With hundreds of ethnicities, languages, animals, flowers, food, customs and oh…butterflies, Nigeria is rightly referred to as ‘the giant of Africa’. When the West ‘scrambled for Africa’, the UK was the one that claimed Nigeria as its colony. Nigeria got independent in 1960. It has been 52 years since, but the west still has a say in Nigeria’s internal matters. The same is the case with most African countries.
The UK may have come and gone, US is right there, ghost directing the country’s moves, influencing its policies, and making sure it doesn’t slip out of its hands and with it the Gulf of Guinea. With Russia also getting involved in the continent later, Nigeria has become an auditorium of muscle flexing for 3 global superpowers viz. US, Russia and more recently China.
US- Russia tug of war in Nigeria
In the great churn of the Ukraine War, established global equations are getting defied every moment, new poles of power getting shaped every day and the west is at the end of its tether. The war has left Europe hankering for oil, gasping for gas and clambering for coal.
American President Joe Biden, who assured Europe of “oil and guess sufficiency”, has only got doors slammed on his face brutally. First, it was Saudi Arabia, then the UAE, then Algeria and Morocco and then, Azerbaijan. Time is running out for Biden who has turned the Ukraine war into the central note of his policy symphony, and he needs a reliable partner at the earliest.
Nigeria is one of the largest and oldest oil producers in Africa. The oil and gas sector is one of the most important sectors in the country’s economy, accounting for more than 90% of the country’s exports and 80% of the federal government’s revenue. And, US has been conducting naval exercises in the Gulf of Guinea for the last 10-12 years and by now has assumed the region to be its backyard.
So who is better than Nigeria for the US to re-establish its self-sufficiency?
But, this truth of Nigeria being an enticing location and a major player in the Gulf of Guinea is not lost on Russia, who has been a ‘friend of Nigeria’ for long. Nigeria’s neighbours i.e. Chad, Cameroon, Algeria, Morocco, and Libya, all have good relations with Russia. And, Nigeria is no exception either. It didn’t just abstain from voting against Russia in the UN but went ahead and signed a Defense Cooperation Treaty with it, recently in Aug 2022.
This has made the US skittish, and it still wants to ensure that it remains in Nigeria’s good books so that it can continue to use the Gulf of Guinea cozily.
Relevance of the Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea holds a decisive position in the geo-strategically located waterways. It holds economic as well as martial significance. A report published by The Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate (2004) states:
“Today the U.S. imports 12 to 15 percent of its oil from West and Central Africa. This region will grow in strategic importance for U.S. energy security interests. The Gulf of Guinea has several strategic advantages for the United States in terms of geography, market access, conditions, and the quality of its crude oil. By 2020 the United States is expected to import almost 25 percent of its crude oil needs from this region.”
Time for Nigeria to introspect
It’s time for Nigeria to set the tone regarding the ‘control’ of the Gulf of Guinea. The Gulf of Guinea is the single biggest reason why Western Africa is more prosperous than Eastern Africa. While Nigeria has allowed the US to use the Gulf of Guinea for the better part of the 21st Century, it must now rethink its policy.
A green signal to the US will be at the expense of its friendship with Russia (unless explicitly communicated). And, the US will use this advantage to milk oil and gas from the fastest-growing economy in Africa.
It’s no big deal to say that an undeclared cold war between the US and Russia is underway and if the trends are any indication, the US will emerge out of the war, with its face charred and hands singed.
Geopolitics 101 suggests that the country in need should be in no position to set the terms of any agreement. It should be the sole prerogative of the benefactor. Bent backs are trampled upon, slouched shoulders invite pity and Nigeria’s time of bending its back and slouching its shoulders is long over. Now, Nigeria must and should, control the Gulf of Guinea with an iron fist.