Nigeria’s President Asked for US Aid Against Boko Haram Last Fall

President Jonathan Goodluck of Nigeria asked President Obama to help him fight Boko Haram last fall.

I know he was serious about it because he does what anybody who is serious about making their case with our elected officials must do: He hired a high-dollar lobbyist to do his talking for him.

It cost Nigeria $3 million to hire the Patton Boggs lobbying firm to explain that Boko Haram are terrorists to American politicians. If that doesn’t tell you where things are with our government (and I’m not talking about the Rs and the Ds, I am talking about our government) then nothing will.

One of the most important things President Goodluck wanted was to have Washington define Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, something the State Department has refused to do. This would have made it possible to track monies going to fund Boko Haram, which, in my opinion, is a key factor in bringing them down. I’ve written before about the American government’s refusal to do this.

American officials have been talking a lot since the groundswell of public outrage created by the kidnapping of around 300 Nigerian school girls by Boko Haram. As it becomes clear that the girls were kidnapped to sell and use as sex slaves, public outrage has deepened, leading to even more Beltway chatter on the subject.

First Lady Michelle Obama has even gotten into the act.

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Unfortunately a good bit of what American officials have been saying has turned out to be either lies or a reflection of how badly misinformed they are. Claims that Nigeria has refused American help due to an insular resistance to outsiders have turned out to be untrue. Instead, the Nigerians have been asking for our help and have been turned away.

So, where does that leave us, other than concerned about these poor girls and, as usual, feeling cynical about the lying liars in our own government?

I think one thing we should consider is the fact that Nigeria is an oil producing nation. As such, that makes it prey for all sorts of corporatist interests. I do not know what part that plays in this sad drama, but I’m guessing that it is a significant one.

I was talking about this situation in Nigeria with friends over dinner a few nights ago. One of them said, “be careful about blaming the Nigerians. Once we get into this, we may find out that the we’re (meaning our government and corporatist interests) are mixed up in it somehow.”

That still hasn’t been proven.

What we know is that people in Washington have spewed out a bunch of inaccurate statements about America’s behavior and that of the Nigerian government. We also know that our government has refused to help Nigeria in the recent past, and that there is oil money involved in Nigerian politics.

I’ve been critical of President Goodluck’s government and its inability or unwillingness to respond appropriately to Boko Haram’s terrorism. I am still utterly confounded by the Nigerian government’s long-term failure to protect its citizens. I am disgusted by the lies coming out of Washington, as well.

Maybe instead hiring expensive lobbyists to make his case before the American government, President Goodluck should just have hired someone like Blackwater. I’m not much for mercenary soldiers. But when the military of a nation is so inept, and the other nations it goes to for help are so … whatever this bunch in DC are … that may be something to consider. How many lives and how much chaos does Boko Haram have to cost before enough is too much?

That speculation aside, the important issue of when these deadheads are going to stop lying and blaming each other and get those girls back hasn’t been addressed.

From ABC News:

WASHINGTON – The Government of Nigeria last fall hired a powerful Washington lobbying firm to press its case for intelligence on violent terror group Boko Haram and to persuade the Obama administration to donate non-lethal equipment in the hunt for extremists, according to documents filed with the U.S. government.

Since nearly 300 schoolgirls in the northeastern town of Chibok were abducted nearly a month ago by a large force of Boko Haram militants, some officials in Washington have blamed the challenge of confronting the al Qaeda-aligned group formed in 2009 — but designated only last November as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. – on Nigeria’s resistance to accepting outside help.

The U.S. designation allows freezing of bank assets, adding Boko Haram members to no-fly lists and prioritizes law enforcement actions. ABC News and The Daily Beast reported Thursday that debates within the U.S. and Nigerian governments over how much of a threat was posed by the group delayed it being declared an FTO and a military Tier One Threat Group for two years.

Amid an international outcry over April’s abductions by Boko Haram of the Chibok schoolgirls, some U.S. officials have insisted that Nigeria didn’t want the FTO designation earlier than 2013 because it might elevate Boko Haram’s global jihadi status.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks Monday echoed those who’ve said that the African nation’s fierce pride also led it to shoo away offers of American and British counter-terrorism assistance, even after a United Nations office in Abuja was bombed three years ago.

“The [Nigerian] government had its own set of strategies, if you will, in the beginning,” Kerry said at a press conference. “And you can offer and talk, but you can’t do [anything] if a government has its own sense of how it’s proceeding. I think now the complications that have arisen have convinced everybody that there needs to be a greater effort.”

  • SisterCynthia

    I can only guess I’m not the only one who is experiencing a burning anger over this. I will refrain from offering my opinions on who stands to benefit on our soil from pretending a terrorist group isn’t a terrorist group, or ignoring the pleas of a nation that humbled itself enough to ASK for assistance (not something any country’s president does happily, as it is tantamount to admitting weakness/need)… Judgement day comes, later or sooner, and there are a lot of power-brokers’ (likely forgotten!) sins which will come calling after them. The wrath of God against those who trample the poor and defenseless is fierce when kindled. It will not go well for such people when their “number” is called. :(

    • pagansister

      Even though there might not be an official Mother’s Day in Nigeria, those mothers who are anxiously waiting for news of their daughters are in a living hell. It would be wished that every child would be returned, but I fear that isn’t going to happen and those mother’s will have a broken heart for ever.

  • pagansister

    This has nothing to do with the article, but I wanted to get it in before tomorrow. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY Rebecca, as well as to the other Mothers who post on this site. May you all enjoy your special day.

    • FW Ken

      And a happy Mother’s Day to you, PS. And you, Rebecca. And any other mothers reading this.

      • pagansister

        Thank you, Ken. Appreciate it. :-)

      • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

        I am very happy to join in. (I rang my Mother first thing this morning, and it felt great.)

  • bill b

    Send under cover Arabs to buy the girls posing as rich radical muslims. Buy every one of them and close all schools in that state and issue pistols to literally all civilians there. Rescue is impossible from such a murderous group.

  • Mary E.

    Every time I try to come to a basic understanding of the situation in Nigeria, my head starts spinning. I do wonder how many Americans would have supported intervention against Boko Haram last fall, before this mass kidnapping occurred, I’ve been reading that Boko Haram has kidnapped groups of girls before, on a smaller scale, without an international outcry. Then, the national weariness about Afghanistan and Iraq has made the American people reluctant to get directly involved in another military action that could go on for years–and that’s what it is going to take. Boko Haram is motivated, and well-armed, and they will fight back, and they are difficult to fight. Plus, the Nigerian military is a mess, and assisting them may get us tangled up in that mess. It’s difficult, because like everyone else, I want to see those girls rescued, and I’m alarmed by the spread of Al-Queda influenced groups across Africa. But if we’re going to get involved ( along with France, Great Britain and the other countries who have offered assistance), we should have no illusions about a diplomatic resolution, or about where this could lead.

  • kenofken

    This story is much more complicated than the suggestions that our State Department and/or President Goodluck are soft on terror. As is the case in every country with Islamic extremists movements, Nigeria’s terrorism problem is rooted in poverty and a repressive political system that is unresponsive to large swaths of its own citizens. Nigeria is a fantastically corrupt petro-state in which government infrastructure and institutions exist solely to enrich elected officials, the civil service and the gunmen who maintain them in power. Access to these power structures, networks of schools, personal connections and appointments to the civic service, are defined by practices inherited from colonialism and further restricted along tribal and ethnic lines. Muslims, for the most part, have been frozen out of this, and while there have long been fundamentalist and political Islamist dimensions to the movement, its main fuel source is the disenfranchisement and permanent unemployment of large swaths of young men in a winner-steal-all economic model. It’s not at all mysterious how the Nigerian government has failed to protect its people long-term. The average citizen is a complete non-priority.

    Boko Haram has been declared a terrorist organization, albeit of late in November 2013. Should that have been done earlier? Arguably yes, but such is the value of hindsight. It did not become a truly violent movement until the latter part of this last decade, a phenomenon caused both by internal factions who advocated violence and a vicious government crackdown which essentially selected for more violent and extreme leadership of Boko Haram.

    The State Department designation of terrorist organization isn’t meant to cover every group in the world of Really Bad Men who happen to have an Islamic narrative. It’s supposed to target groups who pose a direct threat to the U.S. and it’s interests. For several years there, it looked like an internal insurgency, and the Nigerians certainly encouraged that view. The Nigerians didn’t need Blackwater. They certainly weren’t squeamish about pulling triggers. They basically summarily executed any of the movement’s members and leadership they could catch, which just created job openings for more radical elements.

    We should help resolve this crisis any way we can, but we cannot fix Nigeria, and terrorism cannot be fixed by armed force if the underlying political and economic system creates the conditions for terrorism at the same time.


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