Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, yesterday argued that Nigerians would be disappointed if they were expecting the United States to treat the country same way it treats Israel.
Akinyemi was speaking against the backdrop of a “threat” by the United States to invoke the Leahy statute against Nigeria if there are established cases of human rights violations against the military, as opposed to its measured silence on alleged cases of similar breaches by the Israeli government.
He said this during an interview on ‘The Morning Show,’ a programme monitored on Arise News Channel, THISDAY’s broadcast arm. The renowned professor of international affairs, stated that the dynamics of the relationship between the United States government and those of Nigeria could not be compared.
Some security experts recently described the development as a clear case of double standard, as the United States had said Nigeria risked arms embargo for alleged violation of the laws on armed conflicts in the fight against banditry, terrorism, and other forms of violence in different parts of the federation.
Speaking in an interview with CNN International after a tour of some African nations, including Nigeria recently, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, had said that his country would apply the laws against Nigeria if the allegations were found to be credible.
However, while being very critical of Nigeria, the United States was said to have vetoed over 50 United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions critical of Israel since 1972.
During the last escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, the US had, according to reports, stuck to the same playbook, blocking a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Several resolutions condemning violence against Palestine protesters, and the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, were also reportedly thwarted by the US.
“Of course, we also have laws in place – the Leahy law, for example. That makes sure that if there are units that have committed abuses; we are not going to provide equipment to those units.
“If there is genuine transparency, accountability, and change that follows from these incidents and these abuses, I think that is very important, not only to our administration. It is also important to the US Congress in making judgments about continuing to assist the security forces,” Blinken had explained.
But Akinyemi, during the interview maintained that Nigeria would continue to be disappointed if it expected the same treatment given by the United States to Israel, stressing that the Jewish people in America are a very strong force to be reckoned with.
He said: “Look, you will only break your heart if you expect the United States to treat you the way it treats Israel. This is not hate speech on my part. I know better than to do that. But Jewish voters in the United States are very, very critical to the electoral success, especially in presidential elections.
“And there’s no presidential candidate and no administration that goes out of its way to antagonise Israel, or to do anything that may be perceived by the Jewish voters as being inimical to Israeli interests. They have a powerful voice in the media which they will be prepared to use.
“I won’t mention names so there will be no ad hominem attacks on my part, but there are powerful voices. There’s one of the global media in the United States which work for Jewish interest, public interest organisations, they won’t put it out there.
“But if you go and look at their profile, which will have been removed. So, you will think that they are neutral, whereas they are not neutral. Like hawks, looking after its chicks, those voices are looking out for Israeli interests.”
Akinyemi argued that Israel remained one of the few countries in the world that can afford to be rude to America without serious repercussions, reason why a former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was rude to former President Barack Obama, who was perceived as not being pro-Israel enough.
“So, there’s no basis for you to try to differentiate between American attitude to Nigeria and American attitude towards Israel. That difference is very, very clear,” he explained.
He said it was a positive move by the Biden administration to remove the Nigeria from the list of countries that muffle religious freedom in line with the new American government’s branding of being seen as highly democratic.
He stressed that the State Department of the United States had probably found out that the terrorists were killing both Muslims and Christians in the north, reason the country’s name was removed from the list.
“Everybody can see that churches, mosques, reverend fathers, students in Christian schools as well as students in Muslim schools are all being brutalised,” he stated, but admitted that there’s not a doubt that there were religious issues in Nigeria.
“What the department is probably saying is that we share equally the sufferings of the two religions groups that we have,” he posited.
On pledges made by the United States during the African tour, he said: “Recall what I said earlier, which is that Americans are first class speech writers and you’ve got to deconstruct what you’re talking about or the real meaning of what they are saying.”
However, he said that Nigeria remained an important voice in Africa, stressing that despite the battery Nigeria’s economy has received, the country cannot be ignored.