- The Eagle and the Springbok: Essays on Nigeria and South Africa by Adekeye Adebajo
Among the many legacies of colonial rule, the establishment of territorial borders and the ascendance of modern state loom large. Two major states within the African continent—Nigeria and South Africa—have over time engaged in diverse forms of interactions, beginning with conflictual rivalry during the era of apartheid. This was followed by a time of cooperation and collaboration within the peacekeeping framework of the African Union, and finally expanding trade and economic relations. Adekeye Adebajo's book The Eagle and the Springbok examines the processes and dynamics of competition and cooperation between these two regional powers within the context of political rivalries, hegemony and leadership styles, and the development visions of both countries.
The thirteen chapters are arranged under four main themes: Rivalries, Hegemony, Rulers, and Visionaries. The first chapter, which describes politics as a "Shakespearean drama," examines four major epochs in Nigerian– South African relations. The first was from 1960 to 1992, during which Nigeria supported liberation movements including the ANC, which advocated total decolonization of the continent. From 1994 to 1998, Nigeria was under the heavy-handed military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. The period from 1999 to 2007, when Olusegun Obasanjo and Thabo Mbeki were presidents of Nigeria and South Africa respectively, witnessed collaboration between the two African powers, especially in continental institution-building. Finally, as the author contends, 2008 to 2017 is the "decade of troubles," characterized by strained diplomatic relations over xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and other African migrants in South Africa and the vandalism of South African businesses in Nigeria.
The second section of the book, "Hegemony," examines the concepts of Pax Nigeriana and Pax South Africana to explain the attempts of both countries within their respective regions to assert leadership and control, especially through active involvement in regional peacekeeping operations as well as in the economic sphere through ECOWAS and SADC. Adebajo incisively describes Nigeria's role in restoring peace and stability in Liberia and Sierra Leone as well as its collaboration with the UN peacekeeping [End Page E1] operation in Darfur-Sudan. In the case of South Africa, the author discusses its role in peacekeeping initiatives especially in DR-Congo, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, and the Central African Republic. In Chapter Six, Adebajo deploys the notion of "Every African is his brother's keeper" to demonstrate how both Nigerian and South African leaders in the post-apartheid era have "championed the implementation of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principles through AU, ECOWAS and SADC …" (96).
In the third section of the book, "Rulers," Adebajo elaborates on the role of political leadership in shaping the domestic and foreign policy orientations of both Nigeria and South Africa. In Nigeria, he focuses on the autocratic regime of general Sani Abacha (whom he labels "King Baabu" after Soyinka's satirical critique) and Olusegun Obasanjo (whom he calls "The Naked Emperor"). In South Africa, he dwells on the contributions of Nelson Mandela (the "Prophetic Peacemaker") and Thabo Mbeki (the "Renaissance Man"). Although Adebajo effectively describes the contributions, challenges, and failures of these leaders in their efforts to shape the trajectories of the political, social, economic, and cultural landscapes of their respective countries, his articulate framing of the irony in the case of Nelson Mandela is particularly revealing. Nelson Mandela (also known as Madiba) contributed enormously to the liberation of South Africa, but the establishment of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation to which the Rhodes Trust in Oxford contributed the sum of 10 million British pounds for scholarships, sports facilities, and child healthcare in South Africa (120) perverts the very principles that made Mandela an authentic hero and a model of democratic leadership. Thus, through the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, the ghost of Cecil Rhodes, the nineteenth-century architect of British imperialism and apartheid, became entwined with Madiba, the twentieth-century revolutionary, peacemaker and liberator of South Africa.
The fourth and final section of Adebajo's book focuses on "Visionaries," professional technocrats...