2012-01-10 Occupy Nigeria - 1st African fruits of Qaddafi gone?

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”Out of Africa always comes something new” wrote the Roman historian Pliny, (23-79 A.D.) With Mummar Qaddafi gone from Libyan, this old adage will almost certainly gain new meaning because Qaddafi was not only the dictator who ruled Libya with the whip for 40 years, he was a major power in African affairs. He sought to unify Africa under his leadership and saw himself as "King of all the African tribes." Well, with the kickoff of Occupy Nigeria, we are seeing something new in Africa today.

Uploaded by AnonymousNigeria on January 9, 2012
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, 160 million people or 1 in 6 Africans live in Nigeria, so any movement there is bound to have a big impact on the whole continent. Could this have anything to do with Qaddafi's recent demise and the success of the revolution in Libya? These are the main questions I wish to touch upon in this article. But first a quick update for those that have not been glued to news out of Africa all day.

3 people were killed and at least another 20 were injured as Nigerian state security used tear gas and rubber bullets and finally resorted to live ammunition in attempts to suppress mass protests in Lagos and other major cities in Nigeria. Except for the rallies, the streets were eerily empty, and shops and businesses closed as most of the country was brought to a grinding halt by a nationwide general strike which its organizers have named "Occupy Nigeria."

This nationwide general strike was sparked by the government's decision to discontinue fuel subsidies. This resulted in a more than doubling of gasoline prices overnight. Nigeria exports more crude oil than any other African country, but only has refinery capacity for 25% of its own needs. It must import, at great expense, most of the gasoline it uses and the government subsidies make the cost bearable in a country where most people live on less than $2 a day. In fact, most Nigerians see the fuel subsidy as the only benefit of being an oil rich nation that trickles down to ordinary people.

Al Jazeera English has been giving good coverage to this story. For more details and background I would recommend Nigerian fuel protests turn deadly

Here are two YouTube Videos of today's action

It is so symbolic of the way this movement has circled the globe in one year that they have named it Occupy Nigeria because this is an obvious nod to Occupy Wall St. and the occupy movement which got its impulse from the Arab Spring which began in another African country, Tunisia, just north of Nigeria.

It was also just about a year ago, on Jan. 2, 2011 that the hacker group Anonymous launched OpTunisia in support of the people's struggles in Tunisia. On Jan. 5, 2012, The Naija Cyber Hactivists in conjunction with the allied forces of Anonymous announced Op Nigeria, which had been running since at leat May 2011, was moving in support of Occupy Nigeria by defacing the website of the Federal Ministry Of Transport. Over the weekend more Nigerian government websites were defaced by NCH including the National Insurance Commission [owned], National Information Technology Development Agency [owned] and MNNA [owned]

It is very significant that Occupy Nigeria is taking place all across the country and has been able to unite people across tribal, ethnic and religious lines. Nigeria has a long history of religious strife that has threatened to tear the country apart. Most recently Nigeria was in the news because of the Christmas bombings of Christian churches by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. Those terrorist attacks killed dozens of Nigerians.

For historical reasons Nigeria has been pretty evenly divided between Muslims and Christians with the Muslims concentrated in the North and the Christians concentrated in the South. This religious difference has been the main locus of conflict in Nigeria with most of the North states implementing Sharia law and the indigenous Salafist group, Boko Haram trying to be the Taliban of Nigeria.

The demise of Qaddafi and the events in Libya almost certainly have something to do with this recent upsurge in activity by Boko Haram. Mummar Qaddafi may have been for uniting all of Africa but he was also for the break up of Nigeria. From his position as president of the African Union, he advocated the division of Nigeria into separate Muslim and Christian states and at the same time he worked to unite all of Africa into one Muslim state. It is now very clear that he did much more that just speak in favor of the break up of Nigeria. He put his money, meaning Libya's national treasure, were his mouth was. Kingsley Omonobi of Abuja, Nigeria wrote on the Vanguard website days after Qaddafi was killed:

Slain Libyan leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi was a major sponsor of terrorism activities and religious fundamentalism in the country, resulting in his supply of arms and ammunition to sectarian groups during religious uprisings, terrorist attacks and even the post elections violence that rocked the nation soon after the 2011 presidential elections, Saturday Vanguard has learnt.

Security sources disclosed that they had been aware of the intention of Col. Gaddafi to instigate the destabilization of Nigeria with a view to bringing to fruition, his proclamation early this year, that Nigeria would disintegrate into several parts unless the country was divided into two, with North going their own way and the South forming their own country.

Saturday Vanguard was told that it was in his bid to make this happen, that Col Gaddafi massively funded the construction of Mosques and other Islamic Centers of worship in Kano and other cities of the North. He was also said to have embarked on several humanitarian donations and visits to Kano and these other Northern states, most times unannounced, after which he would journey back to his country.

“There were also several visits by several top and influential Northerners, especially those of the Islamic faith to Libya ostensibly on the invitation of the late Libyan leader when he was alive and held sway in Tripoli before the revolution against him started which security agencies were aware of and we closely monitored these persons”, the source said.

It is against this backdrop and that of several well documented destabilization plots, allegedly sponsored or supported by the late Libyan leader, Saturday Vanguard gathered, that Nigeria moved swiftly in recognizing the National Transition Council after Gaddafi had fled Tripoli...

Asked to give an example of how and when the security agencies discovered Gaddafi’s plan against Nigeria, the source said, “As far back as 2003 and 2004, some armed bandits who had been terrorizing Adamawa, Yobe, Kano states, were caught with about 40 double barrels, lethal rifles, machine guns and ammunition.

After investigations, and coupled with confessions from the suspects, the weapons and ammunition were found to have a special Gaddafi insignia on them.”

So why did Nigeria keep quiet all these years till Gaddafi had problems with his people? The source said he was not in a position to explain, adding that such answer can only come from the federal government.

One example: Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, head of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force was one such Qaddafi trained Nigerian separatist. For many years he led a violent campaign to turn Nigeria's oil rich Niger Delta into an independent republic. He was born a Christian but converted to Islam. He was trained in Libya in 1990 and 1991. He told AFP

"I was invited by the Libyan government and given a scholarship to go study Islam," he said.

"When I arrived in Libya, they thought that I had revolutionary ideas, so I became close to the leadership and I started talking to them."

He talked to Gaddafi as late as 2010 and has acknowledged receiving money from him but now that Qaddafi is dead he says his movement is on "sabbatical."

Another Nigerian commentator saw it this way:

Gaddhafi was the chief sponsor of terrorist activities in the Niger Delta and in the North. Listen to Asari Dokubo and you will see reasons. Now he's gone, no more funds for them to carry out terrorist attacks against the state of Nigeria.

As might be expected of one who fashioned himself king of all Africans, Mummar Qaddafi had a long history of cultivating close ties with Africa's most populous state and while Nigeria doesn't share a common boundary with Libya, it is very easy to travel overland between the two without much government interference. The countries in between, Niger, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Northern Sudan all are weak states with little or no control of their international boundaries. Nigeria, for example has over a thousand border entry points but only 25 of those are peopled!

Nigerian immigrants regularly made the perilous journey to Libya in search of work. Some of that work ended up being fighting in Qaddafi's mercenary army. According to Agaju Madugba in September:

"More than 200 Nigerians were arrested in Libya by the TNC, while about 20 were executed last week on allegations of supporting Gaddafi, as mercenaries."

Three are known to have died in his service. More have returned to Nigeria now that the fighting has ended, along with thousands of Nigerian immigrant laborers displaced by the upheaval in Libya.

There has also been a problem with Libyan weapons showing up in Nigeria now that they are being used less in Libya, and more significantly, some of Qaddafi's senior leadership is said to have fled to Nigeria.

All of this has no doubt had a destabilizing effect on Nigeria, but it is mostly a short term effect. Even the recent carnage created by Boko Haram can probably best be seen as a rather desperate explosion by a movement that just lost a major sponsor and knows that it will soon be weaker.

These immediate problems will be quickly overcome in the face of the unity being expressed in Occupy Nigeria. The important thing is that with Qaddafi gone, a major opponent of Nigerian unity has been removed. That is why Ochereome Nnanna could speak of,

the unbridled sense of euphoria sweeping Libya and even Nigeria at the fall of a man who dominated his country – and to some extent, the continent – for 42 years.

and why yesterday Emmanuel Iduma titled his blog on Black Looks:

See, The Nigerian Revolution Has Begun

Uploaded by AnonymousNigeria on January 4, 2012

My other pieces related to this story:
Helter Skelter: Qaddafi's African Adventure
Racism in Libya
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