Nigerian Ambassador to United States, Professor Adebowale Adefuye
By Tokunbo Adedoja
Nigerian Ambassador to United States, Professor Adebowale Adefuye, has faulted the warning by a US scholar, Prof. Jean Herskovits, that President Barack Obama’s administration should not support Nigeria's war on terror to avoid being viewed as backing a Christian president and turning Nigerian Muslims against US.
Adefuye also faulted Herskovits’ criticism on the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government.
Herskovits, who is a professor of history at the State University of New York, had in an article said: “The United States must not be drawn into a Nigerian 'war on terror' - rhetorical or real - that would make us appear biased toward a Christian president. Getting involved in an escalating sectarian conflict that threatens the country’s unity could turn Nigerian Muslims against America without addressing any of the underlying problems that are fuelling instability and sectarian strife in Nigeria.”
In that same article, Herskovits had also noted that, “Mr. Jonathan’s recent actions have not helped matters. He told Nigerians last week, 'The issue of bombing is one of the burdens we must live with’. On New Year’s Eve, he declared a state of emergency in parts of four northern states, leading to increased military activity there. And on New Year’s Day, he removed a subsidy on petroleum products, more than doubling the price of fuel. In a country where 90 per cent of the population lives on $2 or less a day, anger is rising nationwide as the costs of transport and food increase dramatically.”
Reacting yesterday in a statement made available to THISDAY, the Nigerian envoy described Herskovits assertions as “grossly incorrect and patently unfair”.
Adefuye said: “Relations between the United States and Nigeria are at an all time high not because Washington is biased towards a Christian President from the South as Jean said, but because among other things, there is a convergence of and mutuality of interest in the strategic global objectives of the Obama and Goodluck Jonathan administrations.”
This convergence of interests, he said, included a world free from nuclear proliferation, a world free from terrorism and a world in which the tenets of democracy human rights, rule of law, good governance, accountability and responsible governance thrive.
He added that the Obama administration, having realised the strategic importance of Nigeria and its influence in Africa, views the country as a strategic ally through which these ideals would be spread and strengthened on the continent, hence the signing of the Nigeria-US Binational Commission Agreement.
Adefuye said it is in this context that Herskovits should “seek to understand the current level of cooperation between our two countries and not because Jonathan is a Christian Southerner”.
Noting that terrorism in one part of the world could easily spread to other areas, Adefuye said: “That Boko Haram constitutes a threat to all is evident not only by their bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja but also by the rumour, though largely unsubstantiated, that some of those involved in the bombing of Abuja UN offices were said to have received training in Somalia, Libya and Niger.
“The fact that some of Gadaffi's supporters were taking refuge in neighbouring Niger points to the potential danger which Boko Haram could pose and partly explains President Goodluck Jonathan's decision to close some borders when he declared a state of emergency in four states where Boko Haram had been active.”
Adefuye also highlighted what he called the “glaring contradictions and conflicting conclusions” in Herskovits article, noting that while she said there was no proof that a well organised, ideologically coherent terrorist group called Boko Haram exists today, she also admitted that an original core group, still active, exists, though some criminal gangs had adopted its name to claim responsibility for attacks.
Adefuye however argued that, “the major recent attacks in Nigeria fit very perfectly into the avowed policy of Boko Haram that Western education is sinful. This is why they burn churches and schools.
Thieves and criminals have no interest in burning churches or mosques which are perceived to be critical of their actions. Muslims in Nigeria led by the acknowledged leader, the Sultan of Sokoto, and Chief Imams have condemned Boko Haram saying true Islam does not condone murder. The whole country is united in the effort to put a stop to the activities of Boko Haram.”
On the issue of fuel subsidy removal, the Nigerian envoy said: “Prof. Herskovits joined those who rushed to judgement and did not even wait to consider the government's case for the removal of the subsidies. She seemed not to have given thought to the fact that the country has paid 3.65 trillion naira in domestic fuel subsidies since 2006 with more than a third spent in 2011.
“The government spent 1.35 trillion naira (7 billion dollars) in the first nine months of last year. Removing the fuel subsidies will help save 7.5 billion dollars this year which is about 25 per cent of the government's spending plan. This money the government promised will be channelled into capital projects to develop infrastructure such as roads, railway and electricity.
“The step became necessary when it became clear that with around two thirds of the country's budget being devoted to recurrent expenditure, continuing with the present system and paying so much to subsidise fuel in a fast growing population, there would soon come a time when there would be no money for anything other than paying salaries and the country could grind to a halt. Removing fuel subsidies is therefore seen as a necessary painful decision.”
He said Jonathan's administration is committed to “broadening the base of the economy by lessening the dependence on oil, use the proceeds from oil to strengthen other sectors of the economy like agriculture, improve the quality of infrastructure, power, road and rail among others. Create jobs for our young population, and thereby reduce the scope of hunting grounds for recruitment into terrorist organisations like Boko Haram”.
Adefuye advised those that are pessimistic about Nigeria's future not to behave like “the proverbial foolish man who goes to sit at the bank of the river waiting to see the time when the crab would go to sleep”, adding, “they will be there for the rest of their lives. Nigeria will survive Boko Haram, the fuel subsidy crisis and fulfil its manifested destiny of the leader of the black world.”