I have a lot of respect for Dr. George Ayittey, but come on.
“In many African countries, government has ceased to exist or function. In its place is a vampire state — a government hijacked by unrepentant bandits who use the machinery of the state to enrich themselves, crush their enemies, and perpetuate themselves in office. In Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, governments that scarcely provide basic social services are even at war with their own people. And their people have responded with violence. Just last week, a separatist group, Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), opened fire on a bus carrying the Togolese soccer team to the Africa Cup, killing the driver and two team officials. FLEC seeks independence from Angola, whose government is one of the worst of these dysfunctional bodies. What motivated these young men was likely not that different from what compelled Abdulmutallab to board that plane.”
First of all, we’re talking about a guy who was barely even in Nigeria. He spent most of his days in Togo (International High school) and England (College) and Yemen (Jihadist training).
Second, Ayittey’s points about African leaderships ineptitude is duly noted and absolutely true, but the groups in Nigeria that take up arms vent their spleen on other Nigerians, as they do not have the capital to mount an offensive against “Great Satan” America or Europe.
Ayittey’s post and does something stereotypical of the most destructive foreign aid narratives on Africa do: It belies the very personal nature of the (in this case, Abdulmutallab’s) struggles and removes the possibility of individual agency. The Washington Post expose on him showed Abdulmutallab talking a lot about his personal East-Meets-West issues, his problems with adhering to the demand Islam places on his sexuality, his loneliness, his inability to marry his desire to be a good Muslim and his desire to do what he wanted. It is true that religion or culture could create such an ideological split within one, but (a)People from all religions in the Judeo-Christian tradition (this includes Islam) face such troubles, and (b) how you choose to deal with these problems is up to you as a follower in the religion. Wanting to kill people does not have to be a direct result. Same can be said for all troubles, be it poverty, political frustration, etc…
Finally, and on a more visceral note, because of the atypical nature of this guy’s background, I just don’t buy that this is the beginning of a trend. I know it looks like a lot when you live abroad, but truly, not many Nigerians have the money to gallivant from one European country to another, go from one international school to another. I haven’t run the numbers, but I’m sure it’s safe to say not even 15% of the 180 million or so Nigerians are wealthy bankers. Not even 10%. Maybe not even 5%. The Kalo Kato sect and their fellow fundamentalist brethren in the North do not have the financial capability to carry out such an attack in America/Europe/Anywhere. Okoh’s MEND in the South-South does not have the desire (And probably not the financial capital either). One can bemoan majority of African leaders’ shortsightedness, political ineptitude, and rampant corruption — and Dr. Ayittey is right to do so — but his FP article does not identify the correct perfect storm. Not in this situation. Not this time.