Find a lasting solution to Nigeria’s social, economic and security challenges has the support of the United States. The US is keen on reforms, for instance passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, power generation, investment in agriculture, and improvement of the health sector.
This and more can be gleaned from an article written last April by Johnnie Carson, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
In summary, Nigeria’s success is important to the US. Nigeria is a strategically important country in sub-Saharan Africa, its growing and increasingly young number of people constitutes the bulk of the 160 million people that live in the country and they make up over one-fifth of sub-Saharan Africa’s population. More and more people are relocating to Nigeria’s rapidly urbanizing cities. Nigeria is the 10th largest oil producing state in the world, the largest in Africa and the 5th largest supplier of crude oil to the United States. Nigeria’s Muslim population is the 6th largest in the world. The country is “by far the largest country in the world with approximately equal numbers of Christians and Muslims.” That’s as much navel-gazing we can do.
The reality is that these facts are causing problems. Nigeria’s protracted problems perpetuate a perception of a nation progressively headed backwards. Socio-economic and health indicators show that life in Nigeria contradicts its positive growth rates. Optimism, they say, is a matter of optics; you get what you see.
What we see is poverty in the country but increasing in the north; life is though in Nigeria, it is grim in the north. The north is arguably where hunger for progress and improvement is most acute. Mr Johnnie Carson notes that “These trends are worrying for economic, political, and security reasons”, particularly because the perception is that poverty is caused by poor governance. This view is vulnerable. It has being hijacked. It can, and is been used to disrupt livelihoods – within and against religious groups – throughout the north.
Nigeria needs a team of committed team of result-oriented officials, committed to a plan that encompasses development and security. Heavy-handed military tactics need to diminish. Human right abuses can be avoided by emphasizing on improving our police and intelligent services, rather than the over-dependence on the military. Better equipped and trained police and intelligence officers can better solve the country’s security challenge. Though results will not be immediate, progress must seen to be made.
But innuendoes of possible drone attacks will not help matters. Last month three leaders of Boko Haram were classified as global terrorists by the US. A couple of press reports, quoting a letter by the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, imply that this declaration means that drone attacks are imminent. Such conjectures further fogs the fight against what, in our view, requires a socio-political and economic solution.
Drone attacks, if an option at all, will have unintended side effects. In as much as the US government is bent on “disrupting, dismantling, and eventually defeating al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents in Africa to ensure the security of our citizens and our partners” we must not fail to note that the origin of grievances that led to links with Al-Qai’ida in the Maghreb (AQIM) can still be addressed. It’s not too late to explore a constitutional path to peace, along with security and economic means, to redress genuine grievances.
Rather than drones, a dogged commitment to a strategy – constitutional, social, economic and political – that discourages disgruntled Nigerians from exploiting the country’s religious and ethnic diversity is far the best option. A government responsive to people’s needs builds trust, trust fosters national integration: a united country.