from Africa in Transition

U.S. Government Never Predicted Nigeria Break Up in 2015

May 16, 2012

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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An “urban legend” widely believed in Nigeria is that the United States government predicts that the country will breakup in 2015. Tokunbo Adedoja in a May 15 article in ThisDay, a widely circulated daily, puts this legend to rest. He has taken another look at the March 5, 2005, discussion paper issued by the National Intelligence council titled “Mapping Sub-Saharan Africa’s Future,” (PDF) from which this rumor emanated.

The paper did include a discussion of a possible scenario in which there might be a military coup in Nigeria, which appears to be the basis for the claim that the U.S. government predicts the breakup of Nigeria. But, as Adedoja points out, the first page of the discussion paper carries a disclaimer saying “the views expressed are those of individuals and do not represent official US intelligence or policy positions. The National Intelligence Council routinely sponsors such unclassified conferences with outside experts to gain knowledge and insight to sharpen the level of debate on critical issues.”

The document was made public and posted on the internet. Then president Obasanjo sent copies of the document to members of the Nigerian senate, thereby calling attention to it. However, that the publication did not represent official U.S. policy was a point I made at the time as ambassador during Obasanjo’s tenure, and others have made it since.

I personally have been accused of predicting the breakup of Nigeria. I am innocent of the charge. I have never predicted the breakup of Nigeria because I have never thought it would happen. But, were it to do so, the likely consequence would be a humanitarian disaster. U.S. policy has always been to support a united Nigeria, governed by the rule of law and through democratic institutions.

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