Chances are that the name Iyorwuese Hagher would ring a bell in the international community. However, ask the man on the street who he is, and many people would be hard pressed to identify him. Definitely, most people could pass him by on the street. Ambassdor Hagher is currently the President of the African Leadership Institute USA. He has served as Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Canada, Ambassador to Mexico and other Central American countries, Member of Senate, Member of the 1994-95 Constitutional Conference, Minister of State Power and Steel, and Minister of State Health Ministries in Nigeria; Founding Chairman, Association of Pro-chancellors of Private Universities of Nigeria.
The 2019 presidential aspirant was awarded for his role in peace building among warring ethnic groups of central Nigeria in 2003. He is also Professor of Theater for Development and former Chairman of the Theater and Communications Department of the University of Jos. A prolific writer, playwright and poet, he is a leading contemporary thinker on the transformational potential of leadership, education and art, and the use of cultural diplomacy for global peace, spoke with our Correspondent in the United States, Dotun Ibiwoye, on Nigeria’s Diplomatic relations with the Western world.
What can you tell us about the state of bilateral relations between Nigeria and the Western World when you were Nigeria’s Ambassador to Mexico 2004-2007 and Canada 2008-2012 compared to then?
The most important development that has taken place between Nigeria and the West (North-Atlantic Countries) has been the enormous technological advancement that has taken place that brought nations together. The quantum leap in the communication technology has made information more readily for nations. Diplomacy as gate keeping has given way to diplomacy as boundary spanning. This has given nations clearer understanding of each other’s problems and how to tackle and how to cooperate with one another. One of the most difficult challenges that countries face today is how to tilt the balance between local reality and global concerns as the boundaries between the two is fast eroding. Poverty, insecurity and environmental concerns that were yesterday’s challenges have been overtaken by insurgency, the havoc of proliferation of small arms in Nigeria that have fueled hate crimes and ethnic crises. Nigeria is now home to ISIS and Fulani herdsmen (two of the world’s most deadly terror groups). At the global stage the rise of China has opened for Nigeria economic opportunities that the West was reluctant to offer. This has raised new fears in diplomatic relations between Nigeria-the west –and China. On the whole, Nigeria’s stature as the biggest economy in Africa and the stability of its democracy has given Nigeria a respectable niche in the diplomatic arena much more than before!
What were the major achievements of diplomatic relations of Nigeria since over 58 years of independence?
Nigeria from inception in 1960 anchored its foreign policy on liberation of Africa from colonialism and oppression. Nigeria had invested its petro-dollars to the freedom struggles against apartheid in South Africa. Barely a few months after independence Nigeria became part of the UN peace-keeping force in the Congo. Africa became the cornerstone of Nigeria’s foreign policy. Zimbabwe’s Ian Smith’s unilateral declaration of independence for Rhodesia directly pitted Nigeria against British interests and Nigeria played the economic card to crush the Smith regime by nationalizing British Petroleum as a measure of its assertivenessto be respected by her former colonial master. Nigeria participated in the formation of the Organization of African Unity and has continued to play a significant part in the African Union. It also formed the world’s first multi-national peace building and enforcement body; the Economic Community of West Africa and ECOMOG. Nigeria’s contributions led to the AGOA and NEPAD initiatives that aimed to expand economic activities of African States.
As an accomplished Writer and Scholar, how have social actions and diplomacy evolved and made their way to the forefront of the international diplomatic sphere?
The Dynamic changes in the 21st century especially after the 9/11 have brought the world to acknowledge the futility of the global arms race. Today’s world has opened space for global terrorism which now challenges even the most heavily armed, economically dominant Western nations in ways never hitherto imagined before. Small countries like Iran and North Korea have become global threats. Even some individuals armed with weapons pose great danger to global peace. It’s now increasingly desirableto engage in cultural and economic diplomacy rather than muscle flexing over pilled arms. Nations States under the UN and many multi-national initiatives have embraced social action as desired strategy for political, economic and social change needed to make the world a better place for all.
There is an incredible gap in knowledge between countries. Countries that embrace research and development, commercialization and innovation are growing their economies hugely, and making life easier and better through new products, machinery, appliances gadgets and methods. The knowledge of scientific and technological invention in applied research is the collective property of the world. It is a global heritage. International partnership in research is a critical need to be achieved in order to attain international peace and economic growth. It is an answer to the world’s cry to lift humanity from the pit of poverty to share in the improved society whose life can be lived in dignity and self-respect.
My most difficult obstacles encountered in Mexico, Panama, Costa-Rica and Guatamela was ignorance and prejudice about Nigeria and Africa. These countries as well as Canada and the US found it difficult to conceptualize, the continent Africa as a giant comprising 54 independent countries. They kept focusing on Africa as a nation, as a single country!! The position of Blacks in these countries also posed a particular challenge since Nigeria could not help them nor divorce her attention from the public perception of Black inferiority.
As High commissioner in Canada I was excited to participate in research on HIV-AIDS with university of Winnipeg and NACA; the Nigerian Commission on HIV-Aids, and have watched the prevalence rate of HIV Aids go down in Nigeria through improved co-operation of the World Bank and the Nigerian government. This has improved health of Nigerians and provided a new generation of healthy youths to man the economy.