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Friday 14 December 2018
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Insecurity and Foreign Policy: What is Nigeria’s Grand Strategic Thought And Practise? — By Ebisike Ebube George

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Insecurity and Foreign Policy: What is Nigeria’s Grand Strategic Thought And Practise? — By Ebisike Ebube George
 Military analysts and geopundits are of the view that Nigeria lacks conventional military threats from countries contiguous to it, but then the Republic of Cameroon can be identified as one, but then besides the francophones, internal: ethnic and  religious crisis are the persisting threats that have shown to be Nigeria’s most potent bane, especially given its over 300 ethnic nationalities in constant friction from a lack of national cohesion. The coming of a National Defense Policy (NDP) postulates that potential threats are arising from un-remedied geopolitical issues propped by foreign and colonial influences.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, and it is a consumer by every measure of the word, importing all sorts from toothpicks to military hardware. Yet given Nigeria’s status in Africa as a sleeping giant and feeble heavyweight, it has a stake in the committee of nations, but the question begs as to what Nigeria’s grand strategy really is? Do Nigerians actually even know of such a doctrine? Or for those who do, what is their perception of how our nation’s leadership practices grand strategy in its most critically required security arenas? The term grand strategy is not common place in making reference to the way that Nigeria deals with security issues. It would appear “national security strategy” gives most people a better grip of the subject matter. The term is most preferred to this writer because based on the logic of its historical usage in defining applied strategic thinking, it was one of the earlier writings on grand strategy that came from Thucydides which gives the accounts of the history of the Peloponnesian War. This was an account of the war between the Peloponnesian League under the leadership of Sparta and their opponents the Delian League which was led by Athens. In later writings of Basil Liddell Hart, the military historian, his narrative of its use gave the term further widespread impetus. Opponents will contest that Nigeria is too ethnically dystopian, nationalistically uncoordinated,  with a huge leadership lacuna and militarily naive to have a coherent and continuum-based process of dealing with security and in that vein the use of grand strategy is felled along these above premise. But it would follow that no complicated society with modern norms under the forces of globalization could be lacking in every measure, modicum or large of grand strategic thinking. By 2100 when Nigeria is soon to command the world’s third most populated nation, it not out of futuristic lockstep to perceive that Nigeria, as a rising power has expectations to play a vital role in the global political system and it is therefore pertinent for Nigerians to understand the workings of grand strategy as well as how it is practiced in this data driven, social media proliferated knowledge economy. At a time when global order seems to be shifting and rather chaotic, with the coming of Trumpism and twitter diplomacy leading global agenda, there is also the rise of Russian influence and election meddling using the machinery of data theft,  fake news, disinformation and cyber warfare, as also there is the emergence of China militaristically contesting the instituted frameworks established by the West after World War II. Included to the mix are also India, Iran and North Korea to watch out for.

Grand strategy or high strategy as defined is the combination of all purposeful instruments, resources and capabilities in the form of military, political, diplomatic, economic, technological, moral and cultural, deployed internally and externally for extensive and methodical service of national security. My use of grand strategy here refers therefore to internal and external components of our nation’s security. Several published articles have thrown light on this area, explicitly describing Nigeria’s handling of internal security, especially focusing on its restive regions, separatist agitation, likelihood of proxy fighting by other States within its borders, also most recently (undetected) psychological operations, election meddling and cyberwarfare attacks by the UK firm Cambridge Analytica on Nigeria. It also perpetrated such attacks across the globe by acquiring data mined  by another party, all these due to the lack of optimal privacy and data management by Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook.

Security has an array of conceptions ranging from national security, comprehensive, human, cooperative, environmental, economic, energy, institutional and several others. National security is the umbrella of all others. Beyond the context of Nigeria, yet with it in focus, societies differ in the discharge of their national security. This is dependent on their values, the threats, capabilities not just in relation to their societies at the time but as much in comparative analysis to itself at different junctures of its historical journey. National security conceptions are transient. As the times may require of a state’s leadership, decisions will evidently seek to protect diverse values such as freedom to make and shift foreign and domestic policy, preserve territorial integrity, military stability with rival nations, a preferred political, cultural and economic way of life, socio-economic wellbeing and regime survival inclusive of other values. The interrelationship of different values will and can vary. It is implausible that in a world of different and constant wants all values can have the same measure of equality. A leader who absolutely advocates security, added to the development  of nuclear capability and isolation at all costs is at risk of leading his or her society astray and likely exposes it to large risk and pariah status such is the case of Kim Jong Un’s North Korea today.

The multifaceted threats to a nation’s values include but are not limited to other states in close proximity or those geographically far, small and/or large; non-state actors of varying kinds as separatist, revolutionaries, global terrorism cells, in sleeper state or in operation, irredentist groups, mafia organizations, pirates, cartels, religious organizations, , business enterprises; Nature itself in the form of tsunamis, floods, volcanoes, extreme weather, earthquakes, pandemics; Man-made ones as data manipulation/Cyberwarfare, disasters as pollution, global warming, large-scale industrial accidents as nuclear accidents and fall-outs etc. Overcoming insecurity involves dealing with threats in relation to the capacities available to manage the threats; for high/greater insecurity means stronger threats and weaker capabilities. Nations whose values are exposed to a large number of threats but has comparative capabilities for dealing with them is more secure than one with fewer threats but far weaker capabilities to deal with the threats. Leadership which indoctrinates religious leanings, bigotry and actions that undermine its citizen rights at the expense of its nation’s values is at risk of upheaval.  A society with its values at risk has at its disposal several capabilities available to its decision-makers to deal with threats it maybe open to, such as diplomacy, force, political ideology, economic power (e.g. finance/aid, traceable goods/services, expertise and scientific know-how/technology), leadership, cultural products: classical and popular, knowledge/intellectual (property) capital and moral mechanisms/arguments amongst other charters. Any leadership that knows its onions and given the duties before it , even if it has a scarcity of resources, needs to prioritize choice so as to have the capacity required to devote and  protect these values in principled consonance with the needs of the people it serves. Therefore the specific combination of capabilities that a nation deploys to deal with its internal and external security describes its holistic grand strategy. The Second World War was described using “grand strategy” to explain the United States and its British provenance as they and allies preferred the deployment of the persisting global order of today. Nigeria’s grand strategy if any or tenable today was shaped by its major civil war outcomes in the 33 month long tussle of the Biafra struggle.

In the business world, the term grand strategy is a generalized term for a broad statement of strategic activities. A grand strategy defines the means and modes of application to be deployed to achieve short term goals, long-term  objectives and achieve milestones. There are several variants of business grand strategies which can be customized for a specific organization and these include methods as concentration, market development, product development, innovation, horizontally integration, divestiture, and liquidation.  All these are embedded in its business plan.The above are expressions of grand strategy in the ever competitive and hawkish world of transactions across international markets and as they are impacted by political, military and diplomatic forces given the coming of globalization, the rise of nationalism, protectionism amongst others.

Military analysts and geopundits are of the view that Nigeria lacks conventional military threats from countries contiguous to it, but then the Republic of Cameroon can be identified as one, but then besides the francophones, internal: ethnic and  religious crisis are the persisting threats that have shown to be Nigeria’s most potent bane, especially given its over 300 ethnic nationalities in constant friction from a lack of national cohesion. The coming of a National Defense Policy (NDP) postulates that potential threats are arising from un-remedied geopolitical issues propped by foreign and colonial influences. The issue of border policy in the US as a campaign promise by then Candidate Donald Trump and a current matter of heated negotiations between the GOP and Democrats is also a similar challenge the Nigeria leadership has undermined in its policy pursuits. The over 4800km undemarcated borders with Chad, Niger, Republic of Benin and Cameroon provides an important vulnerability which needs the activating of adequate security and therefore mitigate a string of violations as perpetrated by the likes of Boko Haram and the violent killings by Herdsmen as well as nipping the  arms proliferation challenge which unfortunately has left Nigeria with 350 million SALW in its circulation. The social disconnection that may arise from upheavals internationally experienced in these contiguous state and may spill into Nigeria or vice versa as the Bakassi Peninsula concession to Cameroon in the Obasanjo era, which has birthed a crisis of belonging and the Anglo-francophone violence in southern Cameroon are blistering issues to carefully managed. These are sources of external threats to Nigeria.

In the thesis “Failed State 2030, Nigeria- A Case Study“, Occasional Paper No.67 produced by the team of USAF Colonels Christopher J. Kinnan, Daniel B. Gordon, Mark D. DeLong, Douglas W. Jaquish and Robert S. McAllum of the Centre for Strategy and Technology at the Air War College, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Nigeria’s vulnerabilities are laid bare for scholars of nation building, international relations and the reading public to decipher. The report deconstructs many an issue of Nigeria’s fractious ethnic and religious situation which is a recurrent recipe for failed statehood. The negotiations that historically led to independence of Nigeria were expressed to have been dependent on autographing the Anglo-Nigeria Defence Pact in 1958 as a means of providing a shield of security for the former British colony. The pact’s provisions included establishing a British Military Base in Nigeria as also training the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN). The pact was abrogated in 1964 due to opposition of Nigerians given the neocolonial aspects of its doctrine and that it lacked sufficient justification for its existence. Nonetheless the during the Biafra struggle and oil boom of 1967-1970, the British supplied huge air support and weapons stockpiles to Nigeria, stretching the balance of power in favour of the AFN who also at the time got supplies of USSR made weapons while  Col. Ojukwu’s ingenious  scant army got Chinese and Czechoslovakian weapons supplies. The economic downturn in Nigeria following the end of the war birthed a need to restructure, demobilize and reorganize all levels of the AFN and led to the conceptualization of the Nigeria Defence Policy (NDP) in 1979 which identified the nation’s core values, national interests and threat perceptions. The NDP housed a huge outlook of Nigeria’s foreign policy, projecting a tri-pong dimension of inter-relational focus on Nigeria, the Continent and Global Security and Peace. Nigeria’s Military strategy required for it to be able to engage threats on several fronts as well as it  participates in Peace Keeping operations on the continent and beyond. Nigeria’s Hausa-Fulani leadership majorly and its lack of tact over the years with managing the country’s socio-economic and political fault lines had led to the emergence of domestic challenges as ethnic and religious agitations, widespread poverty, state backed syndicates, huge malfeasance in government, criminal activities, civil unrest, HIV/Malaria and incremental proliferation of SALW has necessitated a need to review the defense  policy over the years to accommodate these unforeseen eventualities. The frequently talked about need for military improvement and professionalizing of its modus operandi led to the pursuit of modernization and transformation of the Nigeria Armed Forces (NAF) and was spotted and declared in the President Olusegun Obasanjo era which came to power in 1999. As C-in-C, he formulated a Grand Strategy for National Security which was to shift the NAF methodology such as to become an effective, nimble and defensive machinery from its erstwhile praetorian guard status. Another drawback of Nigeria’s pursuit of an effective grand strategy is the poor culture of legislative oversight of the Nigeria Military. The current issue of the President Buhari administration acquiring military hardware of $496 million from the United States to curb an insurgency, the government had ramped up propaganda that it had decimated countlessly has pitted it against the legislators and the public who are suspicious of graft in the transaction. The committees on Defense in the National Assembly are not coordinated and personal interests and other hurdles hound their effectiveness.

The formulation of a grand strategy also requires financing it with a well thought out budget during times of peace or when running a war economy in times of hostile engagement.  The public quandary and outcry has been how is it Nigeria paid Mr. POTUS  a whopping $496M for aircrafts that cost between $9-$14 million apiece for EMB314, A-29 Super Tucano planes numbering 12 without scrutiny and adequate constitutional appropriation from the Senate and House of Rpresentatives ? It remains baffling because A-29 Tucanos and other ranges of it are built by Embraer based in Brazil. Our former operational Dassault/Dornier Alpha jets cost $4.5 million apiece, unlike Saab JAS 39 Gripen which cost $30-60 million apiece and used by the South African military. Why didn’t we buy directly from Brazil? Was it that they could not meet our specifications if we had any? What measure of military hardware, training and knowledge transfer is the NAF getting from the Americans for this transaction? Are the NAF to effect repairs and buy spare parts themselves? Innoson Motors working closely with the Airforce had been reported widely in the media  and had been frequently applauded for have indigenous capacity to provide some  spare parts support to NAF in the repair of parts of the Alpha jets. And such local suppliers for a forward thinking nation should be given concessions and R&D support to grow its knowhow for the robust benefit of our own defense industry. The other questions are what are the other weapons in the cache being supplied to Nigeria from Mr. POTUS (President Donald Trump) that shot up this deal’s pricing? With $400 million a country can begin its own nuclear energy development program for peaceful purposes to ensure energy security and by extension advance its own military and technological R&D programs in any weapons system  sector.

Aircraft, Tanks and Motor trucks are regarded as force multipliers facilitating traditional military operational approaches and are the hardware resources which must be planned for in order to define an effective military capacity and in effect define certain aspects of grand strategy required to overcome the current threats of terrorism and religious extremism within Nigeria and beyond its borders. Why did we pay so much, all at once for planes to be supplied in 2020, and for an insurgency we need to have quelled at least three years ago at the coming of the PMB administration? My analysis is buoyed with the suspicion that someone sold a President Trump photo-Opportunity deal to President Buhari’s handlers based on terms not rationally thought through for the military acquisition with other addendum. The terms were accepted without interrogating the realities, as the premise above all was to shore up PMB’s image in his 2019 bid for re-election and create the impression he has restored ties with the US which refused to sell weapons to the former President Jonathan administration for counter insurgency threats. A further sticking point is PMB described the herdsmen militia debacle from the myopic Gaddafi training standpoint for a second time on the international stage as well as their encroachment within our borders using cutlasses. These are mercenaries who murder farmers and Nigerian citizens at the expense of cattle. He said they use cutlasses to cut foliage to feed their cattle, denying their access to hi-Calibre machine guns and sophisticated SALW. Grand strategy’s key focal point is to access threats and consequently act to annihilate or capture these threat  sources for intelligence gathering purposes so as to strength its ability to overcome attacks and other forms of unforeseen occurrences.

Boko Haram have been investigated to be weaponized from within our borders and they also are empowered with Intelligence by double agents within the military and civilian ecosystem where they operate, just as the herdsmen.  Today they have factions of Boko Haram which have sworn allegiances to ISIS and Al’ Qaeda, a very dangerous development.  Four US Special forces (Green Berets) were killed in an ambush at Tongo Tongo in Niger on October 4th, 2017 as they tried to gather information on Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi the leader of the  Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS). There have also been the Chibok and Dapchi abductions and several deaths of civilians, the police and soldiers, destruction of military hardware and the destruction of property and sacking of villages which shape a tale of the measure of desolation that begs expedient grand strategic action from Nigeria’s leadership.  It is noteworthy to add that the herdsmen with weapons are employed by Fulani bourgeois who own cattle that they graze all year round on their behalf.

Grand strategic thinkers have pondered further that what is the barrier to stop Boko Haram and Herdsmen by existing and other means from accessing these new weapons stockpile coming from the US? Especially at a time the PMB  government have called for an official mop up of weapons from the populace. There is clearly no rational strategic action and methodology in place to end the killings and more so 2019 may have its share of more bloodshed. Nigeria remains the country with the third most emergences of new armed groups worldwide and this bewildering statistic calls for the nation’s leadership and military hierarchy to activate a grand plan of carrot and stick to curb this menace without delay. The other undetected challenge is the unleashing of psychological operation which  Facebook is  responsible for by virtue of its lack of proper oversight to protect its subscribers data which fell into the hands of military contractors as UK’s Cambridge Analytica and the likes of Stanford Analytica aka “Pallantir”. These are an added danger as Nigeria goes into another election cycle in 2019.

The application of a version of affirmative action in the Nigeria Armed forces is in place to ensure the 36 states and FCT gain equally overall in recruitment and promotion of members, a measures of preserving Nigeria’s Federal Character, which is a failed policy in itself. The attempts by the Federal Government to reprofessionalise the AFN prompted it to seek the expertise of the likes of the Military Professionals Resource Incorporated (MPRI) and got on board the British Defense Advisory Team (BDAT), but all these efforts failed due to incongruences in the National Defence Policy (NDP). Some of them included poor development and sustainability of military strategy and doctrine, technology, logistic support, identification, planning and implementation as well as  financial malfeasance. The AFN is supposed to be capable of responding to the challenges and peculiar circumstances required to over the various militia who have taken up arms and use asymmetric warfare as their most potent strategy to unleash mayhem in several parts of the country. As of the last nine years the framework of the NDP has shifted from its Africa-centric stance to focus on domestic, West African and global fields of attention. The 2006 NDP was drafted to observe a policy hierarchy which encompasses National, Foreign, Security and Defense Policy, thereby seeking to achieve compactness, flexibility, cost effective resource utilization, battle ready and winning methods to militarily out pace and outperform the threat being engaged. Given the NAF’s huge expenditure and budgetary allocation, alongside its exposure to lessons from several conflict theatres across Africa, as also new training exercises, intelligence gathering capacity, introduction of ideological measures, use of infiltration and modern tactical knowhow, it is expected that the NAF should have developed its own Blitzkrieg formations deployed in such a manner as to have overcome the Boko Haram and Herdsmen threats by now. The AFN has had a contingency of radical events to contain and the ability to pre-empt and access these contingencies could determine the military strategy to be adopted against any territorial attacks coming by land, air or sea. The use of airfields and assets strategically positioned to provide coordinated data and information can lead to attacks that can threaten Nigeria’s security. There is a need to manage  internal security from processes as applying identity management, so as to identify aliens and foreign entities and these  can help curb incidents of low intensity conflicts carried out by those below the law enforcement and NAF radar, who can carry out strikes on the nation at any time. The AFN must so strive to achieve seamless communication channels with local law enforcement and reduce incident of military and paramilitary conflicts which erodes the confidence of the civilian population in their discipline and capacity to discharge their duties. Nigeria’s grand strategy with the AFN in focus must seek to have our soldiers equipped to handle blockades and raids from fifth columnists of all kinds, continue to deliver peace support operations, be able to secure foreign nationals and their embassies on Nigerian soil, be non-partisan in culture, orchestrate Search and Rescue mission and deliver aid in Disaster Relief situations. Intelligence sharing is a very key component of Nigeria’s quest for a functional grand strategy as this will inform our vulnerability from inimical actors.

Ebisike Ebube George, a National Security Analyst can be reached via 08033483176.



SAYELBA TIMES is an independent news group that focuses on original investigative reporting about critical issues facing all Niger Delta States including other parts of the world. Our contents are positive, creative, truthful and relevant.


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