Nigeria’s presidential transition offers US and UK policymakers a chance to reset their relations with Abuja. Instead of a focus on quick wins – presidential photo ops, arms sales, and trade deals – they should look to Nigeria’s perennial democracy and governance challenges and recall that much-hyped honeymoon periods following the 2010 transition and 2015 presidential election quickly fizzled.
UK and US officials should take a consistent position on democracy, governance, human rights, and corruption. Rather than the mixed messages of alternately kowtowing and finger-wagging, they should articulate clear red lines. They should also stop trading off long-term progress for short-term gain.
Rare instances cont.
In the rare instances when core values and perceived strategic interests in Nigeria conflict, UK and US policymakers should be able to justify the costs and explain the benefits of overriding concerns about democracy and governance in favour of a perceived immediate imperative. Anglo-American officials should step back and ask whether their elite-friendly approach has improved – or unintentionally harmed – democracy and governance outcomes in Nigeria.
UK and US officials should take a consistent position on democracy, governance, human rights, and corruption.
Such a reset would bring the UK and US into line with the chorus of criticism from experts, legislators, academics, think-tanks, journalists, and civil society voices questioning the wisdom of partnering with Nigeria’s predatory military, and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
By selling democracy and governance issues short, London and Washington have inadvertently undermined their countries’ own interests in political stability, peace and security, socio-economic development, good governance, climate resilience, and expanded trade and investment.
Though timely, UK and US policymakers’ heightened focus on Nigeria’s elections raises significant questions about the coherence of their approach. Just as Nigeria’s leadership is changing, so should the thinking of their external partners.