It is no news that Nigeria is facing serious security challenges. The current spate of banditry and insurgency, mixed with kidnapping and uprising from secessionists, give both government and the citizens sleepless nights. It is most probably against this backdrop that President Muhammadu Buhari is soliciting assistance from the international community.
In a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Mr Anthony Blinken, President Buhari urged the US to consider relocating the US Africa Command from Stuttgart, Germany, to Africa. He stated that if relocated to Africa, the U.S Africa Command would strengthen ongoing efforts to check the security situation in the country.
His words: “Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes. The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider re-locating AFRICOM Headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”
The President also noted that Nigeria would enhance collaborations in all forms, with friends and strategic partners, to work together for greater security for all, which remain the most significant condition for overcoming the existential challenges.
Many Analysts believe that the synergy between Nigeria and her foreign friends would have been stronger long before now if not for the huge dose of cynicism and suspicion that pervades the country’s diplomatic circle.
The average Nigerian diplomat is moulded with the innate suspicion that some nations are bent on destroying Nigeria and taking away her power and influence in Africa. This has remarkably affected the country’s capacity to articulate her national interests in our relationships with other countries.
For instance, the AFRICOM headquarters that Nigeria is clamouring for its relocation to Africa today, would have been domiciled in the country since around 2008. When the US realised that it had functional combatant Commands in all regions of the world except Africa to advance its global military and strategic goals, they decided to fill this gap by creating AFRICOM to be functional by 2008.
Reports have it that the Americans thought of Abuja and tried to cajole the country to buy into the project under the guise of upgrading Africa-US ties for the benefit of the 2 sides.
Nigeria naturally became suspicious and refused to key in. Government Committee’s Report, while accepting the imperative of normal collaboration between the military institutions of both countries, rejected the hosting of AFRICOM on the ground that it would undermine the country’s regional leadership role, her non-aligned credentials and, worse, reduce Nigeria to the status of a mere surrogate of an extra African state.
The National Council of State, the generality of the foreign policy intelligentsia, as well as the government of the day all roundly rejected the notion of Nigeria, under any guise, hosting AFRICOM. so AFRICOM was headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany from where it has continued to operate to this date.
It is interesting to note that the country has so quickly reversed herself due to obvious challenges.
Now, the president of Nigeria is appealing to the United States to move its AFRICOM base from Germany to Africa because of the worsening security situation in the continent especially West and Central Africa.
One hopes that this time, Nigeria’s long-term national interests would be clearly identified.
Indeed even before now, stakeholders have been calling on the president to seek international assistance in tackling the country’s security problems. The President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Rev. Samson Ayokunle, had in February, urged the Federal Government not to be ashamed in approaching countries that have the capacity to help Nigeria to protect her sovereignty and the citizenry from attacks by insurgents and bandits.
Adekunle had noted that the lesson to be learnt from the recent series of attacks by criminal elements was for those in power to realise the worsening state of affairs and get motivated to seek help from the United States of America, Israel, and other countries with superior military power to sustain and win the war against insecurity.
Renowned writer and Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, had equally on 24 April 2021 in a statement titled, “The endless Martyrdom of youth” called on the Federal Government to stop “avoiding the inevitable” which “now hammers brutishly on our gates.”
Probably, until now, the government must have been swayed by the views of some pundits who have consistently berated the move. They claim it tantamount to succumbing to imperialist pressure which would diminish our sovereignty as a country, especially our place and influence on the African continent.
This school of thought has consistently argued that locating AFCOM from Germany to Africa would tantamount to the same blunder that informed the location of the Nigerian Army Headquarters to the Northeast which has not totally crushed Boko Haram. For this category of people, they insist that Nigeria’s problems are internal and so needs to be tackled from within. Tackling them from within, they opine, would include bolstering the military with all it needs to wipe out criminal elements.
They equally wonder how the challenge of insurgency in Nigeria today would be solved by the mere location of AFRICOM in Africa or Nigeria.
Those who disagree with this line of thinking are of the opinion that Nigeria is on edge. The current security situation reveals that it is not something that can be handled by the country alone. Calling for assistance doesn’t play down Nigeria’s place as the big brother of Africa, they insist. Rather, seeking assistance, they feel, can come from a position of strength.
World history reveals that even some developed economies are under the protection of some world powers. For instance, Japan used to be the second-largest economy on the global scene. It is still one of the top ten in the world. As it is, the Asian country is protected by the United States under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan.
The US is obliged to protect Japan in close cooperation with the Japan Self-Defense Forces for maritime defense, ballistic missile defense, domestic air control, communications security (COMSEC), and disaster response operations.
The same goes for the 1953 Mutual Defense Treaty that binds the United States and South Korea as allies. The United States equally has many important allies in the Greater Middle East region. Some of them are Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Afghanistan.
Regrettably, we believe we can always do it on our own and have rescinded revisiting our foreign policy. As earlier mentioned, Nigeria is on edge, and it is clear that she needs help. The reality is that the country needed help a long time ago, but was largely concerned about the belief that some world powers wanted the long-held prophecy of a failed state for Nigeria to come to pass. Part of these concerns did bring about what one would describe as cold feet in seeking international assistance up until now.
Many commentators find the talk of America’s espionage on Nigeria quite laughable. In the words of one commentator; “America is a country we’ve been begging to sell weapons to us; yet we feel they will steal intelligence from us. These lame arguments about sovereignty and espionage, are antiquated considering the security challenges Nigeria is facing”.
As president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari is certainly more privy to the reactions and counter-reactions on what such a move means for Nigeria’s sovereignty. But it appears that containing the current insecurity situation transcends polemics on sovereignty. Besides, where does sovereignty stand when activities of insurgents, kidnappers, bandits, and secessionists are already diminishing it? This is in light of a traditional proverb that says you only protect what exists and not the reverse.
While the pessimism expressed towards seeking foreign assistance is valid, especially in view of a first-world country that would certainly have strategic interests when she offers help, it is noteworthy that we often fail to define where our long and short term national interests lie inmost issues.
Besides, persistent talks about espionage do not hold water in this case. Arguments on espionage would pass for countries like Chad or Cameroon, certainly not the US. We have, over the years, been asking the US to supply us with high-tech weapons to defeat Boko Haram insurgents, still we insist they cannot be trusted. Some observers equally believe this suspicion and this feeling of arrogance is what has severed our relations with other countries who are always unwilling to help us.
More so, this suspicion and talks of espionage were what informed our relations with neighbouring countries like Chad in the war against Boko Haram. Now she is an instrumental force in the struggle.
It is only important that we make the necessary adjustments to some of our stance on things that might be aiding and abetting the crises in the country, which we might not be aware of. The fact that this is long-coming shows that it took a lot of thoughtfulness and tactfulness to arrive at this decision.
Most people do not see the benefit accrued to it, and the fact Nigeria stands a lot to gain. Apart from the socio-economic benefits involved, the US, known for her strong stance regarding terror, have proven effective in decimating terrorist strongholds. Nigeria will definitely gain substantially from it if the country’s interest and properly articulated and pursued.