Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

Nigeria, Afrocentrism, and Conflict Resolution: After Five Decades- How Far, How Well?

Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

Nigeria, Afrocentrism, and Conflict Resolution: After Five Decades- How Far, How Well?

Article excerpt

Introduction

Nigeria represents a major regional force in Africa, not only because of its size, but also because of its political and economic role on the continent. Apart from being the largest economy on the continent, it also ranks among the world's major producers of crude oil. (1) Similarly, its leaders have mediated conflicts in Africa, while its troops have played lead roles in the quest for peace and stability in troubled regions all around the globe. (2) Perhaps, a better testimony to Nigeria's commitment to the success of its peacekeeping endeavors is its ranking among the top five troop contributors to United Nations Peacekeeping missions. (3) Therefore, as Alli observes, Nigeria's approach to sub-regional security and conflict resolution in Africa is often seen as inextricably tied to its international role conception by its leaders. (4) This role conception has become the defining paradigm for the country's foreign policy engagement, and has conferred on it the role of a "natural leader" with a "manifest destiny" and the responsibility to promote and protect the interests of Africa. (5)

It has equally been argued that the decision by Nigeria to make Africa the core of its foreign policy focus is also attributable to a number of other factors: a geo- political consideration that sees Nigeria strategically located within the West African sub- region; demographic explanations that credit the country as the most populous black nation in the world with an estimated population of over 170 million people; and economic arguments that view Nigeria accounting for more than 51 percent of the entire West African GDP with an estimated value of about $521.8 billion. (6) Others have contended that this decision also stems from the need to protect Nigeria's security, given its cultural, geographical, and historical experiences with other African states, and also because of transnational security concerns defined by the way Nigeria's security is affected by what happens around its contiguous states. (7)

Others have situated the argument along the camps of the prestige/national interest and the economic diplomacy/hegemonic schools of thought. (8) Proponents of the prestige/national interest school of thought argue that Nigeria's Africa-centered foreign policy concentration has been pursued without any specific regard to the country's domestic interests and economic woes. The economic diplomacy/hegemonic stability group on the other hand, maintain that Nigeria; by virtue of its huge socio-economic and military resources, has the responsibility to intervene in conflicts within its immediate sub-region (West Africa) and in Africa. (9) This group perceives Nigeria as a regional force on the continent, and as having a responsibility to lead in the promotion of peace, and in the championing of Africa's socio-economic and political development. (10) Such a perspective is perhaps what informs Ebohon and Obakhedo's observation that:

   Playing such a noble role in the economic construction and
   reconstruction of the region presents Nigeria with an opportunity
   to assert her dominant position in the region as a matter of
   prestige; analysts argue that if Nigeria fails to do so, other
   credible and contending regional challengers such as Ghana, Egypt,
   Cote d' Ivoire (formerly Ivory Coast) and South Africa would take
   on such responsibilities. (11)

Consequently, in examining Nigeria's role in conflict resolution in Africa, proponents of the economic diplomacy/hegemonic stability school of thought view the assumption of such a role as capable of contributing meaningfully towards ending the plethora of intra and interstate crises that have become the defining characteristics of most states in the West African subregion and Africa. (12) Therefore, and in achieving this, Nigeria is expected to treat its sub-region as a natural base from which it is to project its national interests and by extension, further expand its regional influence. …

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