The Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) seems to be moving into the second phase of its effort to embed the geopolitics of performance into Nigerian foreign policy. What can be called the first wave can be dated to September 9.the2021 when he invested star footballer, Sunny Ojeagbese, with the title of Associate Member of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs.
It was on that occasion that Professor Eghosa Osaghae, the current Director General, announced the creation of a unit at NIIA to articulate the boundaries of the sports-foreign policy nexus. In a daze, Ojeagbese walked away to write a nearly 3,000-word article filled with theological invocations to hail the ambassadorial title, telling everyone how risky it is for Ojeagbese alone without the ambassadorial title. Still within that wave is the June 2022 conversation about sports in diplomacy.
The discussion now moves beyond recognizing that sports can be used to constitute a geopolitical identity for a country to how that can be done. Or how some models from that exercise have done this, and yet how some great sports success stories failed to turn it into an investment. A more complicated task that involves radical interruptions of much of the existing codification of international relations.
It’s an interesting move. Who knows if sport is not where Nigerian exceptionalism could manifest itself the fastest, becoming the bargaining chip if creatively connected to the Nigerian project. He seems to be off to a good start, given the various constituencies and voices highlighting him: Chief Obasanjo, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar 111, Pastor Adeboye, Governor Sanwo Olu, the head of the NIIA technocracy, and a radio station.