G20 Summit and Nigeria: The Unfolding reality

by Chijioke Udeogu

A look at the array of personalities that graced the just concluded London G20-Summit would prompt an instantaneous sense of reprieve at the global unity of purpose to tackling economic depression. A further analysis of its outcome is refreshing and hope-giving. The thrust of my

concern here is not on the outcome but on the participation which attracted states across divides.

Participation at the summit was both symbolic and political. From the symbolic axis, it represented a huge leap forward that a course of action could be taken for the benefit of all humankind irrespective of nationality. Economic depression, as it is fondly called, has put economic analysts on the wrong side of prediction for which collective effort at stemming its tide has been elusive. Individual policies of states proved inadequate in the face of a meltdown with no traceable precedent. Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom turned to a proverbial voice in the wilderness that was soliciting a helping hand, a self-appointed task which even took him to the United States’ Congress. Barack Obama, on his own, took his ‘economic rescue operation’ to the summit as America’s own agenda to the summit. All in all, the summit marked a collective show of will and resolution to the problem.

Symbolic as well, was the fact that Barack Obama, participated in his first multilateral summit where he assumed the global leadership by virtue of his office. Predictably, he may have gauged his fellow leaders’ ‘political temperature’ towards identifying those with similar mindset as his. I watched in utter bewilderment when fellow world leaders were striving to identify with him by towing same policy lines in their individual press conferences and were even quick to concede leadership to him at the start of the summit. Such feat had been rare at multilateral forum where ideological inclinations determined the analytical lens through which inputs and commitments to the course of a summit were based.

On the political scale, such forum afforded a rare opportunity for political alignments and accords. Deals may have been struck by leaders who could not afford to miss the opportunity that such renewed feeling of unanimity availed them to get political concessions from other political leaders. I could imagine where, off the camera, Barrack Obama and Yeltsin of Russia were having a tete-a tete on the nuclear arms race so as to ease the security tension between the West and Eastern blocs. I could imagine where South Africa was related with, at the summit, as the face and voice of Africa. I could sense the effect of this participation on South Africa’s standing in Africa and in the world at large. I could visualize that the South African President, Kgalema Motlanthe, robbed minds with other leaders and offered economic tips from African perspective as the leading African country. I could also, imagine that Libya, as an invited observer at the summit, conferred with and even had some inputs into South Africa’s presentation. In all of these, where was Nigeria?

The self-acclaimed giant of Africa was not on the roster as a participating country, not even as observer likes Libya and Uganda. A country that is angling for the United Nations Security Council permanent membership could not attend a forum where the countries that matter in the real politicking of the UN congregated. Apart from South Africa as an official member of G20, what was the criterion for the choice of Libya and Uganda as Africa’s observers? Was it in terms of better economic policies, or richer political muscle, or firmer foreign relation alliance? Granted that Libyan leader’s observer-status may have been actuated by his headship of African Union, did it preclude Nigeria from attending?

Non-participation in a forum with such an uncommon agenda has prices which are both political and diplomatic. First, Policy makers with a knack for diplomatic gains itch for such opportunities because it is part of the gains of summitry. Our President could have used that opportunity to familiarize himself with other leaders for better issues of common interest. At least, the seven-point agenda could have had some tips from other leaders of advanced countries at the summit who may have implemented any or all of them as policies in the course of their respective administration. Such ideas would not come our way unless we press for them and demonstrate our commitment towards their actualization.

A positive image of ours would have been registered from any of such little interaction. That leaders of countries of importance have not visited our country for a while is not a good omen. Let the truth be told, in consideration of the currency of our beleaguered economic system, Nigeria needs more of some of these advanced countries than they need us especially, in area of technical input and grants. By that, I am not supposing that our President should go cap in hand soliciting their assistance. Nevertheless, the gain from the art of familiarization which personal summitry of the like of G20 would have yielded has a huge potential to benefit Nigeria.

Second, our participation would have symbolically, registered our relevance in the scheme of things especially in this era of political realignment. Which political block is Nigeria in at the international setting considering that the end of Cold War rendered non-aligned movement irrelevant, if not comatose? It calls for reflection and action. Neutrality, which we posture, is good and bad at the same time. It is good if we had possessed either of economic, political or military monopoly or monopsony (monopoly purchasing position) in order to employ economic statecraft. In that case, we would have been the courted bride. But none of those have we.

Thirdly, the propaganda value of that summitry could have been used for the enhancement of the domestic standing of our political leadership that, at least, something is being done about the state of our country. The issue of power generation and transmission has been politicised to the extent that not few of Nigerians are losing faith instalmentally in our national project. Soon, it would be used as a political manifesto towards 2011 electioneering campaign. Who is fooling who? My consolation is the fact that, no matter how Nigeria project is run, its aftermath must locate us all. Mismanagement of internal project should not translate to external matters.

Because a critical analysis of Africa’s participation at the 2009 G20 Summit would reveal that it was a fall-out of the political equation in Africa at the moment. Nigeria, sadly, has been relegated to the background. Granted that Libya is the current leadership of the African Union, but should that warrant our indifference to the whole set-up? Our foreign policy machinery should brace up and face the challenge. Let us re-define our strategy that had placed us at the helm of African affairs. We cannot afford to eternally, rely on our exploits in peacekeeping operations in West Africa to delude ourselves about our indispensability and relevance on our continent. Other countries have taken over and by our country’s exclusion at the G20 Summit, our dispensability has started unless something is done to redress the tide.

Chijioke Udeogu writes in from London.