Is Nigeria Moving Closer to Joining the BRICS?

With over 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa and the only one in West-Central Africa able to deploy an Army in the true sense of the term. In virtue of its economic and military power, it holds the regional balance of power. Thus, whether the government formed after the election of a new President last February would continue on the policy course taken by the previous government or break with it, was a matter of strategic importance.

Indications are that the government under President Bola Tinubu, despite his Anglophile pedigree, might follow the route of emancipation from the IMF and the Western financial oligarchy initiated by his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari had abandoned the neocolonial economic model of a raw material exporter, to make a strong push for developing infrastructure and manufacturing. To that end, he had strengthened ties with China and had Nigeria join the Belt and Road Initiative. It looks like this policy will not be changed, but rather upgraded.

The new Foreign Minister, Yusuf Tuggar, stated that his country is open to the idea of joining the BRICS, in a statement reported by Bloomberg News Nov. 22. Optimistically, he said that: “Nigeria has come of age to decide for itself who her partners should be and where they should be, being multiple aligned [sic] is in our best interest. We need to belong to groups like BRICS, like the G20 and all these other ones, because if there’s a certain criterion, say the largest countries in terms of population and economy should belong, then why isn’t Nigeria part of it?” (Nigeria is expected to become the world’s fourth most-populous country by 2050.)

This seems to be the result of a power struggle within the government. In fact, Tinubu did not even attend the August BRICS summit in South Africa, opting to send his Vice President Kashim Shettima in his stead. At the time, there was a public disagreement as to whether Nigeria had actually applied for membership, with Nigeria appearing on at least one published list of “applicants” for the summit. Shettima was forced to deny this in August, but the internal conflict went on into September, compelling the administration to issue a public statement confirming, “We have not applied to BRICS contrary to speculations out there. We have made no application to BRICs or the G20 as of today.”

Also notable is that the statements were made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and not the Minister of Finance. Yusuf Tuggar, a former ambassador to Germany, is known for supporting the ambitious Transaqua project for water transfer from the Congo basin to the Lake Chad basin, which the former government had strongly promoted. He had endorsed it in a speech he gave at the 2018 Schiller Institute Conference in Bad Soden (cf. SAS 28/18).

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