In 2023, Bola Tinubu was elected president of Nigeria after defeating other candidates in a hotly contested race. Tinubu, who was previously governor of Lagos State, campaigned on promises to revitalize Nigeria’s economy, crack down on corruption, and implement major reforms. His election marked the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term in office.
Since becoming president in May 2023, one area of interest has been Tinubu’s foreign trips, particularly his visits to France. In this article, we will explore the questions:
- How many times has President Tinubu travelled to France since taking office?
- When did these trips take place?
- What was the purpose of each visit?
- Who did he meet with during these trips?
- What agreements or deals were made, if any?
- How do these France trips fit into Tinubu’s foreign policy vision for Nigeria?
- What is the broader significance of France as a destination for the Nigerian president?
By examining these questions, we’ll gain insight into Tinubu’s priorities and approach to foreign relations in his early days as president.
Trip #1: January 2024 Private Visit
On January 24th, 2024, President Tinubu departed Abuja for a private visit to Paris, France. According to a statement from his spokesperson Garba Shehu, Tinubu was scheduled to return to Nigeria after a few days in Paris (Sahara Reporters). The purpose of the visit was stated as a private trip with no official state business planned.
However, some news outlets speculated that the true purpose may have been medical in nature, with Tinubu seeing his doctors in Paris. There was no official confirmation of this from the Presidency (Punch Nigeria). During the visit, Tinubu may have met with some French business leaders and government officials, but details of his agenda were not released publicly.
The January 2024 trip came just after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Nigeria, leading to speculation about the timing. Overall, the visit seemed to be an entirely private affair with Tinubu spending a few days resting in Paris before returning to official duties in Abuja.
Trip #2: June 2023 Stopover
In June 2023, President Tinubu made a surprise stopover in Paris, France after attending the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City. This was not an official state visit, but rather an unscheduled stop during his return trip to Nigeria. The stopover was not disclosed on his original itinerary and came as a surprise to many.
The significance of choosing Paris, France for this stopover could highlight Tinubu’s desire to connect with a key strategic partner early in his presidency. As a former French colony, Nigeria has maintained close ties with France. This surprise visit may have been an opportunity for Tinubu to meet privately with French government officials and business leaders to discuss trade relations and other bilateral interests shortly after taking office.
The stopover demonstrated Tinubu’s focus on international diplomacy and his priority to build relationships with major powers like France. While no major agreements or deals were announced, the visit signifies France’s importance to Tinubu’s foreign policy vision for Nigeria.
Trip #3: March 2023 Rest and Lesser Hajj
On March 23rd, 2023, just over two months before his inauguration as president, Tinubu travelled to Paris for what was described as a period of rest and to observe the lesser hajj (Vanguard). The timing of this visit, so close to assuming the presidency, led to much speculation about the true purpose of the trip. Some questioned if this was simply a retreat before taking office or if there were other motives behind visiting Paris.
The choice of Paris as the destination is also notable. Tinubu opted to take his pre-inauguration break in France rather than London, Dubai or another common destination for Nigerian politicians. This likely signals Tinubu’s desire to strengthen ties with France early on and engage with key figures prior to becoming president. The visit underscores Paris as a priority relationship for Tinubu as he began his presidency.
Analysis of France Visits
France has long been an important strategic partner for Nigeria given the strong economic, cultural, and historical ties between the two countries. According to the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Nigeria is France’s leading trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa, and the fourth-largest in Africa overall . During President Tinubu’s visits to France, he likely focused on strengthening this trade and investment relationship even further.
In November 2023, several trade and investment agreements worth billions of dollars were signed between Nigerian and French companies during President Macron’s reciprocal visit to Nigeria . This deal making reflects France’s status as Nigeria’s “first commercial partner in sub-Saharan Africa” with around 100 major French firms operating in the country.
While the specific outcomes of President Tinubu’s France trips are unclear, they likely involved discussions on how to deepen economic ties. With France viewing Nigeria as a “key partner”, Tinubu likely sought French investment in Nigeria’s infrastructure, energy, and technology sectors. His visits underscore Nigeria’s strategy of leveraging its relationships with foreign partners like France to achieve its development goals.
In total, President Bola Tinubu has made 3 visits to France since becoming president of Nigeria in 2023. These trips included a private visit in January 2024, a surprise stopover in June 2023 after the UN General Assembly, and a rest and religious observance trip in March 2023 before his inauguration.
The frequent visits to France demonstrate that Tinubu sees the country as a vital strategic partner for Nigeria. The business, economic, cultural and historical ties between the two nations are deeply important to the president. While details of any specific deals or agreements made on these trips are unclear, Tinubu likely used the visits to strengthen personal connections with French leaders and advance shared priorities.
Going forward, we can expect more trips to France during Tinubu’s time as president. He will aim to leverage France’s influence in international affairs to promote Nigerian interests. Tinubu will also want to encourage further trade and investment between the countries. His early visits have set the foundation for expanded Nigeria-France cooperation across many areas.