How Can Nigeria Sanction The Us? What Do We Have That The US Will Possibly Want?

I read the speech given by a former ambassador of the US about Nigeria and it got me thinking. What do we really have that makes us so proud that we threaten the US as Ojo Maduekwe and others in the senate are doing? I weep for Nigeria,

Please read the speech via this link


It is such a privilege to be here in a conference in honour of Professor Chinua Achebe, an inspiration and teacher to all of us.

I have a long connection to Nigeria. Not only was I, an Ambassador there, I have travelled to and from Nigeria for a number of years and have a deep and abiding vital emotional attachment to the Nigerian people, their magnificence, their courage, artistic brilliance, their irony, sense of humour in the face of challenges, etc.

And, I hope that we keep that in mind when I say some things that I think are counter to what we normally say about Nigeria. And, I say that with all due respect to Eric Silla, who is doing a magnificent work at State Department and to our good friends from the legislature; because I have a feeling that we both Nigerians and Americans may be doing Nigeria and Nigerians no favour by stressing Nigeria’s strategic importance.

I know all the arguments: It is a major oil-producer, it is the most populous country in Africa, it has made major contributions to Africa in peace-keeping, and, of course, negatively if Nigeria were to fall apart, the ripple effects would be tremendous, etc. But, I wonder if all this emphasis on Nigeria’s importance creates a tendency to inflate Nigeria’s opinion of its own invulnerability.

Among much of the elite today, I have the feeling that there is a belief that Nigeria is too big to fail, too important to be ignored, and that Nigerians can go on ignoring some of the most fundamental challenges they have,many of which we have talked about: disgraceful lack of infrastructure, the growing problems of unemployment, the failure to deal with the underlying problems in the Niger-Delta, the failure to consolidate democracy; and somehow feel will remain important to everybody because of all those reasons that are strategically impor-tant.

And I am not sure that that is helpful.

Let me sort of deconstruct those elements of Nigeria’s importance, and ask whether they are as relevant as they have been.

One in five Africans is a Nigerian, so…

We often hear that one in five Africans is a Nigerian. What does it mean? Do we ever say one in five Asians is a Chinese? Chinese power comes not just for the fact that it has a lot of people but it has harnessed the entrepreneurial talent and economic capacity and all the other talents of China to make her a major economic force and political force.

What does it mean that one in five Africans is Nigeria? It does not mean anything to a Namibian or a South African. It is a kind of conceit. What makes it important is what is happening to the people of Nigeria. Are their talents being tapped? Are they becoming an economic force? Is all that potential being used?

And the answer is “Not really”.

And oil. Yes, Nigeria is a major oil producer, but Brazil is now launching a 10-year programme that is going to make it one of the major oil producers in the world.

And every other country in Africa is now beginning to produce oil.

And Angola is rivaling Nigeria in oil production, and the United States has just discovered a huge gas reserve which is going to replace some of our dependence on imported energy.

So if you look ahead ten years, is Nigeria really going to be that relevant as a major oil producer, or just another of the many oil producers while the world moves on to alternative sources of energy and other sources of supply?

How influencial is Nigeria?

And what about its influence and contributions to the continent? As our representative from the parliament talked about, there is a great history of those contributions. But that is history.

Is Nigeria really playing a major role today in the crisis in Niger on its border, or in Guinea, or in Darfur, or, after making many promises, any contributions to Somalia?

The answer is no. Today Nigeria is not making a major impact on its region, or on the African Union or on the big problems of Africa.

What about its economic influence?

Well, as we have talked about earlier, there is a de-industrialisation going on in Nigeria— lack of infrastruc-ture and power means that with imported goods under globalisation, Nigerian factories are closing and more people are becoming unemployed. Nigeria is becoming a kind of society that imports and exports and lives off the oil, which does not make it a significant economic entity.

Now, of course, on the negative side, the collapse of Nigeria would be enormous, but is that a point to make Nigeria strategically impor-tant?

Years ago, I worked for an Assistant Secretary of State who had the longest tenure in that job in the 1980s; and I remember in one meeting a Minister from a country not very friendly to the United States, came in and was berating the Assistant Secretary on all the evils of the United States and all its dire plots and in-things in Africa.

He was going on and on and finally the Assistant Secretary cut him off and said, “You know, the biggest danger for your relationship with the United States is not our opposition but that we will find you irrelevant.”

Nigeria-America relationship

The point is that Nigeria can become much less relevant to the United States. We have already seen evidence of it when President Obama went to Ghana and not to Nigeria. He was sending a message that Ghana symbolised more of the significant trends, issues and importance that one wants to put on Africa than Nigeria.

And when I was asked by journalists why President Obama did not go to Nigeria, I said, “what would he gain from going? Would Nigeria be a good model for democracy? Would it be a model for good governance? Would he obtain new commitments on Darfur or Somalia or strengthen the African Union or in Niger or elsewhere?”

No he would not, so he did not go.

And when Secretary Clinton did go, indeed, she also went to Angola. Who would have thought years ago that Angola would be the most stable country in the Gulf of Guinea and establish a binominal commission in Angola?

So the handwriting may already be on the wall, and that is a sad commentary.

What it means is that Nigeria’s most important strategic importance in the end could be that it has failed.

That is a sad, sad conclusion. It does not have to happen, but I think that we ought to stop talking about what a great country it is, and how terribly important it is to us and talk about what it would take for Nigeria to be that important and great.

It takes an enormous amount of commitment. You do not need saints, you do not need leaders like Nelson Mandela in every state, because you are not going to get them.

South Korean example

I served in South Korea in the middle of the 1960s and it was at the time when South Korea was poor and considered hopeless. But she was turning around, later to become, to every person’s amazement, then the eleventh largest economy in the world. I remember the economist in my mission saying, it did not bother him that the leading elite in the government of South Korea were taking 15 to 20 per cent off the top of every project, as long as every project was a good one.

That was the difference. The leadership at the time was determined to solve the fundamental economic issues of South Korean and turn her economy around.

It has not happened in Nigeria today. You don’t need saints. It needs leaders who say, “You know we could be becoming irrelevant, and we got to do something about it.”

Princeton Lyman is a former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria and former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organisation Affairs.

11 answers

Your point Nigeria should look inwards in order to develop relevance is one thing but I think ultimately the relationship between Nigeria and America is unhealthy. America does not need Nigeria that is a fact but I do not think Nigerians realise that they need America even less. It goes without stating, that Nigeria needs self-reliance but in the mean time Nigeria should pursue more intra African trade and work on developing ties with china.

If I was a Nigerian dictator no Nigerian American would step foot in Nigeria. Those people are damaged goods.


I read this article on the Guardian today and I decided to post it as it underscores the point I was trying to make

Senate clarifies position on U.S. listing of Nigeria. Denies issuing ultimatum.

From Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, (Abuja) and Ifedayo Sayo, (Ado-Ekiti)

THE Senate has clarified its stand on the classification of Nigeria among high risk countries by the United States (U.S.) over the alleged attempt by Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab to blow up a Detroit, Michigan-bound Delta Airline plane on the Christmas Day.


In a statement signed by the Senate's spokesman, Ayogu Eze, yesterday, the Upper Legislative Chamber denied media reports (not in The Guardian) that it had given U.S. a seven-day ultimatum to reverse the classification.

The statement entitled: "The Senate did not issue a seven-day ultimatum," read: "We have followed with interest the misrepresentations in the media regarding our comments in rejecting the classification of Nigeria as a nation to be kept under watch in America's fight against terrorism.

"At no point did the Senate give a seven-day ultimatum. What I said at the press briefing, and this is verifiable from the bodies of the stories with the misleading headlines, was that we rejected the classification and demanded that our name be taken off that list.

"I followed up by stating that when the Senate resumes next, it will engage all its diplomatic and legislative gears to bring about this reversal.

"It was therefore surprising that well-meaning Nigerians for whom the Senate has so much respect would be misled by these screaming headlines to make comments on the matter without first of all acquainting themselves with the facts of the case.

"The comment by Prof. Wole Soyinka referring to the Senate position as being absurd is most unfortunate because I had expected that being one of the captains of the literary ship in Nigeria, he should have read the entire comment from the Senate before casting aspersion on the institution for something that did not happen at all.

"It is wrong for those the Senate holds in high esteem to attack its reputation and seek to rubbish its actions without justification. I am constrained to observe that Prof. Soyinka is gradually falling into this group of Nigerians who offer opinions hastily without first obtaining all the sides to an issue.

"I wish to restate that the Senate rejects this obnoxious classification which was done without due consultation with relevant authorities in Nigeria. On resumption, we are going to weigh in on the matter, with a view to finding a solution to it.

"We also want to use this opportunity to restate our opposition to terrorism in any form from any quarters. We condemn what Umar Abdulmutallab did, and ask that innocent Nigerians be spared the agony to which they are exposed because of this one-off incident.

"His action, heinous and condemnable as it is, is not enough ground to criminalise innocent and law-abiding Nigerians over a matter they know nothing about.

"This is the official position of the Senate for now, and any views to the contrary belong to those who hold such views."

Meanwhile, Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana has blamed the listing of Nigeria on terrorist watch list by the U.S. on the failure of leadership in the country.

He told journalists at a scholarship award ceremony held for indigenes of Ilawe-Ekiti, his hometown in Ekiti State, at the weekend, that if Nigerian leaders had displayed high level of responsibility in their response to the unsuccessful bombing attempt, the situation could have been different.

He said while President Barack Obama abandoned his vacation to attend to the urgent important national problem occasioned by the incident, the Nigerian President, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's whereabouts was unknown.

Added to this, he said, was the fact that the nation's response to the misdemeanour of the Nigerian was not coordinated, saying the president who was to provide effective leadership was in a foreign land without handing over to his deputy as required by the constitution.

Falana maintained that while he was against the listing of Nigeria among terrorist nations by the U.S., he was more concerned that the country lacked effective leadership to address the problem created by the suspected bomber.

He stressed that if there had been effective leadership, U.S. would have been put on the defensive having been provided with the necessary information on the religious radicalism of Abdulmutallab by his father but failed to work on the information that would have prevented the suspected bomber from entering America.

He noted that the whole issue of Abdulmutallab's action was occasioned by lapses on the part of American security system, adding that the latest action by the U.S. was another way of telling Nigeria to be serious with issues of governance.

He said it is unacceptable for America to criminalise 150 million Nigerians over an offence committed by one of them.

The Lagos lawyer noted that the listing of Nigeria among terrorist nations was an accumulation of mis-governance and America's disenchantment with the manner by which the leaders were conducting the internal affairs of the country.

He also faulted the Nigerian government's reaction to the whole issue when it ordered for body screening machines for use at the airports, saying the body screening machines would offend the rights of Nigerians to privacy.

According to him, the photographs taken with the machines could be used by fraudsters to blackmail and demand for ransome from wealthy Nigerians who go through the airports. Rather, Falana said the government should come up with strategies to combat criminality at the airport rather than invading the privacy of Nigerians and other travellers.

He also criticised the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Aondoakaa over his comment that the President can govern the nation from outside the shores of Nigeria, saying the statement was unfortunate.

He said ordinarily, the public service rules did not permit any top government official from level 16 upward who goes on medical treatment abroad to stay beyond 42 days, adding that if this happens, a medical board would be constituted to determine the physical fitness of such official to continue in office.

He said the president has spent more than 42 days, stressing that the next thing to do is for the government to set up this medical board now to enable the nation move forward.

Earlier, Falana had distributed cheques to 52 indigent indigenes of the community in higher institutions of learning across the nation to assist them in their academic pursuit.

Assisted by his wife, Funmi, Falana said the gesture was part of his contribution to the development of the community and admonished youths in the area not to get involved in illegal drug cultivation, consumption and trading in their own interest.

Meanwhile, Britain is set to ban a Moslem group that recently caused outrage by proposing a demonstration in the town that receives the bodies of British war-dead, killed abroad, the Home Office said yesterday.

The ban would prevent Al-Muhajiroun, also known as Islam4UK, from having meetings or raising money. Attending a meeting or being a member of Al-Muhajiroun or Islam4UK would be a criminal offence, a Home Office spokesman said. The spokesman declined to be named, in line with government policy.

"Proscription is a tough but necessary power to tackle terrorism," said the Home Office, which is responsible for domestic security in the United Kingdom (UK).

Two offshoots of Al-Muhajiroun, Al-Ghurabaa and Saviour Sect Group, were banned in July 2006.

The ban should come into force in a matter of "days, not weeks," the spokesman said. It would require approval from both houses of Parliament.

The group's leader, controversial British Moslem cleric, Anjem Choudary, has been threatening to stage a march against the war in Afghanistan.

Choudary-informed of the government's plans by Cable News Network (CNN) said the Home Office could not shut him down.

"We're not going to stop because the government bans an organisation," he told CNN by phone. "If that means setting up another platform under another label, then so be it."

A ban "will just make the use of those names,  illegal, but Moslems everywhere are obliged to work collectively to establish the Islamic State and Sharia law in the UK or wherever they are those things can't change," he added.

Asked if he was surprised or disappointed by the decision, Choudary said: "No, not at all, we expect this and much more than that."

His Web site appeared to have been shut down as at yesterday, apparently by Islam4UK itself.

In place of a full Web site, Islam4UK.com now contains only a new, relatively conciliatory letter posted Saturday and labelled: "An appeal to families of British soldiers to have an honest dialogue," and a note saying: "Islam4UK back soon."

It was not clear when the Web site was scaled back.

Choudary drew headlines last week by proposing a march through the English town of Wootton Bassett.

The bodies of British war-dead are traditionally brought to the town, near a Royal Air Force base, when they are returned to the country.

Relatives and friends line the streets of the town along with local residents as hearses carry the flag-draped British remains, in scenes of public mourning widely reported by British media.

Choudary's proposal to march empty coffins through the streets drew fury and outrage.

The march would be illegal if the group is banned, the Home Office said.

Choudary himself "would have to renounce membership to avoid breaking the law," the spokesman said. "His group should cease to exist."

The decision to ban the group was not caused only by the plan to march in Wootton Bassett, the Home Office said.

Choudary has never announced a date for his planned march and local police said he had not contacted them about it, as people planning marches are required to do before staging a demonstration.

But he published an open letter: "To the families of British soldiers who have died or who are currently in Afghanistan," on the Web site of Islam4UK on January 4. The group had announced its intention to stage the protest earlier in a short statement on its Web site.

In the letter, Choudary accuses soldiers of "murderous crimes," and says the United States and UK are seeking to "establish their own military, economic, strategic and ideological interests in the region."

British and American troops are suffering "depression" as they realise "there is no real moral or ethic (sic) reason for them to murder innocent men, women and children to fulfil their politicians (sic) agenda," the preacher says.



Guys, I don't think there is any need to start fighting over what the American said. We all know he has some valid points. My personal opinion is that Nigeria needs to get herself to a position of influence. Yes, that influence we used to have during the 80s and 90s. Even a blind Nigerian can feel our lack of influence on international matters and this is cause by the serious slide of our economy and infrastructure. The companies are moving to Ghana and other neighbouring countries. Even our dear Glo has been working from Ghana for the past 18 months even though not many of us are aware of this.

Let us get our economy working again and refurbish our infrastructure and then we can start talking. First things first pls.


You lost it my friend, as far as Nigeria is concern there is nothing like past glory . . . i welcome a lecture on that. Was it immediately after Independence or the first coup era . . oh ! during the civil war or OB J's military presidency . . . was it during Buari or IBB. Don't flatter yourself NIGERIA has never been on the right part from the inception of this state.

The term Gait of Africa was Home-invented . . i guess the giant was based on population in which we maintain the position


It is only a fool that points his father's house with left hand; i will go for the Nigeria passport because i am Nigerian; believe it or not. The fact that we are suffering is simply because we chose to; we are worst than our government, America wasn't all that pretty from the start; it was built to be that way by the citizens, people died for it; for their future generation. It is time for me and you to work for our generation and all of a sudden you want to swing to a complete cooked food.

Our forefathers and traditional rulers were cowards, they refused to fight the white men and sold us out in exchange for mirror and wine; now we reap what they sowed. What we sow . . .our generation reaps


This is the most insightful and sensible article I have read in a long time. I have tried to express this sentiment to several people, but I have been hushed. I am glad to see someone with the hard facts and knowledge state the case so eloquently. The truth is, Nigeria, as a nation, is to full of itself. We really have superiority complex. We think we are more than we really are. And it is this kind of mentality that encourages the slowpokes we have for politicians to get away with the crap they do. Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with a nation standing up for itself against the US. In fact, I have mild support for China's growing prominence as world power. But if you want to have mouth, you must have something concrete to have mouth about. Nigeria does not have that. We may have had it in the past: 1980s-1990s. But as of today, we are simply living on past glory. Wind don blow, fowl yansh don open. Now the whole world is laughing at the emperor's new clothes. They now realize that in reality we are nothing but a joke of a nation. They now know that we are not as important as we used to be and that things are definitely getting worse for us. Giant of Africa ko, Giant of Africa ni. I can go on and on to describe how this country is definitely headed for doom.


I'll go for the Nigerian passport 'cos I'm not American. But of course you wouldn't believe that.




I do agree with you but the number of people gaining from the mal-union are the kind of influence they wield will make breaking up a far cry. Face it, no one likes Nigeria, even the citizens, Most people pretend to love Nigeria as they are stuck with it and have no other option.

I was in church some weeks ago and a Nigerian was giving a testimony of how he has now acquired the citizenship of a European country and everyone was cheering and some even looking green with envy.

If you think I am wrong, if you have the options of 2 passports, American and Nigerian, which one will you go for? That will tell you how much you love this failed state called Nigeria.


No !!! you are missing the point Mr man this is not a matter to force to reckon with it is rather doing what is RIGHT; it is that same competitive attitude that's killing us ; provoking competition between youths,  that made our government invest on image laundering and re-branding nonsense . . . Lets forget about what people think and work on what we think of ourselves . . . the conscience never lies.

I understand you young man but i think you are coming the wrong way. Forget Americans and their so-called list . . . lets face it NIGERIA can never work as one. we need to break up . . .  . the sooner the better


It seems like you don't see my point. The point of the post is that we have to look inwards and develop ourselves and stop feeling self important. I don't care about the US or any other country but if we think we are a force to reckon with, then we have to prove it just as South Korea and now Ghana are doing,


People like you are the reason we are into this mess ,  i don't mean to be Jud.gy but it is foolish to think we have to bow to whatever the US has to say because they don't need us ;;;;we need them  huh? the slave and master thing has washed your brains out

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