2015: Revisiting Campbell’s Prediction On Nigeria’s Disintegration

Former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell, had severally predicted that the country will not exist beyond 2015. LEADERSHIP’s US Bureau chief, ABIODUN OLUWAROTIMI, writes on the possible factors that could make the predictions a reality. 

Last August, the former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell, reiterated his prediction that Nigeria would not exist beyond 2015. He first made the controversial prediction in 2011. Going by unfolding events in the country, could Campbell’s prophecies actually be coming to pass?

“My view has not changed about the serious challenges Nigeria faces. I think the challenges are more pronounced than they were before the Boko Haram insurrection began in the North. Political life is also unsettled by the approach of the 2015 elections.” Campbell stated in an interview last August.

In the aftermath of Campbell’s predictions, the federal government through Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States, Professor Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, took on the former US envoy, calling him a ‘Prophet of Doom’. Some other Nigerian leaders also tackled Campbell who was then and is still believed to be working for the political opponents of President Goodluck Jonathan.

On Thursday, the United States Government said that there are no signs that Nigeria will disintegrate before, during or after the February general elections. The US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, stated that indeed Nigeria was faced “big challenges,” but the problems at stake were surmountable.

Entwistle spoke in Lagos on the recent donation of a US naval ship, christened, “NNS Okpabana” to the Nigerian Navy.

According to the American envoy, Nigerians should “throw out of the window” the idea from “some think-tank or somebody outside the (US) government” stating that Nigeria was going to fall apart in 2015.

The US diplomat said, “I have been plagued by the question (on Nigeria’s 2015 disintegration) and I have gone back to look and I can’t find any government report that said Nigeria would disintegrate in 2015. Maybe some think-tank or somebody outside the government said it; I don’t know.

“But in my opinion as the US Ambassador to this country, I am not worried in the least that Nigeria is going to disintegrate in 2015. Regardless of what someone may have said, the question is that we are now here in 2015: Do we see signs that Nigeria is going to disintegrate or fall apart or something? I don’t know what you think. But I don’t see those signs.

“But I see signs of growth, optimism and I see that to minimise the challenges that you have, in this life, you have to keep on keeping on, and I think the future is quite bright.”

Between 2013 and 2014, much of what John Campbell said came to pass. Political developments, security and economic situations in Nigeria since the prediction have also suggested that Campbell, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) actually did his research well before concluding that the country would not exist beyond 2015.

The country’s economic situation has worsened. Insurgents attacks have heigtened. Different political camps and zones are making inflammatory statements in the lead-up to the general elections in February.

Campbell in his book “Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink” delivered a provocative analysis of a country “in trouble” with insurmountable challenges which, if not addressed and carefully managed (by Nigerians, the United States, and other partners) risk of becoming a failed state.

He noted that Nigeria’s political life was unsettled by the approach of the 2015 general elections. Campbell said the North wants power back at all cost while the South will not want to lose its chance of running the affairs of the country for eight years.

After the book was released, Nigerian Ambassador Adebowale Adefuye, described Mr. Campbell, as an “attention-seeking and disingenuous prophet of doom”, noting that the former US envoy seemed to have made up his mind that whichever way the election goes, Nigeria would implode.

Adefuye added that the mischievous and ill digested comments like that of Campbell which he said was based on half truths, contradictory statements, serious bias, ignorance and mischievous intentions, would not distract Nigeria’s electoral agency from conducting elections that will be crisis-free.

His words: “A greater part of the article by Campbell sounded more like a journey into fantasy land as to how after the election there would be communal violence, breakdown of law and order, and a possible coup. He then went on to pontificate on the consequences to UN peace effort and the United States global political, and economic objectives with particular reference to Africa.

“Nigerians are not unaware of their leadership role in Africa and our responsibility in creating a politically stable Nigeria which will promote and encourage the sustainance of democracy, good governance, rule of law, and human rights in Africa. This is why we are resolved to get it right this time regardless of John Campbell and his ilk”

The Nigerian diplomat further said he was convinced that Campbell knew that some of his assumptions, facts and hypothesis were wrong.

But political developments in Nigeria are actually proving Campbell right. For instance, the main opposition party, the APC has threatened to form a parallel government if President Goodluck Jonathan win its presidential candidate, General Mohamadu Buhari.

As a result of this, observers posit that political interests clamouring that power should return to the North may decide to support the APC in forming a parallel government, an action that is clearly indicating a political crisis and disintegration as predicted by Ambassador John Campbell.

Also on the other hand, some Niger-Delta ex-militants like Asari Dokubo have declared a fight to finish if President Goodluck Jonathan is not re-elected in 2015.

During one of his press conferences in 2014, Alhaji Asari Dokubo told journalists that the oil-rich South South was ready to match the opposition, money for money, dollars for dollars, guns for guns and blood for blood.

He said that it is a must that Jonathan returns to Aso Rock after the election, signalling that the restive region will be ready to divide Nigeria Jonathan loses.

Political statements coming from former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida also call for consideration. While Obasanjo had at many times said that President Jonathan is corrupt and not capable to rule Nigeria again, Babangida had during Jonathan’s visit to his residence in Minna, said that all well meaning Nigerians should support the president’s re-election.

Now that we have Buhari, a Northerner, and Jonathan, a Southerner as major contestants for the 2015 presidential race, can we conclude that John Campbell’s prediction was right especially now that political wars loom either Mr Jonathan wins or loses. If Jonathan wins, the APC will form a parallel government, and if he loses, his brothers from the Niger-Delta, according to Asari Dokubo, will give it a fight to finish.

In a review of John Campbell’s book “Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink” by Benjamin O. Arah of Bowie State University, Campbell, with his rich insight and privileged access to credible sources of information as well as his first-hand experience, painstakingly articulates an impersonal and up-to-date account of the prevailing harsh economic realities and political problems facing the most populous country in Africa and the most strategic partner of the United States in West Africa.

According to Campbell, Nigeria is rich and enjoys “ghost prosperity” while most Nigerians are very poor. He noted that poverty is so pervasive throughout Nigeria and widespread poverty can clearly be seen in the faces of its children. Like other yet to be developed nations, the country presents shocking contradictions. Paradoxically, despite its wealth and resources (human, natural, capital, intelligence, etc.), there is the inescapable‚ concentration of Nigeria’s vast oil wealth in the hands of a small group of wealthy Nigerians. The wealth and oil boom, based on a long history of mismanagement and abuse by the country’s ill-prepared and myopic leaders, have resulted in the incurable‚ widespread poverty, lack of employment opportunities for university graduates, the state of underdevelopment, and lack of serious long-term investment in the agricultural sector that would have helped in the take-off stage of economic development.

Arah in his review said the book compared Nigeria to emerging economies (such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan), and Ambassador Campbell demonstrates convincingly how these countries were able to break away from the cycle of underdevelopment.

The book raises rhetorical and thought provoking questions addressed to Nigerian leaders. In Chapter 3: Who Runs Nigeria? Campbell delivers an insight into the leadership dynamics and political problems of the country.

Campbell’s position was that‚ the same people had run Nigeria by the same kleptocratic rules since the end of the Biafra war. Nigeria is being led by a group of powerful and greedy, coteries of patron-client networks with limited ambition, porous pockets, and an insatiable thirst for material accumulation, he submitted.

Ambassador Campbell warns that Nigeria’s predicament serves as a mirror and its success or failure is a compelling example to other multiethnic, multireligious African states.

Nigerians react

Former first lady of Kogi State, Dr Aisha Audu-Emeje

“No matter what happens, the outcome of the 2015 elections won’t bring a break up as being predicted because the President has said that all the elections will be free and fair. It is on record that all the elections that have taken place under his administration have been declared credible by local and international observers so the outcome of the elections which will be credible won’t split the country”

House of Assembly candidate Ondo State, Mr Ebenezer Adeniyan

“It is clear that Nigeria has so many challenges that can possibly lead to disintegration but this can still be averted if the government tries to conduct the general elections in an orderly and acceptable manner. Nigeria can still survive another one hundred years in unity if the needful is done to avert post-election crisis.

Former commissioner for information in Taraba State, Emmanuel Bello

Nigeria will not disintegrate. All the geo-political zones in the country have so many things in common that are holding them together as one. Even the crisis in Nigeria has brought all the tribes in the country together. The prediction from John Campbell shouldn’t be taken serious. The Middle Belt zone of Nigeria has the capability to belt all other zones together despite all the challenges that indicate the predicted disintegration. The outcome of the elections will not disintegrate Nigeria because the winner will emerge and then peace will reign.

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