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Nigeria and America’s incoming Secretary of State

By News Express on 21/12/2016

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The American President-elect, Mr Donald Trump, is indeed a political mystery. First, he emerged from the outside to defeat the original principals who dominated the Republican Party, to become the presidential candidate. He went ahead and coasted home to victory, defeating almost the extant political dynasties to become the 45th President of the United States of America, with effect from January 20th 2017.

The Clintons, the Bushes, the Obamas are only but a few political institutions that Trump dealt devastating blows, to emerge as United States’ president.

 Since winning the election, Donald Trump has won other laurels, including one of the most talked about media ratings. TIME Magazine recently nominated Trump as the ‘Person of the Year of 2016’ and, this decision understandably has drawn flaks and praises from diverse groups of observers. But the TIME Magazine made the reportage of their choice of Donald Trump as ‘Person of the Year’ in a very comical fashion, when it addressed their new Person of the Year as “President of the Divided States of America.”

Writing the cover for TIME Magazine, Nancy Gibbs stated: “This is the 90th time we have named the person who had the greatest influence, for better or worse, on the events of the year. So, which is it this year: Better or worse? The challenge for Donald Trump is how profoundly the country disagrees about the answer.

“It’s hard to measure the scale of his disruption. This real estate baron and casino-owner-turned reality-TV star and provocateur – never a day spent in public office, never a debt owed to any interest besides his own –  now surveys the smoking ruin of a vast political edifice that once housed parties, pundits, donors, pollsters, all those who did not see him coming or take him seriously. Out of this reckoning, Trump is poised to preside, for better or worse.”

 Like him or hate him, Mr. Donald Trump has started well by making some top-level appointments that even his critics are overwhelmed with shock, with the phenomenal career hierarchies of most of his choices for his cabinet. The latest is the Secretary of State, which he gave to the current Managing Director of the world’s crude oil company, ExxonMobil. Trump has further compounded the shock of his critics and, indeed, shamed those who see him (Trump) as a climate change denier. His Secretary of State is a staunch supporter of the Climate Change Treaty, recently signed in the French capital of Paris.

The ExxonMobil chief executive is also close to the Russian leader, Mr Vladimir Putin, who has largely not been in good diplomatic terms with the eight-year-long President Barack Obama's vanishing presidency.

The British press captured Trumps decision thus: “Donald Trump is set to choose ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson, to be the next nominee for Secretary of State. Mr Tillerson, 64, emerged as Mr Trump's top-pick for the position in recent days. He has faced significant criticism for apparent ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.” (Source: www.independent.co.uk).

The choice of Secretary of State must have put to rest the doubts critics have expressed regarding President-elect Donald Trump's disposition on the vexed issue of Climate Change Treaty, which the United States joined other nations to sign as aforementioned.

The British press also observed that while he led ExxonMobil, Tillerson expressed his support for the Paris climate agreement, wherein countries around the globe vowed to cut their carbon emissions, brokered in part by Secretary of State John Kerry.

The President-elect, however, said that he will back away from the agreement. His pick of a Secretary of State, which is the top-most diplomat in the incoming administration, is a clear shift from the hard line position of Donald Trump on Climate Change.

The company also acknowledged the existence of climate change, and agreed with the science behind the crisis. Tillerson himself has stated the importance of addressing it.

“We believe that addressing the risk of climate change is a global issue,” he said in May during a company shareholders’ meeting.

Basically, our focus in this piece is on what impact this choice will make on Nigeria with regards to our place as one of the largest crude oil-rich nations. The outgoing Secretary of State, John Kerry, is not known to have played positive diplomatic role in Nigeria. Apart from the fact that Nigerians are expecting so much from the incoming Secretary of State in the United States of America, there’s also the need for the restive situations in the crude oil rich-Niger Delta region to be brought to a constructive end for the overall benefit of all.

In the last one year and half, since the current government in Nigeria came on board, armed militants resumed heavy hostility and bombing of crude oil pipelines in the crude oil-rich Niger Delta to a level that Nigeria lost over 60 per cent of her source of external revenues, which became worst with a tumbling in global crude oil price. But the organisation of oil producing nations recently cut down the production quotas of its member-states, thus forcing crude oil price to skyrocket. But the bombing of crude oil facilities in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria means that the impacts of this upward swing in the asking price of crude oil internationally wouldn't be felt in Nigeria, except something fast is done to resolve these renewed hostilities. This is where the incoming top US diplomat is expected to mediate a lasting truce.

The Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is said to have invested billions of Nigerian cash in searching for crude oil resources in the Chad basin and much of northern Nigeria, even as the government is building pipelines from Niger Republic to Kaduna Refinery, to pump in crude oil for refining since the dominant crude oil producing areas of the south is said to be beyond reach due to heightened activities of oil militants. President Buhari has to the consternation of the US government deployed armed soldiers to wage battles against the armed militants bombing oil pipelines. The US government favours peace talk.

The incoming Secretary of State, as a renowned crude oil dealer, would work for peace and not war in the Niger Delta region, hopefully.

The West, including the American-based crude oil companies such as ExonMobil, have substantial stakes in the onshore and offshore sectors of the Nigerian crude oil industry, so the choice of this Crude oil baron is significant and would impact negatively or positively on Nigeria.

Most Nigerians are optimistic that the coming of the ExxonMobil executive, as top diplomat of America under Donald Trump, will be positively remarkable for us. There’s a reason for this wave of optimism.

First, the major demands of the Niger Delta militants are for fairness and justice in the ownership structure of the crude oil wells located in their backyards, which are largely controlled by politicians and ex-military Generals from northern Nigeria, who exploited their proximity to past military despots in Nigeria to gain control over crude oil wells located deep inside of Niger Delta region.

If the new Secretary of State is not as divisive as the outgoing Secretary of State Kerry, then the crisis in the Niger Delta could speedily be resolved, so production could pick up and the environmental rights of the people of Niger Delta restored. America may also resume big-time purchase of Nigerian crude oil, which Barack Obama significantly cut down with the discovery of other sources of crude oil production within the United States of America. But these new methods of drilling crude oil is said to be harmful on the long-run to the environment of the Americans. Apart from the cut in the purchasing volumes of crude oil from Nigeria, the outgoing US administration has a terrible image within Nigeria.

John Kerry, since the last one year, has played divide-and-rule politics within Nigeria by visiting and befriending only northern governors and monarchs, to the chagrin of southerners who felt betrayed.

In one of the chapters of his phenomenal book titled: Crude Continents: The Struggle for Africa’s Oil Prize, a British journalist observed as follows: “Nigeria, including its onshore, offshore and deep-water discoveries, is a key destination for exploration and development funds.

All the super-majors and many state companies are positioned there, as are many independents (and a growing herd of Nigerian oil players). As in the recent past, its future floats on oil and gas.

“The beneficence of oil has brought not stability but contested legitimacy. Power struggles have marked the past 50 years. They have been unremitting and at times violent, as within the Niger Delta over the past decade, even as the political landscapes have altered over time. Does fragmentation and further conflict await Africa’s most populous state in coming decades? The answer will be critical to Nigeria, corporate oil, the Gulf of Guinea and Africa.”

The writer observed also that, “The struggle over oil is not new. Although the situation in Nigeria improved after the abortive Biafran war of secession (a conflict over politics, ethnicity and oil), serious turmoil resurfaced in 1993. Political and economic stability remain fragile and could deteriorate further as a result of a variety of coalescing conditions: onshore conflicts, threats to the offshore, social conflict with corporate oil, ethnic divisions, Muslim/Christian divides, Sharia law in northern states, demands on the Federal Government for decentralisation, southern discontent, irredentist pressures in Delta states that want greater control over oil, internal politics shaped by elites and military, political  turmoil over democracy, economic disparities, and so on.

“Oil, and issues of ethnic balance, with past military involvement in the top echelons of politics, have been the main drivers in the Nigerian landscape.”

These recorded evidential realities are some of the dynamics that the new American Secretary of State is expected to navigate, so Nigeria can derive maximum benefits from our diplomatic deals with the world's richest democracy.

RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via doziebiko@yahoo.com

Source News Express

Posted 21/12/2016 1:13:35 PM

 

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