Allegations are mounting that the Obama administration withheld weapons and intelligence support from Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram in an effort to boost the candidacy of the Muslim candidate for president, who is a client of the political firm founded by key Obama strategist David Axelrod, and to push a gay rights agenda on the African nation.
As a result, the current Nigerian government has been slow to make progress against Boko Haram, but is making greater strides now after turning to the Russians for weapons.
Nigerians will go to the polls on Saturday to decide a very competitive race between incumbent Christian President Dr. Ebele Goodluck Jonathan and retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who ruled as dictator there from 1983 until 1985, when he was removed through a coup. Buhari has previously vowed to institute Sharia Law in the Muslim-dominated parts of the country if elected.
With the guidance of Axelrod’s firm, Buhani has tamped down talk of Sharia nearing election day and even added a Penecostal Christian as his running mate.
Boko Haram is a radical Islamist terrorist group that recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. In recent years, Boko Haram has slaughtered entire villages, burned countless churches and targeted Christians and moderate Muslims for death. It received global attention last year for abducting nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls.
The Obama-Axelrod connection to the Nigerian elections and it’s impact on U.S. policy toward Boko Haram is found in a detailed piece by James Simpson for Accuracy in Media.
In speaking with us, Simpson said the Nigerians are thoroughly convinced Obama’s actions are rooted in politics.
“Nigerians overwhelmingly, at least the ones that I talk to and the articles I’ve been able to access, believe that the U.S. deliberately withheld military aid to the Nigerian president because David Axelrod’s group, AKPD, is consulting his Muslim opponent in the upcoming elections,” said Simpson.
According to Simpson, the Nigerians are most upset over their requests being denied for Cobra attack helicopters.
Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney has also studied this issue closely.
“It seems the Obama administration has withheld intelligence. It seems it has withheld training. It’s found various pretexts, but (the fact it has also withheld) some of the arms that could be very, very decisively used against this odious terrorist organization…really raises a host of questions that I don’t think have been satisfactorily answered by this administration,” said Gaffney.
Gaffney says it isn’t hard to see a pattern developing in how this administration approaches foreign elections.
“This may sound like deja vu all over again,” said Gaffney, who likens U.S. involvement in Nigeria’s presidential elections to what we just witnessed in Israel’s parliamentary elections.
“He has, as he had in Israel, a political operative engaged in helping effect, in a way that is clearly meddling in the internal affairs of a foreign government and a friendly, sovereign foreign government at that. It redounds to the benefit, in this case it would appear to the financial benefit of his friend and adviser, David Axelrod. That has translated into efforts to support the candidacy of General Buhari,” said Gaffney.
Like President Jonathan, Gen. Buhari is also vowing to exterminate Boko Haram. So how could Obama administration policy impact the campaign?
“(Jonathan) wasn’t that popular to begin with, but he appears to be weak and ineffectual in the battle against Boko Haram because he’s been unable to obtain the arms that he need to conduct a proper war. That’s their argument,” said Simpson.
While Gaffney believes Obama’s denial of meaningful assistance to Nigeria reflects either a desire to see Buhari get elected or simply to help Axelrod’s client win, there are more official reasons given for the lack of support.
“One is that the administration has found fault with the human rights record of the Nigerian military,” said Gaffney.
There is a standing U.S. policy, known as the Leahy Amendment, that forbids the sale of weapons to nations guilty of human rights violations. However, Simpson says it is applied very selectively.
“The United States has provided arms to many other countries, who have committed human rights violations. In this case, they made a special exception, so to speak, for Nigeria. It really looks very much like the Nigerians are correct in their assessment,” said Simpson.
Simpson reports that Secretary of State John Kerry added fuel to the fire by suggesting the U.S. may re-evaluate the selling of arms and sharing of intelligence after the elections.
“The whole thing is a joke. We provided military aid to Uganda and they have a bad human rights record as well. We’ve provided military aid to Al Qaeda-liked groups in Libya who are now joining ISIS. The whole thing is ludicrous,” said Simpson.
Despite very little U.S. assistance, Nigeria is starting to make significant strides against Boko Haram. Forty towns have recently been liberated, at least 500 Boko Haram members have been killed and many of the terrorists are retreating to the jungle in the border regions near Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
The Nigerians say it’s because they finally got help – from Moscow.
“They are having an impact but they claim it’s because finally they had to turn around and get their arms from Russia. They got Russian Hind attack helicopters and some other heavy duty military equipment, troop carriers and [armored personnel carriers] and things like that. So they’ve been able to take the fight to the enemy,” said Simpson.
Another major issue at work here is the Obama administration’s push for a gay rights agenda throughout the world and Nigeria recently moved decisively in the opposite direction. Fifteen months ago, Nigeria enacted laws that criminalize homosexual behavior and strictly forbids gay marriage. Simpson says a public display of affection between homosexuals could draw imprisonment of 10 years or more.
That is not sitting well with the Obama administration.
“The gay rights agenda is detested throughout much of Africa. Seventy percent of African nations have laws outlawing homosexuality. This particularly harsh law was passed in December 2013 and the United States and other western nations spoke out against it,” said Simpson.
The diplomatic friction over the Obama administration’s gay rights agenda may well be a key factor in America’s refusal to provide more help against Boko Haram and in Obama’s desire to see a new president in Nigeria.
“Obama, in sort of veiled threats, said that he would withhold aid if they didn’t repeal that law. The Nigerians basically told them to get lost. ‘We’re going to do what we want. You don’t have any right to impose your morality on us,” said Simpson, who says the Jonathan campaign alleges that Buhari has secretly promised the Obama administration that he will work to repeal the law if elected.
Gaffney believes concerns about laws addressing sexual orientation may be warranted but says he has no “dog in that particular fight.” He also believes regional and U.S. security interests suggest the administration ought to be pursuing a far different course.
“We do have a profoundly important stake in the larger question of whether Nigeria continues to slide into chaos, into the orbit of these jihadists. Oil, the strategic resources and position and population of that country are put into serious jeopardy as a result of these calculations,” said Gaffney.