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Islam and Politics ( 8 March 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Nigeria: Victim of a ‘Great Game’



By Seema Sengupta

9 March 2015

Nigeria is a collateral victim of fierce strategic rivalry, caught in a vortex of violence and despair like Sri Lanka where myriad spy agencies had interloped.

This was stated by a former strategic intelligence official (SIO) who actively participated in India’s “Sri Lanka mission” of 1980s. The unexpected analogy came as a surprise to this author who had a discussion with this gentleman at a time when Boko Haram insurgents did not attain international fame by kidnapping 276 school girls.

After all, it is virtually impossible to compare the two situations logically. “Minutely examine the modus operandi of Boko Haram and you will find striking similarities with Pirapaharan’s, (Velupillai Prabhakaran — Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam chief) organization in tactical-standard-operating procedures” said the SIO. But then, is Nigeria witnessing an equally high level of ethnic rivalry characterized by remarkable ferocity and obduracy that Sri Lanka was once gripped with? Yes, the oil- rich and highly populous West African nation does have a bitter history of Muslim-Christian communal animosity, since the amalgamation of southern and northern territories in 1914.

But the sobering influence of religious clerics from both faiths — who act as honest peacemakers — restored some semblance of sanity in Nigerian society. “The seed of rancour was planted deep enough my dear, which by diligent cultivation, done by people like us, ripened into the fruit of vengeance,” the SIO uttered emphatically.

Indeed, the colonial divide-and-rule policy not only promoted sharp ethno-religious differentiation among Nigerians but also sowed the seeds of hatred. And late-1960s Nigerian civil war broadened the already existing societal fissures, thus spawning violent militancy that has resulted in innumerable civilian fatalities. Unfortunately, the tendency of using identity politics as means of accessing political and economic resources and advancement of religious solutions to purely socioeconomic or political problems has destroyed Nigeria’s societal fabric, despite a long-standing history of relatively peaceful cohabitation among its diverse ethnic groups.

“When politicians pander to religious and ethnic rhetoric, their sovereign territory is automatically converted into a readymade pawn, waiting to be strategically exploited by external actors sooner or later,” the strategic expert having years of experience in nurturing human-assets under similar conditions contended. But who gains from a destabilized Nigeria — the biggest economy in the African continent and the largest producer of sweet crude oil in OPEC and why is it that the vengeance of terrorist organizations like Boko Haram does not subside? Boko Haram fanaticism has left millions affected and its leader Abubaker Shekau seems to be rising from the ashes every time he is presumed to be dead.

“Like Pirapaharan, Shekau’s handlers too created an aura of invincibility around him by employing multiple dummies. Since most of the selected assets entrusted with leadership role are generally ideologues with little physical agility required for guerrilla operations, body-doubles are used for the purpose of deception as well as combat responsibilities,” the SIO affirmed authoritatively. He continued with his assessment saying, “Pirapaharan was also rumored to be dead several times. Such high-value assets cannot be liquidated unless their creators or handlers desire so. Similarly Shekau will surface repeatedly until the invisible puppet-master decides to close down this strategic mission permanently. Those who believe, Boko Haram will disappear into thin air, once Shekau is plucked-out, are living in a fool’s paradise.”

Very interestingly, the gentleman, having operated undercover in volatile strategic theaters believes that Nigeria is a victim of a “great game played out between China, America and Israel.” It is indeed an undeniable fact that China’s very entry into the Nigerian oil sector was in itself a worrying factor for the western multinational oil cartels. Initially, Beijing used to access Nigerian oil through exclusive long-term contracts and on-the-spot purchases. The day Chinese government sought ownership of Nigerian oil reserves for meeting the demand of a fast-growing economy, American and Israeli strategic establishments practically went into a tizzy; more so because the then President Olusegun Obasanjo encouraged Chinese investment in the Nigerian oil sector to boost domestic infrastructure. Interestingly, a pro-West military dictator-turned-politician, Obasanjo, safeguarded America’s strategic interest in Nigeria’s huge oil-wealth after assuming power in 1976 through a CIA-backed coup.

Obasanjo’s government auctioned oil blocs only after Chinese bidders committed themselves to providing Nigeria with major infrastructural projects. Geopolitical realities demanded that Washington fettered the Nigerian government urgently so that the Chinese do not have a free run. Besides, Nigeria has been working in tandem with both Russia and Iran for augmenting the country’s military and energy infrastructure. Moreover, with cheap Iranian oil no longer available, Israel was also becoming increasingly dependent on Nigeria for fuel. And the old historical tradition of resistance (manifested in Mohammed Marwa-led Maitatsine revolt of 1979), was exploited to launch the deadly “Mission Boko Haram and MEND” in both mineral-rich north and oil-abundant southwest Nigeria with the sole motive of keeping the Nigerian leadership on tenterhooks. “Ultimately, Zionist strategic interest and Nigeria’s political future will become inextricably intertwined,” prophesized the SIO, going on to add “not many know Mossad trained Sinhala military personnel and Tamil assets simultaneously. They know how to make a fortune by fanning fratricidal hatred.” Today, Nigeria is in dire need of reforms to survive as a united sovereign nation. Adopting a progressive Constitution that helps decentralize power to local constituencies, recognize stronger values for citizenship rights, reduces graft and provides equal opportunities to all irrespective of ethno-religious affiliation is the way forward. And only a civilian leader with no military background whatsoever can strengthen Nigeria’s faltering democracy.