A nation’s military remains a very important factor in the projection of its national power. Experts have listed core assets of the traditional measure of hard power (military) to include: ‘tanks, soldiers, naval vessels, aircraft’ among others.
The United States Department of Defence defines power projection as the, “ability of a nation to apply all or some of its elements of national power —political, economic, informational, or military—to rapidly and effectively deploy and sustain forces in and from multiple dispersed locations to respond to crises, to contribute to deterrence, and to enhance regional stability”.
As noted by experts, in addition to ‘geography, natural resources, population; military power forms the tangible parts of national power’.
When a nation’s is strategically assessed, one of the most critical and vital indices is its military capabilities —its army, navy and air forces; its capacity for development of local content for military hardware; its research and development capacity and its military industrial complex.
Nigeria as the most populous country in Africa, is naturally expected to be the biggest military, or have the most formidable fighting force in Africa whether in peace or war time. While this is what is expected, it may not necessarily be the case. For decades, defence and security experts have continued to raised concerns about inadequate funding to strategically position Nigeria’s armed forces to take its rightful place as the garrison of Africa.
Without doubt, Nigeria’s armed forces is peopled by well trained, committed, brave, gallant, good to go officers and men, ready to defend the country against any external aggression and internal insurrection on land, at sea and in the air.
Nigeria’s intervention in the West Africa sub region in ensuring regional peace through ECOMOG in Liberia and Sierra Leone as well as participation in international peace keeping operations around the world proved the bravery and gallantry of Nigeria troops in combat and when it mattered most.
The pioneering efforts of veterans of Royal West Africa Frontier Force who participated in World War II, the gallantry of officers and men who fought to keep Nigeria one is known.
It is therefore true that there has not been commiserate investment in terms of acquisition of platforms for the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Airforce to retain and sustain their effectiveness and capabilities to respond to threats.
In filling the existing gaps, the Ministry of Defence has a vital role to play. As I noted in my column, ‘Agenda for Gen Bashir Magashi’, published in this space: “while the minister would naturally focus on confronting current security challenges in the country, it is important that he does not lose sight of short, medium and long term needs to reposition the armed forces for future battles. To achieve this, he must focus on the core mandate of the ministry which is: “To manage all branches of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; to maintain a modern, competent , and professional military force for the protection of national territory, maritime interests, airspace, and constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
Hence, the renewed effort by the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi towards repositioning the military is the needed impetus to stimulate the Nigerian Armed Forces to play its role as specified in the Constitution and as .emphasized in the National Defence Policy (2017).
Speaking with State House Correspondents shortly after his presentation at the virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council on Wednesday, June 6, 2020, General Magashi said: “our challenges are being attended to with full force by the Commander-in-Chief. The minister told journalists what is known to many Nigerians: “concern about inadequate manpower and funding of Nigerian Armed Forces are hampering the effective prosecution of the counter-insurgency as well as internal security operations across the country”.
He said: “We spoke about our shortcomings. We talked about manpower shortage, inadequate funding for the Ministry of Defence.
“We talked about all the operations we have been conducting, the successes and failures of each operation right from Operation Lafiya Dole to Operation Tawase.
“The shortcomings of each of the operations were discussed and…contributions were made by members of the council and I think in no distant time there will be a change in the conduct of our affairs in the Ministry of Defence”.
Explaining further on the minister’s presentation, Special Assistant Media and publicity to the Minister of Defence, Muhammad Abdulkadri, said: ‘positive changes are imminent in the defence sector’. In a statement issued on behalf of the minister, he said, ‘the Minister of Defence… has expressed determination to change the modus operandi of the ministry to fast track attainment of set goals, vision and mission’.
Further, the statement said: “the minister’s presentation discussed, dissected and diagnosed the successes and challenges of each of the military operations…
“While appreciating the contributions of his colleagues, the minister said changes were imminent in the conduct of the affairs in the Ministry of Defence as catalyst to improving service delivery as well as to equip, train and maintain high professional standards in line with global best practices”.
General Magashi, who has the prestigious ECOMOG MEDAL having served as Commander, 15 Brigade of the ECOWAS Monitoring Group Mission in Liberia in 1992 and later Commander, Nigerian Contingent Force in 1993, in addition to many other appointments, is very familiar with the challenges of the Nigerian armed forces.
He has inside knowledge of the military, having being in the frontline at various operations at home and abroad; and the benefit of critical appraisal from the rear as a retired General but active participant in the affairs of Nigeria as a senior citizen.
His presentation also proves that the minister must have done a critical appraisal of the armed forces and the steps expected of the Ministry of Defence in order to fill the existing gaps.
For the Minister to achieve his desired goal of having a formidable fighting force, he needs the support of the National Assembly, as well as all Nigerians.
In the column earlier cited, I made a case: “In the age of hybrid warfare, Magashi must concentrate on having an armed forces that is not just seen to be powerful, but really powerful based on its Table of Equipment, TOEs, in Army, navy and airforce—an armed forces that is technologically superior, effective in weaponry and has capabilities for rapid response.
“Nigeria has lost its global reckoning in Peace Support Operations due to lack of Contingent Own Equipment, COEs. It cannot regain that position by following this trend of one-sided budgetary allocation to the sector. With all these glaringly present and emerging security challenges, Nigeria’s budget to the defence sector falls short of the United Nations’s recommended best practice of 3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in peace time.
As a regional power, a nation able to carry out its constitutional role as well as project its national power, this renewed effort to salvage the sector requires a holistic and more futuristic approach to defence allocation in order to leapfrog into the league of nations that spend more than 10% of their annual budgets on defence.