John Campbell: Paradise Lost-or Honorarium Lost?

Ambassador Campbell in his latest piece on Nigeria entitled 'Nigeria in Never-Neverland?' could not contain his glee and almost gloats about the recent Boko Haram attacks as well as the flood in Lagos. He had no commiserations for the victims neither did he balance his reporting by stating what the government is doing to proactively contain the Boko Haram insurgency yet he had strong criticism for the administration for sending troops to Somalia making it seem that President Jonathan does not have his priorities right by sending peacekeepers to another country while his own country has its own security issues.

This is where Campbell betrays his agenda. As a diplomat, he is no doubt aware that Boko Haram had released a statement stating that it was training its operatives in Somalia and had also brought in some of them to Nigeria to make Nigeria as "ungovernable" as they made Somalia. If Campbell was not pursuing the agenda of his sponsors he ought to have known that the proactive thing to do is not to wait until more of Boko Haram's operatives arrive Nigeria from Somalia but to take the fight to them in Somalia where they are in training.

For instance, after the 911 attacks in the U.S., the Bush administration which Campbell represented in Nigeria as ambassador did not focus only in securing America's borders. It judged rightly that since Al-Qaeda was in training in Afghanistan it had to send forces there to rout them from that country and prevent them from having a safe haven to launch further attacks on U.S. soil. I have no memory of Campbell criticizing that tactic so the question to be asked is why criticize Nigeria for doing the same thing which in any case is the right thing to do?

To put this issue in further perspective, Nigerians may recall that British intelligence recently alerted the British government in a memo that was leaked to the press of the plans by Al-Qaeda to regroup in Nigeria and launch attacks against Europe from here. They ended their memo to Prime Minister Cameron with the advise that since that was the plan Britain had to also send its agents to Nigeria to forestall the plans of Al-qaeda. In fact the Daily Mirror quotes the memo as warning that "There are dozens of flights every day from Lagos to London. We either help stop the terrorists here, or we will be dealing with them on the streets of Britain."

Now let me play on the words of this memo to try to disabuse the minds of Nigerians from the manipulations of Campbell and his sponsors-"There are dozens of "connecting and direct" flights every day from "countries neighbouring" Somalia to Nigeria. We either help stop the terrorists here, or we will be dealing with them on the streets of "Nigeria."

Taking the above into consideration, can any right thinking Nigerian still join Campbell and his sponsors in questioning why President Jonathan sent troops to Somalia?

Campbell goes further in his hatchet job to try to cast President Jonathan as wasting the country's resources via unnecessary travel saying "His ceremonial travel is unabated. On Saturday, he was present in Juba for the inauguration of South Sudan". Of course Campbell forgot to add that President Jonathan undertakes less travels than his last two predecessors and that he had a moral obligationto attend the inauguration of the new nation of South Sudan considering that Nigeria over the years played host to much of the negotiations that went into bringing peace to Sudan leading up to the creation of that new nation. Of course Campbell's adversity to that nation's existence is not unknown especially as it took the democratic administration of President Obama to support Nigeria's effort and come to the aid of the long suffering people of South Sudan.

On this issue, I commend Ambassador Campbell to the playwright George Bernard Shaw's words that "England and America are two countries separated by a common language." Campbell should note that South Sudan and Nigeria are two countries separated by a common language in that a large percentage of not just the population of South Sudan, but the population of the entire Sudan are Nigerians who have made the Nigerian language Hausa one of the most spoken languages in Sudan. With such affinity between our two countries how could our President not attend such an important event as South Sudan's independence ceremony?

To buttress the premise that he is speaking for his sponsors who have searched and have not found their names in the lists released, Campbell says "against this background of mayhem and natural calamity, President Goodluck Jonathan continues with the formation of his cabinet and his selection of advisors". It riles them really bad, but both they and their Campbell forgot to inform Nigerians that it is precisely "Against this background of mayhem and natural calamity" that a real leader has to form a government to solve these challenges. Or are they saying that President Jonathan should not form a government because of Boko Haram attacks? Can Nigerians now see and read between the lines? Look at the key word 'ungovernable'. In the space of a year it has come out in a number of statements. Can this be a coincidence? Nigerians should apply their minds!

Before Ambassador Campbell goes ahead to meddle in matters which do not concern him, he may want to in the spirit of full disclosure make public his links with certain politicians in Nigeria.

Nigerians need not wonder at the meddlesomeness of persons like Campbell but should only ask why in the midst of so many domestic problems in the United States he has chosen to fixate on Nigeria. For the first time in history the United States is facing the possibility of defaulting on it's loans and this reality and preventing it is taking up the intellectual energies of lovers of America in both the Democratic and Republican party. Perhaps if Ambassador Campbell could deploy his energies in that direction he would appreciate the very real and present dangers his country (one of the greatest countries in the world) faces. Campbell does not do America justice by focusing at this time on Nigeria, a country that has never defaulted on her loans and in fact is one of the few nations of this world that cleared up all her foreign debts in one swoop. Rather than talking down at Nigeria, Campbell may want to seek advise from one of President Jonathan's ministers, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. But oh I forget, he is of the opinion that the formation of a government by President Jonathan "Against this background of mayhem and natural calamity" is wrong. Campbell should learn the art of governance from President Obama and the Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, who are still operating and forming a government in the midst of unprecedented financial mayhem because that is what governments do-keep their heads when everyone else loses theirs, especially the likes of Campbell.

Nigerians need to be aware that there is nothing spontaneous about Ambassador Campbell's posturing. In fact, if Campbell were to come clean, he ought to admit that there exists a business relationship between him and some persons who opposed Mr. President's presidential ambition and that his current adventure is therefore not objective. Campbell is simply serving his pay masters.

His recent attacks should be taken with a pinch of salt especially when taken together with the fact that he still habours grudges against the Nigerian state for the loss of the substantial financial honorarium that would have accrued to him had his visa application to visit Nigeria in order to deliver a graduation lecture at the American University Of Nigeria in Yola as a member of its governing council not been denied. Alas, Campbell who only applied for a visa less than a week to his travel date and even at that submitted no documentation to establish his status as a member of that university's governing council had only himself to blame for the visa denial. I wonder what would have been the fate of a Nigerian who submitted an application for a U.S. visa a week to his travel date and without documentation during the time Campbell held sway as U.S. ambassador to Nigeria?

Reno Omokri is VP Africa at Trippi and Associates, the U.S. consultancy best known for its work with the Howard Dean and Morgan Tsvangirai campaigns.