By Femi Odere
30 July, 2014
"The traditional view in the Kremlin on any conflict in different parts of the world, be it social unrest, a popular uprising, an overthrow of government or a rise in terrorist activity, has always come down to one question: What's in it for the Yanks? Or, if we put it in the language of the statements that have been coming from Moscow in the past several months over Ukraine: What's in it for our American partners?"
The above statement was the opening paragraph which can also be said to be the major plank on which the opinion piece of Alexander Nekrassov entitled "Is B'Haram a Pawn in the Bigger Political Game?" rested. The article, which was reported to have been originally published by Aljazeera.com, was posted in TheCable.com.ng, a Nigerian-oriented news portal. In a clever but badly-thought-out attempt to bring Putin's Russia into the mix of Nigeria's Boko Haram terror rampage, Nekrassov, reportedly a former Kremlin adviser sounds ridiculous with his glaring contradictions and incoherence that makes one to wonder if he actually got paid as an adviser of any entity, let alone of the Kremlin. Nekrassov tries to mix the geo-political rivalry between Russia and the United States, which he probably knows a few things about, with Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorist network, which he obviously knows very little or nothing about, to prepare a pre-determined but sinister Jonathanian Cocktail to be forced down the throats of unsuspecting Nigerians and the international community, which reacted and spills on his face, making him to look disfigured and confused, as we shall see here.
For a starter, Nekrassov put the wrong foot forward. His chosen title in which he sees Boko Haram as a "Pawn in the Bigger Political Game" is a misnomer. Nigeria's new non-state terrorist actors may have initially been put together by their pioneer Borno State political masters to intimidate---and if need be---break a few bones of their political opponents. But the terrorist organisation can hardly be called a "pawn" anymore as it had long graduated into a ferocious and formidable terror machine that decides in its own time when and where to ask for the blood of innocent and hapless Nigerians. It now has probably the single most important---although unenviable---ace that can determine whether Nigeria stays together or fractures, the latter option having been predicted that is most likely to happen in 2015 by an American study group some years back, contrary to the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.
Since the premise of Alexander Nekrassov's piece seems faulty from the beginning, it goes without saying that his entire argument on the issue of Boko Haram and as it relates to the renewed rivalry between Washington and Moscow should therefore be jettisoned. His argument patently lacks merit. As a former adviser to the Kremlin, Nekrassov ought to have known by now that save for winning national souls for its communist ideology during the Cold War in which it lost out very badly in that world of bipolarity, Nigeria has no overarching strategic military nor economic value to the present-day Russian government. Nekrassov's assertion that the Kremlin is worried about "what's in it for our American partners [in the] current turmoil in Nigeria and the dramatic rise of the threat from the armed group Boko Haram" cannot be farther from the truth. First, Russia has no overarching strategic interest to protect in Nigeria and secondly, it has since ceded the country to the West as part of the sphere of influence of the western hemisphere in which Britain is the main chaperon with the United States in lockstep with the former. Therefore, Vladimir Putin can hardly be bothered if there's any crisis in Nigeria.
His other postulation that the US may have remained unconcerned about the increasing wave of terrorist activities in Nigeria "had US First Lady Michelle Obama not lent her support to the very high profile "Bring Our Girls Back" hashtag campaign... “shows that either Nekrassov has been seriously negligent in his professional calling in monitoring global events for his former or future clients or he's simply being clever by half. Nekrassov will recall that the Jonathan administration initially vehemently opposed the United States' attempt to classify Nigeria's Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) which could have mandated the American government to swing into action in tracking the terrorist organisation's source of funding and armaments, among other things.
Boko Haram probably would not have been this lethal if Nigeria had not expressed its displeasure when the US wanted to move Nigeria into the list of those countries "of interest" for terrorist activities in the aftermath of an attempt of the young Abdulmutallab to detonate plastic explosives on a Northwest Airline flight over Detroit in December 2009. It was not until after the abduction of the Chibok girls that Nigerians became aware of the several efforts of Britain and the United States to assist the country in fighting terrorism which the Jonathan administration consistently rebuffed. Because Nekrassov himself seems confused, jumping all over the place in his piece and muddling up issues that are not necessarily related, one therefore needs to lend him a helping hand in bringing clarity to an otherwise jaundiced thought process in his assertions, utilizing his own subtitles.
Rise of Boko Haram
Nekrassov's view that the emergence of Boko Haram has added to the confusion of Russian officials because the terrorist network that is primarily "based in the north of Nigeria, is actually fighting for control of the area that has no oil reserves" may be akin to someone cleverly trying to transfer his own confusion to somebody else who has the wherewithal to be discerning. Boko Haram has never hidden its intention that its engagement in a Jihad inside Nigeria's geographic space is because it wants an Islamic state in the country to be patterned along the Taliban's Afghanistan before they were routed by the superior military force of the United States. A kindergartner knows this Boko Haram goal by now. There should not be anything confusing by anybody about this, let alone Russian officials.
It is amazing that while Nekrassov posited that "the interesting angle on the crisis in Nigeria is that it is seen in Moscow as political conflict rather than a religious one", he also told us in the same breath that "the thinking in Moscow [is] if it was a classic religious war, then Boko Haram would not have been indiscriminate in murdering both Muslims and Christians". Why would the Kremlin hold two diametrically opposed views about Boko Haram at the same time especially in view of the fact that the terrorist group had made its goal very clear from the outset?
Boko Haram is indiscriminate in its orgy of murder of both Muslims and Christians in order to instil morbid fear into the hearts and minds of those it intends to practise its version of Islamic theocracy over where everybody becomes human robots in those territories under their control. Nekrassov doesn't seem too happy that the opposition is blaming "President Goodluck Jonathan for (his) inability to prevent the carnage." Should the opposition have blamed the United States, Moscow or Afghanistan for the carnage that the Jonathan government really has no clue by now how to stop?
Nekrassov's submission that "the kidnapping on such a vast scale was obviously intended as a blow to Jonathan's regime first and foremost... [and therefore] a slap on the face of the government in power that could only benefit the opposition seems to have been carefully crafted to make Jonathan administration looks as if it is the victim of the Chibok abduction deserving the sympathy of the international community. This is a disingenuous submission at best and a callously despicable one at worst. Moreover, one wonders how Nekrassov managed to have obtained what seems to be first-hand information from Abubakar Shekau that his asking price for each of our girls is around twenty dollars ($20). There is a condescending racial undertone in this unfortunate statement, it seems to me.
Perhaps due to his glaring and internationally acknowledged incom-petence that is obviously impossible for him to admit, President Jonathan has always seen virtually every issue of national importance as a political game by his political enemies to bring down his government. He would rather wish that Nigerians continue to celebrate a "shoeless" boy that rose to the nation's highest pinnacle from among 160 million people. Nekrassov must have thought that it was the opposition that told the president to do a-dancing in another northern city of Kano less than 48-hours after the Nyanya bombing that claimed the lives of more than 70 Nigerians. Nekrassov may have also believed that it was the opposition that barricaded all the nation's media houses, thereby preventing President Jonathan from saying a word or two to his fellow Nigerians about the abduction of the Chibok girls for more than two weeks. Other examples abound that underscores a patently inept President Jonathan that Nekrassov perhaps may not want to be bothered with.
It probably wouldn't have been necessary to respond to Alexander Nekrassov if he had declared himself an apologist of the Jonathan administration. It's very nauseating if not out-rightly distasteful for the former adviser to the Kremlin to have suggested that despite their "military and intelligence sources on ground... the US and other western nations having woken up to the reality of the Boko Haram threat only when the situation started to spin out of control" are now beginning to take proactive measures. The insinuation that the US should have been the one responsible for the security of the Nigerian people in the first place is pathetically condescending. It's also an indirect indictment of President Jonathan that Nekrassov seems to have been mandated to defend.
It's even more of an egregious statement in the light of the unpre-cedented deaths and destruction happening under Jonathan's watch since the country's civil war and with no hope in sight for Nekrassov to have suggested that "all things considered, Jonathan's regime is still a better option than the coalition of the Muslim extremists that is shaping up now with an aim to win next year's election". Well, this statement may be the whole point of Nekrassov's piece, which is to change the narrative by casting Nigeria's opposition party in the mould of Egypt's "Muslim Brotherhood" as espoused by another associate of Levick. But the vast majority of Nigerians whose lives are on the line on a daily basis knows better.
The $1.2m contract secured by Washington's Levick Strategic Communications from the Jonathan's government is a freebie that can only happen in Nigeria. It's like someone walking in the door of a good salesman offering hard, cold cash to sell a product. After some briefing, the salesman and the one offering cash both know that the product is patently bad. But it matters not. The salesman or anyone for that matter would be stupid to walk away from that humongous amount of free money. But the sad irony about this is that Levick and his co-travellers are earning their pay checks on the backs of those hapless Nigerians who continue to die both in the hands of Boko Haram and because they could not to afford to buy the drug that the doctor had prescribed for them in the Naira equivalent of about $5. These are people whose lives may mean nothing to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.