Political Science

An Appraisal of Nigerian Foreign Policy Under the Goodluck Jonathan Administration (2011-2015)

An Appraisal of Nigerian Foreign Policy Under the Goodluck Jonathan Administration (2011-2015)


This study appraises the foreign policy thrust of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, 2011 – 2015. It queries the contributions and failures of the administration in the economic development of Nigeria with the instrument of foreign policy. Guided by the Systems theory, and Pluralist interdependence model, it argues that though the administration made some achievements that it left much to be desired in the economic development of the country as the image of the country remained battered with corruption. It recommended among other things that corruption should be tackled head-on as a way of assurance to the international community that Nigeria is now fit for investment, which is key to greater economic development.




Continents of the world do not exist in complete isolation from each other. The nation-states, which are the main unit of continents, have carried on some of their activities in the world environments. Emezi (1998:193) argued, “nation-states do not only come into contact with each other on their content but they also interact with nation-states in other continents.” This worldwide interaction takes place in what is called the international system. For this to be realized, states are the key actors in worldwide relations. Hence, no nation, no matter her size, economic endowment, population, etc. can live in isolation or be an island, contacts are bound to exist. Nations seek the help of others for survival. When one nation and others relate or be in contact, it is then regarded as foreign or external relations. Foreign relations are bound upon economic, political, and socio-cultural needs. The Nigerian foreign relations with the rest of the world dated back to the era of colonialism.

When Nigeria as indeed other African countries emerged onto the international arena, the contour of the international system was of a loose bipolar system: the Capitalist, and Socialist blocs. The two hegemonic powers were undoubtedly the United States of America (USA) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). The position later changed with the collapse of the USSR in 1990, ushering in the unique post-cold war era. As one would have expected, changes at the global level also, inevitably produced spillover effects on the African continent in general and Nigeria in particular.

In addition, as the wind of change raced on, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) changed into African Union (AU). These changes had tremendous implications on foreign policy and relations. The fact remains that external structure underpins the conduct of Nigerian foreign policy and relations, and economic development. This notwithstanding, the personal whims and caprices of the former leaders of Nigeria had a greater impact. For example, according to Fawole (2003:232), General MuhammaduBuhari’s regime and foreign relations contributed to the falling out of the Nigerian economy because of his grip on foreign policy matters; thus, “his border closure, the expulsion of illegal aliens, changes of currency, dramatic recognition of Sawahari Arab Democratic Republics, diplomatic tit-for-tat with Britain.”

The long military dictatorship in Nigeria left a bad legacy of destroying the process of routinizing foreign policy decision-making. According to Fawole (2003:235), the military introduced their style of decision making whereby the wish of the dictator was law. This is unlike the civilian era where the government to some extent accountable to the people, and the parliament for their actions. Over the years, the military rule made no allowance for such accountability, and each dictator ran the country as he deemed fit. A practical case was that of the late General Sani Abacha whose foreign relations and policies were a disaster has been awash with a series of diplomatic faux pax. Abacha dragged Nigeria’s respect in the international comity of nations to the mud and turned the country into a pariah state.

These issues made it understandable the major reasons why Nigeria, over the years had passed through the problem of unequal economic and social development, debt burden, internal political and religious crises, low production, corruption, low income per capita, insecurity, unemployment, high rate of infant mortality, etc.

Given this verifiable link between the personality of a leader and the health of a country’s socio-economic and political health, this study appraises the Nigerian Foreign Policy under the Goodluck Jonathan Administration between 2011 – 2015, to determine the achievements and failures of the administration in the pursuit of the country’s foreign policy goals as contained in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Amended.


Chapter 2, Section 19 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria outlined the foreign policy objectives of Nigeria as thus:

The foreign policy objectives shall be ­

(a) promotion and protection of the national interest;

(b) promotion of African integration and support for African unity;

(c) promotion of international co-operation for the consolidation of universal peace and mutual respect among all nations and elimination of discrimination in all its manifestations;

(d) respect for international law and treaty obligations as well as the seeking of settlement of international disputes by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, and adjudication; and

(e) promotion of a just world economic order.

Top on the list of the foreign policy objectives is the promotion and protection of the national interest which ostensibly include security and economic development. Since independence, especially in the period under review, and even today, Nigeria is plagued with problems of insecurity epitomized by Boko Haram terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping, political and ritual killings; widespread poverty, largescale unemployment, technological backwardness, decayed social and physical infrastructure, illiteracy, reduced life expectancy, debt crisis, political instability, etc.