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Ambassador Campbell’s “Morning After” Flaws By Oguchi Nkwocha, MD

Grafted to an account of the polling process in Enugu by one of the International election observers of the 2011 elections in Nigeria in the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) issue of May 2, 2011 titled, “Nigeria: The Morning After”, is an opening paragraph by Mr. John Campbell, former US Ambassador to Nigeria, the author of the CRF article, thus:

Grafted to an account of the polling process in Enugu by one of the International election observers of the 2011 elections in Nigeria in the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) issue of May 2, 2011 titled, “Nigeria: The Morning After”, is an opening paragraph by Mr. John Campbell, former US Ambassador to Nigeria, the author of the CRF article, thus:

“I have an oped today in The International Herald Tribune on the Nigerian elections. I also think U.S. outreach to northern Nigeria should include according Muhammadu Buhari the respect commensurate with his political importance in the North.” –Ambassador Campbell

This gratuitous graft is taken from the stem of the Ambassador’s Op Ed published elsewhere in the New York Times of May 2, 2011, here:

and also carried by multiple media, including Sahara Reporters (, an opinion which reveals serious flaws.

Ambassador Campbell is of course right on-target when he questions the assumed and much vaunted “success” of the April 2011 elections in Nigeria. The facts show that on the balance, considering how much uncalled for violence was involved, and the pattern of voting, the conduct of these elections should never count as credit to any country, even when juxtaposed to the universally condemned  hopelessly rigged Nigeria’s previous elections of 2007.

 But that’s about where the agreement ends. His conclusion that this round of Northern Nigeria violence in response to, and their current attitudes towards, the results of these elections reflect the North’s negative feelings towards America is totally off the mark. Based on that conclusion, he advocates that the US and the West reach out to the North—speedily; an act that should also include, in his own words, “according Muhammadu Buhari the respect commensurate with his political importance in the North.”

The North has demonstrated that it does not need elections to dislike or justify its dislike of the US. There is only one place where the American flag is routinely burnt in protest in Nigeria—in the North. There is only one part of Nigeria where there were celebrations on September 11 2001 (9/11): that was in Northern Nigeria, in support of bin Laden’s unconscionable act. Going by newspaper reports, “Osama” became a popular boy’s name in the same North thereafter. The only remaining surprise (and we may be speaking too soon) is that the North has not started violently attacking Christians and different ethnic groups in Nigeria because of bin Laden’s death in Pakistan at the hands of the US against whom he had publicly declared and waged war for over ten years.

By the same token, the North does not need its dislike of the US to justify preplanned ongoing cyclic ethnic and religion-based violence against Christians and especially against the ethnic Igbo in Nigeria. By the 1940’s, the North was already committing ethnic cleansing against the Igbo. In 1966, such ethnic cleansing was of a magnitude that shocked the world into repressing the facts, history and memory: the world went into mass psychological denial. This eventually led to the Biafra-Nigeria War of 1967-70, when the North, using Nigeria’s organs of state, with the help of notable countries like Britain, Russia and Egypt, starved to death over 3 million Igbo / Biafran children, pregnant women, old men and women, using a pernicious blockade. Since 1970, there have been many violent episodes initiated and maintained by the North in Northern Nigeria, all with similar patterns of ethnic and religion-based murderous violence and mayhem. April 2011 was only the latest in that series. It won’t be the last either, as long as Nigeria lasts. One would like to know from the Ambassador what that has got to do with the US?

No one is going to stop the US from doing what the US does best, which is what is in her best interest. To attempt to blackmail the US into reaching out to the North in Nigeria on the basis of the North starting another round of violence because (read, the real reason being that) the North do not want a non-Muslim—an unbeliever—to rule them, is unbecoming of a seasoned diplomat such as Ambassador Campbell. Of course, the US is challenged to try—again; provided that the likes of Mr. Campbell will be willing to admit that the North has cut off the fingers and hand of anyone reaching out to them, if not the entire arm, where often the Good Samaritan’s head has rolled in the other direction—literally—during such an act of reaching out.

The North of Nigeria (say they) do in fact want “Boko Haram” (a system where Westernism is banned); on the other hand, Muslims (and non-Muslim alike) in North Africa are banded together revolting against the Boko Haram mentality, seeking personal and group rights thus denied them. Therefore, the current rampage in Northern Nigerians cannot be equated (contrary to what Ambassador Campbell suggests) to the actions of those seeking Self Determination in non-violent protests to wrest control of their group destiny from pernicious, anti-people subtending states in Northern Africa. The rampaging Northern Nigerians attacked their own emirs and leaders not because the latter support the US, as Mr. Campbell would have us believe, but precisely because they are not doing enough to institute Boko Haram seriously and permanently in the North and in Nigeria; that is, the emirs and leaders are not insisting enough on Sharia for the North and Sharia for the rest of Nigeria, and not insisting that non-Muslim cannot rule the North, not insisting that the North must rule Nigeria at all costs. If the US, with all its resources, cannot understand that, then, may Ambassador Campbell prevail.

 One more point. What does it mean for the US to reach out to Buhari, anyway, per Ambassador Campbell’s suggestion, as proof of US reaching out to the North? Buhari is the embodiment of corruption and arrogance in Nigeria: true, he did not steal public money that anyone knows of, but he was drunk with usurped power and its abuse. He carried out a military coup that overthrew an elected civilian government of Nigeria; and then used his personal draconian decrees to inflict terror on the hapless docile peoples of Nigeria. What he called “discipline” was not much different from psychopathy. For example, one of his military decrees carried capital punishment, and against strident appeals by outraged but powerless citizenry, he insisted on making it retroactive, resulting in the unjustifiable killing of two convicts already serving their terms from a previous judgment for drug offenses. This is murder, though touted with pride and a sense of accomplishment as “justice,” Buhari-style. Corruption of power is just as hideous as corruption in any other way.

Buhari incited his supporters in the North into going on a killing and rampaging spree after it was obvious that he could not win the 2011 Presidential election—later, after-the-fact tepid and reluctant self-distancing speech aside. In Ambassador Campbell’s country (the US), the Justice Department would be looking seriously at Buhari’s role in these bloody events with a view to prosecuting him, if the situations were reversed. Moreover, Buhari’s antecedent clearly shows his parochialism; his obvious intolerance and chauvinism in regards to his religion, Islam, disguised as personal devoutness (remember when he said that Muslim in Nigeria should vote for only Muslim?) is on record. He does not need to be rewarded by being reached out to.

If the Ambassador’s recommendation to the US is a form of appeasement program, he ought to be the first to understand that appeasement as a foreign policy or even national policy never works and never results in anything positive because it characteristically deliberately avoids or ignores the root-issue. In particular, it has never worked in Africa; specifically, it does not work in Nigeria.

The solution to Nigeria is Self Determination, not appeasement and not patronage. The groups that desire Boko Haram unquestionably have a right to that—in their own separate country, by their own choice; there, they can acquire their own leaders through whatever process suits them. If they choose to relate with the others outside their own national enclave, they can work out mutually beneficial and consenting relations with equity. Each ethnic nation in Nigeria needs to exercise its Self Determination rights. They can then determine and decide how to interrelate, one with another or others—when and if consensual. This prevents further ethnic and religion-based bloodshed, carnage, and loss of goodwill, and prevents what Ambassador Campbell himself recently correctly characterized as the “internal colonization” of the Niger Delta, a fate also shared by other unidentified ethnic groups in Nigeria.

 The time for continuing to deny the fact that ethnicity and religion are at the root of Nigeria’s insoluble problems is over. Nigerians like to talk of, dream of and self-delude with what they call “detribalized” state and status called Nigeria. Yet, every behavior, act, response and thought belies such, even while foreigners and foreign pundits such as Mr. Campbell continue to patronize and propagate the hypocrisy. In the present matter—the recent elections—one big reason the results are considered not a success is that they revealed what should come as no surprise to any honest person: purely ethnic and religion-based voting! And, it’s 2011! So, why pretend that ethnicity and religion are not that important in Nigeria and in the affairs of peoples living in Nigeria? Why pretend that ethnicity and religion can be ignored in Nigeria? Why not face the reality, accept the fact and be comfortable with it, so that a realistic natural system of ethnic nations and nationalities can be respected, established and recognized in Nigeria? Self-deterministic referendums can facilitate the process; the idea which has been floated for many years now—Sovereign National Conference (actually, a conference of sovereign ethnic nations)—can kick off and complement the process.

Incidentally, US President Obama recently signaled that US foreign policy supports Self Determination. The most obvious form of Self Determination is being applied today in Sudan / South Sudan; if not for the resolve and stamina of the US in its belief and support of Self Determination, Sudan and South Sudan might now be returned to the wonted shooting war. The other form of Self Determination being practiced in Northern Africa is also supported by the US: the right of the people to wrest control of their political and social destiny from their oppressive state. In the past, the US was supporting the oppressive state—not any more. It constitutes a step backwards for the US to go into the appeasement business, even if called “reaching out to,” in order to maintain and sustain the pernicious state of Nigeria, where Self Determination fits the bill perfectly.


Oguchi Nkwocha, MD.

Nwa Biafra

A Biafran Citizen

[email protected]

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