March 4, 2019 DCCI Team

Book of the Month “Human Rights in Nigeria’s External Affairs”

Cecil B. Currey Book Award Winner and DC Consult International’s Advisory Board Member, Dr. Aka, gives an exclusive interview about his recent book publication “Human Rights in Nigeria’s External Affairs: Building the Record of a Moral Superpower”. Read his interview with  DC Consult International’s Associate for International Trade & Development Division, Nene Ananaba.

Summary from Roman Littlefield

This book is a broad-ranging argument for thorough reforms at home and abroad in Nigeria as the only antidote to the nation-building dilemmas Nigeria confronts in the first quarter of the twenty-first century. Because of its enormous material and human endowments, Nigeria is dubbed the “Giant of Africa.” It is a moniker many of its leaders take seriously. Yet, Nigeria is a state rife with instability, some of it periodically erupting into violence. Given still-ongoing national security challenges in the land that notoriously includes a bloody religion-oriented terrorism, the Fourth Republic since 1999, the longest period of continuous democratic rule since independence—key to the timeline of this book—has not been insulated from the spell of instability.

The main argument of this work is that internationally agreed-upon ethical standards embedded in human rights can save Nigeria. This book is a methodologically and theoretically-grounded, seminal discourse on Nigerian foreign relations that spells out the human rights or lack thereof in those relations, including underlying and impinging domestic forces.
This work is set around six issues of application embedded in a temple of Nigeria’s human rights foreign policy, comprising two steps and four pillars: reconstructed national interest, increased human rights at home, redesigned peacekeeping, reshaped foreign policy machinery, increased bilateralism in foreign relations, and the use of ECOWAS as human rights tool. Although focused on the period since independence, for proper understanding of events from the past that shape the current patterns of politics in the land, this book also embodies a historical background chapter that overviews the pre – colonial and colonial eras.

Interview with Dr. Philip Aka

Nene:Thank you Professor Aka for agreeing to be interviewed by our team at DC Consults. Your latest book “Human Rights in Nigeria’s External Relations : Building the Record of a Moral Superpower” is DCCI’s Book of the Month. In 2017 it won the prestigious AGSS Cecil B. Currey Book Award. Congratulations again! What inspired you to write this book?

Dr. Aka: Thank you, Nene. Happy to speak with you today. I was inspired to  write this book around Fall of 2013 when I started the Doctor of Juridical Sciences (S.J.D.) degree at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law at Indianapolis. It originated from my work for this terminal qualification in law. From the time my supervisor accepted my proposal in Fall of 2013 to May of 2016 when I defended my dissertation, it took three years to write the book. Having said this, as I indicated in the book’s preface, the work builds on my scholarship relating to human rights going back nearly two decades to 1999. The book’s bibliography contains the identity of 15 of these studies published from 2000 to 2016. Yes, you are right: fortunately for me, the book won the Cecil B. Currey (Best) Book Award of the Association of Global South Studies for 2017.

Dr. Aka: I believe that internationally agreed-upon ethical standards embedded in human rights can save Nigeria. My motivation, therefore, for writing the book was to help improve the application and enjoyment within Nigeria of human rights (the set of political-civil and socioeconomic freedoms individuals have by virtue of the fact that they are human beings), by having this country join the list of Global Good Samaritans. Nigerian governments at all levels are notorious for systematic and thoroughgoing abuses of the human rights of their citizens that go back a long time that have remained unchanged since the inauguration of the Fourth Republic from 1999. Global Good Samaritans is a name with biblical connotation that Professor Alison Brysk, a well-regarded human rights scholar at the University of California at Santa Barbara, reserves for a small set of small-power and middle-power countries in the world, like Canada, Costa Rica, and South Africa, which consistently applies human rights in their dealings with other countries.

My sense was that Nigeria’s being a Global Good Samaritan which applies human rights in its external relations will inure to the benefit of human rights enjoyment within the country. The book contains a set of strategies, denoted in Part II as “Temple of Nigeria’s Human Rights Foreign Policy,” that the country’s leaders can use to achieve this worthwhile goal. Instructively, one of those techniques is “Charity Begins at Home: Increased Respect for Human Rights in Nigeria,” analyzed in Chapter 6 of the book.

And regarding the distinction that you make between this topic and usual suspects like poverty and corruption, it is a sharp demarcation that, for me, in reality does not exist, since the likes of poverty and corruption (low-quality governance) are, broadly speaking, issues for human rights. In particular, poverty alleviation (which countries like China have done so well on) are matters of socioeconomic human rights of the kind that Chapter 6 of the book also addresses.

Nene: How did you come up with a title for your book?

Dr. Aka: I believe the title matched the argument for a human rights-based foreign policy for Nigeria, ultimately designed to benefit the enjoyment of human rights within the country, that the book makes.

Nene: Tell us a bit more about your book? How did you carry out research for its content? How long did it take to gather information?

Dr. Aka: My previous answers already addressed this question, however, I will like to say a little more about the research for this book. This book was based largely on archival materials, broadly defined, including an avalanche of regional and international human rights documents that I then subject to the techniques of the comparative method (particularly most-similar-systems design and within-case comparison) that I used as methodology for the work.

Nene: What are your top three favorite books of all time?

Dr. Aka: My three favorite books of all times, all incidentally more or less human-rights-related, in no particular order, are: Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (Heinemann, 1958); Samantha Power, “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (Perennial, 2002), and Micheline R. Ishay, The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era (University of California Press, 2008).

Nene: Are there any upcoming books that our readers should look forward to?

Dr. Aka: I am interested in socially relevant research that uses the tool of social science, including law, to study and propose solutions to some of the most difficult problems minority populations everywhere confront, particularly issues tied to human rights. Consistent with this option, for several years now, my research has focused on the human rights to healthcare, particularly a comparison of the U.S. and a number of developing countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and South Africa. More immediately, I am completing a manuscript on Bosnian-European Union relationship in which I lay out reasons why Bosnia and Herzegovina, a multi- ethnic state in southeast Europe, should not join the European Union.

Nene: Thank you for your time. We wish you success in your future endeavors

Dr. Aka:You’re welcome, Nene. Anytime.

Distinguished Professor of Law, Dr. Philip C. Aka, S.J.D., LL.M., Ph.D., J.D., is Advisory Board Member for DC Consult International. Dr. Aka is Dean of Law at International University of Sarajevo and Professor of Political Science at Chicago State University. He is the author of “Human Rights in Nigeria’s External Affairs: Building the Record of a Moral Superpower”. Dr. Aka won the 2017 Cecil B. Currey Book Prize from the Association of Global South Studies (AGSS) for his book publication

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