The media is just one space of popular culture but, arguably, the most dominant in the world today. Might the Society for International Relations Awareness, (SIRA), which ranks itself as a leading foreign relations think tank in Africa, be signaling the need for popular geopolitics in Nigerian foreign policy by electing ace columnist and labour activist, Comrade Owei Lakemfa as its new President?
A statement by Mr Oseloka H. Obaze (OHO), the Chairperson of SIRA’s Public Affairs Committee credits Cde Lakemfa with running two weekly columns on Nigeria and international affairs in the Vanguard newspapers for over two decades. He succeeds Professor Nuhu O. Yaqub (OFR), former Vice-Chancellor, University of Abuja and Sokoto State University.
The SIRA has yet to strike at national consciousness in Nigeria. With a newspaperman at the helms, that is what might probably occupy the first item on its wish list. Foreign policy has a nation unifying potential in Nigeria but remains nearly the exclusive preserve of foreign policy technocrats and high state officials and their largely quantitative approach to conduct of foreign policy. Popular geopolitics is yet to form part of Nigerian foreign policy although under Obasanjo, the media team on presidential missions was strengthened and there was something close to a media component to the foreign affairs minister’s exertions when Sule Lamido served in that position. Otherwise, narrativisation of the unfolding of Nigerian foreign policy in the popular culture is rarely more than the decontextualised clips mainly on the Nigerian Television Authority, (NTA).
SIRA has also elected new other officials. According to the statement, they include the new Vice President, Colonel Wilson Ijide (retd) described as a former Training Team Leader, Nigerian Army School of infantry with wide experience in international peacekeeping. He has a PhD in Industrial/Organisational Psychology and lectures in the Department of Psychology, and Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan.
Dr. Adaora Osondu-Oti, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of International
Relations and Diplomacy at Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, was elected the Chairperson of the Editorial/ Publication Committee. And Mrs Fatima Mahmud, Lecturer in Political Science and International Relations at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria is the secretary.
Prof. Alade Fawole was named in the statement as having been elected the Chairperson of the Research Committee. He comes to the job from the pedigree of authorship of book titles such as The Illusion of The Post-Colonial State: Governance and Security Challenges in Africa and Nigeria’s External Relations and Foreign Policy Under Military Rule: 1966-1999, making him, among others an expert in foreign affairs.
Dr. Tolu Elizabeth Ifedayo, Lecturer in Peace and Conflict Studies, Federal University Oye, Ekiti, (FUOYE), emerged as the Financial Secretary while retired United Nations official and technocrat, Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze (OHO), was elected Chairperson of the Public Affairs Committee. He had served as the Secretary to the Government of Anambra State under Governor Peter Obi as well as Willie Obiano from June 2012 to June 2015. He is credited with authoring six books, including Waning Strength of Government.
The election stretched over to members of the Board of Trustees, now chaired by Ambassador Jibrin Chinade, (OFR), a former Nigerian Ambassador to Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, The Hague; Netherlands and the Russian Federation with Concurrent Accreditation to the Commonwealth of Independent States Countries (16 Countries). Ambassador Chinade was also Permanent Secretary of Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Also on the Board are also Emeritus Professor, Anthony Asiwaju, historian and leading authority on border studies; Prof. Amadu Sesay, an authority on the Economic Community of West African States, and the African Union; Ambassador Abdul Rimdap, at various times Ambassador to Zambia, Austria and Germany and Ambassador Femi George, former Ambassador to Portugal, ex- High Commissioner to Canada and retired Federal Permanent Secretary. Others are Professor R. Ayo Dunmoye, long standing Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Ms. Julie Sanda, Head of Department of Conflict, Peace-Keeping and Humanitarian Studies at the National Defence College, and Professor Nuhu O. Yaqub OFR, the immediate Past President of SIRA.