Friday, 9 May 2014

Boko Haram, the Chibok Outrage and Big Oil Interests.

'Addressing dignitaries including the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, and the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, Jonathan said: "Thank you for accepting to come even at a time we're facing attacks by terrorists. Your presence helps us in the war against terror".Nigerian president: kidnapping will mark beginning of the end of terror, Guardian 8 May 2014
Already politicians are trying to exploit outrage at the abduction of 267 girls in Chibok, Northern Nigeria by Boko Haram, an insurgent group thought to be affiliated to Al Qaida. Gordon Brown, Barack Obama, David Cameron have been waxing indignant at the capture of the girls described by Cameron as 'pure evil'.

There is, however, a broader context to what has been going on in Nigeria. When something is described as 'pure evil', the idea is that its the evil of Boko Haram alone that 'explains' why the abduction happened and that outrage should lead to a call for 'something to be done'.

One reason it happened is Nigeria's security forces seemed to have not done anything to prevent it despite having had advance warning. The reasons offered for that inaction have ranged from fatigue to fear, something not evident before when they were accused of being heavy handed in their operation in the region.

Nigeria's political elite did very little in response.It could well be that they want to encourage Great Powers to back them up with more aid to counter insurgent activities. Now President Johnathan is using the 'war on terror' rhetoric that Western politicians used to justify the war in Afghanistan.

Johnathan is essentially trying to play off rival potential suitors. China in recent years has tried to court favour with Nigeria by investing in infrastructure projects so as to gain access to Nigeria's oil. In the New Great Game,Nigeria is a theatre of shadowy competition between the Great Powers.

Britain and the US are using the atrocities of Boko Haram as a pretext to make themselves more useful for Lagos in promising military assistance against Boko Haram. February and March 2014 saw an upsurge in their activity and threats to oil pipelines and refineries.

Britain's international aid is one tool to try to keep Abuja onside with it. Britain gets 7% of its crude oil supply from Nigeria. Johnathan is clearly using the abduction and enslavement of the 200 girls in the north of Nigeria as a means to bid up support from foreign nations willing to provide military back up.

Back in 2008, the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown was adamant that Britain had a role to play in providing military support against 'lawlessness', meaning back then the threat of insurgent activity from MEND, a group opposing the exploitation of the Niger Delta and government corruption.

Boko Haram has opened up a second insurgent threat to Niger'a government. The scale of the chorus of humanitarian concern over the outrage dovetails with growing concerns about the Nigerian government's capacity to fend off Boko Haram's threat to oil exploration in the borderlands with Chad.

The Chinese President's sudden concern with the 'war on terror', and Cameron's worked up fury over the "pure evil" of Boko Haram's activities, is part of competition to be in favour with a beleaguered government that wants logistical support in rolling back insurgents and competitive arms deals.

The arms race over Nigeria goes back as far as 2006. A humanitarian outrage is useful, therefore, is providing an opportunity for 'public diplomacy' to be deployed to the ends of increasing British military aid to Nigeria. The danger of the arms ( lobbied for by Shell ) slipping into the wrong hands has become a major concern.

Boko Haram is thought to be affiliated to Al Qaida and is parts of an 'arce of crisis' that extends from northern Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan through to Somalia where global heating and collapsing societies have allowed terror groups to thrive and threaten strategic resource regions.

The fear that Johnathan's government is becoming increasingly weak in the run up to the 2015 elections is the essential cause for concern even if humanitarian ideals are not entirely absent from Britain's foreign policy towards Nigeria. Boko Haram could threaten pipelines in the Niger Delta and Lagos.

No comments:

Post a Comment