Nigeria’s Image Problem and Image-Polishing: Foreign Policy Responses since 1999


  • Ibukun David


The inaugural speeches of successive regimes since 1999 show an increasing recognition of Nigeria’s external image problem, especially with key governance indicators like corruption perception and human rights promotion. There is an equally growing awareness of the challenge this national image problem, acquired under decades of military rule, presents to foreign policy, demonstrating that perception matters in international relations. Consequently, what can be termed image-polishing appears to have dominated the country’s foreign policy space since 1999. Drawing on data from relevant international organizations, this article empirically demonstrates that external perception of Nigeria has not improved significantly after two decades of image-polishing foreign policy. This is expected, as efforts designed to shore-up the national image have been framed by toxic domestic politics. Ultimately, Nigeria’s image-polishing foreign policy thrust is enmeshed in denial and rhetorical commitment and as a result suffers a lack of constructive engagement with the country’s image problem. Constructive engagement with national image problem is therefore recommended.