In 1987, Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi convened a consultative meeting that led to a global grouping of nations called the Concert of Medium Powers.
The meeting aptly called The Lagos Forum was attended by senior officials from Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Senegal, Sweden, Switzerland, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, and Nigeria. Yes, you read right, all the current BRICS countries except China and South Africa – which was under Apartheid – were in Nigeria for the meeting.
The follow-up meeting in September 1 -3 1987, had the invitees increased by consensus to include Hungary, Australia, Pakistan, Peru, and Canada. Ethiopia did not attend and Zimbabwe withdrew.
The idea of the Concert of Medium Powers was driven by a deep concern at the lack of progress in the resolution of global economic and political issues and to serve as a new approach to restore confidence in the international peace process. The idea died as Prof. Bolaji Akinyeni left the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Nigeria’s pioneering effort at aligning the global south outside of the Non-Aligned movement was and remains a superior ideological and organisational framework to BRICS. The acronym BRICS was created by Jim O’Neill a Goldman Sachs economist to highlight investment opportunities and the countries took up the moniker and became a geopolitical block.
As a proud nation, we can take up the MINT acronym, created by Fidelity and made popular by same Jim O’Neill, for Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey to forge another bloc that share similar characteristics – large youthful population, developing middle class and strong entrprenueralism.
Our non-invitation to the BRICS is symptomatic of a gradual and consistent decline in global affairs. From our muscular foreign policy days of Gen. Murtala/Obasanjo days to the re-engagement days of President Obasanjo our standing in the global arena has waned over time. That standing cannot be reclaimed by war, saber-rattling or self-pity.
We need to go to work. Reform our civil service to be merit-driven and professional so that policies like Concert of Medium Powers do not die with Ministers. We need to rebuild trust in our country and renew the idea of Nigeria.
I am not sad the BRICS did not find us worthy of invitation to join, I am angry that we allowed our country to slide to irrelevance. That our bureaucracy has become the graveyard of big ideas and that our leaders have progressively degraded the quality of manpower at the highest levels of government.
#TimetoReset is Now.