Africa’s largest country is a couple of years away from the 2015 doomsday prediction of the National Intelligence Council; but recent events in Nigeria like a ferocious Islamist insurgency threaten to fast track the hands of the clock. The terror group Boko Haram’s numerous suicide bomb attacks on churches, media houses, and the police have claimed hundreds of lives in 2012 already – 200 in one day alone topping Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Yet it had not been considered a major factor in the NIC’s 2005 threat calculus on Nigeria.

Despite an insurgency that Nigeria’s President Jonathan has described as worse than the precursor to the Biafra civil war that claimed 1 million lives in the ‘60s, a grotesque drama is playing out as twenty American scholars have written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the situation in Nigeria. Rather than underscoring the urgency of the situation, highlighting the precarious humanitarian condition and enjoining critical cooperation and resolution, they wrote to ask that the United States not designate a terror group Boko Haram as a “Terrorist Organization.”

It is perhaps needful to state from the outset that (the) Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation is a process by which the US blacklists terror organizations. While some US lists are no more effective than baying at the moon, an FTO designation means terror-tainted assets can be seized, fund flows disrupted, and travel bans effected. Theoretically if convicted underpants bomber Abdulmutallab had belonged to an FTO designated Boko Haram, he would have been banned from traveling on the Delta plane he tried to blow up in 2009.

For what it is worth, it appears better than inaction. At least it will prevent that terrorist group from receiving access to US banks and travel as well as any “material support” (funding, tangible and intangible support, including advice and training, help with false documentation, etc.) from any US citizen.

This is why the letter of the gang of twenty is all the more curious, if not bizarre. Unlike the Iranian Group MEK that has lobbied extensively to be delisted from the FTO, there was no one actively lobbying for the designation of Boko Haram – the group’s nickname which literally means Western education is evil – as an FTO. It appeared rather odd during a congressional hearing that the Department of State had not yet done so. Therefore for 20 scholars, some of whom have dubious ties and questionable “expertise” on Nigeria, to suddenly adopt a pre-emptive position that clearly is the terror group’s preferred choice, certainly should raise eyebrows.

For weeks, no one at the Department of State could adduce a reason why a group that has bombed over a dozen churches, blown up the United Nations headquarters, killing dozens (American victims survived) and unleashed house-to-house ethnic-cleansing style attacks on Christian minorities should not be described as terrorist organization. Then the scholastic cavalry came to the rescue, first accepting a decision of inaction and then working backwards to try and find justification for it. The FTO non-designation was a solution looking for a problem, but not even the best efforts of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could put Humpty’s smithereens together again.

For one, the scholars claimed that the demands of the terror group Boko Haram are quite normal within “mainstream political discourse;” in other words, suicide bombing is the “new normal.” This argument would be laughable if it were not lethal. Boko Haram’s stated demands are the suspension of Nigeria’s constitution, the abolition of democracy, the imposition of Islamic Sharia law, the eradication of Christian and Jews and generally, jihad. Even the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh who represented fringe elements on the periphery of American “political discourse,” is roundly and soundly recognized as a terrorist. It would be intellectual chicanery for anyone to assert that this sort of violent bloodshed of innocent children and civilians has any part in the post-world war civilization and normative value system to which contemporary humanity aspires to – let alone intellectuals.

Secondly, the scholars make an impassioned plea that the US should not interfere by labeling the terrorists as it will handicap their ability to conduct research or mediation with Boko Haram. This contention is not only false, as none of the academics is known to be doing any notable peace work in Nigeria relative to the on-going conflict, but it is downright insulting. The scholars’ argument, shorn of all pretensions, is simply that innocent people should be used as human “lab rats” in whatever diabolical experiments the State Department and its supporting intelligentsia are dabbling into and that the US should allow terrorists travel to the US for “research” purposes.

The truth is that the scholars’ letter is fraught with misrepresentations that are easily debunked by mundane empirical analysis. It essentially warns the US to steer clear of supporting an embattled ally – the Nigerian government- because of perceived human rights abuses in efforts to contain the insurgency. It does not address the logically consequential proposition that not aligning with the government is tacitly aligning with the terrorists. Sadly, events in Mali, which is are reportedly linked to Boko Haram, show how Islamist insurgencies can derail a democracy and retard progress in West Africa. But this is lost on them.

Another profound assault on objective reality is the claim that Boko Haram is not affiliated with global terror and its vastly sophisticated bombing attacks is not proof of new global ties. This is a point of view held by no one except the band of twenty. Not even Boko Haram itself has denied that it has trained hordes of suicide bombers in Somalia and other foreign terror training camps for deployment in Nigeria. The transition from a group which a few years ago decapitated pastors with machetes and petrol-fired churches to recurring multi-city suicide bombings with IEDs is a mutational frog leap that no astute analyst would easily discount. The academics deny facts admitted by the terrorists themselves!

The most distressing aspect of this pro-terror lobby is that it is not just pro bono intellectual support to Boko Haram, it actually comes right out of recently disclosed excerpts of Osama Bin Laden’s playbook. The terror mastermind had apparently advised that local affiliates of Al Qaeda should not adopt the ignoble brand so that the US would not easily identify and target them for elimination as AQ franchises. In refusing to recognize Boko Haram as more than just a domestic “political discourse” group, the scholars and the US Department of State are faithfully executing the last will and testament of America’s late Public Enemy Number One. From the grave, Bin Laden must be truly grateful that neither the US government nor adjunct faculty can see the forest for the trees until body bags with American names on them start arriving from Nigeria. Italy and UK call it terrorism. They lost citizens in Nigeria.

It is repugnant enough that the scholars are seeking poetic inspiration from the blazing inferno in Nigeria as Nero did while Rome burned. As then, the Christians were the ready expendable fodder as they were in four church massacres this June already. Ironically just a few years ago, it was the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer that was sued for conducting human drug tests on children in northern Nigeria. It is equally unconscionable that US academics and diplomats have allowed themselves to be outwitted by a dead terrorist maestro in a game of global terror chess.

Emmanuel Ogebe Esq. a legal expert on Nigeria and an analyst of US Nigeria relations is Special Counsel on Jubilee Campaign’s Justice for Jos Project.