Nigeria: Africa's New Power

Courtesy Reuters

At least one African in four is a Nigerian; there are more Nigerians than Germans or Frenchmen or Britishers. Nigeria is now America's second-largest supplier of crude oil. Yet most Americans know nothing of this vast country, or if anything, only that there was a bloody civil war a few years back.

Oil alone would seem a sufficient reason for knowing more. Nigeria is the world's sixth-largest producer of crude oil, up in the ranking one place a year for the last four years. Only Canada exports more crude oil to the United States. Nigeria's oil revenues may reach ten billion dollars for 1974. Before last year's energy crisis, American imports of Nigerian oil had already risen 84 percent from 1972. U.S. economic stakes in Nigeria are now as great as in South Africa and growing faster.1

Further, Nigeria is powerful in Africa. Its army, mobilized originally against the Biafran secession, still stands at some 250,000. It is the largest by far in black Africa, four times the size of the next, that of Zaire.

In the past 18 months General Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria's Head of State, has been enthusiastically received on state visits to Britain, the Soviet Union, and mainland China. What do they know that America does not? That Nigeria is crucial, not only for what happens in Africa, but also as a source of nearly sulphur-free oil, natural gas, and other minerals only now being found. They see, too, its quietly growing leadership in the Third World.

Other developing countries have trumpeted nonalignment, but usually the economic base did not meet the rhetoric, and real independence gave way to compromises with East or West. Nigeria has, as U.S. Ambassador John E. Reinhardt puts it, "an independent political stance unmatched in the developing world. In five years there have been no FMG [Federal Military Government] compromises: nonalignment means just what it connotes; neither West nor East has a preferred position, a special relationship. Good relationships are sought with East and West, but

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