The military occupation of West Africa was not a premeditated or planned event but a target of opportunity. When Tuareg Rebels took control of half of Mali in 2012 all eyes automatically fell on Nigeria by default to plan and lead a West Africa intervention force, and for good reasons.
Nigeria is the only tier one military power in the region, meaning its the only country in West Africa with the resource and manpower to mantain an Army, Navy and Air Force capable of projecting power into the capital of any West African country country within hours if need be. The other tier one military powers in Africa is Egypt, Algeria, South Africa and Ethiopia.
In 2013 for the first time since the formation of ECOWAS Nigeria announced it did not have the capacity to militarily intervene in Mali, nor the capacity to lead an ECOMOG intrvention force. Underlying this announcement was that Nigeria can no longer fulfill its role as the regions military hegemon, causing incredulous dismay in Nigeria and panic the entire region at large.
This is a reflection, not on Nigeria’s economic status but in the quality of its leadership. The largest, wealthiest and most important black nation on earth has people who lack strategic depth at the helm of affairs of the country.
Countries in West Africa cannot fill in the vacum because of the economics. If you dont have money you cant spend it. With Nigeria the economics is not the case. Nigeria’s defense budget dwarfs that of all West African countries combined. To put things into perspective Nigeria, in March 2018 released the sum of $650 million for the aquisition of 12 brand new Super Tucano light attack aircraft from the United States.
Thats nearly the entire defence budgets of Cameroon and Chad combined. This does not include the extra budgetary $1 billion earmarked strictly for munitions to prosecute the war in the northeast. It should be noted this is also separate from the defense budget of between $3 to $5 billion.
There has been calls from many quaters for Nigeria to upgrade her armed forces to that befiting of a regional power. In defense the Nigerian government have questioned the need for what it calls ” White Elephant Project’s” when it does not face a formidable or near peer aadversary in the region. The war against Boko Haram they say should be priotized.
This is nothing but a retreat from grand ambitions no matter how we dress it up. This
“we dont face a formidable external threat, we are fighting Boko Haram”
banter is nothing but a retreat from grand ambitions no matter how we dress it up. It’s just an excuse for running away from funding hard power. Sadly Nigeria’s political leadership are ignorant of one important thing, the future of Nigeria’s diplomatic power and the defence of her economy relies on a powerful military deterence.
If you dont pony up the money and the hard power you dont get to sit at the top table no matter the size of your population and economy. People take notice if your ships, tanks and planes can be brought to bear on an adversary. There is a strong correlation between military power and economic status. The major powers in Africa, Egypt and South Africa, including smaller and poorer countries like Chad, all demonstrate their strength through military posture, and countries that dont have resources for defence often pull with others.
Requesting funding in aquiring or modernizing the nations air defense systems, tanks, planes etc just incase something happens is not a difficult thing to sell to the Nigerian public, who have beared the brunt of the deadly consequences of a military unprepared and illequiped to defend them.
With Nigeria’s continious military decline, the security situation in West Africa is at a turning point. Threatened by islamic militancy the bloc has seen the decline of its prediminant military power. With Nigeria out of the picture and no longer having the capacity to carry out its traditional role as the guarantor of peace and security in the region, France and the United States becomes the most important military power in West Africa and ECOWAS security arrangement will inevitably have to reflect that.
Never since the formation of ECOWAS has the regions security been tied to a Franco-American military alliance. Nigeria is on the verge of not being fully involved in the defebce of West Africa.
Nigeria has long objected to a Franco-West African military force, but as Nigeria remains distracted internally clsoer Franco-American military integration is already underway. In the last five years as of this writing, Mali, Niger Republic, Chad, Cameroon and Ghana have all signed a Military Cooperation Pact with thr United States and France.