U.S. Toughens Stance as Nigeria Copes With Absent President

The country must deal with a tougher U.S. stance and an absent president

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In the last three weeks, Nigeria has burst onto the international scene as the home country of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, better known as the Christmas Day Bomber (a story the Wire covered here, here, here, and here). Consequently, the U.S. has placed Nigeria on a watch-list of terror-prone countries, and the State Department recently has reported that the country--Africa's most populous--risks becoming a haven for extremists because of "government neglect."

This "neglect" might refer to Nigeria's president Umaru Yar'Adua, who has been AWOL for two months without transferring power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. The government has ground to a halt in Yar'Adua's absence, and when he finally resurfaced in a Saudi Arabian hospital, he gave only vague statements on his health and when he would return to Nigeria. The chaotic scene in the country changes daily (since The Economist ran this article Thursday morning, Jonathan has reportedly assumed the powers of the president) and the rest of the world has taken notice.

Bloggers are expressing support for Nigeria--or at least the Nigerian people--while chastising the U.S. for getting tough with a country in danger of disintegration.

  • U.S. Policy Antagonizing Nigeria Huffington's Post's Robert Amsterdam chastises the U.S. government for a watch list policy towards Nigeria that he calls "ignorant and ineffective." "Terrorism is not the problem with Nigeria," he adds. "It is corruption and poor governance which pose the greatest security threat - and that's where diplomatic efforts should focus, not these kinds of insulting lists which just further punish the victim."

  • Nigerian People the Real Losers Here At Think Progress, Matthew Yglesias saves his concern for Nigeria's growing populace. "A ton of people live in Nigeria--over 150 million," he writes. "And they're poor--per capita GDP around $2,000 in PPP adjusted terms. If Nigeria were to become as prosperous as some other poor-but-much-less-poor country like Namibia or El Salvador that would be a tremendous win for human welfare. That's what's really important here."
  • A Chaotic Political Future "The last month and a half of political uncertainty has been consumed by planning, plotting, and maneuvering among Nigeria's political classes," says Foreign Policy's Jean Herskovits, who details the many political maneuverings that will take place in the coming months. Ominously, she argues that the worst-case scenario -- "widespread, unpredictable violence" -- is a real possibility. "If the situation deteriorates, military intervention cannot be ruled out," she concludes. "Nigerians' desperation with their plight is startlingly evident. And the military has staged coups in the past when popular anger has boiled over."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.