Nigeria’s Military Campaign in Mali
The first contingent (NIBATT 1) of the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s proposed 1,200 Nigerian troops to be deployed to Mali as part of its contribution to the Africa-led International Support to Mali (AFISMA) to enforce peace or perform “limited combat duties” are now in Mali. Their responsibility includes reclaiming a country that had almost fallen to Al Qaeda offshoot MUJAO, and the Islamist jihadists’ rebels, restoring law and order and ensuring that President Dionconda Traore takes total control of the country.
The President’s decision to commit troops to Mali and the promptness with which the Senate responded show the leadership’s determination and seriousness to tackle the issues of Nigeria’s national security, considering the threats posed to Nigeria by the activities of Al Qaeda and the Islamists jihadist groups. It is a welcome strategy to check and eliminate terrorists’ activities outside your territory or so close to your boundary. Because it is not only difficult to provide the necessary logistical support for an operation so close to your boundary but also the costs in terms of human and material resources always bring to question the rationale for government use of the military force to dismantle insurgent activities, especially in the Nigeria context where government every action is interpreted based on sentiments and ethnicity.
Those who are bent on questioning the legality of AFISMA should look at Article 52 of the United Nations Charter for the appropriate and expected role of Sub-regional organizations such as ECOWAS world-wide. The relevant chapter of the United Nations Charter states:
1. ”Nothing in the present Charter precludes the existence of regional arrangements or agencies for dealing with such matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security as are appropriate for regional action, provided that such arrangements or agencies and their activities are consistent with the purpose and principles of the United Nations.
2. “The members of the United Nations entering into such arrangements or constituting such agencies shall make every effort to achieve pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements or by such regional agencies referring them to the Security Council.
3. “The Security Council shall encourage the development of pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements or by such regional agencies either on the initiative of the states concerned or by reference from the Security Council”.
President Dionconda Traore had earlier requested the United Nations (UN) to help save Mali. By resolution 2071 of 2012, the UN declared its readiness to respond to Mali’s request for an international military force. Mali also requested military assistance from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). ECOWAS acted swiftly by writing to the UN Secretary General requesting a Security Council resolution authorizing the deployment of a stabilization force in Mali under Chapter VII Mandate of the UN Charter. The authority was granted with dispatch giving the basis for deploying Nigeria soldiers to fight insurgents in Mali.
France responded with the deployment of ground troops, armoured tanks and fighter jets as they bombarded rebels’ strongholds. Other countries including European Union (EU) and the US are pledging men and material support.
However, I can perceive a slight difference between AFISMA operations in Mali and ECOMOG that was in Liberia and Sierra Leone. All the factions in Liberia conflicts were Liberians and ECOMOG‘s primary mission was to separate the warring factions. ECOMOG soldiers then were soldiers without enemies or favoured faction in the conflict. ECOMOG was in Liberia to restore peace and normalcy, so that its citizens and other nationals there can live in peace and security and contribute to the general progress and development of the sub-region. ECOMOG tasks in Liberia were therefore two-fold: protective and promotional, in the interest of all Liberians and mankind.
Compare this to AFISMA which is in Mali to dislodge and if possible eliminate well established enemies of humanity namely: Al Qaeda and the Islamists’ Jihadists; enforce peace and restore normalcy to a country that had been socked in terrorists’ activities over time. In the words of Sunny Ugoh, Spokesman of 15-nation ECOWAS, “The end goal is to take back the north and then flush out those elements”. He emphasized, “It is not just about Mali. It’s also about us – the region and the international community”. To France, Mali’s colonial masters, the seizure of northern Mali by armed militants posed a security threat to Europe. According to France’s Defence Minister, Jean –Yves Le Drian, “The President is totally determined that we must eradicate these terrorists who threaten the security of Mali, our own country and Europe”.
In his letter to the Senate, President Goodluck Jonathan said, “Nigeria is currently facing daunting security challenges and given its proximity to the Sahel region, the crisis in Mali, if not brought under control, may spill over to Nigeria and other West African countries with negative consequences on our collective security, political stability and development efforts”. The President reiterated the “Security Council’s concern on the continuing deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the north of Mali, which is further complicated by the presence and entrenchment of armed and terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and their activities”.
Having satisfied that Nigeria’s security was under imminent threat or danger as a result of the crisis in northern Mali, President Jonathan in consultation with the National Defence Council “approved the deployment of a contingent of 1,200 members of the armed forces to serve in Mali for limited combat duties”. After hours of deliberations, the Senate resolved to consent to the President’s request. In its capacity as responsible member of the international community, a prominent member of ECOWAS coupled with the activities of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, the president ordered the deployment accordingly.
Nigeria Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, agreed that “What is happening in Mali has great security implications for Nigeria”. In the interest of Nigeria he said, “Like America, we have to take the war to their home…take the war to the home of the terrorists”, he emphasized.
The Commandant of the Nigerian Army Peace-Keeping Center (NAPKC), Jaji in Kaduna State, Major-General John Samuel Zaruwa rightly said, “Peace enforcement is much more difficult than peace keeping”. Every conflict has its own context and character. The genesis of the Mali dispute, the scenario it evolves, character it exhibits, parties involve and the expectations have all combined to make it unique and if not confronted decisively can cause adverse spill-over effects on Nigeria and the international community.
Nigeria cannot fold its arms and watch events capable of threatening its stability, peace, security and development. It is therefore necessary to take measures to enhance our national good neighour policies, based on shared common interests and aspirations for peace, security and economic progress.
Nigeria must continually seek a role to play to strike a balance between the need to remain the Africa leader and the quest to conquer by trade. Nigeria is a special country with a special mission and it is time Nigerians think so and act so. Our military campaign should look beyond guns and bullets. We must look to foreign markets. Nigeria cannot have full employment and prosperity without the foreign markets.
Every of our moves outside the soil of Nigeria should be economic driven. The world is a give and take theater. Common adversary offers opportunity for leaders to look beyond tanks and bombs to examine core political and economic issues and take far reaching decisions. Besides, self-interest and profit have always been the objectives of international relations and foreign policies of nations. Tools such as trade, military power and politics have been repeatedly applied by the developed world to get what they want. We have witness military power assisting political power to serve America and Europe trade and profits interests. Those who could not beat them have joined them. Nigeria is not destined to be a perpetual loser in such a world economic system, especially if we order our priorities right and sort out our domestic policies to drive our foreign strategy.
The clear trend now is that the US is battling to rebuild a weak economy and collapsing domestic infrastructure under a heavy budget deficit and external debt (despite cover up). Germany is trapped in fiscal crisis while the rest of Europe is redefining their economic priorities; Japan and China are battling with the embarrassments of a surplus economy. Yet, Nigeria, despite her enormous contributions to international peace and security is talking no trade advantages but is engrossed in corruption and resources depleting leadership crisis fuelled by sentiments, ethnicity and nepotism.
Nigeria came into the international arena through Britain, as a colonial country, and has survived on tokenism. She took what was handed to her, and developed along the lines approved by others. It must not always be so any more. Today, certain developments have come on the scene that acts to Nigeria’s advantage. Nigeria is the largest black population in the world and an exemplary democracy in Africa. Her market is deep and wide. Her military prowess has been tested severally and is a force to reckon with. Her influence has grown and her economy is buoyant. It is time to equate Nigeria’s military position, when it comes to maintaining world peace and security, with her trading situation with the rest of the world. One position must be made to lead to, or lay credence to, the other.
Trade rules the world and no manufacturing country will ignore Nigeria. Our leaders can use this alone to negotiate trade partnerships. Nigerians are also very viable, not a dominant population. Trade liberalization and open market and free trade are giving rise to trade blocks and groups are seeking friendship. Nigeria has something to offer and must not waste this. The borders must be properly policed to enable the government decide what to allow in and in what condition and who is to come in and for what purpose. This is the only way the government of Nigeria can decide who her friends are, else, some banana republics around will use their ports and borders to decide who imports what into Nigeria. This is crucial and dangerous.
Nigeria is a big power within Africa, especially in West Africa. A combination of her population and wealth has ensured this. Nigeria stands in great stead to lead Africa. South Africa may be strong but it is not a black power due to the compromise of the Boers. Egypt may be strong but it is an Arab nation. In this new world led by regional powers, Saudi Arabia will continue to represent the Arabs, Japan and China for the Caucasian, US for the Americas, Britain and Germany for the Europe, Russia for the Eastern Europe, Nigeria will have to represent the black race. So Nigeria has a large and legitimate constituency. All we have to do is to put our acts together and this will come on stream.
Nigeria is today amongst the fastest growing economies. “Our GDP has grown very significantly, we are really on the part of becoming one of the 20 greatest economies by 2020” said the Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama. Nigeria was selected with 15 other countries based on the strength of the economy, the performance of the economy in terms of growth rate and the contributions of Nigeria to global financial architecture. According to the World Bank President for Africa, Mr. Makhtar Diop, “…despite downward trend of economies around the world, Nigeria remains one of the fastest growing economies”. With the increase of our World Bank share volume from 1,100 units to 1, 219 units, Nigeria’s voice is now louder and more respectable in the committee of nations; our request for special trade consideration will be highly welcomed.
Nigeria has often demonstrated power or relevance in global emergencies. Nigeria must therefore continue to assist the world by providing stability in Africa so that the West can trade well in Africa. That is all they need, protection and guarantee for their goods and they are ready to refund part of the costs; and give Nigeria some economic concessions to help defray other costs.
In the world economic system nothing goes for nothing. Nigeria must know how to articulate this, and must build the industrial base that will take up the quotas and retain the world attention.
Nigeria’s membership of several international minor power groups should be harnessed. Nigeria belongs to the Commonwealth. This body, made up of 54 countries began meeting as far back as 1918. Nigeria is a big player in this body, outside Britain. Nigeria can work for certain concessions including the reparation of her stolen wealth. Lobbying and persuasions will ensure that any country that refuses to repatriate Nigeria’s loot would be boycotted by the 54 member nations. If Nigeria will continue to be used to secure concessions for other countries, she can ask for such important concessions for herself too, or no deal. The same can be done in OPEC and AU. As a regional power, with a large army and big population, a huge market to go with it, Nigeria stands a big chance of securing bilateral and multilateral trade concession that will boost her economy. Arguing in groups as in the failed Boha Summit brings no significant results because countries do not possess equal attractions.
Our crude oil is a good instrument of trade negotiation. Anywhere oil, safe oil, is found it is bound to attract the attention of America. The free flow of crude oil has been identified as an objective of America’s international policy. Also as an OPEC member, Nigeria will hardly be discarded by the US. This is because, when everything else failed, it was OPEC that sustained the dollar globally by pricing oil in dollars. OPEC is the strongest pillar of the weak dollar and America is grateful. Nigeria is part of both the system and pillar that supports the dollar. It is therefore up to Nigeria to state what she wants within the world political system and show determination for it.
Nigeria is in a position to use its regional power to argue for Export Quotas so as to appreciate the benefits of AGAO, WTO, GATT, NEPAD, etc. Countries that seek our face will be made to lose something to gain something. Nigeria has greater chances than even the Asian Tigers because Nigeria is a frontline nation in the world political order. Nigeria’s regional political expenditures can then have a chance to bear economic fruits because we can then ask for things while we do something for our neighbours. Only then will unemployment disappear and the youths will have a sense of direction because often, someone gets a job. Social tension will reduce and a sense of competition in the right direction will emerge. For now, the only competition is in the evil direction: cultism, human sacrifice, kidnapping, corruption, 419, terrorism, robbery, assassination and so on. The youths of this country have energy and initiative, but these must be harnessed and managed properly for it to fuel a new economy that is both industrial and agricultural based. Our contributions towards fighting international terrorism should be seen as investments and modalities must be put in place to recoup same plus profits through trade expansions and partnerships. When the victory song begins to rend the air, Nigeria should not turn her back leaving the developed countries to share the economics of war but must endeavour to participate in the reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation processes not on the peripherals but in the mainstreams as a power in world affairs.
Terrorism is a mobile war. The violence perpetuated by terrorism is highly movable. The battle of terrorism has no fixed front or field. The entire earth is terrorists’ battle field. Al Qaeda and its various offshoots or network is scattered all over the world. Our borders are porous; our security is laze. Then, as we chase the enemy, with widespread tentacles, into their homes what happen to our own home front? What arrangements have been put in place to ensure the protection of Nigeria’s national boundaries and to ensure that events in Mali do not spill over into Nigerian territory sooner or later? Noting that as we defeat terrorism, trade will boom, economic activities will increase and profits will accrue.