Building a Military to Support Great Power Aspirations.

Nigeria is faced with a complexity of intelligence challenges from multiple threats that it
cannot afford to misunderstand. Defense Nigeria is proud to produce an unclassified defense intelligence overview of the military capabilities associated with
the challenges we face in multiple series,beginning with France and the United States. This writeup is intended to foster a dialogue between Nigeria’s leaders, the national security community, and the public about the security challenges Nigeria faces in the 21st century.

The USA, and superpower wannabe France prefers to follow the rule of the strongest and not by the international law. They are convinced that they have been chosen and they are exceptional, that they are allowed to shape the destiny of the West Africa, that it is only them that can be right. They act as they please. Here and there they use force against sovereign states, set up coalitions with despotic regimes and use Human Rights groups like Amnesty International to bully does who do not tow the line.


The political and economic order established by a very powerful Nigeria during the early 90s largely ensured widespread peace and stability even as it saw new conflicts large and small take place in different regions of the continent. The regional order underwritten primarily by the strength of the Nigerian Federation and the size of her economy and consumer market, which member states had access to, also gave rise to the greatest period of peace prosperity amongst ECOWAS member states in history. The world witnessed countries like Liberia and S-Leone rebuild from war to become vibrant and valuable members of the international community.

For three decades Nigeria emerged as the undisputed leader militarily, economically and diplomatically in West Africa. Today, however, the Nigerian Federation faces an increasingly complex array of challenges to its national security.

The resurgence of colonialist style interest in West Africa, seizing the loss of Bakassi, the destruction of Libya, killing Gaddafi, the resultant destabillization of the region, its intervention on behalf of despotic regimes, the clandestine support to Boko Haram, turning a blind eye to the human rights atrocities committed by its despotic allies and shaping the Nigerian created economic and political order to suit its interests—poses a major challenge to the Nigerian Federation.

France will continue to aggressively pursue its foreign policy and security objectives by employing the full spectrum of the state’s capabilities. Its powerful military, coupled with the actual or perceived threat of intervention, allows its whole-of-government efforts to resonate widely.

With Nigeria weakened by a decade of war, France continues to expand its presence in the region by manipulating the information environment, employing tools
of indirect action against countries on Nigeria’s periphery and using its military for power projection and expeditionary force deployments far outside its borders. Its ultimate deterrent, a powerful Anglophone Nigerian state is in rapid decline that historically was capable of conducting military operations on the capital cities of all countries in the sub-region within minutes is in serious decline.

Within the next decade, an even more confident and capable adversary to challenge Nigeria’s interest and even its territorial sovereignty could emerge. Nigeria needs
to anticipate, rather than react, to the actions of France and the United States backed by its allies- the despotic regimes of Cameroon and Chad. and pursue a greater awareness of the goals of these countries and capabilities to prevent potential conflicts.

Our policymakers and commanders must have a complete understanding of the military capabilities of our adversaries, especially as French and U.S. and Nigerian forces may increasingly encounter each other in the region. Nigeria also needs to create from scratch a strong and capable intelligence service, to provide our leaders decision-space, ensuring they have the time and information necessary to protect the nation. The wrong decisions, or the right ones made too late could have dire consequences.

This report examines a resurgent adversarial military power to foster a deeper understanding of its core capabilities, goals, and aspirations in the 21st Century.

Todays Nigerian military faced dramatic budgetary, readiness, and personnel shortfalls, as well as uncertainty of its role as the regional military hegemon. This is evodent in the fact that Abuja today struggles to determine its place in the region. After nearly 40 years of military dictatorship, Nigeria’s new civilian leaders deemed it rational to cut military spending drastically as a means of stifling the potency of the military and eliminate any chances of future military coups, thus ensuring the longevity of democratic rule in the country. This decision will go down as the greatest strategic blunder Nigeria ever made.

The fielding of new weapons systems slowed to a trickle and eventually halted; the
huge former Nigerian arms industry struggled. The Nigerian army and airforce were the most hit by this strategic blunder. Hundreds of competent and experienced officers were purged, or forces into retirement. Army units lacked funding and fuel to train and exercise, and pay was often months in arrears. The readiness of the force was minimal. The  popular image of the Nigerian Navy was of ships rusting at pier side due to lack if funding to carry out repairs.

The Nigerian Air Force was the most hit. Plans for the replacement of Nigeria;s Sepcat Jaguar fighter jet was cancelled. The exising Mig-21’s were mostly grounded, pilots unable to fly, and Nigerian officers moonlighting with second jobs to make ends meet.

Nigeria also had difficulty manning its military with competent well trained officers. Nigeria’s high and notoriously tough standard for recruiting was compromised. Recruiting along ethnic lines to fuel political ambition became endemic, with
many young men using any and all legal or illegal measures to get into the military. Entry into the Nigerian Airforce was based on who you know.

Some Nigerian generals voiced complaints about the poor quality of the recruits they actually received, as they were often unhealthy, poorly educated, and sometimes arrived with criminal records. The military’s most painful trial, however was during the Malian invasion.

In November 2012 the Security Council of ECOWAS endorsed a military intervention plan for northern Mali. But the roles of the 15 member states are unclear. Nigeria, by virtue of its military might and its historic role as the guarantor of peace and security in the region was expected to organise and lead the operation. But years of violent conflict with separatists in the Niger Delta and terror attacks by Boko Haram in the north had overstretched and drained the powerful Nigerian military.

But despite this, Nigeria’s military leadership was now in demand. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)  in Abuja approved a plan to send 3,300 troops to northern Mali to liberate it from radical Islamists.

By January 2013 there were signs Nigeria may not be up to the task. As reports surfaced,  Nigeria’s military spokesman insisted Nigeria does indeed have the strength to lead the troops into Mali.

“Domestic securtiy problems have not weakened Nigeria’s lead position within ECOWAS”.  he said.

But the reality on the ground was different. It was becoming clear that Nigeria does not have the strength to lead the troops into Mali.  A German journalist and Nigeria expert, Heinrich Bergstresser, said that may be true economically, but not militarily. The army has taken part in UN missions, such as Darfur, but is out of its depth when undertaking domestic policing duties in the wake of Boko Haram attacks.

“Using the army to uphold internal security is one sign that the state is structurally weak. A further sign is the poor training of the police force,” he said.

Then the Human Rights Group swept in. Amnesty International recently reported that the tactics the Nigerian military uses on its own population are arbitrary and brutal. The British newspaper ” the Guardian” also wrote that the Nigerian army is barely able to carry out even the most basic of foreign missions. Begstresser detects a discrepancy between the reality of life in Nigeria and how the country presents itself.


Yet Nigeria found it difficult to abandon its traditional leadership role for historical reasons. It was Nigeria that pushed through the formation of ECOWAS in 1975, against opposition from France. Nigeria established the ECOWAS headquarters in its capital Abuja. In a display of strength in 80s and 90s, Nigeria crushed a Chadian invasion with France unable to intervene, as it did in Libya, left Cameroonin military trembling and led the first ever military ECOWAS mission. It was to war-torn Libera.

With a population of 152 million, Nigeria is a major player in the region. It has a bigger population than all the other 14 ECOWAS member states put together. Its economy is also stronger than the economies of all the other states combined. Nigeria finances two thirds of the ECOWAS budget accordingly.

Linguistic divisions from colonial times

Nigeria’s inability to play a key mediating role in the Ivory Coast and Togo conflicts highlights the gulf that separates it from francophone Africa. ECOWAS states still divide themselves up into English and French speaking, according to the language spoken by their former colonial rulers. A Nigerian ECOWAS parliamentarian, Kabir Garba,  urged ECOWAS citizens only recently to cease classifying themselves as Anglophone or Francophone.

Nigeria is not seen as a model country in the region, says Heinrich Bergstresse. Corruption, huge social and security problems, have deprived it of the moral credibility it needs in order to be regarded as a leader in the region. “The Nigerian government has finally realized that its original idea of become the regional power cannot be achieved.”

With little moral credibility and only limited military strength, Nigeria, for the first time since the creation of ECOWAS was forced to join a coalition that includes 13 other African states. This is a departure for Nigeria. The Nigerian government had to swallow the bitter pill, that Nigeria can no longer act on its own.

The era of Pax Nigeria was destroyed by short sighted leaders whose decision to cripple the Nigerian army was bourne our of selfish political reasons without considering the national security implications it will have on not only Nigeria, but the region in general.


One Reply to “Building a Military to Support Great Power Aspirations.”

  1. We box ourselves into this corner. We hollow ourselves inside out. Nature abhors vacuum. If a nation cannot abandon its tradition role and sphere of influence and expect other powers to turn their faces away. The earlier we got our acts together and lead the region, the better.

    Liked by 1 person

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