17 March 2013

Nigeria: Boko Haram and Alamieyesaigha - Effect On Nigeria-U.S. Relations


It is indeed a cruel twist of irony that while on my way to return to base after an exceedingly successful US trade delegation on infrastructure to Nigeria March 11 - 15, that my attention was drawn to reports in our media of the possible souring of relations between Nigeria and America because of the above two issues.

Let me first declare my belief in the freedom of our media to report events and analyse issues arising therefrom. But I will also insist that these reports should be based on facts that have been checked and verified and analysis that have been carefully considered before being presented.

On the Boko Haram matter I wish to declare without any fear of contradiction that our engagement in the mission with the various stakeholders in America has knocked the bottom out of the arguement of those who want Boko Haram to be declared a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) with obvious adverse consequences on Nigeria and even the US itself. Americans in the three tiers of government now appreciate the quality and importance of co-operation between American and Nigeria security agencies and how much it has helped in containing and curtailing the activities of Boko Haram. An FTO designation will be a job killer for some sections of the American business and industrial establishments. Nigeria and America continue to co-operate through the intelligence fusion centers and other counter-terrorism measures to bring an end to Boko Haram in no distant future in the same manner as the UK solved the IRA problem and Spain is dealing with ETA.

On the pardon granted by Mr. President, it is impossible to question Dr Goodluck Jonathan's exercise of the prerogative of mercy granted him by the relevant provisions of our constitution. We are prepared to admit the rights of our friends to comment on the issue since it is now a matter of public knowledge. We understand the furore caused by the inclusion of the ex governor. The statement recently made by Dr Doyin Okupe explains the government's rationale.

This will form part of the response of the Embassy in Washington to questions that might arise in the future. While in Nigeria during the trade mission I received calls asking for an explanation of the rationale for the inclusion of the ex governor. The explanation I offered, and the assurance that this does not affect our commitment to the war against corruption seem to have satisfied some of our friends; after all a PDP vice president who has already served his jail sentence was not included. The EFCC continues to prosecute the highly placed personalities involved in the oil subsidy scandal. The fight against corruption is very much on course. We have assured our friends and we shall continue to do so.

The American government through the Embassy in Nigeria made its feelings on the issue of the pardon known. We have taken note of it. What the ministry of Foreign Affairs took exception to was the manner in which it was conveyed. There are clearly more internationally acceptable practices of conveying impressions rather than through the twitter. No highly placed official of the American Embassy in Nigeria was summoned to the ministry for questioning or interrogation. I know for a fact that the American Ambassador to Nigeria, and his deputy are currently out of Nigeria . What the ministry of Foreign Affairs rightly did was to send a note protesting the use of twitter as a means of conveying official reaction to an issue. Our media should for the sake of national interest desist from over emphasizing and sensationalizing the negatives. They should dwell more on what is good in us.

We have made considerable progress on the exchange of visits by the two presidents. More meetings have been planned on my return to base by Monday. My contacts with those who matter did not indicate any intentions to put any of these visits on hold. The simple fact is that because of very basic and fundamental reasons Nigeria and the United States are strategic partners on important global issues. Vise president Joe Biden told his Nigerian counterpart Namadi Sambo that Nigeria is America's anchor in Africa. The bond between us is much stronger than what the Alamieyesaigha issue can weaken.

Ade Adefuye is Ambassador, Head of Mission Embassy of Nigeria Washington DC.

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