The United States Africa High Command (AFRICOM) is based in Stuttgart, Germany. From this military base, America superintends over its interests in Africa, and it is from there that deployments are made to trouble spots on the continent, when U.S. military or strategic interests are threatened.
Apart from the intervention in war-torn in Somalia to contain terrorist Al-Shabbab fighters, U.S. troops have not been active in Africa. In the wake of growing terrorist activities across the continent and the challenges of containing the Boko Haram insurgents in particular, President Muhammadu Buhari recently called on the U.S. to relocate AFRICOM to Africa.
The President chose a most auspicious occasion, the virtual meeting between the U.S. Secretary of State, John Blinken, and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Buhari himself to make the demand for AFRICOM’s relocation. The severity of the security crises in Nigeria cannot be overstated. I guess the President has finally succumbed to pressure to consider direct foreign military assistance to supplement the gallant efforts of our military in fighting Boko Haram and bandits in the country.
The Nigerian military has tried. No doubt about that. It’s a well-known fact that asymmetric wars are not easy to fight, especially when a conventional army is contending with disparate, buccaneering forces like Boko Haram. It took Sri Lanka about 30 years to finally destroy the Tamil Tigers. Nigeria, with a less equipped army, has been fighting Boko Haram for close to 10 years, with no hope of victory by any stretch.
Therefore, given the paucity of resources to prosecute the war and the alarming casualties being recorded daily, the obvious choice for the President is to consider foreign military assistance in whatever shape or form. It is unlikely that President Biden would commit U.S. troops to any foreign wars. The likely option would be for him to offer logistics support, military aid in terms of hardware, intelligence, finance and the deployment of high-calibre weapons, reconnaissance aircraft, etc., to help take out rebels.
However, President Buhari should back up his request with an audience with President Biden and top U.S. military advisers to formally discuss Nigeria’s military needs. Our long-suffering army now needs more sophisticated weapons to confront the audacious Boko Hram fighters, who have proven to be more tenacious than expected. It is obvious that there are several fifth columnists on the Nigerian side who feed the terrorists with information about our military operations.
It is clear that, to defeat Boko Haram, we must first eliminate the traitors, spies and enemies within. There are many Islamists in the army, government and villages who are committed to Boko Haram’s agenda. The Federal Government knows this. Only a foreign player with the requisite expertise, equipment and experience could help our forces push back Boko Haram and subdue them with the deployment of superior intelligence and sustained firepower.
President Buhari should, however, make a bold offer and concessions to Mr. Biden to attract U.S. support on a massive scale. We need urgent, massive economic assistance, apart from military support. Nigeria could offer the U.S. a military base for AFRICOM to move into. That alone would show clearly that Nigeria is willing to forge a strong partnership with the U.S. and, by extension, the Western alliance. Nigeria needs the backing of the European Union as well, because most of its 28-member nations are our major trading partners and they also form the core membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the world’s most powerful military bloc.
The President and his military advisers should urgently come up with a proposal on foreign military partnership to defeat Boko Haram, which is already in alliance with Al-Qaeda and ISIL. There’s no reason for Nigeria not to seek foreign strategic defense alliance, if the insurgents themselves have done so. Boko Haram has international collaborators in the Middle East, where the Salafis sponsoring the global jihadist agenda are based.
Nigerians across ethnic, religious and political party affiliations should give President Buhari solid backing in his recent moves to woo the Americans to move to Africa to help fight insurgency. I am glad that Buhari, being a Muslim President of northern origin, cannot be accused of asking American “infidels” to come and “kill Muslims” like bigots in our midst would say. The situation on ground is not a sectarian war. There’s no religious war going on in Nigeria. There is no ethnic cleansing anywhere.
The skirmishes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers over grazing spaces is not an ethnic crisis. It’s, in fact, more of an economic challenge. Our political elite are only using the poor management of this crisis to create a bigger dispute by giving it an ethnic/religious coloration. There’s no pogrom going on in Nigeria, as some mischievous elements want us to believe.
What we need today in Nigeria is a concerted effort. The President must lead the charge by asking all Nigerians to close ranks and let us do whatever is necessary to defeat the common enemy, Boko Haram and other criminal elements, by whatever name called. The ball is now in Buhari’s court. He needs to follow up his call to Biden to relocate AFRICOM. It should not die there.
Weekend Spice: The time to know true friends is when things go wrong.
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•Ayodeji, author, pastor and speaker, can be reached on 09059243004 (SMS, email & WhatsApp only).