Africa: How Nigeria is losing on Global relevance–courtesy ATQ

Africa: How Nigeria is losing on Global relevance

March 3, 2017Sunday OnenLeave a comment

Princeton N. Lyman, the former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa

How Nigeria is losing Global relevance

Princeton N. Lyman, the former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa, delivered a very poignant speech on the panel titled “The Nigerian State and U.S. Strategic Interests” at the Achebe Colloquium at Brown University.

Lyman suggests that rather than continually emphasize Nigeria’s strategic importance, it would behoove us to consider elements that might eventually lead to Nigeria’s irrelevance on the international stage.

Transcript Of Speech Taken Directly From a Video

Thank you very much Prof. Keller and thanks to the organizers of this conference. It is such a privilege to be here in a conference in honor of Prof. Achebe, an inspiration and teacher to all of us.

I have a long connection to Nigeria. Not only was I Ambassador there, I have travelled to and from Nigeria for a number of years and have a deep and abiding vital emotional attachment to the Nigerian people, their magnificence, their courage, artistic brilliance, their irony, sense of
humor in the face of challenges etc.

And I hope that we keep that in mind when I say some things that I think are counter to what we normally say about Nigeria. And I say that with all due respect to Eric Silla who is doing a magnificent work at State Department and to our good friend from the legislature, because I have a feeling that we both Nigerians and Americans may be doing Nigeria and Nigerians no favor by stressing Nigeria’s strategic importance.

I know all the arguments: it is a major oil producer, it is the most populous country in Africa, it has made major contributions to Africa in peacekeeping, and of course negatively if Nigeria were to fall apart the ripple effects would be tremendous, etc.. But I wonder if all this emphasis on Nigeria’s importance creates a tendency of inflate Nigeria’s opinion of its own invulnerability.

Among much of the elite today, I have the feeling that there is a belief that Nigeria is too big to fail, too important to be ignored, and that Nigerians can go on ignoring some of the most fundamental challenges they have many of which we have talked about: disgraceful lack of infrastructure, the growing problems of unemployment, the failure to deal with the underlying problems in the Niger-Delta, the failure to consolidate democracy and somehow feel will remain important to everybody because of all those reasons that are strategically important.
And I am not sure that that is helpful.

Let me sort of deconstruct those elements of Nigeria’s importance, and ask whether they are as relevant as they have been.

We often hear that one in five Africans is a Nigerian. What does it mean? Do we ever say one in five Asians is a Chinese? Chinese power comes not just for the fact that it has a lot of people but it has harnessed the entrepreneurial talent and economic capacity and all the other talents of China to make her a major economic force and political force.

What does it mean that one in five Africans is Nigeria? It does not mean anything to a Namibian or a South African. It is a kind of conceit. What makes it important is what is happening to the people of Nigerian. Are their talents being tapped? Are they becoming an economic force? Is all that potential being used?

And the answer is “Not really.”

And oil, yes, Nigeria is a major oil producer, but Brazil is now launching a 10-year program that is going to make it one of the major oil producers in the world. And every other country in Africa is now beginning to produce oil.

And Angola is rivalling Nigeria in oil production, and the United States has just discovered a huge gas reserve which is going to replace some of our dependence on imported energy.
So if you look ahead ten years, is Nigeria really going to be that relevant as a major oil producer, or just another of another of the many oil producers while the world moves on to alternative sources of energy and other sources of supply.

And what about its influence, its contributions to the continent? As our representative from the parliament talked about, there is a great history of those contributions. But that is history.
Is Nigeria really playing a major role today in the crisis in Niger on its border, or in Guinea, or in Darfur, or after many many promises making any contributions to Somalia?

The answer is no, Nigeria is today NOT making a major impact, on its region, or on the African Union or on the big problems of Africa that it was making before.

What about its economic influence?

Well, as we have talked about earlier, there is a de-industrialization going on in Nigeria a lack of infrastructure, a lack of power means that with imported goods under globalization, Nigerian factories are closing, more and more people are becoming unemployed. and Nigeria is becoming a kind of society that imports and exports and lives off the oil, which does not make it a significant economic entity.

Now, of course, on the negative side, the collapse of Nigeria would be enormous, but is that a point to make Nigeria strategically important?

Years ago, I worked for an Assistant Secretary of State who had the longest tenure in that job in the 1980s and I remember in one meeting a minister from a country not very friendly to the United States came in and was berating the Assistant Secretary on all the evils of the United States and all its dire plots and in things in Africa and was going on and on and finally the Assistant Secretary cut him off and said: “You know, the biggest danger for your relationship with the United States is not our opposition but that we will find you irrelevant.”

The point is that Nigeria can become much less relevant to the United States. We have already seen evidence of it. When President Obama went to Ghana and not to Nigeria, he was sending a message, that Ghana symbolized more of the significant trends, issues and importance that one wants to put on Africa than Nigeria.

And when I was asked by journalists why President Obama did not go to Nigeria, I said “what would he gain from going? Would Nigeria be a good model for democracy, would it be a model for good governance, would he obtain new commitments on Darfur or Somalia or strengthen the African Union or in Niger or elsewhere?”

No he would not, so he did not go.

And when Secretary Clinton did go, indeed but she also went to Angola and who would have thought years ago that Angola would be the most stable country in the Gulf of Guinea and establish a binational commission in Angola.

So the handwriting may already be on the wall, and that is a sad commentary.
Because what it means is that Nigeria’s most important strategic importance in the end could be that it has failed.

And that is a sad, sad conclusion. It does not have to happen, but I think that we ought to stop talking about what a great country it is, and how terribly important it is to us and talk about what it would take for Nigeria to be that important and great.

And that takes an enormous amount of commitment. And you don’t need saints,
you don’t need leaders like Nelson Mandela in every state, because you are not going to get them.

I served in South Korea in the middle of the 1960s and it was time when South Korea was poor and considered hopeless, but it was becoming to turn around, later to become to every person’s amazement then the eleventh largest economy in the world. And I remember the economist in my mission saying, you know it did not bother him that the leading elites in the government of South Korea were taking 15 – 20 percent off the top of every project, as long as every project was a good one, and that was the difference.

The leadership at the time was determined to solve the fundamental economic issues of South Korea economy and turn its economy around.

It has not happened in Nigeria today.

You don’t need saints. It needs leaders who say “You know we could be becoming irrelevant, and we got to do something about it.”

Source: weeklypostng.org

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Democratic Mistakes–The falls of Titans.

The rise of any kingdom is much more easier than the stabilization and fall.  The medical death of an animal might still have biologically living organs or tissues that can be harvested for transplant or research.  Painfully popular Presidencies have been lost to the headiness of the candidates and the less openness of the advisory team executing the campaigns.  I have seen two in recent times, The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Nigeria and the Democrats in the United States.

In Nigeria, parties are along Power cabal lines than philosophical.  So the emergence of the Peoples Democratic Party was by the power brokers that needed a way to keep the Military from interference and solve the issue of the Chief Abiola, June 12 saga.  So the ease of access by Rtd Gen. Obasanjo in 1999 had the least of resistance.  The honey moon continued amidst the usual back stabbings and betrayals that is so eminent in Africa’s politics.   President Obasanjo’s handing over to Yaradua was not without it’s internal bickering, but Obasanjo had the cabal retired Military either silent or on his side.  Having ruled the nation for a long time their relevance is still yet to wane.

The death of Yaradua brought in Goodluck Jonathan, who seemed to always be a deputy that takes over from his Principal after some issue or the other.  Whether it was by default or manipulated, time and maybe his memoirs might tell us.  But that Zoology Professor, showed some un-readiness for the seat and rumours of his mistresses and wife being the Black Popes were not uncommon.    Jonathan’s greatest error was not being in direct touch with the people on the ground.   He was covered by the Aso realm that reality was taken far from his reach.  That might remind you of Abacha and the Mallams syndrome.  For example, a bomb explored in the North East with International Red Cross and USAID agencies reaching out to see how they can help, while the then President and Commander in Chief of Nigeria was watching a Command football performance, with serving Presidents from some African Countries and celebrities in another Southern state of Akwa Ibom.   The only time Goodluck saw it fit to visit the North East was during the ending days of the campaign, another grievous mistake.

Goodluck had issues with a number of his people, party persons and he just wont bulge? Obasanjo had to make public some letters sent to the President, causing quiet some unease for all, especially those close to the two. 

The selection of candidates to compete was not what any will call transparent as persons were not willing to face the wrath of the incumbent or be seen as not politically correct.  So having Goodluck and Buhari, was not so different than the Abiola vs Tofa elections though tougher.

Jonathan, left the hands that fed him and raised his electoral machinery of person wanting a bite of the National cake.  So the colossal funds raised, stolen and shared for campaigns only ended in peoples Farms, Toilet Soak a ways and water tanks, but not the electorates.   Campaign projects, done to showcase a sense presence in communities, were only heard in the news and not realities on ground.  Did Jonathan foresee his failing in the elections?  No, because that was actually his very first true elections, others were mere give aways. 

Could he have done it differently?  Yes, the ending game he employed in the North East would have been employed a year earlier, before the heating up of the campaigns.  He had a good followership in the Middle Belt, South South and South East.  He would have done much better in the other regions like the North Central, North West, North East and South West.  Though the elections was along party lines, but all knew that tribe, region and religion played their roles.  He would have been wise to get a deputy that was accepted by the North and not one that was rumoured to be from the south south and unable to recite the Quran.

Nigeria has still not learnt it’s lessons, as the incumbent might be facing the same forces that brought him in, bring in another person to power come 2019, unless Nigerians start seeing a people oriented change.   If you ask me, what Nigeria needs is not another mega – party, we need to start politics along Ideological divides, let us have issue driven political parties and not cabal -ization of power brokers.

Hilary Clinton, took the world by storm, when she came out for the Senate seat, she was everywhere and with everyone.  From Abuja, we received her emails engaging the electorates with their concerns and her intentions to address those concerns.  Her entre was glorious, but she made the mistake of not following up to develop her success for greater success.

Like Goodluck, Hillary had the good will of the incumbency to her favour, but what we did not see very glaring was the engagement of her Husband.  If you will recall, Obama was almost doing the same mistake, not engaging Bill Clinton during his campaigns, till the very end when the race was very tough, it was reported that Bill Clinton was on the Phone for a very long time call the many he could.  The report alone encouraged a lot of Bill Clinton sympathisers to vote Obama.  During Elections you need every resource.   We saw Bill Clinton sparingly and issues upon issues being raised were swept under the carpet.  Issue like the Pro – Lifers; LGBT; Evangelicals; Unemployment issues and Immigrants; Militant Islamism and American Policies.  These are issues that are so sensitive in America and should have been given a more careful treatment than was.

Why writing now?  Gambia has moved to the Opposition, Ghana is on the verge of another Elections, what should we expect?  It is my prayers that we will have a free and fair elections.  While wishing the best person for Ghana to win, It is my hope also that such a person will address the issues of Unemployment and Corruption that we hear cries of in Ghana.  This is an important economy that needs to be in the right for the benefit of the sub region and Africa as a whole.  God bless the people of Africa with leaders that are Africans at heart.  Happy elections Ghana.

Global Political Correctness or Error?

Taking a look at Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Libya and Syria, will it have been better leaving the nations unperturbed and silently follow the tenets of power change?  We all shout the need for democracy, where in the world in democracy sincerely genuine?  Agreed, it is the best form of Government.  Elections alone do not define democracy, especially when the needed structures, to sustain it, are not in place.

If you allow the people of Libya to honestly select between the relative normalcy of the Gadhafi days and now that even Libyans are running from their country in modes known for the West and Central African blacks alone, which will they vote for?

An Iraqi situation where Christian and minority tribes were slaughtered like animals and the world silently watched without uttering words for fear of reprisals and/or to be politically / diplomatic correct. I ask again, will this minorities prefer the interventions that brought Iraq to this state or the Saddam Hussein days?

Syria, Samaria, Damascus, in memory, I remember some of my class mates, leaving Amman, Saturday nights, drive to Damascus for night clubbing and return very early Sunday mornings for classes (sorry, wont mention names, if any is reading). Many more transverse those terrains for pilgrimage, study and work.  A very wonderful set of hospitable people, I may say.  Will the people have preferred a yesterday Syria with the bad ruler, than a country with lives, ancient histories, buildings, technologies and businesses destroyed and majority of the citizenry becoming refugees of no nation, as all are afraid of accepting them for fear of ISIS?

Cases without counts, we have, where interventions, even those well intended end up being hijacked by others who for long where unable because of the same persons termed evil by the interveners.  A very disappointing fact is, like Oscars Arias put it long time ago, that the weaponry used are always from the same nations preaching peace/better world.  Some are of the opinion that these nations go into their Military Laboratories / Research Facilities and Industries to create weapons of mass destruction only to come to nations of low intellect and use the leadership, their opponents as laboratory rats for their experiments.  (True or False?  I do not know.).  But ear to ear talks are common of CIA Agents gone rogue, like Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.

The issue of migration has now so beclouded our judgement, that it is hard to place the line between what is right / wrong.  When Black Africans were traversing the ancient Sahara Desert Trade routes to North Africa for access to Europe through especially Spain.   The world turned deaf ears to our cries for a rethink of the nuances that cause persons to leave their comfort zones for a greener pasture that is more of a mirage than reality.  The number of deaths by natural causes and the inhumane treatment by people of nations along the routes are best not mentioned.     These migrants formed villages in off the grid locations, known to uniformed Government officials for only harassments and collection of illegal dues for such illegal stays.   Transient families emerge, villages with hierarchal structures like self preservation and order.  The cost if you ask me is not worth the story.

I have waited to hear of the Global (as UN) support for the wealthy Egyptian who bought an Island for a particular group of refugees, I am still waiting.  I am also waiting to hear other wealthy Arabs follow the example, I am still waiting to hear.  With the bombings in France, Brussels, Germany and the near coup in Turkey, I am waiting for the American Government, whether Democrat or Republican that will truly open their doors for migrants in the true American Story and Spirit.

My great worry is, the merchants of war will not stop now.  With Drone technology and the Internet becoming an increasingly fearful phenomenon, the future is increasingly bleak for the average and below average persons.  African states have are not learning from the past, brothers killing brothers and neighbours destroying each other are still the norm.  The usage of religion, tribe, regions have becoming increasingly sophisticated that, even infant nations that should be learning to crawl are fine-tuning the blood letting skills on the same people they joined hands to get independence.  Something is terribly wrong, because the war lords and sponsors are in far away safe havens with their families and will be the same persons that will be called to discuss reconciliations after the poor masses without names / numbers are buried in mass or unmarked graves.  When this man’s inhumanity to man stop?

If anybody is hearing, let for once, the United Nations and Region Unions and Association call a spade a spade, by fingering the direct or remote sponsors of these conflicts and let them face the peoples’ court.  The creators of these killing machines be made accountable for there safe keep / misuse.   The rulers of regions and their security be called to face their ability or otherwise to do the right thing at the right time.  Inter / Intra National peer reviews to include possible sanctions on persons and not innocent citizens.  Southern Sudan must not be allowed to go inflames again.

If something is not done fast, I see a time when everybody will arm him/herself for defence against their neighbours and system.  Then the chaotic situation you now see will be a child’s play.  Because computer games will be played live in our neighbourhoods, schools, places of worship and homes.   A global survival reality show will not a beautiful story, a stitch in time saves more than nine.