The military co-operation by member-states of the Lake Chad Basin Commission is quite commendable and should be intensified. No foreign country can love Africans more than they love themselves
Last week the United States government announced a donation of five million dollars in aid of Nigeria’s military campaign to defeat the Boko Haram terrorist group. Although this amount looks disproportionately insignificant, it marks a volte-face in the response of the Barack Obama administration to Nigeria’s anti terror war. All through the Goodluck Jonathan administration President Obama found many pretexts to withhold meaningful military assistance to Nigeria.
If there was any doubt that much of that posture was rooted in politics, it became obvious when shortly before the Nigerian presidential election in March, the US secretary of state, John Kerry announced that his country would re-assess its position on the menace of Boko Haram in Nigeria after the general election. It was a remark that left little to the imagination! As Boko Haram intensified its attacks on the northeast of the country, the Jonathan administration had reached out for foreign military assistance. The response of the US was at best ambivalent, indeed duplicitous.
From accusing Nigeria’s military high command of sabotage and corruption, the US descended to the all-time low of linking such aid to the repealing of the anti-gay law just signed then by President Jonathan. It was the kind of blackmail that no self-respecting country should take for whatever reason. As it turned out, it was the officials of the US government who were dissatisfied with this diplomatic armtwisting that leaked it to the press, an indication that the so-called misconduct of Nigerian military officials had nothing to do with US reluctance to assist Nigeria. It thus became obvious to all discerning Nigerians that there was more to the US apathy to the Boko Haram menace than its public posturing.
In the heat of the attacks by Boko Haram, the US government had announced to the world that it was committed to helping in the campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy Boko Haram. However, when Nigeria tried to purchase some US-made weapons such as the Cobra fighter helicopters, the latter refused. Even when Nigeria sought to make the purchase from Israel, again the US blocked it under an existing agreement that Israel cannot sell such military equipment to a third party without the US approval.
In the Jonathan administration’s blueprint and timeline for routing Boko Haram, the deployment of such high precision equipment as the Cobra helicopters figured strongly. But then a US government headed by an African American, ironically sabotaged it. Even though the US in late May last year pledged to provide 35 million dollars in military and defence support to France which had been actively involved in the effort to rout terrorists from Chad, Niger and Mali, it made no mention of Nigeria where Boko Haram had kidnaaped 200 school children. It was obvious that the American government was not really interested in helping the Jonathan administration.
When an exasperated Nigerian government then ordered the stoppage of the meagre military training being offered by the US to a unit of the Nigerain military, it could be understood. According to Nigeria’s military commanders it would appear that the US was not really interested in sharing intellingence but merely in gaining access to Nigeria’s sensitive military data. That sort of mutual distrust could not have in any way helped in the effort to defeat the terrorists.
The five million dollar donation, measly as it is, may well be part of the reassessment that Secretary Kerry promised. We then ask: what has changed? Was the withholding of assistance part of the armtwisting to make former President Jonathan lose the March presidential election as has been widely speculated both here and in the US? We hope this volte-face will not come at a huge cost to Nigeria’s right to make laws to govern its moral life. Anyone who thinks that Nigerians would accept a gratuitous reversal of the anti-same sex marraige Act must be in a cruel dream.
Where as Nigeria needs all the foreign assistance it can get in the fight against Boko Haram, it must guard its independence jealously. The military co-operation by member-states of the Lake Chad Basin Commission is quite commendqble and should be intensified. No foreign country can love Africans more than they love themselves. The African Union (AU) must ensure that the multinational Joint Task Force against terrorism is well equiped. It must reject undue arm-twisting by any outsiders with unwholesome motives.