Of course, in an emotive situation like the one that has been created by the abduction of the schoolgirls, conspiracy theories are bound to germinate and multiply. But there is room for genuine wonder as to how Boko Haram’s activities have blossomed to weaken Nigeria and placed her in the hands of the US and its Western allies, at a time when Nigeria’s prestige in West Africa has been riding high.
Isn’t the collapse of Nigerian foreign policy, attendant on its government’s weakness vis-à-vis Boko Haram, too “neat” to be a mere “happenstance” (as James Bond would put it?)
That question is not altogether an idle one. To begin with, the US would dearly wish to get Nigeria to subscribe fully to the objectives it has mapped out for American troops in Africa, under the umbrella of the “United States Africa Command” or AFRICOM. With armed forces estimated to be over 200,000-strong, the influence of Nigeria in West Africa cannot be over-
How can Nigeria resist the blandishments of AFRICOM, if the US is able to assist it meaningfully in rescuing the abducted girls of Chibok? It is more than likely that in such an event, a chastened Nigeria would open up its military and intelligence services to full-scale US penetration.
Having done that, no government in Nigeria would be able to turn round to oppose any aspects of the long-term strategic objectives envisaged by the US under its AFRICOM programme.
With the abduction, Boko haram has brought the might and expertise of the world’s most experienced terrorist-hunters, the US, on its trail.
Were Nigeria to fall politically into the hands of the US, a great number of pieces would suddenly fall into place. The nuances attendant upon such a situation are put into sharp focus by such facts as this: even as Nigeria was worrying itself to death over the abduction of the girls at Chibok, the government was signing an agreement with China, that will enable China to construct a coastal railway line for Nigeria. The price tag? $13 bn!
That railway deal between Nigeria and China makes it easy to understand the sub-text in relations between Nigeria and the US. China is due to overtake the US as the world’s most powerful economy by the beginning of 2015. Meanwhile, Nigeria, through a recalculation of its GDP, has surpassed South Africa as the biggest economy in Africa.
China has been working tirelessly throughout Africa to obtain raw materials for its industries, which are growing by leaps and bounds. If China becomes a rival to the US over the exploitation of natural resources, who will win and who will lose?
Certainly, if Nigeria becomes so frightened of Boko Haram and its al-Qaeda affiliates in West and Central Africa, it will become susceptible to subtle US pressure on its relationships not only with China but other countries.
Meanwhile President Jonathan has been given an assurance, at a conference he attended in Paris with Western representatives and some African leaders, that he will receive international co-operation in combating Boko Haram. But unless he deals with his internal social problems, Boko Haram or something like it will always be lurking to make Nigeria difficult or even impossible to govern.
Fortunately for Jonathan, Nigeria possesses analytical prowess in plenty. The lacking element is – the will to act on the sociological and political realities unearthed by both religious and civil leaders alike, and which can be summed up in a few words – eliminate poverty by clamping down on corruption.