As Nigerians, we should be concerned at the prospects of our fellow citizens being slaughtered in an avoidable foreign war for no other reason than (that) they enlisted in the army for a career.
While bigger and greater nations have gradually been retreating from the old idea that soldiers enlist to fight and possibly die in wars in any part of the world, such suicidal convention is today in those same countries checked strenuously by reasonable politicians, the media, critical student activists and other restraining influences.
To worsen matters, even the National Assembly, which should ordinarily guard very jealously its constitutional authority to approve Nigerians involvement in any foreign war has allowed itself (National Assembly) to be turned by Aso Rock into a mere rubber stamp without asking relevant questions. Indeed, in the process, the National Assembly was deceived on certain aspects of Nigeria’s involvement in the Mali war.
In genuine and mature democracies, deliberately misleading parliament can cause the fall of a government or at least the resignation of the head of the government.
President Goodluck Jonathan misled Nigerians, (including National Assembly) on his decision to join the military invasion of Mali.
When criticisms arose (also in this column) that Nigeria should not and in any case, could not afford the financial costs of such military misadventure abroad in the light of various more compelling priorities at homes, Jonathan claimed that the entire financial casts of war in Mali would be borne by the United Nations.
Yet, so soon after the commencement of military operations in Mali, the Jonathan administration announced its initial contribution of five million dollars to the Mali invasion efforts. Clearly, after such first instalment, there will be no limit to how much the Mali war would cost Nigeria. The real issue is not even just the cost, but the fact that Jonathan’s regime misled the National Assembly to secure approval for the war. Also in addition, Nigerians were almost chocked with the propaganda that the invasion of Mali was to aim at uprooting Al-Queda cells in that country.
The propaganda was also embellished further that Al-Queda was sponsoring Boko Haram, Nigeria’s menace for the past two years. There is no doubt that Al-Queda is a terrorist organisation, but Nigerian government reasoning for invading Mali on that score is patently illogical and hypocritical.
If Nigerian government is sincere that its military mission in Mali is to disconnect Al Queda’s assistance (through its Mali cells) to Boko Haram, why did Nigerian government resist America’s plan to declare Boko Haram terrorist organisation to warrant aerial surveillance of its activities through military drones? With the stalemate of military operations against Boko Haram, why has Nigeria not allowed ECOWAS or African Union intervention force against Boko Haram?
Another truth is that Jonathan military gamble in Mali is to distract attention from criticisms on the home front on many aspects of governance – insecurity, corruption, unemployment, crumbing economy etc. Nigerians probably have forgotten that our soldiers are still serving on peace mission in Sudan if not in Somalia. Till today, there is no official figure of our men killed in action. Last time, seven of them reportedly died in an ambush by those we went to Sudan to protect.
And of course, the whole world is aware that Nigerian military forces are held down by the Boko Haram insurgents in northern parts of the country. The more reason it is battling that Goodluck Jonathan, revelling as the good boy of foreign interests could still think it fit to involve Nigeria in a third theatre of war, which is the military intervention in Mali.
Nigeria’s military misadventure in Mali is coming at a time when world powers are withdrawing from foreign wars not only because of the high costs in fatal casualties and expenditure, but also because of the eventual futility of military illusion abroad. France withdrew from Vietnam. United State similarly withdrew from Vietnam.
Allied forces – United States, Britain, France, Germany, Canada all withdrew or have set a date for humiliating withdrawal from Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Even, the defunct Soviet Union earlier withdrew from Afghanistan. If such militarily powerful nations with supportive strong and viable economies could be forced by dwindling human and financial resources, without forgetting military casualties, to retreat from foreign wars, why should Nigeria, or better still, Goodluck Jonathan fail to learn from that bitter lesson?
Is it the case that Nigeria can perform better or reason less than those European and American military superiors? With sad memories of their failed military misadventures in different parts of the world, it is not without reason that, for the Mali war, European and American nations are limiting themselves to supply of logistics and training of African soldiers to go and be killed in Mali. The war in Mali is not Nigeria’s war. Malians should have been left to solve their internal crisis.
What gave Goodluck Jonathan (the impression) that Nigeria is or can or should assume the dubious and self-serving role of the policeman of West Africa? Gradually, Nigeria will eventually acquire the image of a mercenary country, unless this growing impression of ignorantly or willingly pursuing the interests of non-African foreign powers is discarded.
Gone are the days of Nigeria throwing its weight about as the big brother in Africa. Each country on the continent has come of age and should be left to tackle its problems just as Nigeria does not tolerate any foreign intervention in its affairs.
The excuse is being flaunted that Nigeria’s presence in Mali is on the authority of the United Nations Security Council. Yes, the same Security Council more than fifty years ago (1961) issued similar authority for the Congo (Leopoldville now Kinshasa) crisis. Over half a century later, the same Congo is without peace.
Did Nigerian soldiers serving under United Nations contingent in Congo not die? With Nigeria’s involvement in the Mali war, Goodluck Jonathan has the duty and we must ensure he discharges the obligation to Nigerians. This is not a war in which we would be kept in the dark as fatality figures among soldiers mount. On regular basis or as and when necessary, dead Nigerian soldiers must be identified, named and given military honours after informing their next of kin.
That is the standard in civilised societies. In Britain, the prime minister will make a statement in the House of Commons on the latest military casualty and pay tribute. Official government release will then carry the figure of total number of soldiers killed so far.
There is this false ego in which Nigeria is boosted by foreign diplomats that the country (Nigeria) with its soldiers serving under the United Nations, the Commonwealth, African Union and even ECOWAS in crisis-torn parts of the world. Nobody of such sweet-talking foreign diplomat ever mentions that is asked the heavy prize Nigeria pays in military casualties.
It should be different this time as we insist on such essential public information. On its part, it is not too late for the National Assembly to retrieve its image by insisting on constant information on any latest military casualty figures, for necessary tribute to be paid to those who lost their lives in such circumstances.
Nigerian misguided intellectuals and some parading foreign friends occasionally offer the logic that participating in peace operations in different war-torn areas promises for Nigeria, the potential of a world power.
Any more world powers than the United States humiliated in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan? Any more super-power than Britain cut to size in Northern Ireland, Aden, Iraq and Afghanistan? In Britain, Europe and United State, public opinions are expressed against their countries’ involvement in foreign wars. Opinions so expressed and sustained with public demonstrations or views forces the government concerned to withdraw from such wars.
That is much unlike Nigeria where such critics are mischievously, and like blackmail, labelled as supporting terrorists.
The blackmail by foreign interests must therefore be defied and ignored. If Britons, Americans and other western citizens criticise and oppose plunging their fellow citizens into foreign wars without being consequently marked as supplanting or writing in favour of terrorists, it is racist to group critics of Nigerian government’s involvement of our soldiers in foreign wars as supporters of terrorists.
If Goodluck Jonathan is sincere about the threat of Al-Queda through Boko Haram to Nigeria, he too should allow foreign troops in Nigeria to exterminate the Al-Queda cells in Nigeria. Otherwise, Jonathan is doing the fighting in Mali for his foreign masters.
Mali is not Nigeria’s war. By the way, if Goodluck Jonathan and his gang in Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) are honourable, there is no moral basis for their conspiratorial invasion of Mali. Only a year ago, Jonathan and his ECOWAS despots, expressed total opposition to the military coup in Mali. When did the remnant military regime become acceptable to ECOWAS impostors? The current president of Mali Dioncounda Traore was the same man who staged a military coup in Mali. The only seeming change is the appointment of a civilian prime minister.
The dog of ECOWAS going back to its vomit? Latest reports on the situation in Mali indicated that the Tuareg nationalists committed what could turn out to be crimes against humanity. That is unacceptable and they are not helping their cause.
That is about all. Otherwise, the report of Amnesty International on Nigerian government’s (military) atrocities in military operations against Boko Haram and suspected Boko Haram elements is another case in point. Nigeria cannot be pursuing military honours abroad while held down at home by internal insurgency. Mali is not Nigeria’s war.