The International Politics of Petrol

by SOC Okenwa

The United States of America is seen rightly or wrongly by not a few nations as an international bully — military, political and economic bully. Blessed with the diverse talents of people from across the Atlantic and elsewhere who congregate in the free world in search of the vaunted ‘American dream’ America is a prosperous rich land. Generous and fiercely secular the US accommodates even devil incarnates as long as nothing is done by them to break the law. The good, the bad and the ugly co-habitate in the United States where liberty is seen generally as a national credo.

Between American imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism however the international community is caught in the middle in trepidation. If not the fear of Al-Qaeda today then Osama Bin Laden, their leader-at-large, uses Al Jazeera cable TV network headquartered in Doha to convey messages of terror to his followers and perceived enemies accentuating the climate of fear and the unknown. Or the suicide bombers in Iraq, Israel or Palestine delivering horrific statements to those they consider their oppressors.

Many people have argued that the Bush administration invaded Iraq more for reasons of oil rather than the official reason of neutralising supposed nuclear arsenals in late Saddam Hussein’s dangerous hands. Today the US has taken hold of the Iraqi oil re-inforcing its economic gains. The problem the Bush presidency is having with Iran may be more than attempts to control nuclear proliferation as the official line goes. President Ahmadinejad of Iran has had to deal with an imperial global super power out to maintain its dominance and check military excesses of others with hers unchecked.

By far the biggest opposition to the American imperialistic hold on the larger world is coming from Caracas where President Hugo Chavez has cut the image of a revolutionary leader unwilling to be dictated to by the West. The best friend of dying Fidel Castro, Chavez at 53 represents a new generation of Latin American leftist leaders up against the global status quo. Chavez, who has just recently lost a referendum that would have given him sweeping constitutional powers (some say presidency for life!) with which to undertake hard reforms is a socialist rebel within. The Venezuelan President more than any other leader before him, has used his nation’s oil and gas proceeds to better the lives of his suffering compatriots endearing himself to them in the process.

The international politics associated with petrol is one played with carrot and stick. With the American Congress seeking to encumber the OPEC powers by legislating out its monopoly over oil quotas and prices the petrol politics is raging and Nigeria is not found in the picture as much as would have been desirable. With huge deposits of oil and gas in the Niger Delta Nigeria as one of the leading oil producers ought to be more active and assertive in the international politics of petrol.

But forced to the backstage by circumstances of unimpressive leadership and uninspiring diplomacy (with an old-breed PDP loquacious politician at its head) the emaciated Giant of Africa allows other external forces decide and determine in her stead. For her nodding in agreement whatever decisions the hawks like Hugo Chavez take is good enough.

With comatose refineries (in Kaduna, Warri and Port Harcourt) that executive corruption has grounded, importation of refined products, impending increase in pump prices of petroleum products (reading VP Goodluck’s Augustus Aikhomu lips) and illegitimate leadership at the center Abuja has enough in her political plate than standing up for her rights in the comity of nations. With huge population living below poverty line in a climate of insecurity and insensitivity of the political class Nigeria has fared relatively poorly in the Human Development Index compared to other oil producing countries.

Hogo Chavez knows the power of oil and the concomitant politics so he employs subtle blackmail sometimes to ‘intimidate’ America into submission. In the General Assembly of the United Nations in the Big Apple the other day he described George Bush as “a devil” starting his fiery speech by declaring fearlessly that “a devil has just left this podium” much after Bush had delivered his address. Imagine President Yar’Adua picking up enough courage to so act rhetorically to the acclaim of those leaders who shared his emotive outbursts.

Chavez during the OPEC Summit in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (a nation America is ‘marrying’ politico-economically) decried the American meddlesomeness in OPEC activities. The Nigerian President was in attendance and little or nothing was heard from him! Chavez had threatened during the little violent opposition protests preceding the constitutional amendment vote in his native nation that he would cut oil export to the US if America intervened militarily in his nation’s internal affairs.

His intrepidity derives more from the people’s power he wields than empty military bravado. Chavez was nearly militarily shoved off power few years back but with the help of the Defense Minister then (now his adversary) and the masses who poured out to the street in defense of his mandate he bounced back stronger in power. He is from every imagination a true patriot, a nationalist bent on seeing the downtrodden in his country emancipated.

Hugo Chavez beyond his radicalism, leftist political ideologies and leaning is to many poor Venezuelans an embodiment of leadership and statesmanship. He bestrides international politics with astuteness and confidence rare in our clime.

With American dollar in free fall in the international currency rates the Euro has become the new international strong currency whose stability can be vouched for. And with the Dragon using its population, economic resurgence and veto power in the UN Security Council to checkmate America‘s politico-military will China is re-positioning itself for greater global roles in the nearest future. But the problem with this Asian giant is that she is always on the wrong side of the civilisation pendulum using the veto power for wrong causes.

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