By James Simpson — March 24, 2015
Exclusive to Accuracy in Media
When the notorious Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, kidnapped 278 school girls from the town of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria last year, Michelle Obama began a Twitter hashtag campaign, #BringBackOurGirls. But behind the scenes, the Obama administration was undermining Nigeria’s efforts to take the battle to the terrorists. Obama refused to sell Nigeria arms and supplies critical to the fight, and stepped in to block other Western allies from doing so. The administration also denied Nigeria intelligence on Boko Haram from drones operating in the area. While Boko Haram was kidnapping school girls, the U.S. cut petroleum purchases from Nigeria to zero, plunging the nation’s economy into turmoil and raising concerns about its ability to fund its battle against the terrorists. Nigeria responded by cancelling a military training agreement between the two countries.
The Nigerian presidential election is coming up Saturday, March 28, 2015. AKPD, the political consulting group founded by Obama confidante David Axelrod, is assisting Retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim presidential candidate from Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram was spawned and wields the most influence. Buhari is well-known throughout the country, having led as “Head-of-State” following a military coup in 1983. He was dislodged following another coup in 1985.
Democracy is a recent phenomenon in Nigeria. With the exception of two short periods from its independence in 1960 to 1966, and the second republic from 1979 to 1983, the country was ruled by a string of military dictatorships between 1966 and 1999. Under the All Progressives Congress (APC) banner, Buhari is putting up a stiff challenge to the sitting president, Dr. Ebele Goodluck Jonathan who hails from Nigeria’s Christian south. Buhari was also the North’s presidential candidate in the last election held in 2011.
Axelrod is credited as the force behind President Obama’s election victories in 2008 and 2012. He served as Obama’s Senior Advisor until 2011. A well-placed Nigerian interviewed for this report who asked to remain unidentified says that influential Nigerians within and outside the government believe Obama deliberately undermined the war effort and sabotaged the Nigerian economy to make President Jonathan appear weak and ineffectual, and thus bolster the electoral prospects for AKPD’s client, Buhari.
The prominent daily Nigerian Tribune cites an activist group, Move on Nigeria, complaining that the U.S. is fueling tension in Nigeria and has “continued to publicly magnify every challenge of the Nigerian government.”
An anti-Buhari Nigerian blogger writing in the Western Post went further:
In the last year, Nigeria sought aid from the White House for many initiatives, including the fight against Boko Haram. The Obama administration refused to do anything but play [sic] lip service to Nigeria’s requests. However, it used public and private channels to internationally magnify every failure Nigeria’s government experienced.
In the last year, since the involvement of Axelrod’s firm, relations between the two nations have significantly deteriorated, with the US refusing to sell arms to Nigeria, a significant reduction in the purchase of Nigeria’s oil, and the cancellation of a military training agreement between Nigeria and the USA. In turn, the Buhari-led Nigerian opposition used the U.S. government’s position as validation for their claim that the Nigerian government was a failure.
Nigerian officials seeking to purchase weapons, especially Cobra attack helicopters, were outraged at Obama’s refusal to allow these transactions. Nigeria’s ambassador to the U.S., Professor Adebowale Adefuye, stated publicly that:
The U.S. government has up till today refused to grant Nigeria’s request to purchase lethal equipment that would have brought down the terrorists within a short time on the basis of the allegations that Nigeria’s defence forces have been violating human rights of Boko Haram suspects when captured or arrested.
We find it difficult to understand how and why, in spite of the U.S. presence in Nigeria, with their sophisticated military technology, Boko Haram should be expanding and becoming more deadly.
Another official quoted in the Nigerian newspaper ThisDay, stated:
The U.S. government has frustrated Nigeria all the way in our war against terrorism despite its public statements in support of Nigeria, as it fights the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-east… They want us to fight Boko Haram with our arms tied to our backs.
They have blocked us from procuring the helicopters and would not provide us with intelligence despite the fact that they have several drones and sophisticated aircraft overflying the North-east of Nigeria from bases in Niger and Chad where the Boko Haram fighters and movements are clearly in their sights.
Retired Col. Abubakar Umar, a former military governor, concluded that the Americans “have decided to turn a blind eye to what is happening in Nigeria.” Former Head-of-State, Retired Gen. Yakubu Gowon publicly stated last November that America is no friend of Nigeria.
After exhausting all avenues, the Nigerian government finally turned to Russia, China and the black market to obtain needed arms, and as a result has gone aggressively on the offensive against Boko Haram, retaking some 40 towns occupied by the group and killing at least 500 terrorists. According to recent accounts, Boko Haram has gone to ground in the northeastern border regions. But whereas the border states of Niger, Chad, Benin and Cameroon formerly took a hands-off approach, they have now joined in the effort to destroy the group, pledging a total of 8,700 troops. Most recently, Boko Haram has been cleared of its northeastern strongholds in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
The Obama administration has said it is barred from supplying weapons by the so-called Leahy Amendment which forbids foreign states that have committed “gross human rights violations” from receiving military aid. However this did not stop the U.S. from sending Special Forces to Uganda—another country accused of such violations—to assist in capturing Lord Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony. Nor did it prevent Obama from supporting al Qaeda-linked rebel groups in Libya, who later went on to attack the Benghazi mission, and have now joined ISIS. The Syrian “moderates” the administration claimed to back are also allegedly joining with ISIS. In fact, Obama supported the Islamic radicals who destabilized states throughout the Middle East, including Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, and did little to prevent Iranian-backed Shiites from overthrowing Yemen—a key ally in the War on Terror. And despite claims that the U.S. “does not negotiate with terrorists,” the administration did so in secret with the Taliban for years, most notoriously over the release of Bowe Bergdahl.
The U.S. State Department is currently negotiating a deal that will enable Iran to obtain the bomb, and it just declared that Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, are not terrorists. The administration even claims Iran has been an ally in the War on Terror! Finally, Axelrod’s client, Buhari, has been accused of human rights abuses during his time as chief-of-state.
To top it off, Secretary of State John Kerry made a mockery of the administration’s pretext by hinting in January meetings with both Jonathan and Buhari that the Obama administration might allow weapon sales after the election. If the U.S. was so concerned about human rights violations, how could a mere election change that? Given the perception that Buhari has Obama’s implicit support, this sends an unmistakable message.
The administration also rationalized its decision to cut purchases of Nigerian oil by claiming that output from domestic oil fracking has reduced America’s dependence on foreign oil. But that begs the question: why have U.S. oil imports from other nations increased at the same time? Nigeria was formerly among America’s top five oil supplying countries, and America its largest customer. Nigeria relies on oil revenues for 70 percent of its budget. America’s decision to look elsewhere has been catastrophic for Nigeria’s economy.
A Deutsche Bank analyst noted that the decline in Nigeria’s oil sales to America “proceeded much faster than for the U.S.’ other major suppliers,” and concluded that singling Nigeria out this way had to be driven by politics.
Nigeria is not the only country where Obama is using oil as a foreign policy weapon. The U.S. has not renewed its 35-year-old agreement with Israel to provide emergency supplies of oil, despite booming U.S. oil production. The agreement expired in November 2014. At the time, the State Department claimed to be working on renewing the agreement, but has yet to do so.
U.S. Media AWOL
There is not a single article mentioning Axelrod’s assistance to Buhari in any U.S. “mainstream” media outlet. Only the Washington Free Beacon ran a story. A Google search of “New York Times, Nigeria, Axelrod,” found only one Times article titled Nigerian Soldiers Noticeably Absent in Town Taken from Boko Haram. There was no mention of Axelrod or his relationship to Nigeria’s Muslim candidate, Buhari. Rather, it criticized Nigeria’s participation in the recent multi-country effort to remove Boko Haram from its northeastern Nigerian holdouts, quoting Chadian foreign minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who said, “The Nigerian Army has not succeeded in facing up to Boko Haram.”
There are however, many flattering articles about Axelrod, like the Times review of his book, Believer.
NBC News reported on the oil issue, quoting Peter Pham, the Atlantic Council’s director of its Africa Program, who characterized it as “a sea change in [Nigeria’s] relations with the United States, a sea change in its geopolitical position in the world.”
NBC also noted Nigerian ambassador Adefuye’s complaint about U.S. refusal to provide weapons to Nigeria, and how both issues impacted Nigeria’s ability to fight Boko Haram—but there was no mention of Axelrod’s assistance to Buhari.
Buhari Connected to Boko Haram?
Boko Haram is a virulently anti-Western Islamist movement. Its name, roughly translated, means “fake education is forbidden,” but in practice the term “fake” refers to Western education. It was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, a Salafist preacher who created a school to provide an Islamic alternative to Westernized schools. Over time it became a recruiting tool for Boko Haram fighters. The group envisions creating an Islamic caliphate throughout Africa. Yusuf was killed by police in a 2009 uprising, and was replaced by Abubakar Shekau, who recently pledged the group’s alliance with ISIS. Let’s review just what kind of monsters these Boko Haram terrorists are:
Causing at least 9,000 and as many as 17,000 deaths since launching their insurgency in 2009. Another 1.5 million have been displaced;
Beheading, torture and other forms of barbarity reminiscent of ISIS;
Massacring 2,000 civilian men, women and children in a single raid;
Using young girls as suicide bombers. A January bombing wounded 18 and killed 20, including the 10-year-old female bomber, who was probably unaware she carried the device;
Kidnapping over 500 girls in the past 5 years, including 276 in the notorious Chibok private school raid. About 90 percent of the Chibok girls were Christians;
Separating captured Christian girls from others, where they are raped, sold into slavery, murdered, or forced to convert; and
Certain Buhari supporters such as Ango Abdullahi of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), have been accused of tacitly supporting Boko Haram, and Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has linked Buhari himself with the terrorists. The alleged connection however, is an open question. In 2013, Buhari protested a government crackdown on the group. In 2012, Boko Haram nominated Buhari as one of six mediators in negotiations with the government over a proposed ceasefire. In 2001, Buhari expressed his desire to see Nigeria ruled by Sharia law, saying:
I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria… God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country.
However, Boko Haram attempted to assassinate Buhari last year in a suicide bomb attack that killed 82. More recently, the group called both him and Jonathan “Infidels.” For his part, Buhari called the group “bigots masquerading as Muslims.” Buhari also ruthlessly suppressed a similar group, the Maitatsine, during his time as military head-of-state. Buhari’s vice-presidential running mate is a Pentecostal pastor from the south. Similarly, Jonathan picked a Muslim from the north as his number two.
But much violence has surrounded Buhari’s past efforts. Nigeria has a practice of alternating northern and southern rule called zoning. In the 2011 election, Jonathan was president, having ascended from the vice presidency in 2010 following the death of President Umaru Yar’Adau, a northerner. Some Northern politicians believed that Buhari should have assumed the presidency in 2011.
Abdullahi and others, at that time, threatened violence if Buhari wasn’t elected. Buhari himself refused to condemn violence. This was universally interpreted as encouragement from Buhari. Within hours of Jonathan’s election—what was believed to be one of Nigeria’s historically fairest—Buhari’s Muslim supporters took to the streets, attacking Jonathan supporters with machetes and knives. Following Jonathan’s inauguration, Boko Haram launched a wave of bombings, killing and wounding dozens. An estimated 800 people died in the post-election violence in the Muslim north.
A prominent Nigerian deputy governor, Tele Ikuru, who recently abandoned the APC to join Jonathan’s PDP, called the APC “a party of rebels, insurgents and anarchists, clothed in the robes of pretence and deceit.”
Embarrassed by the kidnapping and the perceived association between Buhari’s supporters and Boko Haram, AKPD claimed that they discontinued work for Buhari in early 2014. However, The Washington Free Beacon has unearthed emails showing that they continued to quietly aid APC into at least January of this year.
Their campaign appears to have been successful. While Nigerian election polls are conflicting, the most recent one projects Buhari the winner by a wide margin. Not surprisingly, the reasons cited for Jonathan’s unpopularity include the perception that he is weak and ineffectual against Boko Haram, and that the economy is in a sorry state. Nigerians have taken to calling the president “Bad Luck” Jonathan.
Nigeria’s Critical Role and U.S. Policy Failures
Most Americans are unaware of the critical role Nigeria plays in African politics. In addition to being Africa’s largest oil producer, Nigeria is also the continent’s most populous nation, with an estimated 162 million people, and is home to approximately 12.5 percent of the world’s total black population. Additionally, Nigerian Americans are very productive and well represented in the fields of medicine, sports, engineering, and academics. Annual remittances are $21 billion, with America providing the largest proportion. It is ironic at best that America’s so-called “first black president” is alienating such a nation, especially given its powerful influence throughout Africa.
Because of Obama, America is losing allies the world over. Despite his so-called outreach to “the Muslim world,” the few Muslim allies America has are calling him out. For example, observe the unprecedented spectacle of Arabs cheering Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the U.S. Congress. Columnist Dr. Ahmad Al-Faraj of the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Jazirah, called Obama “the worst president in American history.” The only Muslims Obama seems to like are those who hate America, and he is going out of his way to court them, come what may
One of the great ironies of our politics is that the American Civil Liberties Union is now actually hostile to traditional American civil liberties.
This is the conclusion one must draw from a letter the organization has sent to the House of Representatives, seeking to defend two District of Columbia laws that, under the guise of enforcing non-discrimination, undermine the First Amendment rights of private organizations. Essentially, the ACLU seeks to defend regulations that require religious universities to provide their facilities for the use of student LGBT advocacy groups and that forbid religious organizations from firing employees whose personal conduct violates the morality to which the organizations are dedicated.
As I explain at greater length at Public Discourse, the ACLU’s zeal for “non-discrimination” here directly infringes on not just one but two fundamental constitutional freedoms—freedoms that the ACLU was originally founded to protect.
Under the First Amendment, Americans enjoy the freedom of speech. The Supreme Court has long held that this freedom includes as well a freedom of association. Since individuals have a right to free speech, they also have a right to band together and form organizations that exist to promote their views. This is precisely the constitutional freedom that is being exercised by organizations that are constituted to promote a particular moral and religious worldview, and that in pursuit of that aim must choose to employ and support only those who will assist them in this undertaking.
This principle should be precious to any freedom-loving American, regardless of partisanship or ideology. Without it, no Americans of any point of view could reliably cooperate in order to promote their shared ideas. Discarding this principle would permit the government to frustrate their efforts by making them employ or otherwise cooperate with people bent on undermining rather than advancing the organization’s cause. Since individuals usually are not powerful enough to make themselves heard without joining in associations with others, freedom of association is necessary to any effective form of freedom of speech.
There is, however, an additional problem. The organizations whose liberties the ACLU seeks to curtail are religious organizations, which means that their freedom to operate is protected not only by the First Amendment’s protection for freedom of speech and freedom of association, but also by its explicit protection for the “free exercise” of “religion.”
It is impossible for individuals to freely exercise their religion without permitting them to join into associations for that purpose. And such associations are rendered effectively useless if they must employ and otherwise work with people hostile to their purposes.
Again, these freedoms should be defended by all Americans. The ACLU is organized with a view to the defense of certain principles. In its mission it has often been aided by liberal religious organizations.
Neither the ACLU nor its allies could carry on their political and legal activism if the law could require them to employ people opposed to their purposes. To the extent that the ACLU wants this freedom for itself, it should respect it in others as well. This is the American way.