Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to leverage on the achievements in Nigeria’s entertainment industry and sports.
Professor Osinbajo stated this at the first Annual Foreign Service Lecture held at the Rotunda Hall, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja.
“Our achievements in entertainment, music and sports might be useful ways of opening doors for us diplomatically and economically,” the Vice President said.
According to him, it has become imperative for countries, particularly Nigeria, “to use a more novel variety of tools including soft power to advance their diplomatic objectives” since the traditional responses to international issues “no longer carry the assuredness of the past.”
The Vice President said Nigeria’s foreign policy challenge was “to be relevant to our times, to project our potential and our influence to the world, and to advance our political, cultural, social and economic vision.”
This, he said, could be an arduous task, considering that the world is changing in different ways.
He said: “Globalization requires better management of trade and financial flows just as there is a changing landscape of challenges relating to migration, environment, health and technology across the globe. Indeed, non-state actors, especially criminal non-state actors such as terrorist groups, cybercriminals, drug cartels have complicated a security landscape that was once viewed in relatively uncomplicated notions of peace and security.”
Osinbajo said these developments have changed the demands on Nigeria’s diplomatic machinery, creating “the biggest challenge of the foreign service of the modern era: adapting to the demands of a new dispensation, whilst managing to hold on to the time-honoured tools and traditions of diplomacy.”
Osinbajo described the Nigerian Foreign Service as the country’s ear to the world, urging it to play and perform the duty to influence policy at home and to consistently nudge the government to take action where necessary, in a proactive and engaged manner.
“This is especially critical at a time when record numbers of Nigerians are featuring in the tragic narratives of slave camps in North Africa and capsizing boats in the Mediterranean,” he said.
He noted that Nigeria’s newly-launched Economic Diplomacy Initiative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was aimed at creating a platform for Nigerian businesses to more easily find and exploit global markets, and to tap the economic potential of the Nigerian Diaspora.
“We must do everything in our power to attract more capital to Nigeria, in Oil and Gas, Clean Energy, Agriculture, Transport, Power, Mining, amongst others; to spread the message and support the goals of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).”
In his opening remarks, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the ministry has, since its inception in 1957, formulated and executed policies to guide Nigeria’s diplomacy and relations with other countries, providing framework for foreign policy initiatives.
He pointed out that, over the years, Africa has remained the centrepiece of Nigeria’s diplomacy.
Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (Rtd), highlighted the role the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has played since the independence of the country in 1960 to project Nigeria’s good name and image to the world.
The keynote speaker, Ambassador Oladapo Fafowora, traced Nigeria’s diplomacy from its inception through independence to the present administration.
He advised the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to focus more on domestic matters than on foreign affairs.
Fafowora warned against admitting Morocco as a member of the Economic Community of West Africa, ECOWAS, which he said would not be in the interest of Nigeria.