May 10, 2014

The kidnapping of some 200 girls in northern Nigeria has sparked world outrage. It’s a perfect media sensation: exotic locale and remarkably nasty kidnappers from a northern rebel movement, Boko Haram.

I’ve long been a connoisseur of Third World nasties, starting way back in the 60’s with Haiti’s voodoo chief, Papa Doc. Most have been nobodies who achieved instant international prominence by shooting off their mouths, making lurid threats and committing some dramatic outrage.

The latest is Boko Haram’s chief, a certain Abubakar Shekau. This lunatic has become a world bogeyman by kidnapping the school girls, gleefully prancing in front of TV cameras, and vowing to sell them into marital slavery.

Howls of fury erupted from leftist women’s groups in the US, and from President Barack Obama’s liberal warrior women, Susan Rice and UN ambassador Susan Powers. Hillary Clinton lost no time in jumping on this vote-winning issue.

In a truly heartwarming gesture, China says it will send “specialists” to aid the hunt for the missing girls. This is really about China’s race for Africa’s resources and its growing competition there with the US and Europe. The US wants its troops there before the Chinese arrive.

Few people anywhere cared much about the thousands of Afghan villagers just buried alive by a monster mud slide. Even fewer that Boko Haram’s previous rampages in northern Nigeria have killed over 1,500 civilians. Or that the thuggish Nigerian army and police’s brutal reprisals killed thousands of Muslim villagers.

Few outraged westerners knew that stealing girls is a traditional pastime in sub-Saharan Africa and child brides are second only to cattle rustling. There was no understanding in Washington that the tribal chaos and bloodshed now seething in South Sudan is merely a continuation of traditional raiding for cattle and women between rival Dinka and Neuer tribes. Washington failed to take this into account when it engineered the breakup of Sudan to create South Sudan as an oil-rich US vassal state.

American foreign policy reacts to oil and gas as my cats do to catnip. Now, under the pretext of deep concern for the missing schoolgirls, the US and Nigeria’s former colonial master, Britain, are rushing intelligence agents and special forces to this vast nation of 170 million, Africa’s largest.

Faux humanitarian missions are the rage for western intervention in the Third World. Libya and Syria offer vivid recent examples. US special forces are now operating out of Djibouti and Uganda in east Africa, ostensibly hunting fanatics of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a bunch of drug-crazed primitives hiding in dense forests. The US air base in Djibouti is being expanded to accommodate 4,000 military personnel and more attack drones.

Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil and gas producer. Over 40% of its exports go to the United States, supplying 10% of America’s energy needs. Nearby Angola has become another major energy supplier to the US.

Nigeria has important mineral and farming assets. Yet it remains mired in the deepest, shameful poverty. One percent of the population controls all the wealth and steals billions annually. In fact, the UN estimates almost all of Nigeria’s vast oil wealth has been stolen, squandered or stashed in Switzerland. Oil revenues flow directly to the government, then to powerful state governors. The only thing that trickles down to Nigerians is rain.

Northern Nigeria, mostly Muslim, is dirt poor. Oil wealth goes to the better off Christian south. The north’s Hausa and Fulani peoples have bitterly resented the massive theft of the nation’s resources by the more nimble southerners favored by British colonial rule. In fact, Britain was at fault for creating the multi-ethnic mess that is Nigeria, another colonial Frankenstein state, like Iraq or Burma.

Boko Haram’s rampage must be seen in this context, a popular uprising against Nigeria’s limitless government corruption, poverty, and resource theft. Boko uses the idiom of Islam but there is nothing Islamic about it. As in other parts of the Muslim world, reformers call for imposition of Islamic law as an antidote to endemic corruption of governments and courts that has been too often fostered by Western colonialism.

Screaming “Islamic terrorism” won’t defuse Nigeria’s coming explosion. Considered one of the world’s most corrupt nations, Nigeria has to clean up its act – and fast.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2014

This post is in: Africa, Nigeria, Oil


  1. Zeeshan7 says:

    Around the time of the US oil spill around the Gulf of Mexico, I had a taxi ride conversation with the Nigerian driver, who balked at the gulf oil spill as peanuts compared to the environmental catastrophe that major companies have been creating off the coast of Nigeria for decades. Oil tar that is over 20 feet thick in many places, has built up along miles of Nigerian coastline for years and yet, no media outlet has ever covered this outrage. Who cares about a dirt poor African nation? No need to stir the hornet’s nest and receive international condemnation, so long as the corrupt, paid Nigerian leadership let the oil companies continue their profitable activities unabated. Nigeria has consistently been rated the most corrupt country in the world, where a handful of generals have controlled the lucrative oil wealth.

    In an interesting article posted on the D.C. based political think tank Brookings Institute website about the chaos caused by Boko Haram, it seems implausible that a group claiming to be fighting for Muslim rights in Nigeria, would launch a disproportionate number of attacks against the very Nigerian Islamic population it claims to be protecting. One look at the video recordings of their leader who is supposed to be a ‘learned Islamic scholar’, shows Abu Bakr Shakau reading opening prayers preceding his speeches from a piece of paper placed out of view from the camera (prayers that even a 5 year-old child knows from heart). The truth of the matter, according to the case made in the Brookings article, is that the Boko Haram are a paid entity of the Nigerian government meant to subdue the popular uprisings against the corrupt Nigerian leadership; in essence, a walking talking False Flag operation.

  2. It’s amazing the news outfits only print the ‘spin’ anymore… fed like obedient children. It’s present everywhere… Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, the Ukraine, Sudan (big time) and Nigeria, for some countries. Even the Nigerian government has relocated this to the ‘back burner’.

    Yes there have been raids for women and goats for millennia.


  3. What gets me the most about this was how the world couldn’t spare enough effort to ignore this until the internet exploded with it and now they are falling over themselves to give the impression that they actually give a damn, and still do utterly nothing to help.

    Imagine how the world would have reacted if the girls were white. They would cover it as much as 9-11 and America would have sent the entire military to rescue them.

  4. Steve_M. says:

    Another good analysis by Margolis. The US government’s concerns for Nigeria’s problems and, for that matter, the problems of all other countries, are always motivated by American self-interest. Otherwise, Americans couldn’t care less about other countries’ problems. To prove my point, one look no further than Zimbabwe. You won’t hear the US government criticizing Robert Mugabe for his human rights abuses or his misrule of what was once a thriving country, because he poses no threat to American interests and also because Zimbabwe has no oil.

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