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Dokubo: Expectations by African countries from Obama was too high

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Prof. Dokubo

Prof. Dokubo

The recent visit by John Kerry, the United States Secretary of State to Nigeria has been eliciting different reactions from different quarters. During the visit, Kerry had cautioned on excessive use of force against extremism and commended the government for the successes recorded in the fight against Boko Haram. In this interview with VICTORIA OJUGBANA, Prof. Charles Dokubo, Head, Research and Strategic Analysis, Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), analysed Kerry’s visit, resettling the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and what Nigeria has benefitted from President Obama’s eight-year administration, among others

What have northern governors gained from Kerry’s visit on the issue of job creation?
Creating jobs are good options, as they are the sub-security issues that people talk about. It is not only about containing Boko Haram by force of arms and all that. There must be sub-options of social provisioning for the states in the North East to create jobs, employ people and provide health facilities. But we also need to know that this development cannot take place in the period of instability and insurrection. Development can’t take place in an insecure environment. But definitely, it is a way forward. Nigerian government is adopting a two-pronged approach to the issue of dealing with Boko Haram. Firstly, we are going to deal with it the way the military operations take place. Secondly, we are also opening up avenues to address this social provisioning issue and others.

You have to carry out de-radicalisation, resettling and building up of destroyed institutions and post-conflict building. We can’t just create jobs overnight. Creation of jobs is not only government’s responsibility. What the government can do is to provide enabling environment for jobs to be created. You have individual entrepreneurs and foreign direct investments coming to that area. But that will not happen if there is insecurity in the Northeast.

What does Nigerian stand to gain from Kerry’s visit?
Kerry came to tell us about what America can do, but America cannot do all things for us. We have to stand on our own. The northern governors will also have to know that a certain percentage of their budget will go into job creation.

These are issues we must address. All governors, whether Northern or Southern, must address the issue of job creation. There is high unemployment rate in Nigeria and if we cannot contain the menace, then we create openings for insurgency and you have restive youth taking up whatever issue they like against the Federal Government.

Can you say that America has helped so far in curbing terrorism in Nigeria?
They have given us assistance. They cannot send troops on the ground to Nigeria. What they will teach or give us is how to gather information. It is not about what they will or can do, rather, it is about how they will work in concert with us, to create synergy between their own system of detecting terrorists and the hardware they can give us to fight terrorism. We have to do it ourselves. They will just give us support, aid and information about where terrorists are, so that we can effectively degrade their equipment to disable them from dealing anything bad on our country.

Kerry and other American officials, during their visits to Nigeria and other African continents, have always talked about good governance, democracy, transparency and strong institutions. They have always told us that administration in this part of the world should not depend on strong men, but on strong institutions.

If we create strong and viable institutions, definitely, most of the itchy problems will be contained by the institutions— strong court, incorruptible judiciary and transparent legislators that are ready to work. Also, governors should not only be concerned with enriching themselves but also face what they have been voted to do. These are issues we can handle ourselves. America cannot come and lecture us on what we should do. We know what we should do, but how do we contain and prevent such usage of public fund?

In some cases, there is no distinction between public and private funds. Some governors use money, as if it is their personal funds. When these are blocked, eventually, money will be used for the real social provisioning matters that affect Nigerians.

How far has the U.S. helped us to fight corruption?
I think they are still working with the Nigerian government, and like President Muhammadu Buhari once said, during his visit to London: “We are not here for apologies, we want our funds repatriated.” But it is not easy, when the money is in their systems and they are doing business with it and getting dividends from it. It will take some time. Eventually, these monies will be released.

But the agreement is that they will be part of this system, that even the Swiss secret account system has now been unveiled. It is a pointer to the right thing. When these monies are eventually repatriated to us, let us use them on things people will see and know, so that the question of repatriated funds will not be a recurring decimal in our discussions.

Concerning IDPs in the northeast, will Kerry’s visit be of any help?
Of course. Because America has been involved in building up destroyed societies, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, among others. They have got experience in dealing with displaced people and I believe that even the Caribbean government is being involved in Nigeria, as far as the issue of settling IDPs is concerned.

But the displaced persons could be there for a long time, because you cannot just send them back to that part of the country, where the conflict is not totally resolved. So, definitely, in as much as you are providing for the IDPs, we are also dealing with Boko Haram in such a way that their means of destruction affecting the society will also be contained. It is only then that these IDPs can go back to their states.

There must be a process of de-radicalisation, because these people have been indoctrinated with the idea of what Islam is and what it is not. We must carry out this process, so that we will eventually get the real Nigerians. We must tell them that the secularity of the Nigerian state in non-negotiable.

In a few months’ time, President Obama will be handing over power to another government in the U.S. What has Nigeria gained from Obama’s eight-year tenure?
The fact is that there is a bi-lateral commission between Nigeria, the U.S. and some other countries. This has to do with social provisions – security, democracy and good governance, among others. In Africa, the expectation from the Obama administration was too high. Because he is of African descent does not mean he can behave towards us in a way that will raise eyebrows. He is an American president, and not an African president. He contested election on the platform of a political party in the U.S. So expecting him to do something that favours Africa is demanding for more than he can do. Anyway, our expectations cannot be met. The bi-national commission and others are institutional structures that have been laid down by other presidents before Obama.

President Obama cannot specifically create something for Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana or other African nations. We can only feed into the system that has been developed to make gains from it.

What is your advice for Federal Government on resettling IDPs?
I commend the government because it is doing well in that area. The fact that I always say you can resettle the IDPs, by moving them to their place of origin will take a longer time, because these are homes that have been burnt down. Let government continue to take care of the internally displaced persons’ demands, and until that area is addressed, it is not yet Uhuru.


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