US-Nigeria Ties

by E. Terfa Ula-Lisa Esq

Since the world coalesced into a uni-polar world with the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States of America has been saddled with the unenviable responsibility of being the lone Super-Power, directing policy, spreading democracy and to ensure compliance, sometimes acting the role of the World’s policeman/fireman. The challenge of fending off disease, natural disasters, spreading democracy, fighting poverty, world economic recession, and now terrorism gives the USA the moral authority to call the shots in the International arena. The White House release informs us that Nigeria is a strategic partner of the United States in Africa. Entering into strategic partnership is not only worthwhile but also mutually beneficial. What benefits to be derived from such is dependent on the negotiating power of the parties and the groundwork done by the advisers/assistants/consultants or counselors of the respective parties.

Nigeria on the other hand, is the single most populous black nation on earth, the richest black nation in terms of human and material resources. By virtue of its land mass, creativity of its people wherever found (an estimated 3-5 million in the USA) and as a major supplier of oil and gas to the US, happenings in far away Nigeria, though local, may have an impact on the price of gas in the USA, giving credence to the saying, ‘all politics is local’. The added assumption of the responsibility by Nigeria as the African/Regional local champion makes a repeat of Somalia implausible. The US with a willing proxy in Nigeria may have effectively outsourced its African peace keeping duties to the so called “Giant of Africa” in a mutually beneficial strategic partnership. That may be why according to the White House release, “the visit provides an opportunity for the president [Bush] to thank president Obasanjo for his leadership as chairman of the African Union in the deployment of African troops in response to the genocide in Darfur, Sudan”.

Mutually Beneficial Relationship

While Nigeria may not be in the mould of the United States, Nigeria is to Africa what the US is to the world. This in the sense that whatever economic or security policies affect Nigeria, has a tendency to have a ripple effect on the rest of Africa in the same way the US affects the world by virtue of size of the market and the cultural ties and reach of the respective nations’ peoples. While Nigeria may have an underutilized economic potential added to its oil and gas, is poised to play a global role, but because of the lack of technological know-how and basic infrastructure, it still resorts to foreign aid in spite of its riches. The United States in seeking to help developing nations since 9/11 is offering a total package with the following logical policy extrapolation as laid down by the then Secretary of State –

“Development is not a ‘soft’ policy issue, but a core national security issue. Although we see a link between terrorism and poverty, we do not believe that poverty directly causes terrorism. Few terrorists are poor. The leaders of the September 11 group were all well educated men, far from the bottom rungs of their societies. Poverty breeds frustration and resentment, which ideological entrepreneurs can turn into support for – or acquiescence to – terrorism, particularly in those countries in which poverty is coupled with a lack of political rights and basic freedoms…”[i]

“The root cause of poverty is social injustice and the bad government that abets it. Poverty arises and persists where corruption is endemic and enterprise is stifled, where basic fairness provided by the rule of law is absent. In such circumstances, poverty is an assault against human, and in that assault lies the natural seed of human anger.”

“The United States cannot win the war on terrorism unless we confront the social and political root of poverty. We want to bring people to justice if they commit acts of terrorism but we also want to bring justice to the people. We want to help others achieve representative government that provides opportunity and fairness…”

“Indeed, foreign aid to undemocratic regimes can be counterproductive in that it increases the longevity of the ruling autocracy by making it easier for despots to keep their small clique of supporters happy. Foreign aid will not make a real difference if markets are manipulated by autocrats who control access to credit, licenses, and jobs. Foreign aid will not generate growth if sound banking institutions cannot arise, because transparency exposes nepotism and other forms of corruption. Foreign aid does not work if the heavy hand of authoritarianism crushes individual initiative”.[ii]

Currently, both President George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice have had cause to reiterate policy objectives in line with the above.

Regional Security

In the presentation of the US National Security Strategy on March 16, 2005, President George W. Bush said:

“America has an unprecedented opportunity to lay the foundation for future peace. The ideals that have inspi

red our history – freedom, democracy, and human dignity – are increasingly inspiring individuals and nations throughout the world. And because free nations tend toward peace, the advance of liberty will make America more secure”.[iii] In furtherance of that policy objective, the USA determines to work with others to defuse regional conflicts since they have a tendency to escalate and to spread over the region if not checked and hate and terrorist groups love these failed states. More specifically, the US-Nigeria likely would discuss conflict resolution in Africa;

  • In Darfur, where the people of an impoverished region are the victims of genocide arising from a civil war that pits a murderous militia, backed by the Sudanese government, against a collection of rebel groups.
  • In Uganda, a barbaric rebel cult – The Lord’s Resistance Army – is exploiting a regional conflict and terrorizing a vulnerable population
  • In Ethiopia and Eritrea, a festering border dispute threatens to erupt yet again into open war.[iv]

President Obasanjo was reported to have met Tuesday, March 21, 2006 with the AU’s special envoy on Darfur, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim to bring to a conclusion the mediation efforts facilitated by Nigeria and Libya on behalf of Africa’s international partners (as reported in the Guardian)

Energy Security

As one of the major supplier of oil and gas to the USA, Nigeria has increasingly come as a veritable alternative to supplement the deficiency as a result of the middle-east conflict. This explains the quiet multi-billion dollar investment in offshore oil and gas off the Gulf of Guinea bordering on Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome & Principe, Cameroon and Chad. To do good business the safety of the workers and equipment need to be guaranteed and secure from local militia, disgruntled youth as well as international terrorists. Nigeria is a major player in the region so partnership with her to ensure proper coordination, best practices and security infrastructural development is a mutually beneficial concept.

Fighting Corruption

President Obasanjo at his inauguration launched with these fighting words:

“Corruption, the greatest single bane of our society today, will be tackled head-on at all levels. Corruption is incipient in all human societies and in most human activities. But it must not be condoned. This is why laws are made and enforced to check corruption, so that society would survive and develop in an orderly, reasonable and predictable way. No society can achieve anything near its full potential if it allows corruption to become the full-blown cancer it has become in Nigeria. One of the greatest tragedies of military rule in recent times, is that corruption was allowed to grow unchallenged, and unchecked, even when it was glaring for everybody to see. The rules and regulations for doing official business were deliberately ignored, set aside or by-passed to facilitate corrupt practices. The beneficiaries of corruption in all forms will fight back with all the foul means at their disposal. We shall be firm with them. There will be no sacred cows. Nobody, no matter who and where, will be allowed to get away with the breach of the law or the perpetration of corruption and evil.“
President Obasanjo, inaugural address May 29, 1999

Only one instance would suffice to give the lie to those noble words. The President of Nigeria wrote in a widely circulated letter addressed to Audu Ogbe, deposed Chairman of his party that two persons, former governor Chris Ngige of Anambra State and his erstwhile god-father, Chris Uba, confessed in his presence that they did not win the election in Anambra State. The election tribunal has taken the un-Nigerian high road of deposing a sitting governor; but not only is Chris Uba not in jail; he has been elevated to the Board of Trustees of the PDP, proving to one and all, that Chris Uba remains a sacred cow.

While we applaud the steps taken by the EFCC, we notice a pattern in the cases being prosecuted and the coincidence of the investigation of those who had fallen out of favor with president Obasanjo or those who have voiced their opposition to a so-called Third Term Agenda. Is the EFCC neutral in fighting corruption?

Strengthening Democratic Institutions

In helping the fight against corruption the USA was not only being reactive in banning corrupt public officers from their list for US travel visas but was also proactively ingenious in the crafting of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) which Nigeria does not yet qualify. This is because

“Recipients of MCA money have to meet a set of eligibility requirements before they get a nickel. Governments must have in place effective policies to rule justly, invest in their people, and promote economic freedom. They must also agree to achieve measurable results from aid assistance in terms of reducing poverty and generating broad economic growth.

“Put a little differently, the MCA is an incentive system to r

eward the spread of freedom of speech and assembly; broader access to credit so that people can start new businesses; adherence to the rule of law to protect private property and enforce the sanctity of contracts. It is an incentive system for countries to provide their people with the basic tools for their own prosperity.”[v]

Can we in good conscience say Nigeria is operating the rule of law when the Bar Association had called out a two-day strike to protest Executive disregard of the rule of law? Could the figure or even charitably the general direction of the economy portend a reduction of poverty? How about newspaper reports that chieftains of a newly formed political party were arrested and their party launch dispersed by police tear-gas in a supposed democracy?

Some of the indices employed in the true test of a settled democracy are:

  • Are the party structures democratically run?
  • Are the elections free and fair
  • Are term limits respected?
  • Does the leadership honor the rule of law?
  • Is there a smooth transition from one term to another?
  • Is there a vibrant and free opposition
  • Freedom of speech?
  • Freedom of assembly?
  • Freedom of Press?

Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor as warlord drew the ire of the international community and specifically the USA for crimes against humanity. He stands indicted and is being sought to face charges in the UN Court. He is currently an assylee in Nigeria on the regional peace initiative of President Obasanjo. We have gathered that Obasanjo may hand Charles Taylor to get support for his scheme. While we are still in debate in the international legal system regarding what are crimes against humanity, it may be apposite to mention the crimes committed at Zaki-Biam and neighboring villages where civilian populations were lined up and brazenly shot by the Nigerian Military personnel on a revenge mission. Could this also amount to crimes against humanity? What has been done to compensate and reconcile the Tiv population devastated by such carnage?

Immigration Issues

While President Obasanjo is in the USA, he may take the initiative to speak on behalf of the Nigerians in the Diaspora, majority of who feel that Obasanjo has not done enough to hold his own as a World Statesman of African descent, on the vexed issue of the poor treatment of African immigrants to the USA. Congressman Sensenbrenner (who sadly hails from my state of Wisconsin, a so-called Christian and of the party of Lincoln whose ancestors must also have come to the USA as immigrants, not being of American-Indian descent) is the sponsor of the controversial immigration bill that in the words of one commentator”is foolish, would damage our economy our world image and the very ideals that the United States was founded on”.

I would not be doing justice to both leaders if I do not refer to What God thinks of the treatment of His people whether in Nigeria or the USA.

Here’s a word in season:

Behold the heaven of heavens is the LORD’S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is…

Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:14, 19

Collin Powell Foreign Policy January/February 2005 p.30

ibid p.31

National Security Strategy 2006

ibid p.19

Collin Powell Foreign Policy p.31

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