In Africa there is a saying that no matter how confident the hen gets, the time comes when a mighty gust of winds exposes its rump. This is clearly the case with America with regards to the ongoing insurgency in the Northeast of Nigeria. Since the insurgency began a few years ago, a lot of people including this writer have been suspicious of America’s attitude.
For a country, which claims to be enamoured of democracy and human rights and abhors terrorism in all its ramifications, its body language as well as comments of leading Obama administration officials, has left a lot to be desired. If there were any doubts that America was insincere in its commitment to help Nigeria end insurgency such doubts must have been dispelled by now following its request to the Nigerian government that it should withdraw some military equipment currently being used at the warfront against the insurgents, for use in the training of Nigerian soldiers under a pact between the two countries.
Of course, the discerning Nigerian government balked at the idea and went ahead to cancel the training. As Mike Omeri, Director General of the National Orientation Agency and Coordinator, National Information Centre of the war on insurgency put it, no sensible government would want to endanger the lives of its citizens just because it wants to train its soldiers. Omeri’s explanation that the pact with America involved three phases of training out of which the Americans have concluded two and refused to fulfill the third phase, which involves the provision of equipment, clearly exposes the nefarious intent of the Americans. It is inconceivable that any rational and well-meaning ally would make the kind of demand the American government placed on its Nigerian counterpart. It is clear that Omeri on behalf of the Nigerian government was being polite and certainly ought to have accused America directly of complicity in the war Boko Haram has waged on its territory in the last three years.
For if truth be told, America appears to be at the heart of a conspiracy against Nigeria. Many will recall that before this bizarre request, it had refused to help Nigeria in the fight against insurgency by refusing to sell weapons and other military hardware to Nigeria. When the Nigerian government first made the situation public, the opposition political parties in their normal way of deriding government called on Nigerians to discountenance government position claiming that the Jonathan administration was only looking for excuses for its inability to end insurgency. But the federal government was to be vindicated later when America came out to state it had refused to sell weapons to the Nigerian military because of its poor human rights record. America’s position was as ridiculous as it was hypocritical. For a country, which has a trail of human rights abuses dogging its military in its fight against terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere, it was simply laughable to hear them advance that excuse.
On that matter itself, America goofed. The Nigerian military in all the international peacekeeping engagements they have been involved in outside have never been accused of human rights abuses. On the contrary, they have been commended for their professionalism and exemplary conduct. The refusal of America to sell us weapons was only part of its grand design to frustrate the war on insurgency in this country. Anyone in doubt should carefully study their conduct since the war on Boko Haram commenced.
A key pointer to America’s complicity is their behaviour in the aftermath of the kidnap of students of the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State in April. After the Jonathan administration had solicited and received foreign assistance including American officials who they said were coming to Nigeria to help locate and free the kidnapped students, American military officials were more interested in running down the Nigerian military and its state of preparedness for the insurgency.
I remember telling a friend at the time that there was something sinister about America’s mission to Nigeria. I felt that given the pronouncements of some of the military personnel who had come to Nigeria and other administration officials in Washington, that the Nigerian military would do well to be careful how they worked with them. My suspicion was stoked further by the insistence of the American military officials that it would not share intelligence with the Nigerian counterparts. Well, the Americans who glibly dismissed our military as incompetent and their methods archaic have been here for months and the Chibok girls remain in captivity!
Nigerians should wake up to the antics of the Americans. For some reason, they are playing games with the Nigerian government and its military and have decided to couch their real intentions with the talk of human rights abuses. When has it been that America would allow human rights abuses by any country to affect its economic interests? Isn’t America notorious for doing business even with countries they have no diplomatic relations with?
Have we forgotten the Iran/Contra Affair where America, despite having severed diplomatic relations with Iran, still went ahead to sell it weapons and then used proceeds from the sale to finance the Contra rebels in Nicaragua in their quest to overthrow the legitimately elected Sandinista government. America has never been squeamish in trucking with dictatorial or human rights abusing governments across the world. The list is legion and so we should not lose sleep over America’s claims that the Nigerian military is abusing rights of citizens dwelling in insurgency affected areas because they are baseless and intended to mask their real intentions towards Nigeria. What we should really be worried about is their real intentions, which are clearly not to our benefit.
Chika Onuora via email@example.com