The core responsibility of the federal government is to provide for common defense of all Nigeria’s regardless or ethnicity or tribe or religious affiliations. Upon swearing-in ever Nigerian president swears an oath to protect and defend our nation. This means detering potential aggressors and, if deterence fails, fighting and winning wars. Any consideration of the military’s role in Nigeria’s defense policy must start with that foundational principle.
But if the need for a strong military begins with the mission to fight and win wars, it does not end there. Nigeria’s leadership in the past have long appreciated that a formidable military can produce abundant diplomatic and economic dividends, even when not welded in wartime.
Nigeriss military capability supported our nations rise to be come one of the most powerful nations in Africa over the past decades, but this was often because of the increased influence and credibility produced by this capability rather than the overt use of force. Nigeria’s diplomatic efforts in ECOWAS member states and willingness to intervene militarily was all that was required to assert Nigeria’s military credibility.
Along the way, there developed a Nigerian strategic tradition that integrated military strength with diplomatic acumen, economic growth and international influence. It is a long held Nigerian tradition with an impressive heritage and continuing salience today.
Looking at the past we realise there are many ways beyond the kinetic use of force that a string national defence policy bolsters our national power and global influence. A robust defense budget and defense policy also strengthens our nation in manifest otherways. A well equipped defense enhances our capsbilities and influence across all other elements of national power, we talking here about our economy, our diplomacy, our alliances and our credibility and influence not only in Africa, but i dare say the world. Conversely, a poorly run, poorly armed and under-resourced national defense threatens to diminish our national power across all of these other dimensions. Just look around West Africa, that fear factor is gone, corresponding with our military decline.
A well equipped and run military improves diplomacy with adversaries, strengthens our alliance, signals credibility and resolve, deters aggression and enhances national morale. The one weapon the Nigerian government has, (apart from football) to foster national unity is in the exploits of a strong military all Nigerians can be proud of, and the government have wasted time and again opportunities to employ this to its advantage.
For example, the military’s role in protecting a stable regional environment, in what was once the roughest neighborhood in Africa, creates predictability and secure conditions in which economic growth can flourished. Nigeria’s security umbrella facilitated ECOWAS’s post war democratization process and economic revival. Today all of English West Africa is democratic. This is no fluke. ECOWAS as the only %100 democratic region has been a function of Nigeria’s treaty alliance in the region in maintaining peace and stability, exemplified by the Nigeria using the carrot and stick approach in ensuring the region remains democratic. In other words, if diplomatic efforts fail, there is %100 certainty to be a military response.
In January 2017, all it took for the embattled Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh to step down was the deployment of NNS Unity off the coast of Gambia, the deployment of air assets and the threats of 3,000 Senegalese troops and Nigerian Special Forces personnel. No other region in Africa can boast of such a robust and timely diplomatic and military response to a crises.
A Strong Military as an Instrument of National Development
A strong military can be effective without being deployed in hostile action. The one area were Nigeria cannot afford to drag its feet when it comes to investing heavily on is in its military. military strenght pays diplomatic dividends. Preparedness for war enables the preservation of peace.
Peace doesn’t necessarily have tk mean the absence of war, but in this case peace means a world hospitable to the Nigeria society and its democratic ideals in which Nigeria and her ECOWAS member states are free from the threat of autocratic and poor and jealous external actors seeking access to vital resources, such as oil, and vital transportation and communications routes. Nigeria need not to have lost the Bakassi peninsula if we had played our cards right. How has Nigeria been payed for its maturity and abiding by thr ICJ ruling? that’s right, outright hostility. In thr past year hundreds of Nigerian settlers in the Bakassi areas have been killed. Weve had multiple illegal incursions into Nigerian territory by a hostile neighbor. Weve had Nigerian villages burnt to the ground by Cameroonian gendarmes. Such is the price we have to pay for our stupidity and weaknesses.
Today West Africa is fast turning into another middle-east. The region has gone from the most political stable region, to the most militarized region in Africa in under a decade. There is no denying it, peace in West Africa is dependent upon Nigeria’s strength, which will come from rebuilding our economic and military might. But how can we focus on national development when we are mired in a perpetual state of never-ending wars. Its ironic, the greater the military presence of foreign powers the region, the worst the security situation has become.
In recent years, our leaders have introduced a new strategic concept that, while not in direct contradistinction to “peace through strength,” seeks to recalibrate Nigeria’s national security policy by diminishing national defense and elevating international development, all in the hope of finding favour in the eyes of the unapprecitive West. Need I say more than Nigeria’s worst economic recession in 27 years came about when the U.S stopped the importation of crude from Nigeria?
Yes we all recognize that there is a relationship between sustainable development and improved international standing need for FDI, it makes a strategic mistake by making development co-equal with national defense.
Ironically, given that the Nigerian government intended the strategic shift to elevate Nigeria’s standing, and hopefully beat South Africa to a permanent sit at the UN Security Council, it has instead had the opposite effect. It has left development still at the margins while diminishing defense policy, as evidenced by ………I leave you to fill in the blanks.
Moreover, in both constitutional and conceptual terms, a strong national defense needs to take primacy over development. A well equipped military creates an enabling environment for improved development policy. Many of the most notable economic development successes in Nigeria in the last decades took place in the context of either an explicit Nigerian security umbrella or a more favorable security environment underwritten by Nigeria’s strong expeditionary defense policy. There used to be a time Nigerian Commandos and U.S Marines fought side by side in Somalia. Today we couldn’t send an expeditionary force to Mali.
Now, this is not at all to disparage economic development, which should be a national priority on moral, humanitarian, and strategic grounds. Rather, it is only to observe that economic development efforts are most successful and most enduring when undertaken in a context of peace and stability, which is most often provided by a guarantor of security underwritten by military power.
The broader sweep of Nigeria’s history and international politics reinforces the perception that military power enables diplomatic and economic progress. This historical insight bears remembering in the present context.
Each of the manifest national security policy challenges facing our nation in the current era—including growing Chadian assertiveness in the Lake Chad basin and unauthorized military operations in Nigerian territory, Cameroons assertiveness in the Bakassi area despite losing Bakassi to them, a revanchist French destabilizing the Nigerian built ECOWAS order, thw resurgent jihadist groups exemplified by the Boko Haram’s endless supply of men and material, and etc, has its own complex internal and external causes, but all have been taking place in the context of global perceptions of a diminished and weakened Nigerian defense capability, which in turn has undermined Nigeria’s diplomatic and economic power and influence in the region, despite all the money we’ve spent, lives lost. It is most unfair to say the least.