Saturday, March 6, 2021

Session 4 with Amb. Campbell: Nigeria and the Nation-State: Rethinking Diplomacy with the Post-Colonial World (6 Mar 2021)

NOTE: This session was held on 6 February.  

A recording is available at our Facebook Group Page. Alternatively, members can contact Fadji or Jack for a link to the YouTube recording. 

Ambassador Campbell Biography:

He is the Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC. He is the author of the new book Nigeria and the Nation-State: Rethinking Diplomacy with the Postcolonial World, published December 2020, and writes the blog Africa in Transition. From 1975 to 2007, Campbell served as a U.S. Department of State Foreign Service officer. He served twice in Nigeria, as political counselor from 1988 to 1990, and as ambassador from 2004 to 2007. Campbell's additional overseas postings include Lyon, Paris, Geneva, and Pretoria. He also served as deputy assistant secretary for human resources, dean of the Foreign Service Institute's School of Language Studies, and director of the Office of UN Political Affairs.

From 2007 to 2008, he was a visiting professor of international relations at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was also a Department of State mid-career fellow at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Prior to his career in the Foreign Service, he taught British and French history at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia. 

Campbell has also written Nigeria: What Everyone Needs to Know, coauthored with Matthew Page and published in July 2018, Morning in South Africa, which came out in May 2016, and Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink, the second edition of which was released in June 2013. He edits both the Nigeria Security Tracker and the Sub-Saharan Security Tracker.

Campbell received a BA and MA in history from the University of Virginia and a PhD in seventeenth-century English history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Italian AMB to the DRC, Luca Attanasio, and two others were killed in the east of the country on Monday. This tragic event highlights one of the central points in your book, namely that post-colonial African states struggle to maintain effective control and security in the far reaches of their territories. In your book you recommend a decentralization of US diplomatic footprint in Nigeria/Africa to better engage with civil society and local leaders, while also acknowledging the risks to diplomatic personnel. Could you talk about how you envision that working?
  2. On 1 March, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman and African to lead the WTO. The Nigerian economist and former finance minister has stated that one of her first priorities will be to work on easing export restrictions on COVID vaccines so countries in the global south can access them. How would such a WTO ruling affect the US and its efforts to combat the pandemic? Could her tenure as director general of the WTO usher in a new era for countries in the global south that have historically been marginalized and faced unequal terms of trade?
  3. In your book, you convincingly explain the current predicament of Post-Colonial Nigeria and African states, where fragile national identity, exploitative and predendal leadership, and weak government control in the periphery create the illusion of a nation-state in the Westphalian sense. That description harkens back to Kwame Nkrumah’s warning of what a neo-colonial state, unprotected by a united African Union would look like, when he wrote “ For those who practise it, it means power without responsibility and for those who suffer from it, it means exploitation without redress. In the days of old-fashioned colonialism, the imperial power had at least to explain and justify at home the actions it was taking abroad.” Would you argue that Nkrumah’s vision offers an alternate explanation for Nigeria’s current predicament?
  4. You touched on corruption and illicit outflow of funds as an impediment to development in Nigeria. The US Congress has acted with the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Act to assist US Courts identify and hold accountable those involved in moving stolen assets from foreign governments through the US banking system. Can more be done in this regard? Last year, a UN report revealed that 800 Billion Dollars were illegally siphoned from African state coffers in the last 15 years, not to mention the amount of legitimate capital flight.
  5. In making the case that Nigeria, like other post-colonial African states, might not be viable in the long term, instead of resorting to breakups along national, religious, linguistic, and ethnic lines, a process that could prove violent, do you see the AU and regional bodies’ efforts to accelerate integration as a remedy for the weakness and ineffectiveness of the post-colonial state in Africa. (ie: AfCFTA, AU reforms ushered by Kagame, etc…)
  6. Rapid demographic growth in Africa is often talked about as a tragedy. In the book, you warn about the Malthusian crisis that can arise from unchecked population growth in Nigeria and across the continent. While this assessment is fair and supported by evidence, do you worry that it misses the point that Africa is still one of the least densely populated continents on the planet, while also being the repository for the world’s most arable land and most coveted natural resources?
  7.  In making the case for a rethink of US diplomacy towards Nigeria, “The pretense of treating Nigeria as a Nation-State -- something it is not -- will no longer do,” you pointed to climate change, the environment, demography, migration, changes within the diaspora as variables to be taken into account while engaging with the Nigeria. Could you expound on that?
  8. With issues of Anti-SARS and protests against police brutality in Nigeria that we saw in late 2020, do you see parallels to similar movements in the United States. Are there lessons we can take from this connection on both sides of the Atlantic?
  9. As most of you know we created this group’s name based on a story Nelson Mandela told in several speeches where he shared this idea of having crossed famous rivers in his career and notably how he used these crossings to grow, absorb new ideas and renounce old ones. So as is customary with these sessions, we’d like to ask if you could share some of the famous rivers you’ve crossed in your career or life? And maybe you could also share what struck you most serving in South Africa during its transition from apartheid.

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