Mr. President, America is not the enemy – Bayo Olupohunda

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It says a lot about a country and the integrity of its leaders when they deliberately deploy propaganda to portray another country as the “enemy” responsible for their own incompetence and domestic crises. In an increasingly globalised world, one would have expected a government responsible enough to understand the dynamics of international laws and how such laws affect other countries’ involvement in her domestic affairs.

This is even more so when clauses or provisions from extant laws of other countries limit their intervention in others’ internal affairs. As such, no government has demonstrated ignorance or engaged in deliberate propaganda as a diplomatic strategy in its relationship with the international community like this administration. In the fight against Boko Haram, the United States of America has come under spurious attacks and needless propaganda war by the Jonathan administration. The strategy by this administration to engage in propaganda while feigning ignorance of extant US laws that prevent the latter from a comprehensive engagement with our military is unfortunate indeed. Since the abduction of the Chibok girls in April 2014 and the botched international engagement with our military, the Jonathan administration has been throwing tantrums, belching out North Korean-like propaganda war that portrays the US as responsible for its failure to find the girls and end the terror war.

The strategy is to brand America as the enemy. Nothing can be farther from the truth. But this strategy fits into the character of a government long used to shirking its responsibilities while blaming others for its own failing. Before the US became a subject of propaganda war, President Goodluck Jonathan had once revealed the presence of fifth columnists sympathetic to the terrorists in his administration. They have not been unmasked. Then, the administration accused the opposition. When that failed to work, the US became the next victim. In all of this, what the government has failed to do is beam the searchlight on how its own incompetence has failed to bring back the girls and jeopardised the entire terror war. In the wake of the Chibok kidnap, the Nigerian government belatedly sought for international help from the US and others. But this not before President Jonathan had failed to acknowledge that the girls had truly been abducted – choosing to believe the conspiracy theory that dismissed the abduction as stage-managed to embarrass his government. The Americans responded with surveillance drones and about 30 intelligence and security experts.

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But it wasn’t long before the assistance ran into troubled waters. Now, several months later, the drone flights have dwindled, and many of the US advisers have gone home and not one of the kidnapped girls has been found. As the foreign assistance stalled, one truth that had become apparent but which the Jonathan administration failed to acknowledge or tell Nigerians was that the US security assistance had been sharply limited by its own army’s incompetence and American legal prohibitions against close dealings with foreign militaries whose military forces are known to have engaged in human rights abuses. This is not Barack Obama’s making, they are extant provisions of the US laws. Among other sabotage and logistics nightmares on the part of the Nigerians that hampered assistance, there had also been concerns that the Nigerian Army was harbouring Boko Haram sympathisers in its fold. This had raised grave concerns among the partners, especially in Washington, from sharing intelligence with the Nigeria military for fear that classified information may be leaked to Boko Haram.

There were also reports that the Nigerian Army weary, lacking in transparency, had refused to cooperate with the US by ignoring actionable intelligence made available to it. It had then become clear that the US could not work with a military with a dark past whose operation is shrouded in intrigues. Rather than Nigeria admitting its own failings and re-organising its military, the Jonathan administration began a Cold War-era propaganda war portraying the US as the enemy. What I find appalling is the role of the Nigerian ambassador to the US, Prof. Ade Adefuye, who, ignoring the facts, had told the Council on Foreign Relations in November 2014 that, “The US government has refused to grant Nigeria’s request to purchase lethal equipment that would have brought down the terrorists within a short time on the basis of the allegations that Nigeria’s defence forces have been violating human rights of Boko Haram suspects when captured or arrested.” In his tirade, Adefuye had said allegations of human rights abuses by the military were “rumours, hearsays and exaggerated accounts put about by rivals of President Jonathan and rights groups.” In November 2014, the Nigerian government responded by cancelling a military training for its soldiers in the US. Since then, the government has been engaged in propaganda war.

I consider these retaliatory actions ridiculous. They detract from the real challenges. The truth is that America and the international community will not help us if our country continues to act in breach of international conventions that guide military rule of engagement. For years, the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented instances of grave human rights violations against civilian population by Nigerian military forces. These are credible reports the international community take seriously. Has our government probed these allegations? Adefuye referred to the reports as “rumours”. This coming from a diplomat who debriefs the President on foreign issues is unfortunate. How about allegations of the Nigerian military harbouring Boko Haram sympathisers? How does our government expect the US to trust our military forces with high calibre fighter jets that may end up being used to decimate innocent villagers? What has become of $5.8bn security budget for 2014, when allegations of corruption still prevent supplies as basic as bullets and transport vehicles from reaching the front lines of the struggle against Boko Haram? Incidentally, the administration is turning to Russia – a pariah nation groaning under international sanctions for its belligerence, human rights violations and shady gun running deals under Vladmir Putin. America fought more than a decade old terror war battling Al-Qaeda to a standstill. We certainly need their expertise.

If we want robust international military assistance, we must re-organise our military in line with international best practices that respect the rules of engagement. Human rights violations must be taken seriously.

Mr President, America is not the enemy; we are our own west enemy.

 

 

 

 

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