I have read your blog regularly for several years and never commented. With some trepidation I do so now. I am one of those foreigners who watch Nigeria with fascination and,I admit with some worry. I care about your country but it is not mine. I have spent many years in military service. I have seen yours in action around the world
I seek your permission to observe the debate and sometimes to comment. This is probably not the right post in which to introduce myself but sometimes the debate you host moves so far that it is hard to keep up with its components. In the hope that you will welcome me in the future let me make the following observations and invite your comments.
First, the Western powers want Nigeria to be their friend – as she has traditionally been. As a nation you have always tended to side with USA, US and France in the UN and elsewhere. The West values your support and would like to encourage it.
Second, the West wants Nigeria to grow economically because it wants to do business with you. It wants to buy your products (not just oil) and it wants to sell you its own. Wealth in the West comes from production and trade. An impoverished Africa is of no interest to Western powers.
Third, the West wants Nigeria to succeed against Boko Haram. No one doubts who are the good guys and who the evil madmen are
Fourth, the West has absolutely no interest in putting forces into Nigeria. The West is recovering from a long war, a terrible recession and huge debts. The West is fed up with trying (and usually failing) to sort out other nation’s squabbles. There is no appetite for any form of imperialism, direct or indirect. Just for trade. Anyone who travels widely in Europe or the USA knows this.
Fifth, the West will willingly help Nigeria but only on terms that are acceptable to its electorates. The West spends huge amounts of its money on aid and support. The UK for example spends 2% of GDP on aid; not military support which is an additional bill, but 2% on development aid. The recipients,Nigeria included, do have to accept that the support comes with some strings attached. Why should American or Brit or other taxpayers fund regimes that behave in ways they don’t like – corruption, human rights abuses happen everywhere and the Westerners that pay their taxes demand that these things must be controlled. Recipient nations don’t have to accept the help but if they want it they do have to accept the conditions. Would Nigeria send money to another country whose behaviour you disapproved of? Moreover, if you think that help from Russia or other non Western powers comes without strings attached then I suspect you are much mistaken!
Sixth, Nigeria in common with most nations, must recognise the difference between self-criticism and a lack of patriotism. This is a hard lesson for any nation. Without reasonable self criticism it becomes impossible to fix the problems. No one, no nation, is perfect. Sometimes the criticism of an ally is invaluable. The Americans told the British they had to change tactics in Northern Ireland; it needed an outsider to force the political changes that were so hard for the Brits to recognise when involved in the contact battle inside their own nation. Arguably the Brits failed to tell the Americans they had adopted a failed strategy in Iraq and therefore failed to help them achieve a better result there. Allies debate and argue because that debate is positive and we learn from it. Criticism can be the act of a friend.
Seventh, I am personally deeply impressed by the men of the Nigerian military I have met. You have brave, tough soldiers who face terrible risks against an evil enemy. You have an officer corps that is intelligent and well educated in a way that few if any in Africa can compete with. But. There are blind spots and your lack of equipment, lack of capacity to maintain what equipment you have and lack of battle training has weakened you terribly. You all know this (and I often read it here) but you will not like hearing it from me. Outsiders can help but you have to be willing to host them and to make compromises; that’s the nature of international relations.
Eighth. I am fascinated by the Nigerian desire to buy your way into victory in battle with BH with the purchase of sophisticated equipment. There is no doubt you need stuff: protected mobility vehicles for your infantry; decent communications systems from troops on the ground, artillery systems, sophisticated logistics, surveillance equipment – and a lot more. But high tech equipment is only useful when applied to complex systems. You had these once but I can see little sign of them now.
Sadly, I observe that standards of engineering maintenance are poor. Contracts for new equipment seldom come with long term support packages. A helicopter needs a log chain, maintenance, pilot training, tactics and strategic training with combined arms, engineering support. It’s about a system of systems. A drone needs all these things too and a really complex chain of intelligence analysis, command structures and active forces to process and make use of its product. These complex systems of systems take ages to develop.
Meanwhile, BH can be largely defeated by your Army operating with decent ammunition supplies, proper comms systems, working logistics support. Fast jets, tanks are all important and may help a little and you may need them one day to face down other state players, but they will not win this war against BH; their huge costs mean soldiers will go on doing without the basic things they need so badly at platoon, company and battalion level – like radios and ammunition and body armour and medical support and……
Sir, I have the utmost respect for Beegeagle’s blog. You provide a hugely important forum because you are thinking people trying to do the best for your country. I have great affection and respect for Nigeria. I want you to succeed. I want to see you lead a wealthy and developing Africa. To do that the nation’s citizens have no option but to ask the difficult questions. You do have friends in the West but they cannot be unquestioning and they cannot operate outside their own constraints and limitations, moral, physical and financial.
Bless Nigeria. I hope you will let me write more in the future.