• Friday, December 08, 2023
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Soft power, Washington and Nigeria (2)

Soft power, Washington and Nigeria (2)

In an earlier piece, the focus was on the use of soft power as a resource in International Relations. It was pointed out that the notion of SP was pioneered by Professor Nye of Harvard.

One major advantage of this resource is that it largely precludes the use of force between nations. We also dwelt on how the US uses SP to facilitate her national aspirations.

This is done on various platforms like Hollywood i.e. movies, television programmes, the promotion of democracy, academic fellowships and the universities.

But as we also pointed out, there are contradictions in the use of this resource. This can be seen for instance in Washington’s attempts to promote democracy around the world.

In much of what follows, the focus will be mainly on how Nigeria has also attempted to use soft power in the pursuit of her national aspirations and interests.

But by way of building on an earlier theme, will start with how very early in their respective careers, the trio of Soyinka, Achebe and Clark were beneficiaries of America’s soft power on the platform of various academic fellowships.

Very early in their respective careers, the trio of literary icons like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and John Pepper Clark, received various fellowships from the United States to nourish and consummate their literary talents.

And in keeping with the promises and potentials inherent in such investments they all made good. But in view of what can be called the mad-artist-syndrome, this use of soft power can sometimes backfire, albeit temporarily.

This indeed was what happened in the case of a member of this trio, John Pepper Clark. J.P. as he is popularly known had been given a Parvin Fellowship, at a prestigious academic watering-hole: Princeton University.

Read also: Soft power, Washington and Nigeria (1)

As revealed in his book; America Their America, right from the airport, and in his encounter with American immigration officials, he was being lionized as that important fellow, who was headed for the world-famous Princeton University. Unfortunately, this attempt to suck him into the American system backfired.

The artist in him was able to see all the contradictions in his encounters with various shades of American society. The result was a ground-breaking book whose title was given above. Thus and somehow, JP had succeeded in turning the tables on his American hosts.

But not quite. This is because the empire has a way of fighting back. Some several years later, the self-same JP had to fall back on American resources to facilitate the birth of his drama group.

Incidentally, J.P is not the only Nigerian who has been able to interrogate the empire on the platform of literature. Very much the same thing can be said for Chimamanda Adichie.

On her own part, she wrote a book titled: Americanah. In an unconscious way perhaps, the book can be viewed as a sequel to JP’s own literary offering.

And here it is possible to be very proud here; it is probably only from this social formation called Nigeria that two writers from different generations have emerged to explicitly take a dig, so to say, at the dynamics of America’s Soft Power.

The interesting thing however about Soft Power is that all nations, in varying degrees, possess this resource. And our own Nigeria is a clear instance of this.

Soft Power is also available to this country. Perhaps the only exception here is that, unlike the United States, Nigeria is not working consciously on its use of this critical resource.

Readers may be surprised to learn that our Nollywood icons and footballers are well appreciated outside this country. Indeed, they continue to serve as unofficial ambassadors of this country, and through them, our dear country is appreciated and respected.

I may as well recall here my experience in Dakar Senegal As I tried to check into the hotel, the personnel at this facility started to hail me by chanting names like Okocha and Yekini once they knew that I was a Nigerian.

Another colleague, Jibrin Ibrahim of the Centre for Democracy and Development had a similar experience.As recounted by him when he got to Malawi, the folks there were asking him about the Nollywood icon, Rita Dominic.

Incidentally, a similar situation exists in Kenya where every Nigerian is viewed as rich, courtesy of our Nollywood movies which happen to be a favourite staple for their entertainment diet.

The point to note here is that even without a very conscious attempt on the part of the State, the Nollywood industry has been able to serve Nigeria so well. Beyond much of the foregoing is that our population can also be an important source of Soft Power.

Since we possess the largest black population in the world., Nigeria is a natural magnet for millions of black Americans and other black people all over the world.

Most of these blacks see Nigeria as something of an emotional destination. Indeed, some of them came here, hoping to settle down permanently in what they wanted to regard as home. But given the dystopia and incoherence which characterize our daily existence here, they had to flee.

Particularly worthy of reference here was the move by some African Americans to invest and settle in Badagry. But such is the state of our anomy that, there was even no road to Badagry.

So the dream ended. Pity. It is sadder still that a smaller entity like Ghana has been able to tap into this Black Resource to boost her national pride and economy. Very recently,the country tapped into the event called the Year of The Return.

It was an event in which thousands of black Americans decided to visit Ghana on the presumption that their ancestors hailed from Ghana in particular and Nigeria in general.

An elated Ghanaian President was to declare that the positive returns from this celebration, far exceeded their expectations.

This writer could only wince in anguish that, clearly and in this particular instance, and in view of our demographic strength, Ghana’s gain was clearly our loss.

It must be said however that in other areas, even the Nigerian state on its own has attempted to use Soft Power in its dealings with the rest of the world.

Specifically, our reference here is to the Technical Aid Corps Scheme. On the platform of this scheme, Nigerian professionals are sent out to other developing countries to offer their skills for a period of two years.

In the process, the country is able to gather a lot of goodwill, just like what Washington does with its own Peace Corps scheme. I do not know what has happened to ours at the moment. For I have not heard much about this scheme in recent times. It is to be hoped that this laudable scheme has not gone the Nigerian way.

This much is clear however, it was an ambitious drive to project our reach and influence through our human resources and capacity.

All told, however, and in purely objective terms, the United States has done much better than Nigeria in this endeavour.

The reason is obvious. In terms of coherence and vision, the United States outstrips us. One of our compatriots, G.G Darah, gave voice to this dimension of American exploits when he contended that:America has a stake to defend in the world and she knows how to go about it.

All told, however, what is evident is that if nations across the world competed with one another mainly in the area of Soft Power, chances are that there will be nothing like the on-going hostilities between Russia and Ukraine.

I do know however that I am only dreaming or being starry-eyed here. For if my dreams should become real in international relations; what will happen to those merchants of death, who sell arms.

And if you do not know, these merchants of death are antiseptically referred to as members of the industrial-military complex.

Their existence depends mainly on arms sales around the world. But even then, these traders of death will not lose out completely if there are no wars.

This is because the technology at their disposal can always be adapted to produce consumer goods. And to this extent, the current exchange of hostilities between say a Russian and an Ukrainian would have been consigned to the limbo of irrelevance. So Soft Power is it if humanity wants to save itself from extinction.

As the evolving realities continue to reveal themselves between Putin and his counterpart in Ukraine; I am very scared about what one wise man has called: the unintended consequences of intended action!