Umar Ardo, Ph.D
Dear Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. and Kamala Harris, Let me use this medium to first congratulate you, Mr. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Madam Vice President, Sen. Kamala Harris, on your well-earned victory in about the toughest presidential race in the United States history. After all said and done, you have taken over the mantle of leadership of the United States of America at a very critical, or even transitional, time in world politics. The world is today steep in crises and conflicts, and the approach to their resolutions by your administration’s diplomacy will majorly determine whether they will be resolved or worsen. On America’s domestic issues I have no opinion, but on the international scene, specifically on resolving mutual issues regarding the United States and Nigeria, I take liberty to write you this open letter expressing my opinion on how best your administration should approach it.
2. First, as the saying goes, good policy begins with the ability to recognize reality. And the reality of USA-Nigeria relations, like all diplomatic relations, is driven by mutual needs and interests. Beyond the global issue of resolving the Coronavirus Pandemic, the United States problems are basically three in nature – terrorism and insecurity especially in the Islamic World; threat to its corporate economic and technological preeminence and global dominance; and apparent failure to fashion out how best to handle and resolve these challenges. And for Nigeria, her problems are also mainly three in nature – insecurity, corruption and severe economic depression. If your administration keys in on these issues and sees them as mutually reinforcing and their resolution as commonly beneficial, and resolves to work towards it, then USA-Nigeria relations would succeed in the best interests of both countries.
Making a comprehensive analysis of these issues will show that Nigeria needs the United States in solving her problems in as much as the United States needs Nigeria’s problems resolved as a critical element in the resolution of her own problems. As you very well know, Mr. President, with the fall of communism on the global scene, the Western World under the leadership of the United States came into direct conflict with the Islamic World in what seems to be a clash of civilizations. The seemingly irreconcilable ideological positions of the two former allies have since put the world’s security on the edge. Also, under the effect of globalization, the United States strategic economic and technological preeminence as a dominant super power came under severe threat globally. The war for wealth, a nasty fight for a share of prosperity, and the related struggle over political and cultural dominance of the world, have become the major challenges the US is facing across the globe today. The era of America’s supremacy, in which it overshadowed the rest of the world with its economic and technological might, is fast coming to an end. A new topography of global power equation is taking shape as globalization is shifting world economic emphasis from the United States.
In Asia, which contains more than half of the world population, the US economic interests are increasingly being challenged not only by Japan and the US-propped up ‘Asian Tigers’, but also more by the turncoat communist and socialist states of China and India. All over Asia US firms are today in a cut-throat competition with companies of these Asian countries. The result is that the productive core of the US is shrinking, while Asia’s is expanding; most specifically with China’s aggressive intrusion into Africa. Asia’s new strength leads to the weakening of the US. As Asia booms America faces mass unemployment and growing national debt. In Europe, the situation is no better. The Marshall Plan of the post-World War II have long outlived its efficacy as most European companies have become arch rivals of American firms in the war for wealth. As more and more European firms offer the same standards of service, the need for America’s firms decreases all across Europe. With the formation of European Union and the Euro Zone, Europe not only expanded its economic base but has also fortified it. Ultimately, over the years, America’s firms are taking marginal spots in Europe’s economic life.
America thus needs to look beyond Asia and Europe for its economic expansion and preeminence. With the emerging crisis of confidence in relations between America and the Muslim World, especially in the aftermath of 9/11 terror attack, and the accompanying tension between them following the declared war on terrorism, the US has only one large region to look up to – Africa! With a population of over one and a quarter billion people, Africa is undoubtedly a reservoir of a potential huge world market. Besides, not only Africa has the world’s most unexplored and unexploited natural resources, but the continent’s religious affiliations, be it Islamic, Christian or traditional, are not extreme in nature. All its religions rest on a solid foundation of African cultural traditions. Hence religious identity does not have the same meaning in African communities as it does in say Arabia, Asia Minor or Israel.
In Nigeria, there are probably more commonalities among ethnoreligious groups than differences. With the right economic and social environments, Nigeria can reclaim this African heritage without being overwhelmed by the forces of global religious extremism. The current Boko Haram terrorism, herdsmen banditry and ethnic militias in Nigeria are in fact exceptions rather than the norm. They are the result of constitutional freedom, poverty and economic hardship, lack of any form of dialogue with the affected communities, and poor and misplaced policy options by successive governments in the country that sparked off the conflicts. Since 1999, Nigerians are being assured of good life, promised high standard of living, employment, economic prosperity, transparency and honesty in leadership, etc. by politicians seeking public offices. But how so disappointed Nigerians have become today!
While the ‘democratic constitution’ of the county brought in liberty, rights and freedom to individuals and groups in the country, the promised and expected ‘high standard of living’ woefully failed to materialize. On the contrary, there resulted a large scale and wide spread poverty and hardship across the land, chiefly brought about by poor or failed public policies, high level of corruption and dishonesty by elected public officers, among many other vices in public service. Furthermore, in so short a time, there emerged in the country a glaring disparity in the earnings and living standards amongst the citizens never seen before in the history of economic and social mobility of a people anywhere in the world; such that today in Nigeria less than 5% of Nigerians own and control over 95% of the national wealth, while more than 95% of the citizens struggle daily to survive on less than 5% of the country’s resources. As these policies are seen being facilitated, driven and implemented by the political class over the years, naturally there resulted no love and trust between masses and politicians. Here then lies the real source of terrorism, banditry and militancy in Nigeria.
As rightly maintained by Ted Gurr, a world renowned Criminologist, “when expectations go up and realities go down, men rebel”. For all the facts have shown that the terrorism, banditry and militancy are basically the result of failed expectations of ‘dividends of democracy’ under civil rule. Contrasting the personal and collective freedom and liberty of citizens ushered in through constitutional democracy with the failed promises and expectations of improved standard of living of citizens, one then sees clearly the seeds of crises being sown in the society. Add the polarization and great disparity of wealth amongst citizens, the overt and insensitive corruption by public servants, the increasing widespread of poverty and deprivation within the vast majority of the people, the extreme forms of election frauds by incumbent leaders, the compromised judiciary, etc., relations between the government and the governed invariably came under severe stress. Because the local civic cultures could not withstand the stresses and strains of these economic and political pressures, it naturally bred disappointment, despair and instability. It then takes very little for civil resistance to go virulent. This is the apt explanation of the various insurgencies, including the BH insurgency and banditry, ravaging the country today. Hence it makes no sense to debate whether these insurgencies are political, socio-economic or religious. The answer is they are all of the above.
In formulating your policy relations with Nigeria, it is critical to take these dynamics of the Nigerian situation into account. And for President Mohammad Buhari to enlist the support of your administration to help resolve these problems, he must understand their fundamental underpinnings; in both economic and political terms. At the economic level, Nigeria would need the support of the United States to come forcefully in terms of funding, investments, transfer of technology, conquering hunger, and other initiatives; at the same time decentralizing economic opportunities and national resources in such a way as to bridge the wide gap between the rich and the poor amongst Nigerians. On the political side, Nigeria would need the United States’ support in strengthening her institutions, tackling corruption, building infrastructure, freely opening the political space, entrenching constitutionalism and rule of law, bolstering credible electoral processes and in creating level playing fields in politics to avoid causing system break down.
In return, on her part, Nigeria, being the most dominant in the African Continent, with the largest human and material resources, and the largest number of Black Muslims in the world, should play a central role in the fight against terrorism, in global stability and the advancement of the US economic and strategic interests. Already a strong international player in peacekeeping operations, Oil and Liquefied Natural Gas deposits, Oil pricing within OPEC, leadership role in the OIC, AU, ECOWAS, etc. Nigeria is well positioned to partner with the US in fighting terrorism and stabilizing the global environment. As a country with the largest non-Arab Muslim population in Africa, Nigeria can play a key role in evolving constructive specific relations regarding America with non-Arab Muslim countries that can serve as a counter-balance to the broad international relations between the West and the Islamic World. Such relations will aim to ultimately oscillate the centers of worldwide Muslim community between Southeast Asia and West Africa, where pluralism and tolerance is more established than in the Middle East, Arabia and Asia Minor. This is very crucial not only to opening US economic vistas and advancing her corporate interests but also restoring security and stability in the international community. With good support from the United States Nigeria can initiate and execute such defining role. This, in my view, should be the thrust of your administration’s diplomatic relations with Nigeria in the next four years.
In conclusion, I once again congratulate you; wishing you good luck and praying that your administration brings prosperity, stability and peace to the United States and Nigeria, to the African Continent and to the entire World. Thank you.