As the security and social mayhem continue on the continent, there is a possibility that due to misundestanding, a single nation or a coalition of nations would emerge to adopt an adversarial security strategy and develop military doctrines to threaten Nigeria’s interests.
The purposs of postulating this scenario is to establish a key planning assumption and an illustrative timeline for the reconstruction of Nigeria’s military forces on a large scale before its too late.
Going by the prevailing security situation that has engulfed West Africa and gradually spreading into Central Africa, it will be a costly mistake to assume Nigeria may not be forced at some point to defend its territory from external aggression.
The once peaceful neighbourhood feels like its about to implode. Nigeria is dealing with Boko Haram, armed bandits, a growing shiite uprising and a potential Libya style false flag operation. Soon this crises will be used to justify military intervention.
Niger, Mali and Chad are also struggling with militants from the Sahel. So is the Central African Republic. Cameroon, once the most peaceful and stable country in francophone Africa is fast descending into chaos and a civil war.
With the exception of Nigeria these countries all have one the in common : they are all Francophone countries with a sizeable French military presence.
Never in post independent recorded history has so many countries been in a defacto state of war that seems to have no end in sight.
Nigeria is already being dragged into Cameroons Anglo-phone crises with a potential to expand beyond the shores of Cameroon.
But if the crisis is expanding at all, it is in the opposite direction: into Nigeria, which borders Cameroon to the west. As of this writing 80,000 Cameroonians fleeing the government’s heavy-handed response have crossed into Nigeria. In 2017 ten separatist leaders from the Anglophone region were detained in Nigeria.
CAMEROON does not have an extradition treaty with Nigeria, but somehow Cameroonian agents stormed Nigeria, abducted them at their Hotel in Abuja and drove them back to Cameroon to face torture and unfair trials.
Nigeria’s action or inaction is not necessary borne out of weakness, but out of the fact that with its own security challenges with Boko Haram and armed bandits, Abuja does not want to get sucked into the troubles of its neighbour, and rightfully so.
With this knowledge Yaounde has not been averse to risking the ire of Nigeria by having armed Cameroonian soldiers crossing into Nigerian territory in search of Anglophone separatists and in doing so harassing Nigerian communities.
But there is a danger here. Close ties between Cameroon’s Anglophone regions and southeast Nigeria persist today. There are intense interactions between the populations on both sides of the border. Some have been absorbed into the local population.
It is in Nigeria’s best interest secure her eastern perimeter to mitigate the burden posed by the refugee influx and use its diplomatic influence on Cameroon to see if the refugee problem could be resolved and averted. The old sources or enmity, principally the dispute over the Bakassi peninsula in the Gulf of Guinea still persists till this day.
Emboldened by Nigeria’s passive response, Yaounde might be tempted to do something even more daring and stupid. This takes us back to the audacious operation Cameroonian operatives pulled and got away with in Abuja.
The situation involved 10 Anglo-Cameroonian leaders in Abuja. In that incident plain clothes officers (allegedly Cameroonian operatives) rounded up the group as they met in a hotel in Abuja on Jan 5 to discuss the refugee situation.
The plainclothed officers did not have warrants, did not show any identification and the separatists were not given access to legal representation. Nigeria’s lack of a broader response created two major problem than would have been the case if Abuja had taken a stance.
1. It sent a message to Yaounde that Abuja was weak and will do anything to avoid confrontation with Cameroon.
2. Stung by the perceived betrayal the separatists might view Abuja as an enabler of Cameroons crack down on Ambazonian reparatist leaders and seek revenge by choosing to form an alliance with Biafra separatists.
Now, there are reports that Neo-Biafra separatists (IPOB) recently met with representatives from Cameroonian separatist forces who operate under then banner of the Ambazonian Defense Force. These guys are not backing down. They have witnessed the slaughter of their families and friends, they are ready to fight to the end it would seem.
The Nigerian military has a zero tolerance policy for Biafra secessionist agitators. Likewise the Cameroon army has zero tolerance Ambazonian secessionist agitators. If the these two secessionist groups form an alliance, it will in all aspects represent an existential threat to both Nigeria and Cameroon. It will lead to two things :
1. All out civil war
2. War between Nigeria and Cameroon
The animosity between Nigerian settlers in Bakassi and Cameroon has always been frosty. Over 92 Nigerian fishermen were killed in 2017 after refusing to pay illegal fishing taxes. It’s logical to assume they will be more than willing to support or join forces with Anglophone separatists who share a common enemy.
Just a year after Nigeria formally lowered the Nigerian flag and handed over Bakassi to Cameroon, Nigerian gunmen killed up to 21 Cameroonian soldiers in Bakassi. In that incident the Cameroonian military source in Yaounde, said the clash involved “gunmen from Nigeria” and that 21 Cameroonian soldiers were reported killed in the fighting.
He added the attackers seized weapons and that eight Cameroonian soldiers were evacuated to Douala for treatment.
The then Nigerian defence spokesman Solomon Giwa-Amu said the Cameroonian gendarmes could have been attacked by Nigerian criminals but details of the clash were unclear. He was certain no member of the Nigerian armed forces was involved.
Even so, just four days later Nigerian naval troops were attacked in the coastal town of Ibeka.
This is how war starts.
With no chance in hell of prevailing against the central government of both countries, these secessionist groups might seek to provoke a war between Nigeria and Cameroon. Amazonian separatists, with support and coordination from IPOB might choose to use Nigeria as a base to carry out attacks against Cameroonian troops and flee back across the border and mix with the refugee population in the hope of drawing a response. If such attacks persists and more Cameroonian soldiers are killed, events may spiral out of control.
After getting away with several unauthorized cross-border raids on Nigerian soil and harassing Nigerian villages, Yaounde knows Abuja has little appetite for another armed conflict and will do anything to avoid confrontation. The temptation for Cameroonian troops to once again cross the border into Nigeria again, attacking towns and villages housing Anglophone refugees in search for the attackers and stroll back across the border into Cameroon, as has been the case on numerous occasions is great.
NATIONAL DEFENCE POSTURE
Nigeria needs a regionally focused national military strategy. Eleven years of “low intensity conflicts” have left the military unprepared to wage and defend against a conventional enemy, In such a scenario Nigeria will lose the war because for a decade Abuja has focused hopelessly in the insurgency in two localized states in the northeast, rather than the defence of the whole of Nigeria from land, air and sea.
With oil prices back on the high Nigeria can easily rebuild the military, re-equip its tank divisions and purchase 100 -150 combat aircraft to fill out the gap in comprehensive national defence. The existing stock of Alpha jets and Aero L-39 trainers can serve as a force multiplier, complementing the Super-Tucano in COIN operations.
But against an adversary in contested airspace these aircraft cannot outrun missiles flying at supersonic speed, they will not survive 10 minutes in a contested airspace or environment. None of the pilot’s will make it back alive.
The $650 million spent on 12 Super Tucano will equip the air force with two fighter attack squadrons of JF-17.
Nigeria might get away with a fire brigade approach to security against militants and bandits, but against a state actor or near peer adversary it will be the end.
With 21 Mig-21 fighter jets it took Nigeria 21 days to push out Chadian forces that invaded and occupied 12 Nigerian islands in the Lake Chad basin and parts of Borno. The Chadian experience informed Nigeria’s decision to acquire up to a squadron of the British built Sepecat Jaguar fighter, then among the most advanced 4th generation in the world.
Today having four F-7Ni interceptors for strategic air defence, air superiority and deep strike roles looks like a cruel joke.