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April 06,2015

Rescuing Nigeria

Eric Margolis
Africa’s most populous nation has just achieved something very important. Nigeria’s voters handed a landslide victory to former president, Muhammadu Buhari.
Equally impressive, the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, became the first Nigerian leader in 55 years to democratically cede power to his rival.
President-elect Buhari, a dour, ascetic, unsmiling former general, proclaimed his primary goal is to attack all-pervasive corruption and crush the Boko Haram uprising in the north. Interestingly, Buhari, a Muslim, received substantial support in the Christian south in this normally religiously-divided nation of 177 million.
I think Nigeria may be the most corrupt nation in Africa and likely on earth. Since independence from Britain in 1960, Nigeria has received over $400 billion in aid from Europe and the US, six times the post-WWII Marshall Plan that helped rebuild western Europe.
Nearly all of it was stolen.
An estimated $380 billion of government funds was stolen since independence, according to a recent finance minister. Most of this money ended up in Swiss Banks and London real estate. In Nigeria, corruption infuses every aspect of daily life in a nation where the average per capita income is under $2. Everything runs on ‘dash’, as payoffs are known.
Nigeria had become infamous around the globe as the source of torrents of fraudulent emails offering millions in riches to the unwary. Amazingly, Nigerian fraudsters seem to have raked in over $130 million this way, showing that greed, like sex, numbs common sense.
Attacking Nigeria’s toxic corruption will be a labor of Hercules. Even more urgent, however, will be dealing with the run-amok Boko Haram. Boko, like ISIS, is not really Islamic. But the movement fit perfectly with the west’s current obsession and hysteria over the so-called Muslim threat.
Boko Haram is an inevitable reaction to Nigeria’s outrageous corruption where 1% own everything and the previous government’s favoured the Christian south over the poorer Muslim north.
Many in the Muslim world support radical Islamist movements because they are seen, rightly or wrongly, as morally righteous, and incorruptible. Where justice is always bought, these Muslim reformers bring harsh but often honest justice.
Western-backed regimes in the Muslim world are often steeped in corruption. The west is seen as a primary source and purveyor of corruption in Muslim society – not that the Islamic world was not already plagued by widespread corruption. But the US, with its planeloads of newly-printed $100 bills, put corruption onto steroids.
Buhari left office unenriched during his first presidential term. As a result, like Egypt’s incorruptible Gamal Abdel Nasser, he won widespread popular support as the man who could not be bought.
Nigeria’s feeble, 68,000-men army has been unable to confront Boko Haram’s lightly-armed rabble because their arms and supplies have been stolen by officers or never arrived. As a result, Nigeria has been hiring white South African mercenaries to fight Boko Haram.
A bigger threat to Nigeria comes from corruption and the fall in the price of oil enflaming ethnic and tribal tensions between the north and south, an unstable, unhappy amalgam thanks to British imperialism. Happily, the election of Buhari, a Muslim may lessen anger by the northerners that the south was getting the lion’s share of dash from the central government.
There is hope for Nigeria – but a lot of work before it can shed its unfortunate reputation and start helping its people.
Excerpted from: ‘Can Buhari save Nigeria from itself?’
Courtesy: Commondreams.org

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