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Waving flag of Venezuela and Nigeria

Venezuela and Nigeria – A tale of two countries


On May 13 1958, the hapless Richard Nixon as Vice President of the United States of America, on an official visit to Venezuela was confronted with an attempt to assassinate him.

As the Vice President and his wife Pat Nixon stood on attention in Caracas while the Venezuelan National Anthem was being played during the arrival ceremonies, a mob of hitmen on an observation post unleashed a rain of spittle on their heads. Sensing trouble, Nixon and his entourage were rushed into their limousines and made attempts to flee.

But the would-be assassins had planned their act very well. The Vice-Presidential motorcade was soon blocked and stones, still pipes, obscenities and spittle were hurled at the visitors. Nixon’s car was forced to a stop and the mob descended on it, rocking it with shouts of “Muera Nixon”, meaning death to Nixon. Miraculously, Nixon was able to escape the assassination attempt.

His principal, President Eisenhower was so disturbed by the attempt to kill Nixon and wife that he immediately dispatched two companies of the United States Marines to the Caribbean for their protection. A major international catastrophe was avoided. The Nixon’s got back to the United States safely.

No such bold attempt has ever been made to eliminate a high American official in Nigeria. But the possibility of such an event should not be counted as far-fetched. Nigeria shares so many similarities with Venezuela that such an attempt – maybe a more successful one – could just happen here one day. Nigeria is a very volatile country with a proclivity for political violence. In its first sixteen years of existence – 1960 to 1976, – Nigeria killed three of her four heads of states; one was actually gunned down on a Lagos street in broad daylight and in full glare of the people. You can understand why Americans are always quick to issue travel advisory to their citizens on coming to Nigeria when political tension rises here.

More fundamentally, Nigeria like Venezuela is a petrostate. The simple definition of a Petrostate is that of a country that is vulnerable to what economists call Dutch disease. According to Wikipedia, Dutch disease “is a term coined during the 1970s after the Netherlands discovered natural gas in the North Sea.

“In an afflicted country, a resource boom attracts large inflows of foreign capital, which leads to an appreciation of the local currency and a boost for imports that are now comparatively cheaper. This sucks labor and capital away from other sectors of the economy, such as agriculture and manufacturing, which economists say are more important for growth and competitiveness. As these labor-intensive export industries flag, unemployment could rise, and the country could develop an unhealthy dependence on the export of natural resources. In extreme cases, a petrostate forgoes local oil production and instead derives most of its oil wealth through high taxes on foreign drillers. Petrostate economies are then left highly vulnerable to unpredictable swings in global energy prices and capital flight.

“The so-called resource curse also takes a toll on governance. Since petrostates depend more on export income and less on taxes, there are often weak ties between the government and its citizens. Timing of the resource boom can exacerbate the problem.”

At the time Venezuela hit oil in 1922, institutions of state in the country were very weak. In-fact the United States considered and even today still considers the South American States as vassal states that must take dictation from them. The under developed status of these countries, their weak and dependent economies, weak institutions and weak political culture has made them very vulnerable to the Uncle Sam’s dictates.

When Fidel Castro emerged as the leader of Cuba on January 1 1959, he sent shock waves to the US. His revolutionary reforms culminating in the expropriation of American assets without compensation showed clearly that he came to power with his own mind and agenda. His frequent, vigorous and trenchant denunciation of the US and the fact that he was seemingly getting away with all, alarmed the US. They descended on him will a sledge hammer.

In 1998 Chavez was elected president of Venezuela on a socialist platform, pledging to use his country’s vast oil wealth to reduce poverty and inequality. His policies such as the “Bolivarian missions” expanded social services and cut poverty by 20 percent, but he also took several steps that antagonized America and who now precipitated a long and steady decline in the country’s oil production, which peaked in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Particularly offensive to the US was his decision to fire thousands of experienced PDVSA workers who had taken part in an industry strike in 2002–2003; the provision of subsidized oil to several countries in the region, including Cuba, through an alliance known as Petrocaribe.

Attempts by President Maduro who took over after the suspicious death Chávez to continue with the progressive “social missions” policies that touched the lives of millions of Venezuelans, including programs that doled out cheap food, subsidized literacy and adult education programs, provided housing, and distributed land have triggered opposition from the US. The support they now give Juan Guaido is perfectly in line.

In 1975, a leader emerged in Nigeria to put things right. On the 11th of January, 1976 he delivered a thundering speech at an extra-ordinary meeting of the OAU in Adis Ababa at which he said among other things:

“Mr Chairman, when I contemplate the evils of apartheid, my heart bleeds and I am sure the heart of every true blooded African bleeds. . . Rather than join hands with the forces fighting for self-determination and against racism and apartheid, the United States policy makers clearly decided that it was in the best interests of their country to maintain white supremacy and minority regimes in Africa.

Africa has come of age. It’s no longer under the orbit of any extra continental power.
It should no longer take orders from any country, however powerful. The fortunes of Africa are in our hands to make or to mar. For too long have we been kicked around; for too long have we been treated like adolescents who cannot discern their interests and act accordingly.

For too long has it been presumed that the African needs outside ‘experts’ to tell him who are his friends and who are his enemies. The time has come when we should make it clear that we can decide for ourselves; that we know our own interests and how to protect those interests; that we are capable of resolving African problems without presumptuous lessons in ideological dangers which, more often than not, have no relevance for us, nor for the problem at hand.”

On the 13 the February 1976 barely one month after this speech, he was gunned down by an assassin who claimed that his government was going “socialist.” The US lackey who took over from him remained loyal to his masters in Washington since then and even today.

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