Okonjo-Iweala & the decline of Nigeria’s diplomatic clout

By Abdullahi Yelwa

Access Bank

Nigerian diplomacy has been on the decline for years. Once a robust and powerful tool of our governance and continental leadership, our diplomacy today, is in total disarray. We have abandoned our traditional allies and appear to be only interested in accumulating debts through loans, mostly Chinese.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is clearly the best candidate for the job. But the leadership of such international bodies is usually determined by politics of sphere of control principle, which is then presented as consensus. The UN Secretary General for instance, is chosen by the permanent members of the UN Security Council. The World Bank is the preserve of Europe. The US is the dominant force in the WTO.

The US, therefore holds the ace in this game. I don’t know if the strength of our diplomacy is enough to pull this through. I don’t know what we have to offer the US for its support. We don’t sale petroleum to the US, as we used to in the past. Ghana and South Africa are seen as more reliable and dependable African allies than Nigeria. The large population of influential and affluent Nigerians in the US, who should have developed people to people diplomacy between US and Nigeria, have turned against the Nigerian government.

Corruption, insecurity, harassment of the press, etc, are also contributory factors that shape perceptions, which may find their way into diplomatic decisions. The position of the US on the #ENDSARS protest is a case in point.

Ngozi may therefore suffer for the crimes of Nigeria and failure of its diplomacy. There is nothing personal against her, after all she is an America citizen as well. But the US prefers the South Korean candidate because of diplomatic links between US and South Korea. The fruits of diplomacy are usually not low hanging.

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