In the 1960’s there were two powers in West Africa- France and Nigeria. During the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) France, never short of ingenuity had one goal in mind, the destruction of the other power in the region. In 1968 France publicly declared its support for Biafran self-determination. But officially recognising Biafra wasn’t good enough, France gave moral and diplomatic support. That also was not good enough. France aided the Biafran separatists with the supply of weapons flown in via Libreville (Gabon) and Abidjan (Ivory Coast). France supported Biafra to protect its resource poor former colonies from Nigeria’s influence and aquire an economic foothold in the oil rich Niger Delta.
This infuriated the British government. London was frustrated by France’s destabilizing involvement in one of its colonies and set about to offer support to Nigeria, creating tensions in Anglo-French relations already troubled by Charlse de Gaulle’s rejection of Britains application for membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1963 and 1967. From now on, Britannia will be Nigeria’s greatest ally.
Five years after the civil war ended, along with English speaking neighbours, Nigeria created an entirely new regional order with a set of democratic and economic agreement that has endured to this day -ECOWAS. Nigeria built a security apparatus and military machine to protect its member States and was committed to maintaining the economic and military alliance of the Anglophone Bloc via its military might. Efforts by the French to create a vacum via military adventurism by its vassal Chad on Nigerian territory was punitively crushed
Now again, the prospect of a vacum in the regional order is emerging. The 35 year old consensus on the role of Nigeria’s military as the central pillar of security and stability in West Africa is under threat. Unlike in previous past attempts, this one is as a consequence of a gradual diminution of Nigeria’s power. France, along with her vassals have been working for years to reduce or weaken Nigeria’s leadership role in the region by stoking internal conflicts designed to keep Nigeria distracted.
Carrying out combat operations in different parts of the country simultaneously has stretched the Nigerian military, especially the army too thin to the point its been forced to recall hundreds of officers out of retirement. Never in its 57 year history has Nigeria been this vulnerable to external attack. If I was an enemy, now will be the best time to strike, make quick gains and call for a diplomatic solution.
Need to modernize.
The Nigerian military of today is not the same military that existed in the 80’s. It doesn’t have the 4th Gen strike aircrafts it had in the 80’s on which to rely on to protect its airspace. It is barely just emerging from a decade long conflict that has worn it out. The threats along Nigeria’s periphery is increasing. To counter Nigeria’s air superiority the Chadians are aquiring advanced air defence systems that are a generation ahead and superior to what you will find in the Nigerian Army arsenal. The French and Americans have military surveillance bases in Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
The threats posed by these surface to air missile system must be countered if the Nigerian Air Force is to have any relevance in the future.
Overhead administrative and personnel costs have grown to an unsustainable level. Nigeria spends $5.02 billion in defence annually, half of this goes into administrative costs, another %20 goes into retirement pension, %10 is embezzled (if we are lucky ), how much is left in the budget for new equipment?
Too Big To Fail.
The centrality of Nigeria’s power in the region cannot be overemphasized. Nigeria cannot withdraw or collapse without sucking the air out of West Africa, and by extension all of black Africa. Nigeria’s economic and military power have been the central structure that holds ECOWAS together. Whether its the size of the Nigerian economy, its entrepreneurial populace, its capacity to innovate, its cultural influence, its music, movies, or the contribution of Nigeria’s military power to the stability and peace in ECOWAS, the present Order in Africa has ” Made in Nigeria” written all over it.
I am not being uber patriotic here. This is not a joke. Start taking away the fundamental building blocks of the West African order, particularly the Nigerian Army, and the results are all but certain to be major political instability, increased conflicts, economic dislocation and ultimately a threat to democracy in the region in itself. The power vacum will be filled up by France, and when that happens we can kiss democracy in the region goodbye. It is no coincidence that %80 of ex French colonies are not democratic. They are forced to pay colonial taxes.
Nigeria’s security, political and economic architecture were instituted largely to deter France and its vassals and ensure that the Anglophone countries are economically and politically free. To achieve this Nigeria has had to deter major wars, contain local conflicts in ECOWAS member States, create an environment in which a community of democratic nations emerged,grown and flourished and secured billions of dollars of investments. It will be a tragedy of epic proportions that ally this should be put at risk.