By Gidado Ibrahim
Since the inauguration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Government on May 29, he has made economic diplomacy a key focus of his administration. He has embarked on a series of high-profile visits to key partners in Africa, Asia and Europe. He has also appointed a number of experienced diplomats to key positions in his administration to drive this vision.
This flurry of activities reflects the administration’s recognition of the importance of international cooperation in addressing the country’s economic challenges and achieving its development goals.
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One of the early wins of Tinubu’s government was his appointment as the chairman of the Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS), few weeks after his inauguration. Diplomatic and Foreign Affairs Analysts have applauded his choice as a sign of confidence in his leadership. Needless to say that the way President Tinubu handled the military coup in Niger marks one of the earliest test case of his administration. Of course, he did not disappoint. He delivered to the admiration of the whole world.
Needless to emphasise that in today’s interconnected world, economic diplomacy is more important than ever. Countries are increasingly reliant on trade, investment and other forms of international cooperation to achieve their economic goals. Economic diplomacy can help countries to among other things attract foreign investment, expand trade and market access, promote innovation and technology transfer, strengthen economic ties with other countries, as well as address global challenges such as climate change and poverty.
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To get this foreign policy priorities right, President Tinubu spared no efforts at appointing round pegs in round holes. One of the most significant appointments he made was the choice of Yussuf Tuggar as Foreign Minister. Tuggar is a former Nigerian Ambassador to Germany and a seasoned diplomat with a deep understanding of international relations.
Since his appointment as Foreign Minister, Tuggar has made a number of significant achievements, including the issue of trapped foreign airline funds. At the twilight of the last administration, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had slammed a visa ban on Nigerian citizens and suspended flights to Nigeria in response to the Nigerian government’s refusal to release $600 million in trapped foreign airline funds.
Working in synergy with the president, Tuggar worked tirelessly to resolve this issue. These efforts culminated in President Tinubu meeting with the leadership of the Emirates during a technical stopover in Abu Dhabi, the Emirate capital, after his departure from G-20 meeting in New Delhi, India.
The meeting was a follow-up discussion to address specific, salient issues within the bilateral relationship after the conversations held during an earlier visit by the UAE Ambassador to the president at the presidential villa in Abuja. These concatenation of diplomatic efforts culminated in presidential directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to commence a phased disbursement of the trapped funds.
The meeting with UAE Authorities is without prejudice to a five-day investment campaign on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit and participation in the G-20 Summit in India. Following the roundtable investment meeting with Indian business leaders, Tinubu had secured a $14 billion investment pledge in the pharmaceutical, power, petrochemical and agricultural sectors.
In the area of strengthening Nigeria’s relationships with key partners, Tuggar has also worked to improve Nigeria’s relationships with key partners in Africa, Asia and Europe. He has traveled extensively to meet with foreign leaders and officials. He has also played a key role in promoting Nigeria’s interests on the international stage.
Tuggar’s efforts have been praised by many, and he is widely seen as a successful diplomat. He is committed to using his skills and experience to promote Nigeria’s economic development and achieve its long-term goals. I can safely conclude that with Yusuf Tuggar as our diplomat-in-chief, the future of Nigeria’s economic diplomacy is off to a strong start.
At this juncture, I have words of caution for recalled Ambassadors who have waged consistent campaign of calumny against President Tinubu and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tuggar. The heads of foreign diplomatic missions were appointed by former President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2020 after they were confirmed by the Senate based on section 171(2)(1c) and subsection 4 of the 1999 Constitution. It would be recalled that two months ago the President, through the Minister of Foreign Affairs, ordered all ambassadors, 41 non-career ambassadors and 42 career ambassadors to return to the country.
Since then all hell has been let loosed. Their henchmen in the media space have unleashed a dubious campaign of calumny aimed at tarnishing the Renewed Hope Government. However, with the expiration of October 31 handed them to return to Nigeria, many of them have advancing frivolous reasons to stay back at duty post. To advance their selfish objective, they have hatched a diabolic means of corrupting the media and influencing opinion leaders to blackmail, pressure the president and minister to rescind the decision.
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Let me remind these impervious and recalcitrant characters behind the devilish media campaign that they were appointed by the last administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in line with the foreign policy objectives of that government. Now that the Renewed Hope Government is in the saddle, it is the prerogative of President Tinubu to select or appoint those he believes will help his government score high-point in diplomatic engagements and in line with the foreign policy focus of his government.
This orchestrated media war must end to protect the integrity of Mr President and the sovereignty of Nigeria. The country is bigger than all of us. The general public is hereby advised to pay no heed to what is purely an administrative and procedural matter that has become the basis of misrepresentations in the media intended to undermine the government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima.
Nigerians from all walks of life, especially appointed public officials by the APC government, should remember that we have no any other country to call ours other than Nigeria. This caution also applies to those who will be appointed as Ambassadors in the coming weeks. They are first representatives of Nigeria’s interests and Mr President in their country of residence.
Already, severance payments known as passages have been sent to the recalled envoys through the Central Bank of Nigeria. This is verifiable information. Also, they are well aware that severance payments in Nigeria and all over the world follow due diligence and other forms of bureaucracy before payments are received.
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As I conclude, let me remind Nigerians that President Tinubu means well for Nigeria and he is determined to turnaround the fortune of this country. He demonstrated this by appointing a seasoned and proven diplomat, Tuggar, to reposition Nigeria amongst the comity of nations. All that is needed is our support and prayers to enable them succeed.
I will advice you get my weekend article and read my indepth analysis on the ongoing passport reforms. These are efforts geared towards ensuring a Nigeria that is standing on its feet in the international arena, instead of a clay feet giant.
Employing economic diplomacy to diversify Nigeria’s economy, the president was in Saudi Arabia to seal deals in the areas of power and our country’s oil sector. The issue of revamping Nigeria’s refinaries resurfaced. Now, the President Tinubu has left for Germany for climate change summit and industrial revolution.
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But it is my humble submission that all these can be achieved only when our foreign partners notice a tight legislation and legal frame work that would protect their investments from the unfavourable policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria (NDIC) and National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) introduced by past administrations. No country or investor would want to come and invest in a country where their monies will get trapped because there is no insurance that they will recover their funds due to the complex monetary policy introduced by the apex bank. With this I may have to go on my annual vacation.
God bless Nigeria!
– Ibrahim is Director, Communication and Strategic Planning, of the Presidential Support Committee (PSC).