Written by Tommy
For centuries now, diplomatic relations among nations has not only become inevitable
but has become the major tool used by civilized nations to express and fulfill their
national goals in relation to the national goals of other nations on a platform that is
acceptable to all albeit with a degree of disparity in favour of one nation or a group of
nations above others.
The very art and science of managing the fallout of political frictions (international
politics), the regulation of diplomatic relation among nations (international law), and the
resolution of disputes among nations is enshrined in what is known as diplomacy – The
management of the good, bad, and ugly relations among nations of the world.
Every nation defines its policies and aligns them with those of other nations. This very
process could be referred to as foreign policy. The very dynamics of foreign policy is the
issue of what is and what ought or should. Though this in itself is more like an academic
debate, the concern here is how Nigeria in recent times has managed its diplomatic
relations. And two clear cases are the diplomatic face between Nigeria and South Africa
early last year and the one with the Saudi government over deportation of some
Nigerian female hajj pilgrims from the Holy Land of Mecca over their non-compliance
with hajj regulation that says all female pilgrims should have a male companion as a
criteria for participating in the hajj rite in the holy land.
Some questions that might be asked are: Did Saudi Arabia act out of impulse, singling
Nigeria out in enforcing the hajj regulation? Were Nigerian authorities responsible for
the management of hajj operations aware of the new hajj rule set by the administrators
of hajj operations in the holy land, and what measures were taken to ensure compliance
by Nigerian pilgrims? And what would Nigeria do with this development in taking a
precautionary measure to avoid a future recurrence? Does the action of the Saudi
authorities warrant a retaliatory action by the Nigerian government?
Many Nigerians both at home and in diaspora breathed a sigh of relief
that Nigeria finally has woken up to be a decisive “no nonsense’
nation in addressing attack – real or apparent against her nationals
anywhere in the world.
South African immigration authorities
Beginning with the South African –Nigerian diplomatic uproar, around the second
quarter of this year, South African immigration authorities deported some Nigerians over
alleged non-possession of yellow fever vaccines certificate. The Nigerian government
retaliated with her immigration authorities denying South African immigrants entry to
Within a short time of this development, a diplomatic heat built up. It took the direct
intervention of the South African government at the highest level that it not only
rescinded the its decision, but tended an unreserved apology by sending a special
delegate to Nigeria to do that.
Hearing of this development, many Nigerians both at home and in diaspora breathed a
sigh of relief that Nigeria finally has woken up to be a decisive “no nonsense’ nation in
addressing attack – real or apparent against her nationals anywhere in the world. What
that meant is that Nigerians are not just numbers but people who have a dignity to
protect because they are the nation’s greatest assets.
In the case of Saudi Arabia, it was neither about illegal entry nor on health ground but
on moral and ethical ground – regulation of hajj operations. The Saudi authorities
responsible for the management of hajj operations said they had a new regulation in
place that outlaws any female participant without a male companion from performing the
hajj. It also said it has in the past permitted other pilgrims, Nigerians included. But this
time, it decided to practically enforce the rule.
Answering the questions above, the Saudi authorities’ action may not be interpreted to
be a premeditated act to smear the image of Nigeria. If Saudi Arabia would do that,
what would be the gain for her? This is because Nigeria outside Africa is one nation that
has the strongest diplomatic relations. Again, Saudi Arabia is not seeking any political
recognition – at the UN, World Bank/IMF so as to belittle Nigeria before her.
Economically, there is no much dependency of the Nigerian economy on Saudi Arabia
apart from conventional relations – diplomacy and membership of the powerful
economic bloc – OPEC (organization of petroleum exporting countries).
Another strong factor of diplomatic relations between the two countries is religious faith
– Islamic brotherhood. Again, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia in the era of the cold war –
U.S/USSR capitalism –socialism dichotomy have remained friends as members of the
neutral coalition of non-aligned nations that neither supported the US nor the USSR
Lastly but not the least, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia notwithstanding their oil wealth, are
classified within the same economic belt as developing economies.
With the foregoing, it is clear, that both nations are best friends. What should be
examined is the motive of the Saudi immigration authorities in deporting Nigerian female
pilgrims. Looking at it from a political perspective, it will be unjust to conclude that the
Saudi authority did it to either score a point against Nigeria or smear her image.
The motive for the Saudi action could be to pass a stern message not just to Nigeria but
any and every nation that cares that when it comes compliance with set regulations, no
matter the nation’s relation – friendship and political influence in the world, and the issue
involved – spiritual matters of faith, the Saudis can enforce the rule without fear or
If the Nigerian authorities responsible for managing hajj operations are aware of the
regulation and did not comply, it could be as a result of lack of clear communication.
Either the Nigerian hajj operations managers did not understand the content of the new
hajj regulations and its explicit enforcement date or they did but expected a waiver till
future operations. Or someone among the Nigerian operation management did not do
the right thing in interpreting the content of the new hajj operations and treated it with
For the Saudi authority – it has an embassy with full diplomatic power to conduct
relations on behalf of the Saudi kingdom. At the point of issuing visas to the pilgrims, the
visa officials should have explicitly made it clear to Nigerian pilgrims without a male
companion that they will be denied visa and enforce it at the visa issuing point and be
denied visa. It would have saved them the cost in time, financial resources, and travel
hazard in the long flight journey to and from- without accomplishing their hajj mission
and most importantly, the psychological and emotional trauma of being disallowed in
fulfilling their spiritual obligations.
The intervention of the Nigerian government even through sending a
special representative of the speaker of House of Representatives,
Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, on one hand, and intervention of Sultan of
Sokoto (name) earlier did not change things much.
The action of Saudi authority could be seen as an extortion of Nigerian resources by
collection of visa fees for a mission that was never fulfilled.
The deed has been done
The intervention of the Nigerian government even through sending a special
representative of the speaker of House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, on
one hand, and intervention of Sultan of Sokoto (name) earlier did not change things
The deed has been done. What both nations should do is to shield their swords of
diplomatic attrition. Nigeria should not in any way take a retaliatory measure as that
would not bring any gains – political or economic to her. A good way Nigeria would
attract the respect of all civilized nations and even endear herself further to the good
people of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is to humble herself to accept the action and
think critically on strategies to put the right measure IN PLACE TO AVOID A FUTURE
There is a time in the life of a nation where national leaders should not see respect for
the rule of other nations as weakness if such rules do not in any way cause physical
harm to their citizens. That time is now for Nigeria. A rule of one nation that could cause
a psychological or emotional damage can be corrected not by the enforcing nation but
by the recipient nations by respecting the wish of a nation as a legal alien either at the
point of entry process or after entry. At most decline the option of entry at all.