There is no sugar-coating it, a nation that appears weak is a prime target for destruction and occupancation should the opportunity present itself. Nigeria, sadly falls within that context, hence it is no surprise the scramble for Nigeria via proxy.
Despite the unprecedented security challenges faced by Nigeria, the nation’s military continue to atrophy. What exactly is the rational behind Nigeria’s military philosophy of weakness no matter the cost?
The issue of massive investments in the military may not necessarily be an attractive topic for all many countries. There are countries that are better served investing in social programs and infrastructure than maintaining an army, and in most cases rightly so.
But Nigeria does not belong to that category. It never has and never will. For a country like Nigeria, failure to invest in its armed forces is borderline criminal given Nigeria’s status. With a population of 200 million and having %70 of the GDP of West Africa, if Nigeria implodes the ensuing carnage and humanitarian carnage will be on an apocalyptic scale.
NIGERIA is the richest and one of the most powerful nations in Africa. Never in the modern history of Africa has so much endowment and potential been confined to a single country, and this is no hyperbole. Nigeria has so much going for it. Oil, natural gas, fertile arable land, a young, a dynamic population etc.
The nation’s economic prowess is in a league of its own. Nigeria is not only Africa’s largest economy, but the continent’s first trillion-dollar economy, and the 19th largest economy on the planet. To put things into perspective, the GDP of Lagos state, a resource poor state and one of Nigeria’s 32 state stands at $136 billion. That’s larger than the economy of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda combined !
Enter its oil reserve. The country has a proven oil reserve of 40 billion barrels. The 10th largest in the world, with a monetary value in excess of $6 trillion. Yet oil accounts for less than %20 of Nigeria’s GDP.
Nigeria’s greatness is not restricted to hard power alone. Nigeria’s soft power exceeds its hard power by a mile. Nigeria is generally recognized as the continent’s Hollywood. Fashion, music, movies, sports, Nigeria is at the forefront.
Considering all this, what baffles most countries is Nigeria’s military power, which is so disproportionate to its size. The underinvestment is palpable, with the corresponding low readiness of the military bordering on ridiculous for a country that desires to shape the future of Africa.
The announcement by France, a nation thousands of miles across the Atlantic, on its intention play more of a lead role in Nigeria’s sphere of influence, has not provoked Nigeria into investing in its armed services.
In a neighbourhood where France, and lately the United States have openly turned all of Nigeria’s neighbours into a military warehouse, just about a few dozen kilometers from the Nigerian border, 15 minutes by subsonic aircrafts, or 5 minutes by supersonic fighters, Nigeria seems to have no semblance of understanding the strategic rebalancing going on in her own backyard.
Take the Nigerian Navy for instance. Nigeria is not a landlocked country. The vast majority of her oil wealth are offshore. By this measure Nigeria should be a naval superpower in Africa, with well armed Frigates, patrol vessels and submarines. Yet Nigeria possess no missile armed warship it can deploy to protect and defend Nigeria’s EEZ and vital economic infrastructure.
The Nigerian Air Force is worse. A foreign power can invade from the north and probe as far as Abuja completely unmolested. Any pilot unlucky enough to be scrambled to intercept enemy fighter jets will most likely never make it back, with the current crop of combat aircraft Nigeria has.
Nigeria has never harboured expansionist desires. The Nigerian army was always designed as a pure defense force with the aim to slow down an invading enemy’s armor a little until the military can mobilize fully to meet the challenge head-on. Obviously we are in a very different environment nowadays (although the present military buildup showing up is no longer a completely 0% likelihood scenario), but our political leadership isn’t really taking the defence of Nigeria’s serious.
Nigeria has on it’s borders Chad, Cameroon, Niger. What do all of these countries have in common? They are all autocratic regimes. They are also strongly integrated in terms of trade and even in most cases share a currency. But most importantly they are allies under French security umbrella.
Make no mistake,this Security Pact is ironclad. Nigeria has none, doesn’t seem to understand the concept of strategic military pacts and doesn’t want to position the nation’s armed forces to meet the strategic rebalancing.
A defence pact can alter the strategic balance in ways actual war cannot. Think Syria. Assad’s (another dictator) security treaty with Russia is all it took to keep him in power. Even though tactically Syria is hopelessly outgunned by the United States and her allies, the prospect of war with Russia over Syria is just not worth it.
Why does this seem familiar?
April 24 1996
Nigeria’s Information Minister, Walter Ofonagoro reported that Cameroonian forces had been attacking Nigerian positions in the disputed area with artillery, mortars and helicopter gunships.
On May 3 1996
Cameroonian Charge d’Affaires in Nigeria Prosper Bomba Ngong is summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Abuja, the federal capital by General Jibril Chinade on the premeditated attacks.
After the meeting, Nigeria came under attack again from Cameroon for one week. This time around General Jibril Chinade, in a Press statement said :
“Nigeria cannot stand idly while Cameroon continues to unleash violence on its territory and people.”
But Cameroon’s Information Minister, Augustine Mkanchu, countered the claims.
“The truth,” he declared on 3 May, “is that since less than ten days now, the Nigerian army has been attacking Cameroonian forces on a daily basis, and we are astonished that every time they attack us they are the first to go to the media, accusing Cameroon.
“But since our elements are on the field, on Cameroon’s territory to defend the terrotory,” he continued, “they cannot be there watching to receive bullets. So from time to time they have to respond, and this is what is going on in Bakassi now.”
Nigerian forces came under heavily bombarded in Abana and Atabong West, two islands populated mainly by Nigerian fishing communities and which lie just off the Bakassi peninsula. Hundreds of civilians, mostly Nigerians, are trapped in the area.
At this point then Head of State, General Sani Abacha, already reeling from suspension of Nigeria from the Common Wealth is furious and puts the military on a warfooting. Within 72 hours Nigerian soldiers moved in to occupy the territory, inhabited mainly by Nigerians.
Preceding the latest clashes were reports in mid-April in Cameroonian newspapers that Nigeria was preparing to wage a full- scale war on Cameroon. Though the Nigerian High Commission in Yaounde denied the claims.
Reports emanating from Nigerian military sources indicated that Cameroon may be seeking to regain positions it lost when Nigerian troops moved in to occupy the disputed area in 1994. Abacha, vows to defend Nigeria’s territory.
Within 24 hours the army deploys ROLAND SAMS into defensive positions in the area. Nigeria was on the verge of full-scale war.
It was at this point that France, which has a military cooperation agreement with its former African colonies, moved in military advisers and equipment.
That was all it took.
It didn’t matter Nigeria’s overwhelming military advantage. The prospect of France, forced into a military conflict with Nigeria to defend Cameroon was all it took for Nigeria to back down.
That is POWER !
Nigeria is today one of the strongest democracies in the world and her profile as a force for democracy is growing. But all this will count for nothing without a strong military. Nigeria needs a strong military to give her diplomatic clout a boost. Nigeria doesn’t have a military that could dominate its neighbors as it once did.
Nigeria needs to pay attention to its military. The most powerful and influential countries in the world today all have equally powerful militaries. Regardless of what people’ views on war and violence are, the military is the critical component of a nations hard power. Of what use is it for Nigeria to spend billion on economic development and social infrastructure, if she has no way of defending? A strong and capable security will ameliorate the sufferings of the masses