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G20 and Nigeria’s Search for Respect

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CEM OPINION, GLOBAL AFFAIRS | In spite of its internal contradictions and a chronically weak economy, Nigeria is earnestly searching for international clout. We desire to be respected and treated as a regional superpower. At every opportunity, the government touts our massive land size and huge population, and seeks the country’s membership of important global forums. But do we really need deserve to be a member of these groupings? What else drives these cravings to belong despite our problems at home?   At the G20 Summit at New Delhi over the weekend, President Tinubu said the group is incomplete without Nigeria as a member. ‘’Nigeria is poised, willing and able to be a major player in this family of the G20 and in shaping a new world, without whom, the family will remain incomplete’’, he said in an address in which he also presented our credentials as Africa’s largest economy, market and democracy. South Africa is the only African nation in G20.

At the BRICS Summit in South Africa last month, Vice President Kassim Shettima expressed our desire to join the bloc because Nigeria is seeking a partnership that provides opportunities for all to engage in trade, prosperity and shared progress with no marginalization based on geography, race and legitimate sovereign affiliations. He said: ‘’We want a partnership that guarantees a world governed by acceptable rules and norms. These nations confront historical developmental vulnerabilities and challenges that are beyond their control. Thus, it is imperative for us to unite within regional groups and forge a novel form of international cooperation’’. Again, South Africa is the only African nation in the BRICS.

Before seeking to join these bodies, it is important that we first of all find out why we were left out in the first instance; and why South Africa, which we helped liberate from Apartheid three decades ago, was preferred as a member. G20 (Group of Twenty) is an international forum consisting of 19 counties and the European Union (EU). Over the weekend, African Union (AU) was admitted as the 21st member.  Formed in 1999 as a response to the debt crises that plagued many developing nations in the 1990s, its membership was drawn from a list of nations with the largest economies that were critical to world markets.


Other considerations were regional representation to ensure diversity and balanced representation; systemic importance (countries that play crucial role in global economic and financial systems); willingness to participate in international forums like the IMF, WTO and other multilateral economic platforms and ability to cooperate and contribute to international economic discussions.

In 1999, Nigeria had not become a major economy and oil was selling at around $20 per barrel. South Africa was the biggest and a highly diversified economy in the continent with a GDP of about $400 billion. It was only in April 2014 that the Nigerian economy was rebased (recalculated to reflect current prices and market structure) and that’s when it overtook South Africa by a small margin as the biggest in the continent.

Twenty-four years after, Nigeria appears more eligible to join G20, but unfortunately, it has no immediate plans to increase its membership with additional sovereign countries. The BRICS bloc, formed 10 years after G20, may expand its membership and hopefully, Nigeria may be admitted. But it’s quite jarring that we were left out of the two important global economic blocs formed in the last almost 25 years. This is a reflection of our diminished standing in the global stage due to our chronically weak economy and persistently high corruption. No matter the fine speeches we read at world events, Nigeria will never be respected globally and admitted into any important international forum if our political leaders continue in their old habits of stealing from the treasury. We may be invited to attend such forums every year, but attaining membership would be a forlorn hope unless we embrace global best practice in governance.

[READ ALSO] African Union Becomes Permanent Member of G20

It was in 2016 that the then Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron, was caught on camera, as telling the Queen that Nigeria and Afghanistan were two ‘’fantastically corrupt’’ countries. They were discussing privately at the sidelines of an anti-corruption summit in London and the PM, not aware that the microphone lying near him was open, made the remark as President Buhari walked in. I wonder what Cameron would say today with all the revelations that have emerged since then.

In a few weeks, President Tinubu will travel to New York to attend the UN General Assembly where he will address the august body on the usual issues: impacts of climate change; energy transition in Africa; debt relief for poor nations and the need to expand the membership of the Security Council to include our continent. But the world will never respect us or listen to us until we clean up our act.

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