The Shadow of Great Power Politics

…How Nigeria’s relations with global powers shape its domestic politics

Christian C. Madubuko, PhD.

In the world of international relations, power is a currency that is often wielded subtly, yet effectively. Great powers, with their significant economic, military, and political clout, have long been known to shape the domestic politics of smaller nations. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is no exception. The country’s relationships with global powers have a profound impact on its domestic politics, often casting a long shadow over the country’s governance and development.

The Complex Dance
Nigeria’s complex dance with global powers began in the early 20th century, when the country was still a British colony. The relationship was marked by colonialism, exploitation, and manipulation. After independence in 1960, Nigeria’s leaders continued to engage with global powers, often seeking to balance their own interests with those of their international partners. Today, Nigeria’s relationships with global powers are more intricate than ever before.

The United States: A Complex Partner
The United States has been Nigeria’s most significant partner in the post-Cold War era. The two countries share a long history of cooperation, dating back to the 1960s when Nigeria was a key player in the global anti-communist movement. The US has provided significant economic and military aid to Nigeria, making it one of the country’s largest bilateral donors.

However, this partnership is not without its challenges. The US has been critical of Nigeria’s human rights record and corruption levels, which has led to tensions between the two sides. In 2019, the US Embassy in Abuja was critical of the Nigerian government’s handling of protests and human rights abuses during the #EndSARS movement. This criticism was seen as an attempt to undermine Nigerian sovereignty and create instability in the region.

Despite these tensions, the US remains a key partner for Nigeria. The two countries have a shared interest in promoting stability in West Africa and combating terrorism. In 2020, the US and Nigeria signed a new defence cooperation agreement aimed at strengthening their military ties.

China: A Rising Power
China has emerged as a significant player in Nigeria’s domestic politics in recent years. The country has invested heavily in Nigerian infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges, and power plants. This investment has created a sense of dependency on Chinese funding, which can be problematic for Nigeria’s long-term development.
China’s influence extends beyond economics to politics. The country has been accused of using its investments to exert pressure on Nigerian leaders to support its foreign policy goals. For instance, China has been pushing Nigeria to support its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which some see as a way for China to expand its influence in Africa.

Europe: A Wary Partner
Europe is another key player in Nigeria’s domestic politics. The European Union (EU) has been critical of Nigeria’s human rights record and corruption levels, which has led to tensions between the two sides. However, the EU is also a significant investor in Nigeria’s economy and has provided significant development aid.

The EU’s influence on Nigerian politics is often subtle but effective. For instance, EU member states have used their bilateral relationships with individual Nigerian states to promote good governance and human rights. This approach has been more effective than the US’ more public criticism.

Domestic Impact
The relationships between Nigeria and global powers have a significant impact on its domestic politics. Here are a few examples:

Security: The presence of foreign military personnel and equipment in Nigeria has raised concerns about national sovereignty and the potential for external interference in internal conflicts.

Economy: Nigeria’s dependence on foreign aid and investment has created an economy that is vulnerable to global economic fluctuations.

Politics: The influence of global powers on Nigerian politics can create tensions between different factions within the government and society.

The Consequences of External Influence
The consequences of external influence on Nigerian politics can be far-reaching. In 2015, the country experienced a major crisis when former President Goodluck Jonathan refused to accept defeat in presidential elections after his rival Muhammadu Buhari won the polls. The crisis led to widespread violence and human rights abuses.

In 2020, President Buhari faced criticism from international partners after he suspended Twitter following a dispute over a tweet by President-elect Joe Biden about his election victory. The move was seen as an attempt to suppress free speech and undermine democracy.

Nigeria’s relationships with global powers are complex and multifaceted. While these relationships can bring benefits such as economic investment and security cooperation, they also create dependencies that can undermine national sovereignty.
To break free from this cycle of dependency, Nigeria needs to focus on developing its own capabilities and institutions. This includes investing in education, healthcare, and infrastructure development. By doing so, Nigeria can reduce its reliance on external support and build a stronger foundation for sustainable growth.

Ultimately, the key to effective governance in Nigeria lies not in relying on external partners but in building strong institutions that serve the interests of all Nigerians. Only then can the country truly break free from the shadow of great power politics and forge a brighter future for itself.

Diversify Foreign Policy: Nigeria should diversify its foreign policy by engaging with other countries beyond its traditional partners.

Develop Domestic Institutions: The country should focus on developing its own institutions to reduce dependence on external support.

Promote Regional Cooperation: Nigeria should promote regional cooperation through organizations such as ECOWAS to strengthen regional stability.

Address Human Rights Concerns: The government should address human rights concerns by promoting good governance and accountability.

Reduce Corruption: Efforts should be made to reduce corruption by promoting transparency and accountability.

By following these recommendations, Nigeria can break free from the shadow of great power politics and forge a brighter future for itself.

Dr. Christian C. Madubuko – a Political & Diplomatic Historian, is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of History & International Studies, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria, & a researcher at LaTrobe University, Melbourne, Australia. Madubuko was a former Anambra Commissioner for Trade and Commerce as well as the Executive Director of Operations, Anambra Internal Revenue Service. He writes from Canberra – The Australian Capital Territory, ACT. Mobile/WhatsApp: +2348162527884

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