Flawed Assessments of Nigeria’s Future Contribute to Miguided U.S. Policy

Flawed Assessments of Nigeria’s Future Contribute to Miguided U.S. Policy

Nigeria's recent decision to affirm the handover of the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon belies a Washington theory about Nigeria and American national security. The theory goes like this: Nigeria is on the verge of collapsing into civil war. The poor, marginalized, radicalized Muslim north will rise against the Christian south and a great conflagration will ensue. Twenty percent of Africa's population will be consumed in the fire, and America's access to the flow of oil in the Niger Delta will disappear. Official Washington believes that we must prepare now for the inevitable.

But mere war is far too simplistic an assumption for Nigeria. The complex reality is that the people of Nigeria are not preparing for war; they are rioting for peace. If the United States is sincere in its concern for America and Nigeria's intertwined fates, it must reassess and reconstitute its efforts toward the country to deal with this reality.

America's sudden realization that religion, demographics, and poverty all contribute to conflict around the globe, and our theological belief that the mixture of Islam and civil society mean certain peril for the Western world have blurred American analysis of Nigeria to a comical extent. Faulty analysis begins with the assessment that the government is too corrupt and too divided to be effective in any way. Tell that to the dozens of elected Nigerian officials who debated Bakassi this past week. The process of affirming former President Obasanjo's transfer of the Bekassi Peninsula back to the Cameroonians was filled with arguments not about religion and tribes, but parliamentary procedure and the standards of international law. And though the decision, like so many, was contentious, it was also made. Successfully negotiating international territorial disputes is hardly evidence of an ineffective government.

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