The popular belief that Nigeria is the giant of Africa has continued to raise doubts within the international community and even among Nigerians themselves. Nigeria appears to have had a more robust and direct foreign policy under military regimes than under their civilian counterparts. Nigerian citizens seem to have been well regarded outside the shores of the country, particularly within African countries under military regimes than what we have presently under civilian administrations.
We cannot forget in a hurry the no-nonsense General Sani Abacha who will always retaliate any treatment meted to Nigerians outside the country to the country’s citizens in Nigeria. But that is not the case now as Nigerians have been treated with so much disdain and disrespected outside the shores of the country. This cannot be acceptable.
The incessant xenophobic attacks on foreigners, especially Nigerians living in South Africa are still very fresh in our memory. Until some Nigerians had to take the law into their hands to carry out counter attacks on South African business interests in Nigeria, the government of South Africa had always been complacent to previous attacks and only paid lip services.
While Nigerians were still trying to get over the South African insults, Ghana decided to do the unthinkable with a massive blow thrown on Nigeria below the belt by repeating similar actions of the South Africans against Nigerians, albeit with less violence and human casualty but with equally disastrous consequences to the businesses and peronal safety of Nigerians living in Ghana.
It is common knowledge among students of elementary government and international relations that the ECOWAS policy of free trade and movement of persons within ECOWAS member-states has also led to the successful movement of small arms and ammunitions across West African borders.
This has led to illegal arms finding their way into the hands of criminals and terrorists which is one of the major security challenges Nigeria and so many West African countries are presently facing. And the Nigerian government, in her bid to contain the high volume of dangerous firearms and contraband goods being smuggled into the country coupled with some other sundry obnoxious actions by her neighboring countries decided to temporarily close her borders to sort out this important exigency.
While the government of the Republic of Benin and Niger have had series of negotiations and meetings with their Nigerian counterparts on how to sort out the border closure issues with Nigeria, the Republic of Ghana triggered an obnoxious and controversial clause in their trade policy which prohibits non-Ghanaians from engaging in any form of retailing trade in Ghana, and the retail businesses of Nigerians living in Ghana have been targeted and shutdown.
The government of Ghana has since made a statement justifying their actions against Nigerian traders and other foreigners in their land.
Sequel to this action or stand taken by Ghana, I am of the opinion that the Nigerian foreign policy needs a holistic overhauling. Nigeria must serve every country, particularly African countries the same treatment meted to Nigerians in their lands.
The era of treating the citizens of other foreign countries, especially fellow Africans with courtesy when Nigerians are being attacked treated as unwelcome guests in other countries must end.
The Federal Government of Nigeria must be ready and willing to defend her citizens and their interests within and outsides the shores of this country, because this is one of the cardinal pledges made by government officials while taking the oath of office, hence a sacrosanct social contract entered into with the people.
President Mohammadu Buhari must as a matter of urgency send a bill to the National Assembly which must be quickly passed into law restraining all Ghana citizens living in Nigeria from engaging in any form of retailing business in retaliation of what Nigerians are presently going through in that country.
Such action will serve as a deterrent to other foreign countries from treating Nigerians with less respect and disdain. Anything short of this will continue to make Nigeria a laughing stock in the international community and her claim as giant of Africa will continue to be called to question.