Monday, December 26, 2011

West Africa wins again

Forgive the old expression, WAWA, but trying to narrow Nigeria’s problems down to conflicts between Muslims and Christians just doesn’t seem to tell the entire story. Nigerians believe juju was used to defeat them in soccer.
Certainly the latest murders of Christians by a power-mad Islamic sect is not funny at all.
But for some of us who spent time there we still recall the expression that Nigeria “is the asshole of  the world.”
How can you forget the graffiti on the wall of the ex-Eko Holiday Inn. “Beam me up Scotty, now!” Or the mouthful of cigarette ashes spit out from a breakfast buffet.
And it seems too late to blame the British for the boundaries they and other Europeans drew.
I traveled from Nairobi to Yola, Nigeria, in 1984, passing through Chad and Cameroon because it wasn’t safe to pass from the coast to near the Cameroon border in the east. A Muslim called Musa Mekaniki, had led an assault that could produce a Garden of Earthly Hells painting by Hieronymus Bosch. Thousands died, including many of the bullet-proof sect. Getting home was fun. As I drove through Cameroon an attempted coup was underway. Wearing clothes from Banana Republic I sort of looked a bit mercenary-like. I dared not call the Paris bureau or they would ask for coverage. I made it through dozens of roadblocks, got to Ndjamena, not most reporters’ idea of a safe haven. Then the plane I was booked on just before Christmas flew over and did not land. I boarded an Air Sudan flight. It couldn’t take off until someone raised money for a bribe or gasoline. Khartoum seemed like Geneva that night.
Why should America care? Because Nigeria is our fourth-biggest oil supplier and in the not to distant future could be the third. That is if the country of 160 million doesn’t “fall apart,” to steal part of the title of the acclaimed 1958 novel by
1958 English language novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe.
The concept of a second civil war, the 6 July 1967–15 January 1970 Biafran War claimed at least 600,000 lives and perhaps as many as 2 million, seems unthinkable.
Some are calling for breaking the nation in two, with a Muslim half and Christian half. The population is about evenly divided.
The Christian President Goodwill Jonathan, some say, is taking the same laissez-faire approach to the Boko Haram Muslim sect as the military government took to the failed coup that led to the Biafran War. The plotters were not killed, as is the usual reward. This year dozens were killed in Christian churches in the second Jihad Christmas in a row. Of course not all Muslims are fanatics. Not much help to those who die to know that, however.
Most of Nigeria’s oil is in the Christian South, and residents there already think they don’t get enough for the oil taken from them and the pollution left behind. A rebel group there is mostly observing a truce in the Niger Delta area. It is not clear how a Muslim North could survive without oil revenue.
It must be conceded Nigerians retain their sense of humor. Scrawled electronically across the Vanguard Website: "Apart from going to hell" there is really nothing wrong with using juju.

Article first published as West Africa Wins Again on Technorati.

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