By Prof Ade Adefuye
Please allow me to join issues with Prof Jean Her skovits of State University of New York, on an article with the above title published in your newspaper on January 2, 2012.
I was amazed by the contents of an article by the respected Prof Jean Herskovits who had done substantial scholarly research and published some quality articles in Nigeria. But it seems this time around, the subject matter is still too fresh and she has not had sufficient time to ponder on issues connected before putting pen to paper.
Relations between the United States and Nigeria are at an all-time high not because Washington is biased towards a Christian president from the south as Jean said, but because, among other things, there is a convergence of and mutuality of interest in the strategic global objectives of the Obama and Goodluck Jonathan administrations.
Washington and Abuja would want to see a world free from nuclear proliferation, free from terrorism and a world in which the tenets of democracy human rights, rule of law, good governance, accountability and responsible governance thrive.
The Americans as well as Nigerians would like to see a world which features more of consultation and cooperation as distinct from confrontation. The Obama administration, realizing the strategic importance of Nigeria and the influence that the country wields in Africa has not hidden its desire to see Nigeria as the bastion of these ideals and a strategic ally through which these ideals would be spread and strengthened in Africa.
In the pursuit of these ideals, Nigeria and the United States have cooperated in the United Nations and other international fora.
The genesis of this was laid in April 2010 when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan visited President Obama after attending the nuclear security summit in Washington, D.C At that meeting, Dr. Jonathan, then acting president, promised, among other things, that he would conduct a free, fair and credible election, and take steps to remove the fundamental weaknesses in Nigeria’s politics, economy and society.
That he conducted a credible election is now history. He is now in the process of making free, fair and credible elections an established process and a permanent feature of the country.
But removing the fundamental weaknesses of the Nigerian politics, economy and society; weaknesses which existed in previous regimes and which have become endemic that they now pose a risk to the economic survival and future of the country, has not been and will never be an easy task and that is why we are where we are now.
Jonathan’s transformation agenda is all about broadening the base of the economy by lessening our dependence on oil, using the proceeds from oil to strengthen other sectors of the economy like agriculture, improve the quality of infrastructure: power, road and rail, among others and create jobs for our young population, thereby reducing the scope of hunting grounds for recruitment into terrorists organisations like Boko Haram.
Nigeria and America realised the interdependence of the world and the need for the support of friendly countries in the pursuit of her developmental objectives. That was, why the two governments signed a Bi-national Commission Agreement in April 2010 which provided for cooperation in the following four areas:
Transparency, Governance and Integrity (TGI);
Energy and Investment;
Food Security and Agriculture;
Niger Delta and Regional Security.
It is within this context that Prof Herskovits should seek to understand the current level of cooperation between our two countries and not because Jonathan is a Christian southerner. The truth, which should be obvious to all now, is that insecurity or terrorism in one part of the world could easily spread to other areas as witnessed in the impact of the Somali Al-shabab on shipping along the Horn of Africa.
That Boko Haram constitutes a threat to all is evident not only by their bombing of the UN headqurters in Abuja but also by the rumour, though largely unsubstantiated, that some of those involved in the bombing of the Abuja UN offices received training in Somalia, Libya and Niger.
The fact that some of the Gadaffi supporters were taking refuge in neighbouring Niger points to the potential danger which Boko haram could pose and partly explains President Jonathan’s decision to close some borders when he declared a state of emergency in four states where Boko Haram had been active.
General Carter F Ham, who Herskovits quotes as saying that Boko Haram has links with Al Qaeda affiliates, may not be wrong after all.
A meeting of the US-Nigeria Bi-National Commission on regional security has been scheduled to hold sometime soon in Abuja during which the Bi-national Commission Agreement itself will be reviewed with the aim of expanding its scope.
Regional security involves internal security in each of the states in the Gulf region as well as in other parts of West Africa. With Boko Haram now in the north eastern part of Nigeria, the restless Tuaregs in Niger, Belmok Tar and Droukdel in Northern Mali, the virtual deterioration of Somalia into a failed state ruled by restless war lords, the insecurity in the Sudan with its proximity to Al Qaeda infested parts of the Middle East like Yemen, there is obviously a need to prevent the terror network from spreading and eventually threatening other parts of the world including the United States.
Congressmen who declared Al Queda a threat to U S homeland security might not have been exaggerating the potential danger which Boko Haram poses.
I am surprised to read Prof Herskovits declaring as “simplistic” the blame heaped on Boko Haram for Nigeria’s security challenge. The Niger Delta crisis has been laid to rest. Except for Jos, which is suspected to have been infiltrated by Boko Haram and for ,which an acceptable formula for peace is now evolving, there is no other area of Nigeria facing security challenge of notable proportions.
What further surprised and amazed me is the glaring contradictions and conflicting conclusions in Prof. Herskovits article. In the second paragraph, she writes that “there is no proof that a well-organized, ideologically coherent terrorist group called Boko Haram exists today”.
But, in the following sentence, she admits that “there is an original core group which still exists and remains active but that some active criminal gangs have adopted the name Boko Haram to claim responsibility for attacks”. Yes, it is true that some criminal gangs pretend to fight for designated causes. It happened in the Niger Delta but the m
ajor recent attacks in Nigeria fit very perfectly into the avowed policy of Boko Haram that western education is sinful. This is why they burn churches and schools. Thieves and criminals have no interest in burning churches or mosques which are perceived to be critical of their actions.
Muslims in Nigeria, led by the acknowledged leader, the Sultan of Sokoto, and Chief Imams, have condemned Boko Haram, saying true Islam does not condone murder. The whole country is united in the effort to put a stop to the activities of Boko Haram.
I find it particularly disturbing that Professor Herskovits, in one section of her article, cast doubt on the credibility of Nigeria’s last elections. Even though she admitted that international observers found it credible, she asserted that many Nigerians, especially in the North, did not.
Maybe it is necessary to remind Herskovits that the credibility of the election has now been confirmed by the Supreme Court. It necessary to remind Professor Herskovit of the geographical and historical origin of the principal characters in the electoral process as well as the judicial process that confirmed the credibility of the elections.
It is grossly incorrect and patently unfair for Prof Her skovits to write that the present government, by its policy, undermines the peoples personal security and hope for improvement in their lives when in fact it is doing just that.
The basis for this unfortunate assertion is Prof Herskovits attitude to the recent removal of the fuel subsidy by the government. Prof Herskovits joined those who rushed to judgement and did not even wait to consider the government’s case for the removal of the subsidies.
She seemed not to have given thought to the fact that the country has paid 3.65 trillion Naira (2.25 billion dollars) in domestic fuel subsidies since 2006 with more than a third spent in 2011. The government spent 1.35 trillion naira (7 billion dollars) in the first nine months of last year.
Removing the fuel subsidies will help save 7.5 billion dollars this year which is about 25 percent of the government’s spending plan. This money, the government promised, will be channeled into capital projects to develop infrastructure such as roads, railway and electricity.
The step became necessary when it became clear that, with around two thirds of the country’s budget being devoted to recurrent expenditure, continuing with the present system and paying so much to subsidise fuel in a fast growing population, there would soon come a time when there would be no money for anything other than paying salaries and the country could grind to a halt.