US LISTING OF NIGERIA AS A TERROR STATE: MATTERS ARISING
The fact that there was a botched attempt to blow up a plane by a Nigerian spoilt brat is no longer news. What remains is for Nigeria to pick up the pieces and do a serious soul searching. The main question we must ask is when Nigeria began its slide down the cliff of self-destruction. The question is not what made Farouk Abdulmutallab embark on this dangerous adventure, but what the elite in Nigeria have brought on the suffering masses of the country.
In a country, which is the 6th Oil Producing country with the best oil in the world and where the elite steal and live flamboyantly while every other Nigerian, at least 70% lives on less $2 (N300), one is not surprised at what the boy did. In a country where the middle class can no longer afford meat for stew except bones (as in the case of those from the north) just to make the soup or stew tasty; in a country where the average Nigerian needs at least N5000 ($35) to make a pot of stew that feeds a family of four for one week, in a country where the minimum wage remains at N5000 ($35) a month in most states, it cannot be argued that children of the elite would embark on adventures that would bring not only their families, but the entire country down.
In a country where things are easily swept under the rug, especially when they involved the rich and powerful, it surprises no one that Farouk Umar Abdulmutalab would do what he did. Yet a more pertinent question to ask is “Why was Farouk Abdulmutallab never in a Nigerian School? Why did he need to go to UK to study if our universities were anything to drive home? The elite spend their lives stealing and stashing away the wealth of nation, leaving our infrastructure and school system to rot so that they can send their kids abroad, to the most expensive schools to study.
They are unpatriotic enough not to care about what goes on in the country to the detriment of the entire nation. As the Hausa proverb goes, “Munafunci mai dodo ya cinye shi,” literally translated and for lack of better words in the English language, “The evil that men do lives after them.”
Let me get to the main issue. Was the United Stated justified in including Nigeria on the list of state-sponsors of terrorism and is Nigeria truly a terrorist state? Perhaps the answer lies in what the US itself defines as state sponsored terrorism. According to the US State Department, “Countries determined by the Secretary of State to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism are designated pursuant to three laws: section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act.” Dugdale-Pointon (2001) points out that “the common perception for much of the
20th century was that terrorism was perceived as a contest between two sides: on the one hand, a shadowy somewhat connected group of people or an organization, and on the other, a sovereign state with the power of the law and legal if not democratic legitimacy.”
Historically, various countries have used terrorist organizations to promote state interests in the international domain. Some states have gone further to establish "puppet" terrorist organizations, in this case, such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, Al-Haqza Martyrs Brigade of PLO, whose purpose is to act on behalf of the sponsoring state, to further the interests of the state, and to represent its positions in domestic or regional fronts. State sponsors use this to effectively wage a low level war against rival powers without the risk of escalation or a political backlash. Using such techniques make it easy for a state supporting terrorist to deny any involvement with little risk of retaliation. Does Nigeria fit this profile? Your guess is as good as mine.
State sponsors of terrorism sometimes go to the extent of sponsoring and supporting existing organizations for mutual interests, the terrorist organization gains political and economic power, while the state benefits politically to control the domestic population. Where this happens, the patron state provides its beneficiary terrorist organization with political support, financial assistance, and the sponsorship necessary to maintain and expand its struggle. Cross border activities mostly depend on proximity and in case of proximity, some patron states also provide a safe haven for terrorists who raid across the border at the risk of revealing open involvement with the terrorists and retaliation, military or politically.
Good examples include alleged French support for the Basque separatists carrying out attacks in Spain, US support for Jonah Savimbi of Angola against the MPLA popular government, the US support for Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and the Russian support for the Nicaraguan forces against the popular government, all of which occurred during the Cold War. The patron, for the most time, uses the beneficiary to perpetrate acts of terrorism as a means of spreading the former's ideology throughout the world, or in some cases, the patron ultimately expects the beneficiary to gain control of the state in which it resides or impart its ideology to broad sections of the general public. If Nigeria fits this profile then the US is right to include it on the list of State-sponsors of terrorism but I would say, it doesn't.
State-sponsored terrorism may also occur when a repressive government regime forces its citizens into disobedience, oppresses minorities and stifle political dissent. Death squads and use of government troops to destroy opposing political parties are often associated with political terrorism. State-sponsored terrorism may take many forms. At one extreme, a government may establish its own death squads whose sole purpose is to advance the interest of the state. At the other extreme, a state can simply provide a safe haven for terrorist, allowing them to operate without restrictions.
A moderate level is where states assist terrorist financially, and refuse to extradite them to face criminal charges in another state. A good example of this is Libya's refusal to surrender the Lockerbie terrorists of the Pan-American Airline to Spain to face trial. Where government is involved in financing terrorist activities, such funds are channel through such avenues as cultural and nonprofit organizations which serve as frontiers for such activities.
The designated state sponsors of terrorism are believed to have been involved in a variety of activities. For example, Iran is well known for supporting Hezbollah of Lebanon to subvert and obstruct the Middle East Process. Similarly, Syria on the other hand, has long been known to be a safe haven for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a host of other terrorist organization whose main desire is to destroy Israel. Syria not only provide money, it also provides arms, training and allows other countries including Iran to use its territory and land to ship aids to terrorist fighting against Israel.
Again, does Nigeria belong in this group? To some extent yes, if you read the first part of this paragraph and what has been going on in the Niger Delta and the extra-judicial murders going on as well as the kidnappings that have become a daily occurrence. No, if you go by the last part of the paragraph. Again, your answer would depend on your understanding of the issues.
I gave the above background to give the reader a broader perspective on the current diplomatic row between Nigeria and the United States of America. Clearly, there is enough blame to go round to both Nigeria and the United States, but we must first understand the source of this row. First, it must be stated that Nigeria is increasingly becoming irrelevant in world affairs.
I stand ready to take the heat here but the truth must be stated that Nigeria began its downward slide four years ago when then President Olusegun Obasanjo devoted his final two years in office fighting his “perceived enemies, asking for a third term in office and imposing an ailing president on the people of Nigeria. He did this by using his hunting dogs such as Nuhu Ribadu (former EFFC Chairman), Nasiru El-Rufai (former FCT Minister), Nasiru Mantu (former Senate President), Jonathan Zwingina (former Deputy Senate leader), Professor Maurice Iwu (Chairman, Electoral Commission), the list goes on and on. Obasanjo who came in as a so-called savior of the nation, quickly found himself intoxicated with power, chasing ghost enemies and living the ship of state to grind to a halt at the end of his eight years.
Obasanjo himself has confessed that he did not become president for development purposes; he reported that he did not come to build roads, ensure steady electricity, water supply or even equip our hospitals. He has confessed he did not come to fix the educational system, ensure maintenance of infrastructure or any form of development but to ensure that Nigeria survived as a nation. He spent eight wasted years ensuring institutional corruption, allowing anarchy, crime on the increased and complete breakdown of law and order to the point that it was no longer safe to travel anywhere at night or even enjoy peace at your home. Obasanjo's eight years were marred by incompetence, arrogance, nepotism, and total neglect of all sectors of the economy.
At the end of his eight year-tenure, Nigeria had grinded to a halt with nothing going on except political thuggery. The National Assembly that was supposed to exercise oversight over the Executive wing of government was constituted by political thugs, whose main objective was to ask for contracts and pay increase every year. How can one explain members of the National Assembly shouting on journalists and human rights lawyers and telling them, “I can kill you, I was a street boy in Port-Harcourt before I was elected.” Simply, put, I am a political thug and you dare not exposed us as corrupt. Nigeria had become a failing state. Some had classified it as a failed state but the truth is that, as long as the three arms of government were in place, it was a failing rather than a failed state. There are only two known failed states in the world today; Somalia and Afghanistan.
Nigeria reached its climax of state failure once President Yar'Adua was inaugurated. He was not only unprepared to govern, but was so clueless on how to steer the ship of state. To add to his incompetence, the president has been sick and unable to perform. In a country of laws, President Yar'Adua was supposed to have been given a clean bill of heath by his doctors before his election. Well, on this, I don't even know it would have mattered because doctors in Nigeria would have been paid to give a fake report anyway. For the last three years, Yar'Adua has performed abysmally, barely able to stay on his desk for more than four hours. The absence of the President and lack of empowerment of the Vice President to act simply put Nigeria on the last leg of state failure.
In a country of laws, and where people have a conscience, Yar'Adua would have either resigned or would have been declared unfit to rule. Without a president, the machinery of state has completely collapsed, making Nigeria a failed state. If you study factors that lead to state failure, you will conclude that Nigeria, as it is today is a failed state. This is where I see the diplomatic row between the United States and Nigeria as an important discussion point for those interested in diplomacy and international relations.
A failed state has no central government and as at today, without a president or acting president, Nigeria has no central government and completed its last leg in the journey to state failure. Without a president, without a substantive ambassador in the United States, and without credible diplomatic channels, it was easier for the US to brand Nigeria a terrorist state. In all truth, a failed state is a terrorist state! A failed state cannot control its borders; neither can it impose relevant laws to keep the people and the rest of the world safe.
So when Farouk Umar Abdumutallab woke the world to such a rude shock on Christmas Day, I said to myself, the final lap of Nigeria's journey to state failure has been completed. So the brouhaha in Nigeria amounts to nothing owing to the gross failure of the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Federal Executive Council. Nigeria should first look inward before embarking on this infantile diplomacy we are witnessing from the Senate and the Ministers of Information and Foreign Affairs.
Has Nigeria given the world any reason to believe it could be a safe haven for terrorists? Absolutely yes! Since 1975, Muslims and Christians, particularly in the northern part of the country have engaged each other in combat. The regime of General Ibrahim Babangida between 1985 and 1993 saw an increase in the upsurge of skirmishes between Christians and Muslims in the country.
Ibrahim Babangida himself used the divide and rule system to perpetuate himself in power by surreptitiously registering Nigeria in the Organization of Islamic Conference, a sticky point responsible for the frosty relations between Christians and Muslims.
The row that this created in 1986 culminated into the 1987 crises in which for the first time in Nigeria's history, Muslims and Christians engaged each other in physical combat. From this time on, the battle line was drawn. Since 1987, Nigeria has not known peace. Ibrahim Babangida's Machiavellian antics led to the insertion of the Shari'a law in the 1989 Constitution as Muslim Law, not Muslim Personal Law as was originally crafted in the 1978 Constitution.
Such rendering of the law led to the reenactment by State Houses of Assembly of twelve northern states of the New Shari`a Law that now criminalized many areas of life in Nigeria. The story is well known of the mass murders that took place in Kaduna State in 2000 and 2001 popularly known as the “Shari`a Crises” and the “Miss World Crises.” Others soon follow suit in Plateau, Kano, and Bauchi States. The peak of the crises came with the declaration of a State of Emergency in Plateau State due to religious crises that were instigated by political elites both inside and outside the state. Plateau State now became the target of homegrown Islamic terrorism.
Of recent, the Boko Haram crises in which about twenty pastors where beheaded in Borno State, simply told the world, all was not well with Nigeria. The fact that the President constituted a mock commission headed by the arch enemy of Plateau State's, General Emmanuel Abisoye (rtd) after the November 2009 Jos crises signaled the president's taking sides and showing interest in completing what his older brother, late General Shehu Musa Yar'Adua did when he sent many young Benue-Plateau officers to their early death in 1976 during the Murtala Mohammed botched coup.
All these have been happening as the world looked on. Even as the world watched in horror the attempted bombing of the aircraft on Christmas Day, there were crises in Bauchi State instigated by Muslims leading to not less than 100 people losing their lives. So practically, Nigeria has put itself in the position that now gives the US the drive to put it on the list of terrorist states because of these acts of domestic terrorism going on in the country.
This final act by Farouk Umar Abdumutallab and President Yar'Adua's disappearance to an unknown destination in Saudi Arabia coupled with the lack of political will of the Nigerian state to act, culminated into the current diplomatic row. It is laughable that the Senate would give the US a seven-day ultimatum to rescind its decision on Nigeria as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Both the Ministers of Information and Foreign affairs have acted so amateurish that many of us who understand diplomacy simply laughed. The Senate threat also falls short of an understanding of what international diplomacy is all about. Of course, I don't blame them; many of them are ignorant and only go there to warm seats or at best fall asleep when debates are going on.
To the shame of the nation and the African continent, there is no coordinated effort to engage the US. Summoning the US ambassador is reminiscent of the old military regimes when hawkish diplomacy was the order of the day. I can say without fear of contradiction that the US is simply laughing and would call Nigeria's bluff off after the seven days.
We are not getting anywhere with this kind of childish behavior. It begs the question, “What kinds of people man our foreign affairs ministry?” What is the way out of this problem? First, both Nigeria and the US must engage in closed-door high level diplomacy where the problem could be resolved at that level. To do this, there must be a high level diplomat to do this and this diplomat must be at the level of the President. President Obama needs a peer to speak to; he cannot speak to some mere Minister.
We lost the opportunity to engage the US when the president sent a Minister rather than his vice at the last UN General Assembly Meeting. Literally, Nigeria's chair was vacant at such an important meeting. Second, Nigeria needs to be proactive in letting America know that simply because one misguided boy attempted to blow up a plane should not be reason to brand a whole country a state sponsor of terrorism. Nigeria does not fit this profile. The case of Richard Reese, the shoe bomber must be brought to the discussion table. Britain and Jamaica were not branded state sponsors of terrorism simply because Reese was a British citizen of Jamaican descent. There cannot be double standards in branding based on isolated cases. The definitions I gave at the beginning do not warrant Nigeria to be so branded. America's reaction is hawkish and has taken us back to the old days of George Bush in his fight against terrorism. Nigeria and indeed the world expect President Obama to understand better and act more civilly (although he has had a very low view of Nigeria even when he was a senator).
Third, Nigeria must make the United States understand that they share 90% of the blame for not taking the report of the Farouk's father more seriously. It is rare and this shows the character of Nigeria and Nigerians. It is unprecedented for a parent to report his/her own child of a suspected crime. The CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Counter Terrorism outfit of the United States should not sacrifice Nigeria for their incompetence. They had enough warning signs to have stopped Farouk from flying. Where is Holland in the picture of all this mess?
The boy spent only 27 minutes in Nigeria and spent three hours in Holland. If the Nigerian security could not find him, why didn't Holland find him? Nigeria must address the problem of racism while discussing this issue. This seems a clear case of racism and because the boy is black and comes from Africa. In the case of Richard Reese, neither the United Kingdom nor Jamaica was held responsible. Why should the case of Nigeria look different? The US is good at the blame game, blaming others for their failures and so Nigeria must point this clearly out to them. If the US does not delist Nigeria, as a final resort, the oil must be used as a final weapon. Late General Sani Abacha used this weapon effectively against France in 1994 when it instigated Cameroon to go to war with Nigeria. He used the same weapon on the US when Nigeria was listed on the Drug list by President Clinton. Both France and the US had to back down. Coercive diplomacy can be used both ways.
The US has the military and economic might, but it also needs Nigeria's oil. China remains the greatest threat to US interest when it comes to Nigeria's oil. At any rate, it could be a win-lose, win-win or lose-lose for both Nigeria and the US. There may not be a zero sum in these frosty relationships.
Above all, Nigeria must take steps to address its own problems. The National Assembly is a house of political thugs whose only interest is to loot. They are the highest paid politicians in the world according to the November 2009 Transparency International report for doing nothing; merely going there to sleep. Diplomatic respect is earned and not given. Nigeria must earn the respect of the world by taking steps to address its problems. The country, without a stable power supply, is being run on generators, no portable water, no road infrastructure, with 90% of all university graduates unemployed, crime, thuggery, corruption, no hospitals, education in shambles, mention it.
To earn respect from the world, Nigerian must reap the dividends of democracy. Poverty has continued to increase as well as the crime rate. Nothing works in Nigeria. It is a dysfunctional country, the executive; the legislature and judiciary, all are corrupt. The last judgment of the Supreme Court on the Anambra State PDP candidate and the divisions that trailed it shows a country where nothing works. The judiciary that has been and should be the last resort of the common man or woman is now corrupted even at the highest level. To earn the respect of the world, we must fix our problem.
Finally, we need a president to steer the ship of state. Yar'Adua cannot hold 150 million people to ransom. Turai Yar'Adua, who is said to be bent on having her husband rule from a sick bed, must be told in clear terms that she is politically irrelevant in Nigeria. Umaru Yar'Adua was elected (selected) and not Turai Yar'Adua. Vice President Jonathan Goodluck must be sworn in as acting president without any further delay to steer the ship of state.
We cannot rely on the Federal Executive Council (a council of looters) to decide the direction of Nigeria. It will never declare the president incompetent of ruling. They are happy he is not there so they can loot as much as they want without accountability.
Enough is enough. Nigerians in the Diaspora must act now to save Nigeria. Zumunta Association, NIDO and other Diaspora organizations must form a strong lobby group that would engage Washington to help Nigeria. Enough is enough and Nigerian citizens must tell their elected (selected) politicians they have had enough. Nigeria must move forward instead of regressing and this cannot happen until everyone gets involved and allow a credible election!
Suleiman Dankano Ph.D.; MDY is Professor of Philosophy and Peace Studies. He writes from Los Angeles, California.