TWO PART SERIES
Conventional warfare is on the verge of extinction. This has become an obvious trend with innumerable adversaries engaging the Nigerian military in unconventional ways with unconventional means in the l;ast two decades.
The long held notion of the decisive battle that brings the combat power of two nations against each other for a Britain versus Argentina or the 6 Day War slugfest lies in the next grave. Even wars of attrition, in the model of the Nigerian Civil War are gone. Gone are the days when Nigeria could find solace in the size of its military relative to the region to deter aggression. If Nigeria hopes to remain strategically significant, its political and military leadership must adapt to the new reality that no adversary wants to fight Nigeria in a symmetrically conventional fashion.
The Air Force appears to be an awakening given its acquisition trend in recent years. Case in point is the recent $600 million deal with the United States for the purchase of 12 Super Tucano aircraft, an aircraft optimized for Counter Insurgency operations. For decades Nigeria’s military preeminence held sway. It was the force for peace and security in the region. But not anymore.
Adversaries have studied Nigeria’s way of conflict and have developed, and will continue to develop, capabilities to mitigate or directly challenge longstanding Nigerian military dominance in all war fighting domains. Nigeria has a standing army of about 200,000 men. This makes it one of the largest in Africa and more than the combined armies of the next sixteen ECOWAS countries combined.
No country in the region is stupid enough to challenge the Nigerian army head on. Training and equipment matters not. Sure Nigeria might get a bloody nose and perhaps even some early embarrassing defeats, but in the end Nigeria’s manpower and resources will eventually prevail.
Rather than challenge head on, competitor states will employ all diplomatic, economic, political, and covert mechanisms of influence and coercion available to them in advancing regional agendas, with the implied or actual use of military force acting as the amplifier that allows these whole of state efforts to resonate.
This is evident today. Like China and Russia, in recent years Nigeria has literaliry been encircled by a chain of military drone bases and surveillance facilities stretching from Garoua in Cameroon to Niger, Chad, Mali, and the latest addition, an airforce listening post GHANA.
Nigeria is perhaps for the first time since the creation of ECOWAS, isolated diplomatically. Relations with other ECOWAS member states are at an all time low. At the same time Nigeria’s diplomatic influence has atrophied in recent years as the region gets overcrowded with competing powers fighting for influence.
So here we see how the Franco alliance, with their despotic puppets have effectively usurped Nigeria in influence in ECOWAS without a shot being fired. Adversaries no longer rely on conventional military force solely, firstly, or bluntly to pursue narrow political objectives in their region of influence.
Thus, no country in the region is openly challenging Nigeria’s regional constructed order of norms, rules, and institutions created through decades of Nigerian blood, sweat, and tears, and of course MONEY. But France, together with her puppets and Sahel (Morocco,Tunisia,Chad,Cameroon,Mali,Niger) has gradually dethroned Anglophone West Africa as the dominant political and military group in ECOWAS.
These adversaries are operating in a peripheral and indirect fashion, however, to secure limited gains helpful to their own interests. These efforts chip away at Nigeria’s strategic interests in such a way that it is difficult for political and military leaders to justify the mobilization of Nigerian political will power and military resources to prevent and/or reverse adversary gains without turning it into a political turkey fight.
Just two months ago there were calls for the impeachment of President Buhari by the Senate over the release of $480 million from the excess crude account for the acquisition of 12 Super Tucano aircrafts. Leading to political chicken fight, with senators arrested, beaten up, accusations and counter accisations, calls for the resignation of the nations Service Chiefs. A complete mess.
Nigeria has become the smaller version of America, with deep divisions, making the control almost impossible to govern.
Indeed, Nigeria’s strategy is caught in a paradoxical situation in which the conventional warfare concept is needed for overall deterrence, but is dead because no adversary wants to engage directly with conventional Nigeria’s military might.
For all its flaws Nigeria’s is still seen as the major threat if the country gets its acts together and unite. Nothing unites a country more than a common enemy. Against this backdrop no country dares to use its military forces in such an explicit fashion against Nigeria. With no place to go Nigeria will prosecute a war with unprecedented violence.
From this standpoint, it should be no surprise that potential foes are seeking to disrupt Nigeria’s hegemonic position by circumventing Nigeria’s military strength altogether through indirect non-military actions like propaganda, stiring decent and clandestinely supporting groups like Boko Haram.
These propaganda looks to shape narratives and perceptions against Nigerians unfairly, making it difficult for Nigeria to adequately respond. They played this card on President Buhari , who afraid to voice opposition to the obscene idea of Morocco’s entry into the West African alliance, ended up sacrificing Nigeria’s sovereignty to the god of political correctness.
Moreover, Nigeria’s only English-speaking allies in the region are a confused bunch who really dont know what they want. Nigeria’s adversaries engage in fringe activities to weaken Nigerian influence and power and undermine Nigerian.-built narratives.
This effectively neuters the perception of Nigeria’s military power, rendering it practically irrelevant in stopping the insane attainment of political objectives France and her puppets to turn West Africa into another French empire.
Perceptions on the lack of Nigerian willpower to deploy its military is as a result of a cleverly crafted French plot. Keep Nigeria mired in internal strife and misery, set ECOWAS on fire and parachute in to save the day in Nigeria’s inability to act.
Since the 80s there has been almost no direct contestation of Nigeria’s conventional military might, save for sporadic cross skirmishes with Cameroon over the contested Bakassi Peninsula throughout the 1990s and early 20s. Territory Nigeria lost by the way.
ADVERSARIAL TESTING OF Nigerian POLITICAL WILLPOWER
But at the same time underestimating Nigeria is a gamble with its attendant risk, as one French-speaking ECOWAS member state found out (the hard way).
When Gambia’s former President, Yahya Jammeh defied an ECOWAS mandate and dared Nigeria to interven militarily, he did not miscalculate the strength of the Nigerian military, rather, he misjudged Nigeria’s political will power. Yahya Jayhma had come to believe President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration would tolerate his decision to annul the result of the election cling on to power.
The Nigerian led ECOWAS have little tolerance for dictators and warned on 23 December that it would militarily intervene to uphold the results of the election if Yahya didn’t resign by 19 January.
Yahya Jammeh eroneously assumed Nigeria would not follow through with military threats not because of his belief in his own tiny military strength, but because he believed the Buhari administration lacked political strength. Jammeh believed that, with the spate of unrest in the country, Buhari will be averse to act.
For Buhari however, a former military general and not really a skilled politician viewed Gambia state as another potential French puppet, given France’s love for autocratic despots, which radically changed Nigeria’s political calculus, as perfect opportunity to make a statement.
As the January 19 deadline for him to hand over power drew close, President Buhari’s first action was to impose an air and naval blockade of the country. We all know how that panned out.
The deployment of Nigerian Warship, surveillance planes and fighter jet, though mostly a ceremonial gesture, was meant to make a statement.
So we can see that confronting Nigeria’s military power is not based on perceptions of relative strength, but rather on (mis)calculations of Nigeria’s political resolve to fight.
Even Boko Haram at a point in time deluded themselves into believing it could decisively engage the Nigerian military in a conventional battle for the purposes of undermining Nigeria’s credibility and political resolve.