John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Fireworks During White House Meeting of Northern Nigerian Governors

by John Campbell
March 24, 2014

Kwire-Mana, Kpafrato II, Homun Honest Stephen (R), receives his staff of office from Adamawa state governor, Murtala Nyako, during a presentation ceremony at Makwada Square in Numan, Adamawa state, December 7, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)


On March 18, governors from Nigeria’s north and Middle Belt met with U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice and other U.S. officials at the White House. The governors come from states where economic development is slow or non-existent and includes those where the radical, Islamist insurgency “Boko Haram” is active.

Following the meeting, the White House issued a typically bland statement: “Rice and the governors discussed the need to bring an end to the violence and insurgency in northern Nigeria; create broad-based economic opportunity in the north and throughout Nigeria; protect and respect human rights; strengthen democratic governance; and ensure that the 2015 election in Nigeria are free and fair.”

The Guardian (Nigeria) published a read-out of the meeting on March 23 with a different flavor. It cites “authoritative sources,” who almost certainly were Nigerian. The Guardian states that Governors Murtala Nyako (Adamawa state), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano state-the largest state in Nigeria by population), and Kashim Shettima (Borno state-a major center of Boko Haram), perhaps among others, were highly critical of President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration.

The Guardian devotes the most space to Governor Nyako’s remarks. It reports that the governor accused federal security agencies of colluding with the backers of Boko Haram to perpetuate the conflict. He said the security services facilitated the flow of arms and information to Boko Haram. The real kicker was his accusation that the motivation behind the collusion was to reduce the voting power of the North East in the upcoming 2015 national elections and (in the words of the Guardian) “to keep the region perpetually underdeveloped.”

Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States, also present, is reported by the Guardian to have strongly objected to Nyako’s attack on the president. The Guardian reports that the ambassador was supported by at least two other governors, both of whom are members of Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party. Nyako, Kwankwaso, and Shettima are members of the opposition party.

The Guardian is a leading Nigerian newspaper with a national circulation. Its report of the White House meeting is credible.

Given the horrific nature of Boko Haram violence, it might seem extraordinary that a governor would accuse the security services of collusion with it. However, many of my northern contacts say much the same thing as Nyako. Similar accusations were made about security service collusion with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) before and after the 2007 elections. It was widely said that the security services wanted to keep the MEND insurgency going because it ensured a steady flow of federal funds into the security services–from which they pocketed a percentage through various forms of corruption.

I have insufficient information to comment on the veracity of Governor Nyako’s accusations, any more than I was able to comment on alleged security service collusion with MEND. However, that many Nigerians find such accusations credible, at the very least, is evidence of the profound lack of trust between the Abuja government and its citizens.

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by Chike

    Governors from Christian-majority states in the North (Plateau, Benue & Taraba) did not attend this meeting – how significant is this?

  • Posted by Chike

    I hope you know US right wing media has put a spin to this?

    They claim that “the visa of the only Christian governor (David Jang) was blocked (for no apparent reason), so he wasn’t able to attend the meeting.

    This story will not only grow wings in US, but it will also be repeated endlessly in the Middle Belt in Nigeria – an area where Christian/Muslim tensions are very high.

    A not so insignificant number of Nigerian Christians believe the Obama White House is “pro-Muslim” – & they point out its tardiness on designating “Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization as proof”.

    Ayo Oritsejafor (the current Christian Association of Nigeria president) is politically connected & he’s done the rounds in US Congress – he & Emmanuel Ogebe accused Johnnie Carson of deliberately obscuring the extent of Boko Haram violent & portraying it as some sort of revolutionary movement for alienated Northern youth – not a terrorist organization which it is.

    Having said that, USIP & the White House urgently need to explain why no Christian governor from the North attended this meeting?

    1. Were they not invited? If so, why?
    2. Why was David Jang’s visa blocked (if the story is true)?
    3. Were they invited & declined the invitation?

  • Posted by johan

    Fireworks During White House Meeting of Northern Nigerian Governors

  • Posted by Ili N'ofu

    Inviting anyone to the white house gives them legitimacy, so, why are Obama people inviting unaccomplished governors without even scolding them for being under-achievers (not to mention undercutting our democratic and christian president). Were they even asked why they never develop their states with their federal allocations. Africa, especially Nigeria, should forget about the Obama administration. Their hands are full and they’re overwhelmed.

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