The oft-repeated and much-quoted “prediction” by the United States that Nigeria would break up in 2015 is one of the greatest myths ever, THISDAY can report today.
The “prediction”, which is now referred to virtually every minute by analysts and commentators, was never made by either the US government or any of its organs and agencies.
Some have even referred to it as a prediction by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – for added authenticity.
THISDAY is now in possession of the full copy of the “famous” document which is a 17-page discussion paper entitled: “Mapping Sub-Saharan Africa’s Future”.
It was released in March 2005 after a one-day conference convened by National Intelligence Council (NIC) two months earlier, where top US experts on Sub-Saharan Africa discussed likely trends in the region over the next 15 years.
Nigerian government officials back then even lambasted the US government for “predicting” doom for Nigeria in what was purely scenario painting by individual analysts without the endorsement of the American government.
Unlike most of its work, the NIC, in this particular conference report, issued a disclaimer on the first page saying: “The views expressed are those of individuals and do no 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.”
An aspect of the report which clearly affects Nigeria, and which focuses on “potential developments” and not an outright prediction, was listed under the “Downside Risks”.
The report was based on a lot of “ifs” contrary to the popular opinion which has almost become a mantra in Nigeria.
It was predicated on the possibility of a coup by junior officers – clearly an individual opinion held by one of the discussants.
It says: “Other potential developments might accelerate decline in Africa and reduce even our limited optimism. The most important would be the outright collapse of Nigeria.
“While currently Nigeria’s leaders are locked in a bad marriage that all dislike but dare not leave, there are possibilities that could disrupt the precarious equilibrium in Abuja.
“The most important would be a junior officer coup that could destabilise the country to the extent that open warfare breaks out in many places in a sustained manner.”
The report then warned on the risk to West Africa if Nigeria were to fail as a state, without actually saying the country was going to fail.
It says: “If Nigeria were to become a failed state, it could drag down a large part of the West African region. Even state failure in small countries such as Liberia has the effect of destabilising entire neighborhoods. If millions were to flee a collapsed Nigeria, the surrounding countries, up to and including Ghana, would be destabilised. Further, a failed Nigeria probably could not be reconstituted for many years if ever and not without massive international assistance.”
At the conference, according to the report, the experts discussed several major issues or drivers that would affect Africa.
They included globalisation and its impact on political development and economic growth, patterns of conflict, terrorism, democratization, AIDS, evolving foreign influences, and religion.
Apart from this, THISDAY also stumbled on other unclassified reports commissioned by the NIC prior to and after the 2005 conference report on Africa’s future view with Nigeria as a key country in the region beyond 2015.
In the unclassified report by the NIC titled, “Global Trend 2015: A Dialogue about the Future with Non-governmental Experts”, which was released in December 2000, it was recorded that: “South Africa and Nigeria, the continent’s largest economies, will remain the dominant powers in the region through 2015. But their ability to function as economic locomotives and stabilisers in their regions will be constrained by large unmet domestic demands for resources to stimulate employment, growth, and social services, including dealing with AIDS.”
Putting both reports in context, the Global Trend 2015, which did not carry NIC’s disclaimer, is the product of its close collaboration with US government specialists and a wide range of experts outside government over a period of 15 months.
There is also an unclassified report titled, “Global Trend 2010”, released in November 1997, which projected then that, “Nigeria’s economic mismanagement, corruption, and political instability will not be resolved over the next 15 years.”
Two other unclassified reports titled, “Mapping the Global Future: Report of the National Intelligence Council 2020 Project”, which was released in December 2004, and “Global Trend 2025: A Transformed World”, released in 2008, undertook an overview of Sub-Saharan Africa, and only made specific reference to Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic and Chad.
However, one notable aspect of the 2005 conference report on Africa is that of terrorism. Its reads: “Given that significant portions of Africa, those areas outside the nations’ capitals, will essentially be ungoverned, there will be many opportunities for terrorist groups that threaten the West to seek haven across the continent.
“…those terrorists groups seeking sanctuary for their fugitive principals or who want to hide dangerous weapons may find the distant regions of some African countries inviting precisely because they are unlikely to be interrupted by government.
“Indeed, an overwhelming majority of terrorism in Africa will be caused by indigenous groups waging war against their own or neighboring governments or against other population groups, defined by religion or ethnicity.”
There couldn’t have been a more definite projection of the current security challenges confronting Nigeria and some African countries.
Thomas Fingar, who was chairman of NIC when the Global trend 2025 was produced in 2008, noted that worldwide response to Global Trends 2020, for instance, was extraordinary, and the report had been translated into several languages, debated in government offices, discussed in university courses, and used as a point of departure in community meetings on international affairs.
Point of note is that some of the media reports on the issue at the time – most of which were short in details – and subsequent media reports, erroneously attributed it to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Since then, not a few Nigerians view 2015 as the year of the nation’s Armageddon, to the extent that rivalries among politicians and aggressive contest for available resources among ethnic groups and regions – which are attributes of heterogeneous societies like Nigeria that had yet to fully harness the advantages of its diversity – are often explained from the perspective of an impending ominous 2015.