Sunday, May 05, 2013

Nigeria, Boko Haram and the US War on Terrorism by Nkem Ekepara, Part 2

By Nkem Ekeokpara

It is doubtful if any Nigerian ruler, past or present, has taken time out to get and study the 9/11 Commission Report officially named ‘Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States’ since it was released on July 26, 2004. This is easily noticed when the Nigerian rulers ‘give advice’, ‘take action’ or ‘set up their own commission’ on the ongoing terrorism in Nigeria. Possibly, none of their advisers, including those in charge of security, has bothered to get hold of this report and digest it. And this is in spite of the fact that the red flag on terrorism has been fluttering in the skies of Northern Nigeria and had been noticed in far-flung places in recent times. 

This situation was allowed to fester in spite of even the fundamental knowledge that part of the reasons Nigeria’s former colonial power, Britain, acceded to whatever the Islamic North wanted in an independent Nigeria was because ‘they did not want a Northern Nigeria looking towards Pakistan and Egypt’, literally implying they did not want a fundamentalist Islamic state. They dreaded that, even though with recent developments it is doubtful if they achieved that objective; what with Nigeria’s membership of Organization Islamic Countries (OIC) and D8 masterminded by the erstwhile Northern hegemony, but executed by Retired General Ibrahim Babangida and late General Sani Abacha dictatorships respectively?  Then, there came the introduction of Sharia as state religion in 12 Northern states and now, Boko Haram/Ansaru. This British fear is there in the relevant material. But the Nigerian rulers and their coterie of aides don’t read, and even if they do, they are not bold enough to take actions based on the truth.

From former Nigerian ruler Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo during whose time this terrorist group emerged on the eve of 2004 as earlier mentioned, to the present Nigerian ruler Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, what we have seen are knee-jerk responses to an evil devouring innocent Nigerians daily, especially the Igbo and Christian communities in Northern Nigeria.

After they debuted on the eve of 2004, precisely, in Kannama, Yobe State, North East Nigeria, styling themselves as “Taliban” and attacking police posts, killing police officers, and confiscating their weapons, Obasanjo ordered the security forces to stamp them out. The security forces claimed mission accomplished after a fierce battle with the terrorists. Obasanjo did set up a ‘Joint Commission’ comprising members of the military, police and the State Security Service supposedly to investigate the incident. However, like most commissions or committees Nigerian rulers set up, nothing was ever heard of it. No effective and long-term containment strategy was evolved.

Of course, the Islamic fundamentalists were never stamped out. The remnant that survived in the Kannama encounter resurfaced in Borno State in 2009 and started slaughtering Christians under the supervision of their leader Mohammed Yusuf, in their camp in Maiduguri. It was when they decapitated three pastors who refused to convert to Islam and the Nigerian media reported the gory details that Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua, who was ruling Nigeria at the time, ordered a military operation against them. In that operation, their leader was taken alive by the army officer who led the operation and handed over to the police chief in Maiduguri.  And Yusuf was killed under a circumstance that pointed to a possibility that the Nigerian authorities did not want him to expose those financing him. In particular, there were speculations that the then Governor of Borno State Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff, the ‘chief security officer of the state’ was complicit in Yusufu’s killing. There were calls for Yar’Adua to investigate and uncover who killed Yusuf and bring them to justice. Even though Yar’Adua set up a commission to do that, the move did not lead anywhere. And just like the one set up by Obasanjo, nothing was ever heard of it.

With Dr. Jonathan’s presidency, things got compounded when a prominent Northern elite, Alhaji Isa Kaita threatened to make the country ungovernable for Jonathan if the latter became re-elected, and Retired General Mahammadu Buhari, a former military dictator, used the most intemperate, inciting and bigoted statements to ask his supporters during his campaigns to resist any outcome of the 2011 presidential election that didn’t go his way. Many believe that the threat and, indeed, the provocative statements by General Buhari spurred Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) supporters to visit violence on innocent Nigerians in the Northern states. That violence began as soon as Dr. Jonathan was announced re-elected by Professor Attahiru Jega, the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In that violence, more than 800 people were killed in 12 northern states and that included young graduates participating in the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme who played a commendable role in ensuring that the April 2011 elections were better than the preceding ones since ‘democracy’ was restored in Nigeria in 1999. Of course, Buhari knew he was not going to win.  He never campaigned in the South, but concentrated his campaigns in the 12 Sharia states that latter violently attacked and killed innocent Nigerians. You see, these people are still carrying on with what the British told them that they are ‘born to rule’. It is a shame that journalists can be arrested under this government while these individuals continue to roam free in Nigeria’s political space. What an animal farm of a country!

So, rather than a united effort to fight terrorism that reared its head in 2004, as we have seen in the US, some people appear to have aided growth and spread of this terrorism. And today, everyone knows where Nigeria is on the issue of terrorism, nearly a decade that group emerged with a name and series of actions that provided insight into its intent. Today, the Jonathan administration wants to grant amnesty to these jihadists on their own terms. And characters like Buhari are backing this inhuman move even when he had earlier rejected an attempt to get him to negotiate a truce with the jihadists.  

Now, with respect to oil, the American leadership clearly understood the risk America faced being dependent on hostile and unstable countries for 60% of their oil need. They have often been criticized for undertaking military operations or supporting oppressive regimes because of their quest for oil. Indeed, at various times in their history, American leaders did formulate one doctrine or the other to protect their national interests with regard to oil. The most memorable one was the Carter Doctrine in 1980, which the then President Jimmy Carter formulated to warn the former USSR that ‘the US would use military force if necessary to defend its national interests in the Persian Gulf region’, literally to ensure that the region, which holds two third of the world’s proven oil reserves and from where America sources part of her oil needs is not threatened by the Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. 

Sure, the US has taken such steps in the past and some analysts believe that President Bush Jr. invaded Iraq in 2003 so that America could have access to that country’s oil. That could not be ruled out. However, I do know that America’s best friends in the region are the six Gulf Arab States, namely Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman; and these countries were never comfortable with Saddam Hussein’s tight grip of power in Iraq. In fact, to them as long as Saddam Hussein was in power in Iraq, the Operation Desert Storm by the senior Bush that liberated Kuwait in 1991 was like scratching the snake but not killing it. And I believe that some leaders of the Gulf Cooperating Council countries (GCC), as they are sometimes referred to demanded a regime change in Iraq before they could accede to a possible demand by the American leadership that they should start introducing tolerable democratic reforms in their monarchical system. Therefore, the War on Terrorism provided President Bush the ample opportunity, using spurious intelligence, to finish an apparently unfinished war. 

But beyond the politics of oil, the American leadership has taken some other fundamental and non controversial steps in an effort to meet their oil needs. It has been subsidizing the development of alternative energy sources just as they did for oil and gas. In a report on their study on apparently a debate as to whether the government of the United States should continue to subsidize alternate energy sources titled, ‘Should the government subsidize alternative energy?’ Nancy Pfund and Ben Healey did mention in the report that ‘The government heavily subsidized each energy source, often at both the federal and state level.’ In that report published on Yaleinsight website in 2011, they also stressed that ‘energy subsidies have been constant in American history, literally going back to the country’s earliest days, and these subsidies have been crucial in America’s overall economic development.’ 

Certainly, the word ‘subsidize’/’subsidies’ will jump at some Nigerians who do not agree with the policy thrust of the Western-groomed economist, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, leading the economic team of the current Nigerian government. Yes, the American leaders have been subsidizing the development of ‘traditional’ energy sources for ages just as they are subsidizing renewable energy sources now. And this is understandable. They want the best for the American people. That is what should be the desire of every responsible and responsive government.

The critics of Dr. Iweala would wonder if she does not know about the referred subsidies. This should make one feel sorry for poor Nigerians who bear the brunt of subsidy removal in petroleum products by Nigerian rulers on the prodding of World Bank and IMF. It should make one feel sorry for poor Nigerians who are now being asked to pay a deposit of 25,000NGN - 50,000NGN for a pre-paid meter for unavailable electricity. That maximum amount is nearly two and a half times the annual minimum wage in Nigeria, which most states in the country are unable to pay. And in the package of the so-called reforms in the power sector, the Nigerian people were supposed to get this free. If one believes anything from this government, you believe everything (apologies to James Hadley Chase).

And the American leadership has not just been subsidizing the development of renewable energy sources, but also is encouraging oil companies to use the hydraulic fracturing technique to substantially increase production from hitherto unreachable reserves locked in shale formations. Although there are environmental concerns, the government is closely working with oil and gas industry operators to monitor and address those concerns. In November, 2012, the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) stated that between 2017 and 2020, the United States will be the world’s largest oil producer, ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia that were producing 10,900,000bpd and 9,900,000bpd respectively at the time.

2020 is the magic year for Nigerian rulers. It is the year they are unrelentingly deluding their gullible populace that the country will become one of the 20 leading economies in the world. They call it “Vision 20-2020,” but most objective analysts think it is delusion. If there is anything that puts a closure to that pipedream, it is the astronomical jump in the US oil production largely due to the application of the hydraulic fracturing technique. This is so because this increase in production will be yielding sweet crude. This is what is commonly called Bonny light; it is the type of crude Nigeria has. This light crude commands a good price in the international crude market. The US used to import about 10% of its daily need from Nigeria. But according to Bloomberg Businessnweek, since July 2010, the US has cut its Nigerian import from 1 million barrels per day to 543,000 as at October 2012. It quoted Edward Morse, head of commodities research at City Global Markets as predicting that by mid 2014, the US and Canada will stop import from West Africa, which includes Nigeria. The implication is that the price of crude oil will nosedive. And the consequences for Nigeria could be disastrous.

But you can give it to the American leadership. Each of their leaders, from George Washington to Barack Obama, has been a visionary. They are not blinded like the mindless looters that have ruled Nigeria from independence to date. Nothing unmasks the brainlessness and wickedness of those who have ruled and the ones ruling Nigeria now than their inability to use the enormous earnings from many cycles of oil boom to diversify the Nigerian economy through investments in various sectors. If they did that, they would have created a pool of competent and employable pool of graduates. They would have had going industrial concerns that would utilize the natural resources that the country is blessed with to produce all kinds of goods. Nigeria would not have become an import dependent country that it is today. Ultimately, they would have created jobs for the army of unemployed young graduates in the country at the moment. The only areas where huge investments had been made in this regard are in Education and Agriculture in Northern Nigeria. Yes, in Northern Nigeria! I will return to this later in the Part 3, which will conclude this piece.

There was even the pathetic case of Yakubu Gowon who proudly told the world that Nigeria had so much money that he didn’t know what to do with it. Well, the only time Gowon knew what to do with money was during the Biafra-Nigeria War. He knew how to use it to pay for all manner of arsenals and mercenaries he used to perpetrate the genocide in Biafra. These are the type of people that have ruled and still ruling Nigeria.

Put succinctly, Nigeria’s woes will no doubt multiply when the US attains the level of oil production being predicted between 2017 and 2020. Undoubtedly, this will bring down the price of crude oil as earlier noted, and drastically reduce what is available to be looted by the Nigerian rulers before the leftover is applied to the needs of the Nigerian people, assuming there will still be a Nigeria then.

Already, the disputation between the executive and the legislative arms of the Nigerian government over budget estimate is a pointer to the fact that the years of prodigality will soon be paid for. But who will pay for the years of prodigality?

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