. To analyze the instruments used in advancing Nigeria‟s foreign policy under the
administration of Obasanjo and Babangida respectively.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
In light of the specific objectives stated, the research work will answer the following research
i. What are the backgrounds to Nigerian foreign policies with emphasis on Gen.
Olusegun Obasanjo and Gen. Ibrahim Babangida?
ii. What are the domestic and external factors shaping Nigeria‟s foreign policy during
the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida respectively?
iii. What are the factors responsible for the change in foreign policy in the two different
iv. What are the instruments used in advancing Nigeria‟s foreign policy under the
administration of Obasanjo and Babangida respectively?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is very important for certain reasons. First, it historicizes Nigeria‟s foreign policy
between 1960 and 1993 thereby shedding more light on the dynamics that characterized her
Secondly, it helps to re-affirm the bold attempt made by the military government under the
leadership of General Murtala Ramat Mohammed (and later the Retired General (now Chief)
Olusegun Obasanjo) to give a u-turn to the country‟s foreign policy. And also, it discusses the
domestic factors that influenced the foreign policy decision making of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
Thirdly, it is useful to scholars‟ especially diplomatic historians, political scientists, economists
and international relations experts in their research. Finally, the political and military class will
learn, through this study, the need for them to be patriotic like the former Nigerian leaders who
acted as Nigeria‟s arrow head in the international arena.
1.6 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This study is designed to cover the military regime of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo from (1975 –
1979) with Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (1985 – 1993). Time and other constraints are very
fundamental in constituting problems to this research. This study focuses on Nigeria‟s foreign
policy during the military regimes of Generals Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida; it
looks at the influence of personality on the conduct of foreign policy. Other areas which this
study covers include the domestic factors that influenced the foreign policies of generals
Obasanjo and Babangida. Moreover, the key achievements of Obasanjo and Babangida‟s foreign
policy as regards domestic economic growth, political stability, regional security, and
international participation are covered in this research. However, the research will be limited to
the foreign policy limitations of the two generals and does not intend to provide a biography of
the men nor do a comprehensive study of all their political activities in Nigeria. Finally, there is
the question of time and fund which may serve as impediments to this research. Nevertheless,
these limitating factors will greatly be managed to make the research work more objective in its
1.7 ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY
This study is made up of five chapters divided into sub-divisions for the purpose of adequate and
Chapter one serves as the introduction to the study. It contains the background to the study,
statement of problem, research questions, and objectives of the study, research hypotheses, and
significance of the study, scope of the study, limitations of the study research methodology and
the outline of the study.
Chapter Two focuses on literature review on concepts and theoretical frameworks of foreign
policy in Nigeria
Chapter Three focuses on the research methodology and instruments that will be used and
adopted in the research study.
Chapter Four focuses on the comparison and assessment of foreign policy under the military
regime of Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida.
Chapter five serves as the summary, conclusion and recommendations of the study.
Finally, there is also the bibliography.
1.8 DEFINITION OF RELEVANT TERMS
Foreign Policy: Foreign policy conceptualized. Goldstein (199:147) defines foreign policy as
the strategy used by governments to guide their actions in the international arena. Foreign
policies spell out the objectives state leaders use as guides in pursuit of relations. Chibundu
(2004:1) defines foreign policy as a country‟s response to the world outside or beyond its own
frontiers or boundaries, the response which may be friendly or aggressive, casual or intense,
simple or complex. It comprises many elements; namely diplomatic, military, trade, economic,
social, cultural, educational, sporting, etc and it varies in form and focus according to
Regime: Regime is the governing authority of a political unit. A regime is the form of
government the set of rules, cultural or social norms, etc.
Constitution: This is defined as a body of fundamental principles or established precedents
according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed.
Economic diplomacy: it can be understood as the management of international relations in such
a manner as to place emphasis on the economic dimension of a country‟s external relation. It is
the conduct of foreign policy in such a manner as to give topmost priority to the economic
objectives of a nation and therefore, it has to do with the various diplomatic strategies which a
country employs in its bid to maximize the mobilization of external material and financial
resources for the development at home.
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