It is difficult for Nigerians not to recoil at the government’s lackluster response to signing and ratifying the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA was introduced in March 2018. As of today, 52 out of 55 countries have signed the agreement and 18 have ratified it. Twenty-two countries are required to ratify the agreement for it to come into effect. That a heavyweight like Nigeria remains conspicuously on the sidelines at a time of increased momentum toward continental integration is baffling.

This state of affairs contrasts sharply with Nigeria’s prior activist roles on matters African in years gone by. In the past, Nigeria has used its political heft, economic power, and diplomatic and intellectual pedigree to seize the mantle of leadership that changed the course of African history.

In one example, Nigeria’s power play during the negotiations for Zimbabwe’s independence helped expedite the negotiations that led to the attainment of majority rule in Zimbabwe. At that time, Prime Minister Ian Smith of Rhodesia was on record that black majority rule would not happen in his lifetime, ostensibly relying on continued support by the U.K. government. Impatient with the slow pace of the negotiations, the federal government of Nigeria flexed its economic and political muscles by nationalizing British Petroleum assets, leading to the expedition of negotiations.

Nigeria also took a leadership role in the fight to end South Africa’s apartheid regime. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s August 1986 open letter to the U.K.’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher advocating sanctions to cripple the apartheid economy proved catalytic:

“Your ‘moral revulsion’ for sanctions struck me as unconvincing. The economic sanctions you so energetically pursued against Poland, Afghanistan and Argentina were brushed aside in your determination to withhold their application to South Africa. Yet to many of us there is only one significant difference: The victims in South Africa are black. Is sauce for the Aryan goose not sauce for the Negroid gander?”

In another action on apartheid, Nigeria took a leading role in coordinating a 22-country African boycott of the Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada, to protest New Zealand’s sporting links with South Africa. Isaac Lugonzo, then Chairman of Kenya’s National Sports Council, summed up the African position: “We cannot sacrifice principle for the sake of getting gold.” Overall, Nigeria’s uncompromising stance against apartheid helped to bring about regime change in South Africa.


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Keywords : Africa, News, Economy, Nigeria, African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)