A CRITICAL REFLECTION ON THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF CITIZEN DIPLOMACY IN NIGERIA’S FOREIGN POLICY AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS
The study sets out to examine the theory and practice of citizen diplomacy in Nigerian foreign policy and external relations. It attempts to appraise the issues/challenges inherent in the implementation of citizen diplomacy. Citizen diplomacy is of two main folds, viz.: Track I, and Track II diplomacy. Where Track 1 dimension of citizen diplomacy entails that the Nigerian government promote and protect the lives and properties of her citizens both at home and in Diaspora; Track II diplomacy on the other hand entails the participation of citizens as ambassadors and promoters of Nigeria’s image anywhere in the world. The paper argues that there exist interminable variables that are internal and external to the functioning of citizen diplomacy as Nigeria’s foreign policy plank such as the character of the Nigerian state, leadership, and Nigeria’s negative image abroad. The theory of liberalism is applied as the theoretical framework of analysis. The study is anchored on explanatory research design, documentary source of data collection and qualitative method of data analysis. The study deciphered that the Nigerian state has not matched the theory/principles of citizen diplomacy with practice. As such, Nigerians are left on their own to survive both at home and in Diaspora, and most of the times to the detriment of the country’s image. The paper recommends that Nigerian citizens should be wholeheartedly encouraged, supported, and protected by the Nigerian government using incisive critical appraisal, not as a tool to denigrate but as an encouragement tool for policy advice/information gathering through feed-back mechanism elicited from the citizens/nationals. This is expected to improve the attitude and disposition of the citizens towards the Nigerian state with respect to good reputation and image building.