Nigeria is at a moment if transition. Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform Nigeria has responsibly ended the political impasse and restored democracy in the Gambia. Boko Haram has been put on a path to defeat and progress is being made in modernizing the Nigerian military.
At the same time we must wake up to the fact that there are daunting challenges ahead and must meet the challenges of this moment responsibly and that we emerge stronger in a manner that restore Nigeria’s regional leadership that has been ceded away, maintain our military superiority and keep faith with our servicemen and women. Let’s identify and review Nigeria’s strategic interest and guide our defense priorities and spending over the coming years.
This review is shaped by Nigeria’s enduring national interests. The security of our nation, allies and partners. Nigeria has long been the guarantor of the prosperity that flows from an open and free ECOWAS economic system, hence Nigeria should seek a just and sustainable regional order and the rights and responsibilities of ECOWAS members states are upheld, not by Paris or Washington but by Nigeria.
Indeed as Boko Haram becomes less of strategic threat to the federation, we should focus on a broader range of challenges, including the security and prosperity of ECOWAS. As a new generation of North African countries demand membership of the West African economic bloc ECOWAS. Nigeria has a good track record of using its diplomatic, economic and military clout to deepen partnerships amongst member States.
In contrast to the murderous despotic regimes in the region being propped by the West, Nigeria is joining with allies in the region to promote security, prosperity and democratic governance, as demonstrated in the successful resolution of the electoral crises in the Gambia. Nigeria seeks a just and sustainable regional order where the rights and responsibilities of nations and people’s are upheld.
Meeting these challenges cannot be the work of the Nigerian military alone, which I why it is imperative Nigeria strengthens the tools of Nigerian power, including diplomacy, economic development, intelligence etc. Going forward Nigeria must remember the lessons of history and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past when our military was ill-prepared for the future. The gutting of what was once Africa’s strongest army by politicians afraid of a potential coup will go down in history as the biggest strategic blunder ever made by a country. The profound consequences we still suffer from today.
As we gradually end today’s wars and reshape our armed forces, we must ensure that the Nigerian military is agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies. In particular Nigeria should continue to invest in the capabilities critical to future success, including intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, operating in anti-access environment, and for pete’s sake a AIR DEFENCE SYSTEM !!
Most importantly, we must keep faith with our fighting men and women who have borne the burden of a decade of war and who make our military the best in West Africa. Though we must make hard fiscal choices, we must continue to prioritize efforts that focus on wounded warriors, mental health and families. As our newest veterans region civilian life, the military must have a ,oral obligation to give our veterans the care, benefits and job opportunities they deserve. In this regard the Nigerian Air Force is doing a fantastic job, the other arms of the military must follow suit.
Yes we have barely just clawed our way out of recession. Yes oil prices are at the lowest its been in a decade, making the fiscal choices we face difficult, but Nigeria remains Africa’s wealthiest nation in GDP, natural resources, human capital and demography. There should be no doubt in the minds of our potential adversary that Nigeria will spare no expense to make the Nigerian armed forces the best trained, best educated and best equipped fighting force in West Africa. And in a changing region that demands our leadership, Nigeria will remain the greatest force for economic prosperity and democracy West Africa has ever known.