V. Nigeria's Crooks
By Eric Margolis
May 10 2014 " ICH "
- The kidnapping
of some 200 girls in northern Nigeria has sparked
world outrage. It’s a perfect media sensation:
exotic locale and remarkably nasty kidnappers from a
northern rebel movement, Boko Haram.
I’ve long been a connoisseur of Third World nasties,
starting way back in the 60’s with Haiti’s voodoo
chief, Papa Doc. Most have been nobodies who
achieved instant international prominence by
shooting off their mouths, making lurid threats and
committing some dramatic outrage.
The latest is Boko Haram’s chief, a certain Abubakar
Shekau. This lunatic has become a world bogeyman by
kidnapping the school girls, gleefully prancing in
front of TV cameras, and vowing to sell them into
Howls of fury erupted from leftist women’s groups in
the US, and from President Barack Obama’s liberal
warrior women, Susan Rice and UN ambassador Susan
Powers. Hillary Clinton lost no time in jumping on
this vote-winning issue.
In a truly heartwarming gesture, China says it will
send “specialists” to aid the hunt for the missing
girls. This is really about China’s race for
Africa’s resources and its growing competition there
with the US and Europe. The US wants its troops
there before the Chinese arrive.
Few people anywhere cared much about the thousands
of Afghan villagers just buried alive by a monster
mud slide. Even fewer that Boko Haram’s previous
rampages in northern Nigeria have killed over 1,500
civilians. Or that the thuggish Nigerian army and
police’s brutal reprisals killed thousands of Muslim
Few outraged westerners knew that stealing girls is
a traditional pastime in sub-Saharan Africa and
child brides are second only to cattle rustling.
There was no understanding in Washington that the
tribal chaos and bloodshed now seething in South
Sudan is merely a continuation of traditional
raiding for cattle and women between rival Dinka and
Neuer tribes. Washington failed to take this into
account when it engineered the breakup of Sudan to
create South Sudan as an oil-rich US vassal state.
American foreign policy reacts to oil and gas as my
cats do to catnip. Now, under the pretext of deep
concern for the missing schoolgirls, the US and
Nigeria’s former colonial master, Britain, are
rushing intelligence agents and special forces to
this vast nation of 170 million, Africa’s largest.
Faux humanitarian missions are the rage for western
intervention in the Third World. Libya and Syria
offer vivid recent examples. US special forces are
now operating out of Djibouti and Uganda in east
Africa, ostensibly hunting fanatics of the Lord’s
Resistance Army, a bunch of drug-crazed primitives
hiding in dense forests. The US air base in Djibouti
is being expanded to accommodate 4,000 military
personnel and more attack drones.
Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil and gas producer.
Over 40% of its exports go to the United States,
supplying 10% of America’s energy needs. Nearby
Angola has become another major energy supplier to
Nigeria has important mineral and farming assets.
Yet it remains mired in the deepest, shameful
poverty. One percent of the population controls all
the wealth and steals billions annually. In fact,
the UN estimates almost all of Nigeria’s vast oil
wealth has been stolen, squandered or stashed in
Switzerland. Oil revenues flow directly to the
government, then to powerful state governors. The
only thing that trickles down to Nigerians is rain.
Northern Nigeria, mostly Muslim, is dirt poor. Oil
wealth goes to the better off Christian south. The
north’s Hausa and Fulani peoples have bitterly
resented the massive theft of the nation’s resources
by the more nimble southerners favored by British
colonial rule. In fact, Britain was at fault for
creating the multi-ethnic mess that is Nigeria,
another colonial Frankenstein state, like Iraq or
Boko Haram’s rampage must be seen in this context, a
popular uprising against Nigeria’s limitless
government corruption, poverty, and resource theft.
Boko uses the idiom of Islam but there is nothing
Islamic about it. As in other parts of the Muslim
world, reformers call for imposition of Islamic law
as an antidote to endemic corruption of governments
and courts that has been too often fostered by
Screaming “Islamic terrorism” won’t defuse Nigeria’s
coming explosion. Considered one of the world’s most
corrupt nations, Nigeria has to clean up its act –
Margolis is an award-winning, internationally
syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in
the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune
the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf
Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan,
Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other
news sites in Asia.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2014
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