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Sun. June 04, 2023
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Analyzing Nigeria’s Leadership Status in Today’s World
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James Dorsey’s decision to set up Twitter’s first African base in Ghana reflects Nigeria’s changing status in Africa and how the world views the country. At the time of Nigeria’s independence from Britain, Nigeria assumed the role of a big brother to other African countries and was considered a middle power in international relations. Nigerian leaders believed it was the manifest destiny of the country to lead the continent, and in fact, the black race in general. In a fascinating speech at the United Nations, Jaja Nwachukwu Nigeria’s first foreign minister stated that Nigeria is an “African nation ……and therefore it is so completely involved in anything that pertains to that continent that it cannot be neutral and must never be considered as a neutralist country.”

Per this role, Nigeria supported the decolonization of African countries and various liberation movements. For instance, Nigeria nationalized British Petroleum oil as a way of pressuring the British government to stop supporting the white minority rule in South Africa and also supported the African National Congress in its liberation effort. The economy used to be another strong point in Nigeria’s assumed natural big brother role and was generous with this wealth in supporting other African Nations. From the 1970s to the late 1980s, the Nigerian naira was stronger than the United States Dollar, and Nigeria is still Africa’s largest economy. Nigeria also has the largest population in Africa and wields enormous influence in culture, sports, and entertainment. Nigeria is also one of the leading nations in the UN when it comes to volunteers for peacekeeping missions.

Despite Nigeria’s potential to lead the African continent and become a major voice globally, Nigeria has failed to translate this potential to reality in crucial factors that boost local, regional, and international gains. For example, Nigeria is rated 149/165 according to Transparency International thereby, making it one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Despite the mask it wears as the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria has an incredible number of people living below the poverty line and also has a large percentage of unemployed and underemployed citizens.

Nigeria’s political atmosphere is of international concern as it ranks low in major international index for freedom and human rights. According to the democracy index by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Nigeria is classified as a hybrid regime oscillating between authoritarianism and democracy. The Human Perception Index, which is collated by the Human Development Report Office for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), ranks Nigeria as low on human development. The Lekki toll gate incidence during the #Endsarsmovement further strengthened the perception of Nigeria as an unconducive environment for human rights after at least 12 people died.

In this light, Nigeria’s records portray a country not in leadership but in turmoil. This makes it easy to understand why Ghana a country of thirty-two million people will be attractive to a business like Twitter, which has thirty two-million subscribers in Nigeria, which is more than the entire population of Ghana. It is also the reason why the first black president of the USA and the most powerful man in his time never visited Nigeria the supposed giant of Africa. It is also the reason why Amazon the largest E-commerce firm in the world will choose South Africa as its headquarters over Nigeria, despite the latter having the largest economy.

Nigeria is clearly experiencing a diminishing return on its leadership capacity as global politics changes. There are no longer colonial powers in Africa to fight, huge populations are not as valuable as they once were with the rise of communication and technology, and an economy based solely on primary products is not enough to sustain a country as large as Nigeria. In other words, Nigeria’s leadership is now measured by other factors, such as democracy, human rights, technological and infrastructural development. These factors are fast becoming powerful criteria’s through which countries can project influence and have value internationally and regionally, all of which, as stated above, Nigeria lags when compared to its African counterparts. For Nigeria to reclaim its leadership mantle it will have to lead in these areas that have regional and international significance.

Osarodion Izevbigie holds a master's degree in Defense and Strategic Studies from Missouri State University, USA, where he received the Ulrike Schumacher Scholarship for Excellence and Academic Merit. He is also a member of the Anti Terrorism Accreditation Board (ATAB). 

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