Nigeria Decides 2023: No big deal going to Chatham House Adebayo, SDP Presidential Candidate

Nigeria Decides 2023: No big deal going to Chatham House Adebayo, SDP Presidential Candidate

Updated: 6 days, 1 hour, 49 minutes, 21 seconds ago

By Chukwudi Nweje

Prince Adewole Adebayo, the Presidential Candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), in this interview monitored on Arise News, speaks on what would form the basics of his foreign policy if elected.

You recently appeared at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island Lagos when other candidates are going to Chatham House in London, when would you go to Chatham House, what do you mean by economic diplomacy, which was the theme of your address?

Chatham House is Britain’s version of our NIIA. The name is Royal Institute of International Affairs while ours is Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA). We knew from time before independence when the likes of Lawrence Fagbumi, Adetokunbo Ademola, Kenneth Dike and others came together to establish our own institute. The idea was that for the Nigerian president or anybody that wants to rule Nigeria when he or she wants to form the country’s foreign policy framework, the best way to test it would be at NIIA where our experts will analyse it.

True we can go to other foreign institutions to make friends with them but those are not the places to form your policies because some of your policies may not be in their best interest but in your own national best interest and I have communicated to our friends in Chatham House that I have nothing against them. I am auditioning to be Nigeria’s president not the Prime Minister of Britain. It is after I speak to experts in Nigeria, and they understand me that I will think of going to Chatham House. I can do that before the end of the campaign or after, there is enough room to make friends.

I was in Washington DC in June 2022; I spoke to the Americans with respect to how Nigeria under me will be friendly with them; I didn’t go to Washington DC because I wanted to talk about my domestic problems or the issues confronting me because I know the difference between doing something in Nigeria and doing something overseas.

With respect to economic diplomacy, we have gone through a lot of metamorphoses from the time of the Non-Aligned Movement to the current Gambari’s four concentric circle ─ Nigeria and her neighbours, West Africa as our second home, the third spare which is the rest of Africa and then the world. From the time of Ike Nwachukwu, we felt that we may not have all the resources, unlike the days of Gen Yakubu Gowon when Nigeria felt it could be Father Christmas of Africa and many parts of the world; we felt that we have to take our economic situation into consideration so that we can go out and do diplomacy in a way that can enhance our economy so that we can start from somewhere.

As President and Chief Diplomat of Nigeria, I would like to do economic diplomacy so that we make friends. Better diplomacy will give us better chances whether it is in debt repayment or the amount of investment that we will get. The relationship we can get with the Americans for example will be based on if you see how generously they have treated Egypt or Rwanda not to talk of Pakistan and other friends of theirs; we haven’t got that kind of support and those are the things I want to pay attention to. The key priority of the SDP is that we must kick poverty in the teeth; arrest the issue of insecurity and be in full control of every inch of our geographical space; we must also have a strong military. The original doctrine of our military is that anything from the lower tip of the Sahel and Central Africa was seen as the territory and theatre of Nigeria and that we must have control of that theatre without much competition from our international friends; the French, the British, the Americans, the Russians and others and that they must allow us to play safe in this area, and those are the areas that I want our diplomacy to face.

You speak of leveraging on economic diplomacy, the DG of the WTO, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says that while there are opportunities in Africa and Nigeria that we do not have enough international partners in terms of foreign interest, what are some of the practical steps you would take to attract these interests and to maintain them?

I can tell you that these interests will come no matter what. When it comes to foreign investments, you can’t force them to come and when they are interested in coming, you can’t force them out.  For instance, if you have oil and they want to come and explore, you can’t stop them. But what we can do domestically is to make sure that we are a place where an investor would like to come.

To do that, you cannot say you want to do a diplomacy of inviting a steel manufacturing company to come to Nigeria when they don’t have access to electricity. You cannot invite people in Fintech and Finance to come if you don’t have a legal regime that you can use to work; you cannot send the tourism board to go all over the world if you do have good airports to receive them and safety on the roads. So, I would make sure that I arrest the issue of poor governance and ensure accountability of our resources.

Nigeria is a country where our major investment will come the way it has been in India, Indonesia and other medium power countries; it cannot be the way the WTO DG is looking at it. I think they are more experienced in dealing with small countries like Rwanda and Ghana where if you invest $100 million dollars, it will be a life changing experience but in Nigeria, a state governor will use that to celebrate the anniversary of his election. What we need to do is to ensure there is accountability and that we collect the revenue that we are supposed to get. In my estimation since 2012 till now, we have not collected more than 7 per cent of the potential revenue we are supposed to collect.

If we have accountability and don’t look at people’s faces when we want to collect revenue, we will have enough money for the basic investment to make and then foreign investors will come.

Harnessing possibilities to promote inter African trade, there is presently a problem with connectivity; sometimes you have to fly outside the continent of Africa to go to other parts of Africa, the same thing happens with telephony, the distance between Lagos and Abidjan is a little over 2,000 km that we can have a megapolis in the next 50 years that the two cities can be integrated, what would you do about these possibilities?

Linking Lagos and Abidjan is good but before I do that, I would like to first link Lagos and Maiduguri. Lagos and Kano and others like that. Most of these problems lie at the desk of Nigeria. Nigeria needs to provide the regional infrastructure; we have the resources only if we can stop stealing and wasting the money. With the Open Air Agreement, we can have a Nigerian Airways in these countries, we have our banks there and they don’t mind so why would they mind our airways. Look at the superhighway agreed with ECOWAS, you will see that less endowed countries than Nigeria have built their own, it is Nigeria that is defaulting. Look at Lagdo Dam we agreed to with Cameroon, Cameroon has built their own, Nigeria hasn’t.

Africa is a centre piece of Nigeria’s foreign policy, a position that we have maintained for years. At NIIA, they were saying that foreign policy should be an adjunct of domestic priorities. We have seen Nigeria making foreign policy more important than domestic priority, how do you address that? 

Tafawa Belewa said that Africa would be the cornerstone of Nigeria’s foreign policy but the military came and said Africa will be the centre piece. For me, what I want to do domestically will inform what I want to do outside and regionally. What I say we will do for our neighbours is not out of charity; we must take full control of the theatre.

How can you achieve peace in your neighbour’s house when you don’t have peace at home? 

What they did in terms of promoting peace in Africa was on the assumption then that we have peace in Nigeria. Then you couldn’t do anything in Africa without listening to Nigeria, Nigeria was able to stop civil war in Sierra Leone and Liberia but because we have weakened ourselves domestically, our ability to discharge these functions overseas was weakened and at the same time, we did not want to admit internationally that we are not able to play the role.

There’s a link between what happened internationally and our security. We cannot allow people to come from outside our region to play a role in regional security; it is in our national interest to see that this theatre is maintained and to do that, you need a strong armed force.