Nigeria: Balancing US strategic interests, security

Nigeria is the world's seventh biggest oil producer and a major supplier of oil to the U.S.

Nigeria is the world's seventh biggest oil producer and a major supplier of oil to the U.S.

ABUJA – While most Nigerians want the government to get help from the outside to rescue the now-famous abducted schoolgirls, the decision to let foreign troops – especially Americans – join the search on the ground has sounded the alarm.

Many Nigerian analysts and activists see the deployment of U.S. forces in Nigeria as a dream come true for American strategists. 

"This is imperialism being realized through the backdoor. It is for them a dream come true," Abiodun Aremu, a leading rights activist, told Anadolu Agency.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan accepted on Tuesday an offer from U.S. President Barack Obama to deploy U.S. security personnel and assets inside Nigeria with the ostensible aim of rescuing the abducted girls.

According to a statement by Nigerian Presidential Advisor Reuben Abati, the U.S. offer of assistance, conveyed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, went beyond the issue of the abducted girls.

"Kerry assured President Jonathan that the U.S. is wholly committed to giving Nigeria all required support and assistance to save the abducted girls and bring the reign of terror unleashed on parts of the country by Boko Haram to an end," Abati wrote.

But Aremu, the activist, is very skeptical of the American offer.

"The [Boko Haram] insurgency is their baby. They [the U.S.] are behind it," he charged, referring to the militant group's reign of terror in northern Nigeria.

"The whole thing happening in the northeast is purely a destabilization project sponsored entirely by the American government; we will not sit by and let them have their way," he suggested.

Aremu claims to have a number of intelligence reports linking Washington to the ongoing crisis in the country's northeast.

He said allowing American soldiers into Nigeria would mean the outright sale of the country to "the waiting imperialist."

"We must mobilize our people for a liberation struggle. This [deployment] is entirely about its [Washington's] interest, not Nigeria's," he added.

American officials were not immediately available for comment.  E-mails sent to the U.S. Embassy went unanswered until the filing of this report.

David Emmanuel, a university teacher and public commentator, said the importance of Nigeria to the world economy – and to the U.S. in particular – cannot be overstated.

"With an estimated 170 million population, Nigeria is Washington's largest African market and the fifth largest supplier of the U.S. oil – greater than any Middle Eastern country, except Saudi Arabia," he told AA.

He expects Washington to do just about anything to secure such a vital strategic interest.

"As of 2010, according to a report titled 'Ensuring U.S. Prosperity and Security: The Case for Nigeria,' this country accounted for at least 5.2 percent of all US oil imports," Emmanuel said.

"The country is the world's seventh biggest oil producer and Africa's first, having been credited with being the world's tenth largest proved oil reserves and eighth largest reserve of natural gas," he added.

Currently, Nigeria oil is extracted in the south, but there are proven oil deposits in the north, especially towards the Lake Chad.

-Old scenarios-

In May 2005, years before Boko Haram was born, the U.S. National Intelligence Council commissioned a report, harmlessly entitled "Mapping sub-Saharan Africa's Future."

That report was reportedly put together by a group of experts who predicted, among other scenarios, the "outright collapse of Nigeria" before 2015.

The report based its forecast on a number of indices that tracked poverty, corruption and brutalization of the civilian populace by security agencies to mass disenchantment, ignorance and religious extremism.

Predicting a serious crisis that could lead to a "junior officer coup," the report warned Nigeria could descend into chaos to "the extent that open warfare breaks out in many places in a sustained manner."

But there was one striking paragraph in the report that suggested that "massive international assistance" may be required to return Nigeria to sanity in the event of such an upheaval, adding that the world could not watch the country slide into chaos.

Abubakar Mu'azu, a leading scholar on the Boko Haram insurgency, said the intelligence report was not "based on reality on the ground" but, rather, was "a purely scenario-building report" on the situation in Africa's top energy producer.

"Some of their [U.S.] projections are that there is going to be [a] conflict of interest among these elites, such that these conflicts will lead to intervention by the military and that there will be division within the military, which will in turn lead to division of the country into two," Mu'azu told AA.

"There was also a detailed report on the same subject by four American air force officers of the equivalent of the rank of colonel in the Nigerian army, which also gave a similar scenario," he said.

For Dipo Fashina, a former president of the Academic Staff Union of University, the "ultimate goal [of the U.S.] is a re-colonization of Nigeria in another phase."

"The tactic now is to create or engineer a crisis," Fashina, a strong government critic, told AA. "They will try to manipulate their position in the crisis to such an extent that it would require a total takeover."

He suggested that the insurgency in the northeast could not be excluded from a grand plan by the U.S. to pronounce Nigeria a "failed state" and move in to achieve its longstanding strategic objective.

"I know that there are calculations and studies in U.S. military circles about how Nigeria will collapse," Fashina said.

"You may have heard about studies in military circles about the theory of the 'failed state.' There was one that suggests that Nigeria will become a failed state by 2030," he added.

According to him, the revelations were made in an occasional paper, No. 57, issued by the Center for Strategy and Technology at the Air War College on Maxwell Air Force Base in the U.S.

He said the study, entitled "Failed State 2030: Nigeria as a case study," was conducted by five army colonels.

"That study looked at the theory of the failed state and pointed at where [the U.S.] wants to go," Fashina said.

"Part of that study is how to get their forces in Nigeria. This is happening already," he added. "This theory of the failed state is being looked at as part of [different] strategies to get into the country."

-African command-

Establishing a link between the insurgency in the northeast and American strategic interests, analysts say the U.S. has a culture of not venturing anywhere without having certain targets in sight.

They are quick to reference a U.S. request in 2007 to establish an African Command – a military outpost vehemently opposed by Nigerian public opinion at the time.

Many, however, believe the U.S. still hopes to set up the outpost.

"On this issue of the African Command, I know people want to say that the insurgency situation may have been created by the U.S. and then they will create a very difficult situation for us such that we will run out of options and it will become a basis for them to set up the African Command with a Nigerian base," said Mu'azu, the Boko Haram expert.

Beyond the pursuit of its own interests, he added, nothing good could come out of U.S. intervention in Nigeria.

"We don't want the Americans on our soil. They are not coming to help us. Their coming will be detrimental to Nigeria," said Mu'azu. "America will only pursue its own interest and not Nigeria's."

Mu'azu said the Nigerian military was capable of handling the insurgency.

"Certain things just have to be put in place for the military to work effectively," he added.

-Internationalized-

But not everyone believes the U.S. has any link with the insurgency.

Austin Umoh, a lecturer of international relations at Lagos State University, believes the insurgency has become an international issue. Any country, he said, including the U.S., which feels threatened by the insurgents, is obligated to offer assistance.

"The fact that America is coming does not mean they are coming to take over Nigeria," Umoh told AA. "Those making suggestions that this is about imperialism are missing the point."

"Of course America has interest in Nigeria. Unlike Nigeria, America just doesn't invest in anything. So of course the U.S. has interest, and they won't want anything to hurt that interest," the expert said.

"If that is [the case], then there is a relationship between this step and that interest," Umoh said.

Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, executive director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center, said the notion that the U.S. was after its own interest was a moot point when weighed against the daunting security challenges confronting Nigeria.

"And to make matters worse, the political elite cannot know anything beyond playing electoral politics," he told AA.

"These insurgents have been killing innocent people and our government continues to play politics," Rafsanjani said.

But he doesn't believe the U.S. was behind Boko Haram from the beginning, seeing intervention purely as a case of a businessman investing money that he hopes will eventually return a profit.

"Of course I do not rule out the link between the insurgency and this interest," Rafsanjani said. "You do not expect the U.S. to commit its resources into something without anything to compensate for that."

"It is only Nigeria that conducts its foreign policy in a manner that is not beneficial to Nigeria and Nigerians," he added.

"So, absolutely, there would be implications."

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