Is Nigeria losing its leadership position in Africa?


Despite Nigeria’s huge natural and human resources, the current security challenges and the wobbling economy are threatening to push the country to the brink. This development, no doubt, has certainly affected the country’s ranking in most spheres of human endeavour, but there is hope that change may soon come the way of the nation           

By Anayo Ezugwu

FROM the United States of America to Malaysia, South Africa, Ghana and Indonesia, Nigerians are facing hostilities. The latest being the US recent visa immigration ban on Nigeria and other five countries. The visa ban is one of President Donald Trump’s signature policies on internal security.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, immigrants from Mynmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan Tanzania, Sudan, and Nigeria will be banned from the US. Accordingly, citizens will no longer be able to apply for the “diversity visas,” known as the green card lottery too. The Trump administration has defended the expanded travel ban, saying that it is important for national security and that some of these countries have simply not met the US security standards.

The latest visa ban indicates that US is ready to curtail the number of Nigerians coming to the country. For example, in 2018, Nigerians were issued a total of 7,922 immigrant visas, the second highest among African nations. Over half of that number went to immediate relatives of US citizens. Approximately 30,000 Nigerians overstayed their non-immigrant visa in 2018, making them the third-largest defaulters behind Venezuelans and Brazilians, according to data from the US Department of Homeland Security.

Apart from the US, between January 2018 and June 2019, 994 Nigerians were deported from Ghana on the allegation of cyber-crime and prostitution. In July 2019, Nigerian traders in Kumasi, Ghana’s second-largest city were harassed by Ghanaians, who locked up their shops on the excuse that they sell inferior goods. The police intervened, but that did not stop the shops from being closed.

Nigerians in South Africa are targets of frequent xenophobia in the form of physical assault, having their shops looted and property set on fire. The recent violence in September 2019 led to the evacuation of at least 500 Nigerians by Air Peace, a private airliner.

In Kenya, the story is also not better. The Immigration Service of the country says Nigerians applying for study visas to Kenya must produce a drug clearance certificate from the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, before they can be allowed to enter the country. The directive does not apply to nationals of other countries.

Despite the challenges Nigerians are facing outside the country, Nigeria is indisputably one of the most populous countries in Africa, with about 200 million people. Economically, the country has a huge gas reserves and is supposedly the seventh largest oil producing country in the world.

Nigeria is also the biggest economic and trading partner to the West and Asian countries like China. With a vast military resource, it is commonplace to ascribe the role of a sub-regional and continental leadership status to the country. Despite these attributes, Nigeria’s status as a regional power on the continent is increasingly being eroded as a result of insecurity, corruption and human rights abuses.

But Tunde Oseni, lecturer at the Department of Politics and International Relations, Lead City University, Ibadan, said despite insecurity confronting the nation, Nigeria is still very relevant in the comity of nations. He said it would be premature to say that Nigeria is losing its leadership position, status and a country to reckon with in Africa.

“The reason why people may think along that line is because we have security challenges. And this security challenges are overwhelming. As a result of this most of the country’s foreign policies are now taken with little or no respect because the country is not settled at home. This reinforces the fact that your foreign policy is an extension of your domestic policy and if you like by extension your domestic politics. If your domestic environment is not settled, it will be difficult to earn respect of the outside world.

“However, as long as I’m concerned Nigeria remains a regional power, whether we talk about political, economic, even to some extent military power. But the problem is that your military, economic and political powers are not likely to be respected if you are not settled down domestically.

“And that is what I think is affecting Nigeria now. How to settle down domestically and tackle insurgency and terrorism, so that when you speak people will know that you are truly the most populous African nation and the most populous black nation in the world. With our population and resources, human and material, nobody can really say that Nigeria has not earned her respect among nations of the world,” he said.

On the US immigration visa ban, Oseni said: “I think the Visa policy by the US is not basically as a result of security challenges in the country. Even if you look at it some other countries that are facing greater security challenges than Nigeria are not on the list. Some of them in the Middle East like Syria, Iran and Iraq. So these countries are not even included so it cannot be security challenge that made US … it may be one of them, but I do not think it is the main reason.

“Tanzania was partially included as well as Sudan, I think those countries have security challenges like Nigeria. I think another reason US gave was that many Nigerians go into America and they overstay their visa. There could be other reasons that are not clear to us, but I think the security challenge is part of the reasons why the ban came from the US. And I think that by the time Nigerian government committee that was set-up by the President is through, they should be able to analyse and proffer solutions that will make Nigeria to be unbanned.”

But Ebongabasi Ekpe-Juda, security expert, believed that the US position on Nigeria is an indication that the country is gradually becoming a failed state.   “We can see for ourselves our position, situation and what we have become. A country that nobody respects, if we have respect those countries sponsoring Boko Haram would be afraid of what we can do in retaliation.

“We have lost our place in the international community. We said we are the giant of Africa, but as of today we don’t have electricity, good road networks and other necessary social amenities. On what grounds are we calling ourselves a powerful nation? Crime is hitting the roof; very soon it will start hitting the heavens.

“What is it that we are talking about? Banditry, kidnapping and Boko Haram are seriously attacking the foundation of this country on all fronts. If our citizens are now seen as capable of doing anything, bombing and killing innocent people, nothing makes us different from Tanzania. Why didn’t US ban Ghana or Cameroon, it is because we are not on the same pedester with them.

“The US ban is a total reflection of who we are as a country. For instance, if you look at the number of international companies that have relocated to Ghana from Nigeria, you will then understand our situation. They relocated to a favourable business environment from an unfavourable place called Nigeria. There are no two ways about it. If our country was conducive for them, there will be no need for them to relocate considering our population.

“Don’t forget that MultiChoice was to come to Nigeria, but because of the situation here they went to South Africa. It is a clear indication of our failure. Is it in academia, Nigerians now prefer to train their children in Ghana or Malaysia. When I was a student in University of Maiduguri, I had people from South Africa, India and America. We were students together, but today you can’t find that. Let us be honest with ourselves, Nigeria is a failed state,” he said.

But President Muhammadu Buhari has said that Nigeria remains a regional power despite internal security challenges bedeviling the country. Buhari, who spoke at the official induction of Nigerian Air Force Helicopters in Abuja, said Nigeria’s role in restoring peace within the African sub-region has made the country to maintain strong military capabilities.

– Feb. 7, 2020 @ 19:15 GMT |

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