During the Russia-Africa Summit which held in October 2019, President Buhari and Putin agreed to strengthen Nigeria Russian ties. The agreements cut across several sectors, ranging from New Infrastructural projects and expansion of trade and investment, to security and military cooperation.
My focus is on security and military co-operation, which has existed by the way for fifty-nine years of Nigeria’s independence, during the bipolar era and at the height of the cold war and the ensuing tussle, between the USSR and USA Nigeria maintained her ‘non aliened’ stance, cooperating with whom was necessary to pursue her goal of greatness.
President Buhari agreed to renew Nigeria Russia military technical agreement that lapsed within a short time, he said ‘I have directed the minister of Defence to work with the ministry of Justice to conclude this matter within the shortest possible time.’’
This military cooperation is expected to give the military hardware on government to government basis at lower cost as well as training of military personnel and modernization of armed forces and renewal of infrastructure and equipment which President Putin promised to under-take.
Insecurity has a lot of meaning but it boils down to an increase in a feeling of vulnerability. The merchants of war have one key battle to win without guns, they have to convince you of your vulnerable, slip into your psyche that you are in grave danger, that’s it. They step back and watch as you are propelled by your perceived weakness, in this state the insecure seeks strength even in the most unfortunate places and ultimately falls prey to the merchants who wait patiently fanning the ambers of planted fears.
As the toaists will say, weapons are like inauspicious instruments, not tools the enlightened. When there is no choice we but use them, it is better to stay calm. War anger greed are the foundation of loss in their opinion. But day in day out, from pronouncements to declarations of the looming doom Nigeria losses vintages of serenity, how can we become to become unemotional, reserved calm and unattached? How can we remove our minds from the confronting chaos and access the deep stated logic that is needed to confront our security challenges? How can we take back the wheels and become the ones weighting our options?
When dear president Putin whom I happen to admire very much as president of his people, a balancing force in world politics and an important man Nigeria should ‘befriend’ said 2000 ISIS (former) joined insurgents in the North East, I saw the situation from the above perspective. I also thought that given the world power’s policies towards ISIS, this means Nigeria is host to fugitives of movers and shakers of the world that can chase them down to our – to take their pounds of flesh.
We have been riled up. Charged and awakened to by a soon to be ‘very good friend’. The war is not local, the insurgents are not only our ill trained, crude and misguided citizens, their weapons will numb our present stockpile and make rubbish of what we spent so much buying and receiving from charitable nations, we are facing a menace with lethal capacity. With this pronouncement hope is lost that the insurgents can be overcome with made in Nigeria solutions. You cannot win this is what we were told by Mr Putin. The blazing embers of our fears received massive dose of verbal gasoline. In international relation parlance we were securitized in Russia’s Sochi. Our local security problem which requires political solutions was transformed yet again transformed to an extreme version of politicization thereby enabling extraordinary means to be used in the name of solutions.
If there are truly 2,000 ISIS members that joined the Northeast Insurgents, the machevellian Mr. Putin and statist and survival driven Russia did not offer this information for free to ‘help’ us against the menace. This critical piece of intel was unwrapped in Sochi where away from our home and even more susceptible to fear.
From the Beijing summit of the forum on China-African Cooperation to the Russia – Africa summit Economic Forum of 2019, as Africa stood there with all of her blessings of abundant raw materials of mineral deposits, natural and youthful human resources her situation has not changed much since the age of discovery in the 15th century, spearheaded by Portugal under Henry the Navigator, to the Berlin the conference of 1884, her situation has not change much.
It was then viewed as a land of abundant resources filled with savages, heathens and Idolaters. Since the 1st January 1900 it has become a vast land of immeasurable resources filled with unskilled half educate people. An Eldorado of then and now, flowing with opportunities to be milked.
In these summits, the Berlin conference happen over and over again the only difference is that we are invited to the tables to witness the slicing of the mighty pie (Africa) as against the butchering that took place in our absence in Berlin. The world has indeed evolved from outright use of force (muskets and guns) to subtle and benign force of securitization, economic threats, security blacklists, embargos and loan denials. But the destination and aim remains unchanged it is still towards the betterment of all but Africa.
If it were towards our betterment, the discussion would have been about patterning with us towards resolving the farmer/herder crisis occasioned by climate change, desertification and other environmental changes.
If there is genuine intention to cooperate with us to bring an end to the quagmire in the Northeast, Russia would discuss counter insurgency with our president.
The early stages of the Insurgency called for heavy bombardments from highly indiscriminate to highly selective a purely military strategy relying on ‘stick’ a Kinetic component of a government’s response to guerrilla warfare. This approach uses selective violence targeting supporters of Insurgents to deter civilians from joining or aiding rebellion, it is proven to have suppressive effect on insurgency. The President Muhammadu Buhari has recorded relative success using this approach.
Now we need to use the aid strategy by adopting the carrot approach. This kind of operation seeks to persuade civilians to support central government by delivering economic, political and development initiatives, that maybe either as direct aid, expansion of employment opportunities, and improvement of infrastructures. The aim is to use as little force as possible because violence can lead to the alienation of people from government, these activities combined with effective use of the media to counter the ideologies of insurgents and its spread. It can alienate insurgents from the larger population and make it easier for security forces to apprehend them. The only victory at this point, is winning the hearts and minds of our people.
In the end our ultimate responsibility in seeking a permanent solution to our security challenges was to figure out the an articulate non violent response to the quagmire and go to Sochi seeking cooperation on how to actualize them. We went instead to seek an enrichment of the tools of the unenlightened.
Hadiza Onido a Public Affairs commentator, writes from Abuja.