Since the establishment of the African Union, there has been passive competition among some countries in the continent – South Africa, Egypt, Libya, Kenya, and Nigeria – on who should wield the most influence on the affairs of the continent.
Before the AU, the continental powers shuffled influence among themselves – South Africa on the strength of its currency and European connection, Egypt on the strength of her military and Arab affiliations, Libya on its oil and the high-handedness of its ruler, Kenya on her Eastern African regional prominence and admiration from the touristy West, Nigeria on its oil, massive population and an unrivalled consumer market. They have all exploited these individual advantages, to gain diplomatic edge or when tensions flare up.
All diplomatic tussles settled when Nigeria, after plotting the end of AU and through sheer Machiavellian intimidation of rival countries (it had earlier amassed the continent’s highest stockpile of nuclear heads and its pop culture industry had infiltrated the continent), became Africa’s sole superpower. How it happened remains an embarrassment and mystery to other countries, as there were no whiffs of suspicion.
Nigeria projects its military might across the continent through its superior military intelligence and nuclear armaments. In defiance of a Tuareg Treaty signed in Algeria, Nigeria intervenes in countries it deems undemocratically fit to rule themselves, and which it topples through covert operations. Gabon and Ugandan are the most recent examples.
As never recorded in history by previous global or continental powers, Nigeria established military bases in all but one African country – Morocco. Having rejected membership of the African Union, Morocco resists what it derisively terms “Abuja’s pseudo-military occupation of sovereign territories”. But Nigeria continues to press hard in various diplomatic guises to bend Morocco to its will. Nigeria’s largest military base on the Western Sahara remains Rabat’s existential nightmare more than the current trading sanction it endures.
An elite unit of the military – The Nigerian Advanced Military Research and Intelligence Unit (NAMRIU), in collaboration with babalawos, dibias and bokas, invented the Advanced Teflon Mechanism called Odeeshi, a technology marvel (and monopoly) that allows soldiers and military aircrafts to camouflage against radiation and scud missiles.
New militant groups have mushroomed across the continent which experts blame on Nigeria’s interventionist policies, including its espionage activities in Liberia, Cameroon, Senegal, and Malawi where death-sworn rebels target businesses owned by Nigerians.
The Nigerian military, however, is credited for some benevolent activities across the continent, the most recognized is its ending of centuries-long civil wars in Somalia, Sudan and Senegal. The three countries that have sovereignty over their internal affairs but are dependent on Nigeria for external relations. (The first post-war leaders of the countries are retired Nigerian officers).
African Cultural City
Ghana, for centuries, has been Nigeria’s closest rival on culture wars. Historians have not agreed on the origin of this rivalry; the most plausible may be that it is one of the unintended consequences of Nnamdi Azikiwe’s influence on the Pan-Africanist evolution of Kwame Nkrumah. A fact Ghanaians are embarrassed about and which Nigerians largely equate to the civilization of Ghana. From the African Independence phase of the 1950s and 1960s, the two countries have been locked in soft diplomatic tussles around tourism, literature, academic attainments, athleticism, beauty, hairstyles, melanin composition, highlife music, and cuisine – especially Jollof Rice.
While Nigeria trounces Ghana in nearly all areas, and especially through the wandering entrepreneurship of Nigerian ethnic groups – Igbo and Fulani businessmen (who control 55% of Ghana’s economy), Ghana holds dearly its cultural affiliation to the memory of slavery as symbolized in Cape Coast Castle, Elmina Castle, Fort Christiansborg, all of them haughty properties now maintained for posterity and profits. It is for these castles that Ghana links its fraternal relationship to America, being that most forebears of today’s black Americans were once pilgrims through the “door of no return”. (Sociologists wonder why Liberia, another country with filial connections with America, refuses to make this claim too). But Ghana continues its quest to become the continent’s cultural destination. That title belongs to Benin City, capital of Nigeria’s Edo State.
After Nigerian states acquired autonomy from the federal government, Edo State had pursued a Culture Renaissance Project (CAP). CAP’s goal was to revive Benin’s cultural heritage and to package it for modernity. Rather than being protective of culture for purist reasons, the project ensures the use of technology in the curation and preservation of Benin’s culture. With government funding and collaboration with the city’s federal university, the city evolved into a modern example of the harmony of culture and technology. This phenomenon has been transported to other aspects of Nigerian cultural groups and has become a continental trademark of what it is to be a modern and cosmopolitan African.
For centuries, Kenya rankles the entire continent with sophisticated technologies. At its height, it was the only African country to source 100% of its industrial energy from solar and with 100% household connected to 24hours power. This brought with it a technology race with Nigeria and South Africa.
Where Kenya led in innovations, it depended on Nigeria’s huge consumer market for adoption and business success.
Where Kenya led in innovations, it depended on Nigeria’s huge consumer market for adoption and business success. This relationship went on for decades until the Nigerian technology intelligentsia, a clique of headstrong eccentrics with lifelong ambitions to usurp the East African country, used hacking operations to diminish Kenya’s cyber strengths and so Nigeria became Africa’s leading technological power. (South Africa had conceded to Kenya when, while undergoing intense regional naval battles with Namibia and Botswana, it announced the purchase of thirteen Kenyan-made submarines to defend South African waters).
Kenya has since set up a long-term policy named Tech2090 to reclaim its technology giant status on the continent.
The Nigerian movie industry doubles as the country’s propaganda machine. It perpetuates Nigeria’s imperial adventures, its ideals, hegemony, and maintains a hold on the African cultural narratives.
With N2 Trillion annual disbursement from the government, the industry gets 25% of the Nigerian budget, more than the combined allocation of Education, Health and Transportation.
To sustain control over dissenting groups at the home front, the government uses Nollywood to portray the groups as usurpers and bad guys. Tribal sentiments run deep in movies that portray Biafrom as enemies of the state, Odudom as traitors of the republic and Niger Deltoms as dangerous savages. (A special prison yard located on Principe, the other half of São Tomé and Príncipe, houses captured dissidents who are placed on death-row to be executed. São Tomé and Príncipe had agreed to this arrangement in exchange for Nigeria’s exploration of its oil. There are more Nigerian oil companies in São Tomé and Príncipe than there are Santomeans’).
Nigerian movies are rife with objectification of Gabonese women as reckless mothers, Mauritanian men as cocaine traffickers, Kenyan young men as computer hackers, Kenyan women as side-chics to rich Nigerian Igbo men.
The agenda-setting role of the Nigerian media and its pop culture (which dominates the continent) makes Nollywood the continent’s sole tastemaker. Billboards in the remotest corners of the continent carry faces of Nigerian celebrities and national heroes. It is common to see Nigerian poets, highlife maestros, chefs, and footballers as state guests of other countries.
An Egyptian professor coined “Naijaphobia” to describe a continental disgruntlement towards Nigeria.
A diplomatic tension lingers between Nigeria and Egypt because a Nollywood movie had depicted the assassination of an Egyptian head of state – the country’s first female, long before she was elected. The movie’s accurate forecast makes Egypt finger Nigeria as behind the assassination, a claim strongly denied by Abuja. There is an institute in Cairo University established to strategize the fall of the Nigerian Empire. Egypt does not participate in Nigerian-led peacekeeping missions. An Egyptian professor coined “Naijaphobia” to describe a continental disgruntlement towards Nigeria.
Nigeria maintains an Afro-First policy to protect and serve the interests of people of African descent anywhere in the world. This influence is more pronounced in South America and in Australasia regions with significant African dwellers.
This has sometimes brought it into confrontation with other continental powers. Pundits suspect that 4th World War will be triggered by Asia and America’s disgruntlement with Nigeria.
For decades, Nigeria has enjoyed the highest quality of living in Africa and the second lowest mortality rate in the world. This makes it an attractive place to young people from other African countries. According to a study conducted by the Ethiopian University, every African, especially those below age 35, wants to move to Nigeria and wants be Nigerian.
This presents unprecedented immigration challenges as never experienced anywhere in the history of the world. The Nigerian borders are tightly guarded but there have been cases of porosity to nefarious activities of drug cartels and sophisticated human trafficking gangs and an epidemic of Arab families of Northern Africa breaking through the borders.
The Nigerian Naira is the continent’s default currency. The demand for the Naira strengthens the Nigerian economy and its fluctuations determine the economic destinies of African countries. South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Kenya have, in occasions of defiance, considered weakening the demand for the Naira by trading in their local currencies, a plan that was botched when Nigeria lured Egypt (leading nation of the rebelling bloc) with free-trading zone arrangements and new aircraft fleet.
A continental bias exists towards Made-In-Nigeria products as all-things Nigerian are associated with quality. This perception is partly a marketing triumph based on the government’s heavy investment on its soft powers through its ultimate propaganda engine – Nollywood. Nigerian products flourish because the country largely determines the standardization of products and prices.
Most telling about Nigeria’s capitalist adventures is how the success of other countries’ industries depends on Nigerian businessmen and businesswomen – for exploration; and the Nigerian consumer market – for wide adoption.
PS: This writer admits a few scornful look may be thrown his way when visiting “certain” African countries. He will be wearing Odeeshi. 😉