Its time to wake up. Nigeria must stop sitting on defence – We need to be on our guard to make sure that whatever is going on does not spiral out of control.
For too long we have deluded ourselves into believing that the only wars we fight in future will be ones we opt into, like regional peacekeeping, the only threats we face come from terrorists and our most important defence capability is centred around low intensity conflicts in a permissive environment where Nigerian power is a given.
But the provocative behaviour of our neighbours, and the rapidity of their modernisation program, is a reminder that modern forms of traditional warfare are every bit as dangerous. It’s time for Nigeria to make a pivot back to preparing to fight conventional wars rather than priotizing low intensity conflicts at the expense of its conventional forces.
The $600 million Super Tucano deal will go down as the worst acquisition deal in Nigeria’s history. It’s bad enough spending the combined annual defence budget of Cameroon ($387.44 million) and Ghana ($271.56 million) on 12 Super Tucano aircraft. What’s terrible is that the aircraft’s are slated for delivery in 2021.
This means the Nigerian government envisages itself still battling Boko Haram by 2021. We are not eben fighting to win decisively. The government is not ready to confront the partitioning of West Africa by foreign powers, nor fortify its border to stop weapons smugglin. The government has no desire to put an end to the Boko Haram insurgency and is comfortable fighting a bitter war of attrition way up till 2022 and beyond.
This is sad. World War II lasted just 7 years. Nigeria is looking at the prospect of being locked in a bitter war of attrition against an asymmetric enemy for 15 years and beyond. This will be the longest continuous war in the modern history of Africa.
Who ever wins the 2019 Presidential election must come to grips with the fact that Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in Nigeria’s national security. The longevity of Boko Haram is part and parcel of the Inter-state strategic power play.
We may think we are not on the brink of war with any country. But we are. The powers that be have become masters at exploiting the seams between peace and war. They have Nigeria figured out. They are behind smear campaigns and fake news in western countries, to try to undermine our democracy and society.
They threaten the survival of ECOWAS and seek to replace it with a new regional alliance. They tests Nigeria’s defences by flying into our airspace without authorisation and sailing into our waters. In March President Buhari was forced to deploy a battalion of troops to Calabar after Cameroonian gendarmes violated Nigeria’s territorial sovereignty, by storming villages in Calabar in search of Anglophone Cameroonians who fled to Nigeria to escape Cameroonian troops, making them legitimate asylum seekers .
Last year Cameroonian BIR abducted the leader of Ambazonian agitation in a hotel in Abuja, smuggled him back to Cameroon where he was subsequently locked up and tortured.
Two years ago, a Cameroonian Navy ship showed up unannounced at the Navy Eastern Command in Calabar without seeking permission or even contacting the Nigerian Navy.
Three years ago French Special Forces basically encouraged and engineered a coup in Burkina-Faso.
In the past two years, American activity in West Africa has increased tenfold. While most people in Nigeria have focused, understandably, on the dangers of Boko Haram attacks, we have barely noticed a big shift in military technology and strategy: The industrial scale use of highly accurate drones and satellites acting as spotters.
In the past eight months alone the Americans have increased the number of drone platforms for launching the deadly MQ-9 Predator and Reaper drones. And it is not just the United States, others, including France and Morocco, have made similar strategic decisions.
They have increased the number of Mirage and Rafale fighter jets, with an operational range of up to 3,335 kilometres, putting every major city in West Africa within reach in as little as 20 minutes.
At the same time, our own military power has diminished. Being the only giant in a region of small countries and even smaller armies, there was no need for Nigeria to spend as much on defence. Given the absence of a comparable large country there was logic in this approach.
But now the threat is increasing again, so must our capabilities. We need to be strong enough to protect ourselves and our allies against these threats. If there has ever been ideal time for the Armed Forces to improve their capabilities to deal with an increasing number of serious threats and to keep up with technological changes that will alter the nature of warfare, that time is NOW.
At a time when our principal allies are breaking ranks with Nigeria and aligning themselves with the powers that be, and when the security of Nigeria is under threat, the need to restore our military competitive advantage is vital.
Our Armed Forces must be given the firepower they need to defend Nigeria, our interests and our allies in the region.