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Terror list: What I would have done if I were Nigeria’s Ambassador to the US – Jibril Aminu

As a former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, what do you think informed the US decision to put Nigeria on the terror watch list?…

As a former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, what do you think informed the US decision to put Nigeria on the terror watch list?

 Since the September 11, 2001 attack, America has become a different country and very preoccupied with the issue of security. I happened to be there when the incident of September 11, 2001 occurred and you need to have seen the way they were so rattled, so despaired and dejected. Some of them developed a phobia that was so distrustful of all foreigners and a lot of them also developed a feeling that the rest of the world did not like them anymore. Naturally, that was the situation which was exploited by the politicians, particularly the government, to get through legislation and authorization which normally were with great difficulties or not at all.

And I think the government, whether Democrat or Republican, would do the same thing. They drummed into them the sense of insecurity and they established full department of inland or home security and they put up all sorts of security measures that has made it highly unpleasant to go to the airports. The then President, George Bush, declared some countries like North Korea, Iran, Iraq and others as forming an Evil-league Axis. But you see, these are all kinds of insecurity or some kinds of paranoia at a corporate level. When a country is preoccupied with such feeling, anything can happen and any incident of that sort increases the feeling of insecurity and then, they would keep looking here and there.  I think this could be what informed the decision of the US to put Nigeria on the terror watch list, or there could be some prejudices against Nigeria, because there was no earthly reason why Nigeria could be qualified to be regarded as a country to watch in terms of terrorism.

The only thing one can cast his mind on since President Obama came in is that there appears to be continuous spirit of harassment. I don’t believe President Obama, whether he is black or white, would come with the agenda to harass Nigeria. I don’t believe that, but he has a lot of background precedents to follow. For instance, President Jimmy Carter respected Nigeria greatly in his time. President Bill Clinton respected Nigeria and indeed the friendliest American president we have had so far, and his wife is the secretary of state. And then you had President Bush. No matter what people felt about his behaviour in Iraq and Afghanistan, which I completely disagreed with what he did, but in essence, he was the best president for Africa, in terms of doing what he could for Africa…

If President Obama had come from a slave background, we may, with the intellectual fertility of mind say he could be angry because somebody in Africa sent away his ancestors. But it wasn’t the case. His father was a very great public officer in his country, so it was not based on any bitterness for Africa or Nigeria. The only conclusion I can come up with is that there are some persons in the Obama administration who do not like Nigeria and it is not difficult to trace who they are.

 

If you were to be Nigeria’s Ambassador to the US at a time like this, what would you have done?

  It is just to do what an ambassador does on a day to day.  The only thing is that he must work hard to pursue the interest of the country and for an ambassador to be said to be successful, he must see to it that the relations between his country and his host country improves. If the relations with his own country and that of his host country fails, and it is discovered that some of the reasons were related to his own shortcomings, then he has indeed failed. This is what I expect an ambassador to do and I think our Ambassador in Washington is now doing that. 

 

There was a court ruling that Vice President Goodluck Jonathan can wield presidential powers in the absence of the president. What is your interpretation of this?

  Oh Very fine. Fine because, number one; all the arguments whether in the national assembly, in the media or anywhere have now been taken over by the court of law. If you don’t agree with the court’s decision, you have the right to appeal against the ruling to appeal court, and if you disagreed with the appeal court, you still have the privilege of the Supreme Court and then if you disagree with the Supreme Court you could leave it to God. There is nothing that is fundamentally out of control at this moment.

There are two things that are out of control. Number one is the opposition. The opposition leaders have been running up and down since this issue came up and I call it political vulturism. They are waiting for the carcass to fall so that they could take it and if the carcass hanging on a tree refused to fall, they keep flying up like vultures to pull it to fall for them to pick. That is what these people are doing, and there is nothing sincere, patriotic or objective about their agitation. They are just doing those things simply because they have found a political space to operate.

The number two is the intellectuals: we have a lot of lawyers, a lot of media people who have found interest in this issue and they make it loud because of their power of articulation and that is what is happening. But to a lay man like me, there is just no need to make a lot of noise about it. If we have a vice president, he should act and nobody should be unreasonable from any part of the country to say we have a vice president but he should not act. The court said he has the power to act without formality, then how can anybody go round now saying the court was not right? We won’t agree, and they are looking for a way to void the court’s decision without going to a court.

The VP is a very educated person. He was a governor of a state, so I don’t believe that if he wields powers as acting president, he would go beyond his limit. He has been part of the executive. He did many things, including the budget with the president. The president submitted the budget to the National Assembly and he nominated the Ambassador, so how can it be something beyond the Vice President to approve after the National Assembly has treated and approved? ….

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