AMERICA has long been regarded as Nigeria’s strategic ally. In fact, Nigeria has essentially been modelled after the USA. When oil boom derailed our economy in the 1970s and 1980s, we set out to transfer the economy to the private sector. We removed government from the business of doing business. Before then in 1979, we had adopted the American presidential system of government. Our pretentions to being a non-aligned nation was effectively jettisoned even before the Soviet Union collapsed and conferred upon the USA, the status of the sole superpower and policeman of the world.
Our attachment to America became much stronger. In addition to being the biggest buyer of our mono-economic product – oil – Nigeria (especially its presidents) wanted to conform to what I describe as the Obasanjo doctrine. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo once said: “It pays to be in the good books of the big man in your neighbourhood. He can only help you”. Every Nigerian president from 1979 has tended to run to America to see its president and secure “support and assistance”. Since 1999, every president that has led Nigeria made a trip to the US. In fact, Obasanjo visited and received two US presidents – Bill Clinton and George W Bush.
Buhari’s recent visit to the US was in line with this tradition. The trip was even more relevant in view of the perceived roles the US and its Western allies played in the downfall of former President Goodluck Jonathan, which made it possible for Buhari to emerge as the first opposition leader to beat a re-election-seeking incumbent in Africa.
Jonathan’s regime was branded as “corrupt, incompetent” and lacking the capacity to defeat the Boko Haram jihadist terrorists decimating the North East. The regime of Barack Obama had, after pledging to support our effort to eradicate Boko Haram suddenly reneged, accusing our military of nebulous and unsubstantiated “human rights abuses”. They refused to sell us crucial military hardware. At a point, a frustrated President Jonathan disbanded the half-hearted military training programme the US had with us and looked to Russia and the open market for arms to fight Boko Haram. We made a six-week surge and recaptured 95 per cent of territories under the insurgents’ control just before GEJ had to go.
Buhari’s trip was highly romanticised by officials of both countries, with our president given symbolic high grade reception. His shopping list was simple and directly linked to his cardinal programmes: he wanted Obama to sell to him the military materiel he had denied Jonathan in order to make a short walk of beating Boko Haram. He also went to Obama to break the earth-shaking news that over $150 billion was stolen by “high officials” of the Jonathan government, mainly through oil thievery, asking to be assisted in an effort he would soon launch to recover the loot. He also wanted to market our economy to American business to help him create prosperity and jobs.
Obama eagerly pledged to help in recovering the alleged stolen money. He also put Buhari in touch with American business leaders. But to Buhari’s shock, he met a stone wall when it came to the crucial issue of procuring military equipment. Amnesty International (AI) a Western imperialist snooping agent crawling all over the Third world had accused our troops, without valid proof or evidence, of engaging in “human rights violations” in the course of their operations. Obama and his men told Buhari that the Leahy Amendment forbids America selling arms to the military of foreign countries which violate the human rights of its people.
It is instructive to note that we, Nigerians, especially Northern leaders and media warriors, might have wittingly or unwittingly played into Obama’s hands to prevent the sale of arms for us to fight Boko Haram. When Jonathan was in power, it was the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Borno Elders Forum, Northern politicians such as former Governor of Adamawa State, retired Admiral Murtala Nyako and Arewa media operatives that drummed up the propaganda of “genocide” against Northerners by the military. They even threatened to drag a former Chief Army Staff, Lt General Azubuike Ihejirika, to the International Criminal Court.
Boko Haram, as if complementing their efforts, also frequently wore fake Nigerian Army uniforms when it captured, slaughtered and dumped their hapless victims in mass graves.
Human rights violations
They carefully videoed these atrocities and attributed them to Nigerian troops. It was these things that Al simply documented and pronounced Nigeria guilty of human rights violations, thus playing into the hands of evil people among us who want Boko Haram to overwhelm Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the same AI bluntly ignored the atrocities being daily perpetrated by Boko Haram, who abduct and rape innocent women and children, rig them up to carry out suicide bombings, attack churches and mosques and kill innocent worshippers, massacre people in their villages, slaughter people like chicken and seize Nigerian territories to proclaim as part of their chimera of an “Islamic Caliphate”. In fact, Boko Haram was graded as the “most murderous” terror outfit in the world in 2014, and they are likely to retain that ghoulish title in 2015.
Obama is so insensitive to the sufferings of Nigerians. Rather, he has chosen to care for the “human rights” of Boko Haram fighters and their acolytes, hiding under the so-called Leahy Amendment. Already Boko Haram has resumed gaining new territories in Yobe State. That is the power of its resurgence after Jonathan.
As Buhari rightly noted, Obama and his cohorts are applying the Leahy law “unwittingly”. I agree that this was not the way it was intended to be applied. A close examination of the countries where it has been applied: Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan, shows they were used to prevent governments from violating the human rights of hapless people under the territories of drug lords, rebels and anarchists. The Leahy law is ultimately meant to help achieve America’s foreign policy objectives, one of which is winning the global war on terror.
It is flexible enough to provide assistance to Nigeria if the Obama regime is actually willing. Obama is an unwilling seller, full stop. Otherwise, he would consider the suffering of innocent citizens and sell the weapons pending the outcome of the investigation that Buhari promised to do. America could even offer to partner with us in that effort.
Obama denied us the military equipment because of our anti-gay rights law, of which Buhari has reaffirmed to uphold. That was the only item of demand the US tabled. If Buhari had offered to abrogate the law, the Leahy Amendment would suddenly have dissolved into a very compliant statute.
America has become like the salt that lots its taste. When salt loses its taste it becomes worthless. America no longer buys our oil. It won’t sell us Panadol for our headache. Buhari must look elsewhere as Jonathan did: go to Russia, China, Israel and other willing, genuine allies.
Most importantly, we must look inwards. Buhari must stop moving in the direction of nepotism and party-ism and bring all Nigerians on board. Unite us; bring out the best in us. Let Northern Muslims do away with their secret support for Boko Haram and the nonsense will become history. Unless this happens, even if America gives us their sophisticated weapons they will end up in Boko Haram hands, and that will be nunc dimitis for Nigeria.