The year 2014 was a confusing year for Nigeria’s leadership. After five years of fighting the war was beginning to take on a new twist. Boko Haram was growing in strength and Nigeria was hemorrhaging allies at a rapid pace,
For decades it had become a tradition over the years for an average African country that has one crisis or the other to call on Nigeria for assistance due to Nigeria”s sincere and unconditional exhibition of African brotherhood.
Nigeria’s pivotal role in ending the brutal and bloody civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone (that killed hundreds of thousands of people) won her approbation regionally and beyond. To many God created Nigeria to help, and not receive help.
But in 2014 that spirit of brotherhood was begining to show cracks. The cracks first appeared over Mali.
Nigeria, already bogged down in a bitter struggle with its own home-grown terrorist group – Boko Haram, could not mobilize its military capabilities and assets or that of ECOWAS’ countries to lead the assault against Tuareg and Al Qaeda fighters, resulting in France making a unilateral decision to intervene militarily.
By every account a nation like Nigeria should be able to pull off this feat, but five years of sustained military operations, coupled with years of corruption and neglect left the Nigerian army in a sorry state, unable to mobilize forces and lacking in the equipment needed form such an intervention.
The Ghanaian government, which just a year earlier had placed a ban on Nigerian movies in Ghana and imposed a nearly %50 tarrif on Nigerian directors (illegal under the ECOWAS chatter) working in the country, mocked Nigeria for missing in action and chastised Nigeria for ceding leadership to France, a country thousands of miles away in Europe. Nigeria’s ostrich approach to these problems has been uncharacteristic of a regional power.
As France’s hi-tech rafale fighter jets and helicopter gunships bombed and drove the militants out of their hideouts in northern Mali, Malian women and children in Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu in appreciation of the French effort began singing praises to France, describing French soldiers as agents of God and mocking Nigeria, and other ECOWAS states for their ineffective leadership and dithering.
A Ghanaian Military Technology journal publication puts it more succinctly :
Nigeria’s poor show in the ongoing crisis in Mali is nothing new. During the 2011 post-election violence in Ivory Coast which saw another intervention by France, Nigeria’s leadership was conspicuously missing. Though Nigeria supported military action against Gbagbo, it could not translate the rhetoric into effective action.
The publication continued :
It shows that despite being a rich country, Nigeria’s Navy does not have a single submarine to beef up its coastal defenses and police the crime infested waters of West Africa. Many ships are in very poor conditions due to lack of maintenance.’ They further added that for the air force, the ‘serviceability of most of the aircraft is very low, and many airplanes are stored in non-flyable conditions while others have been effectively abandoned due to lack of maintenance.’ The non-serviceability of most of the country’s planes partly underscores why Nigeria cannot project power in the region and explains why Germany and Britain had to step in to volunteer to transport ECOWAS forces to Mali.
Celebrating Nigeria’s misfortune over petty rivalling, they quickly forget that in a rough neighborhood, conflict ridden and security challenging environment like that of West Africa, it is Nigeria’s military and hard currency that has been the force maintaining Security and stability in the region, and with no viable candidate in the region to replace her, if Nigeria fails, the future political stability, security and economic development will be doubt.
After the September 11 attacks in the United States, the world’s most powerful military alliance NATO made a declaration that the attack on America was an attack against them all, NATO’s 19 members triggered the same collective defence arrangements for the United States which Europeans had counted on during the Cold War.
The opposite has been the case with ECOWAS. There has never been a declaration of solidarity or show of support. The lack of solidarity with Nigeria reveals a basic truth about the regional alliance, member states are lack the political will to activate the collective diplomatic and military arrangements for Nigeria which they themselves have counted on in their time of need. Rather its been open season on Nigeria, with member states willing to sell out Nigeria.
This was proven when Barack Obama visited West Africa. He snubbed Nigeria, flew over Nigerian Air space to Ghana where his praise of Ghana’s economic progress and condemnation of Nigeria’s human rights records was received with rapturous applause.
Even small African nations now behave with little consideration for what the reaction of Nigeria might be. Just yesterday (6 April 2018), despite reservations from Abuja, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo announced the extended military cooperation with the United States, and approved the deployment of U.S troops and their military equipment in Ghana, in return for $20 million in equipment and training of Ghanaian troops, claiming it would expand peace efforts in West Africa.
The naivety of the Ghanaian government is incredible. West Africa was the most stable and peaceful region in all of Africa, until that is the arrival of foreign military bases. The United States and France has been in West Africa for five years now. In that time West Africa has gone from most peaceful, to the most unstable, rivalling the Middle East in anarchy and chaos.