The Nigerian elections, in which current president Goodluck Jonathan has lost to former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, were highly contested. Violence broke out across Nigeria between supporters of the two candidates. Jonathan’s base of support is the Christian communities of the southern regions. Buhari’s base of support has been the Islamic regions.
After conceding defeat, Jonathan urged peace. He said, “Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian.” However, the violence is continuing, with Christian supporters of Jonathan battling Muslim supporters of Buhari. Foreign workers are reported to be fleeing the country, as mobs supporting the rival candidates battle each other in the streets.
The violence surrounding the elections adds to the already unstable situation, as the Nigerian state continues to battle Boko Haram, the takfiri extremist group that has recently announced an alliance with ISIS. What is behind the rise of instability in Nigeria? What has caused such an important, highly populated, and oil-rich nation to descend into such chaos?
Since 2011, when Libya’s economic infrastructure was destroyed by US/NATO bombs and foreign-backed rebels, Nigeria has been the African continent’s top oil exporter. Despite possessing much of the most vital natural resources, Nigeria remains a highly impoverished country. According to the CIA World Factbook, the life expectancy for the average Nigerian is a mere 52 years of age. Sixty-one percent of Nigerians are illiterate, without any basic education provided to them. Twenty-nine percent of Nigerians between the age of 5 and 14 are child laborers. The huge amounts of US foreign aid, which amounted to $652 million in 2013, have done little to improve the situation for the Nigerian people.
The Nigerian state is led by pragmatic wealthy politicians, who are anything but radical or nationalistic. Corruption is widespread, as is organized crime. The government of the United States has had a very good relationship with Nigerian government for the past several decades. Shell Oil is the primary owner of Nigeria’s oil. The exploitation of these resources has meant billions of dollars for the Wall Street oil corporation.
When oil workers have gone out on strike, the Nigerian government has been happy to respond with brutal violence in order to protect Shell’s profits. Professors who criticized Shell’s environmental practices, such as Ken Saro-Wiwa, have been hanged by the Nigerian state. In January of 2012, when workers across Nigeria went out on strike, the Nigerian state responded with swift violence and repression, declaring martial law and gunning people down.
Chinese Weapons and Oil Profits
Those who own the big banks and western oil firms are not ideologues or right-wing political activists. They do not secretly conspire for unseen purposes. They act directly and openly in their own financial interests. They seek to maximize profits, beat out their competitors, and survive in a world capitalist market defined by the law of “expand or die.” Despite Nigeria’s full cooperation with Wall Street and London, the forces of financial power are now conspiring to wreck the country with sectarian religious violence, a course of action dictated by the ruthless logic of the market.
Nigerian oil exports are rising. Nigeria, like the rest of the world, is adjusting to a rapid advance in technology. Oil is flooding the international markets as hydraulic fracking, offshore drilling, and other innovations make the process of extracting oil cheaper than ever. The process of refining oil has also become cheaper than ever before. With the world market already flooded with oil and prices low, both Nigeria’s oil extracting apparatus and its domestic economy continue to grow.
One of the primary reasons for the rapid expansion of production in Nigeria is its increasingly friendly relationship with the People’s Republic of China. Chinese political figures, including former president Hu Jintao, have visited Nigeria. Chinese investment in the domestic Nigerian economy is higher than ever.
For years the Nigerian state has been battling a group of religious extremists who call themselves “Boko Haram.” While until recently, US officials like Hillary Clinton have worked to keep Boko Haram off of the official list of foreign terrorist organizations, China has been supplying Nigeria with weapons to fight Boko Haram. In addition to selling Nigeria arms, the Chinese government officially presented the Nigerian navy with a battleship as a “gift.” China has acted as a champion of Nigeria, pushing for it to have a greater role in international affairs at the United Nations.
The Nigerian state, despite still working closely with western bankers, has been purchasing a great deal of Chinese weapons. The surge in oil exports and growth of its domestic economy have presented Nigeria with the ability to gradually alter its relationship with the west. The Chinese investments lay a possible foundation for independent economic development. Within Nigerian circles of power, a pragmatic, self-interested attitude has been enabled by Chinese aid and influence, along with the growth of the domestic economy.
Many former supporters of Goodluck Jonathan put their support behind Buhari’s campaign. This gave him the support he lacked in his previous three presidential campaigns. The Nigerian president-elect, who previously led the country after a military coup, is known for wildly nationalistic rhetoric. He campaigned describing Jonathan as incompetent in his economic management and in the military campaign against Boko Haram. Buhari’s rule during the 1980s was marked by extreme cuts in social spending, political repression, and close cooperation with Washington.
Whether it happens or not, there is a genuine fear among the powers of western finance that the pro-Chinese and nationalistic trajectory in Nigerian politics could suddenly pick up speed. As the relationship with China grows deeper, and the Nigerian state is strengthened, the role of a military leader viewed as a nationalist “strongman” is yet to be seen.
Empires Demand Destruction
Nigeria’s rising oil exports are a direct threat to the US-aligned regimes in the Middle East. The Gulf state autocracies led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are seeing their profits decline.
It is no secret that the primary base of financial support for the ISIS terrorist organization comes from within Saudi Arabia. The funds in ISIS accounts have been transferred from Saudi banks. The owners of Twitter have revealed that the majority of social media activity in support of ISIS also originates within the borders of the Saudi kingdom. These facts make it all the more interesting that Boko Haram, the armed terrorist group operating in Nigeria, has officially declared itself to be aligned with ISIS. Boko Haram now displays the Islamic State’s flag as its official colors.
In 2014, after years of hindering rather than supporting the Nigerian government’s efforts to fight Boko Haram, a social media campaign sprang up. Obama and the US apparatus of nonprofits and NGOs were suddenly screaming “Bring Back Our Girls!” With a panicked campaign calling for “humanitarian intervention,” the US rapidly increased its military presence in Nigeria and parts of Central Africa. US drones are now flying across Nigerian skies.
Like every country in which the US has increased its military presence in the last two decades, Nigeria has become more unstable. Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria have not become “stable” under US rule, but have been reduced to chaos and religious sectarianism. The increase of state power and geopolitical independence is now in danger, as Muslims and Christians are killing each other in a wave of post-electoral instability.
When observing the policies of US military apparatus and its Wall Street overlords, one is reminded of the ancient war between Rome and Carthage. After defeating forces based in ancient Tunisia, the victorious Roman Empire did not immediately enslave the people and put them to work rebuilding the country. Rather, the Romans slaughtered the peoples of Carthage, then scattered salt deep into the soil – an act that ensured that no crops could be grown.
The basis for independence from empires, both thousands of years ago and today, is economic development. Nigeria’s economic development, based on a close relationship with communist-led China, is a clear illustration of this.
As Nigeria becomes more aware of its ability to assert itself, the Wall Street imperialists do not aim to reconquer and rebuild. Rather, they aim to destroy.
Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was inspired and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.