The news that the Governor of Borno State in Nigeria has requested the help of neighbouring Chad’s military to defeat Boko Haram, came as a humbling yet welcome move to all those working for peace and justice in Africa.
That the news came around October 1st, Nigeria’s sixtieth anniversary of independence from Britain, made the irony all the more emphatic. Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, lamenting the raging persecution of Christians in the country, has even warned that Nigeria is at risk of “total collapse” on what should be a day of celebration.
It shows how embarrassingly short President Buhari’s efforts have been against the Islamist insurgency picking up rapid pace on his own turf. It is always a sign of incompetence for a state governor to request foreign military support to solve domestic troubles, not least when that foreign power is Chad, itself struggling with a similar crisis and boasting insufficient military power to tackle a dynamic and expansionist caliphate.
Suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked the convoy of Babagana Zulum, the Borno Governor, twice in recent weeks. It is clear that the devastation wrought by decades of failure to quell Islamist infiltration into Nigeria’s schools, villages and government is now spilling out into unrestrained aggression even on political leaders.
It is hardly a secret that the Nigerian government’s military efforts against Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP) and Boko Haram have been substandard at best. Nigeria’s security forces have even been accused of corruption in precisely the areas where Boko Haram is strongest whilst the International Criminal Court (ICC) are still expecting the government to respond on allegations of international crimes by its soldiers.
For years now, Nigeria’s military performances have been masterclasses in low morale, unprofessionalism, insufficiency and incompetence. For this reason, and given the urgency of the crisis, foreign military aid is indispensable for a President who has waited and procrastinated too long to end this devastation on his own terms.
Support from Chad is necessary for Nigeria to defeat Boko Haram and restore peace and justice to Africa’s largest economy. After all, the counter-offensive against organised terrorism is an international concern, as the emerging Islamist caliphate crosses several Sahelian borders and is politically subversive. But Chad’s help is insufficient without the vital non-tokenistic input from The UK. The UN and the African Union must also play their part by providing peace keeping troops and military support to bring an end to this long drawn out insurgency and insecurity. We are too late in the game to keep on passively discussing and reviewing the well-documented bloodshed, and too many Nigerians have died and will continue to if the international community refuses to show muscle.
The UK’s approach could be diplomatic, economic and military, combining the kind of human rights sanctions recently imposed on key abusers from Russia and North Korea, with military firepower of the sort currently set to be applied in Mali. ComRes polling commissioned by the humanitarian organisation I lead, PSJ UK, suggests such measures are not unpopular with the British public.
The problems of Nigeria are the problems of the world, because what happens in Africa and its largest nations rarely stays there. If you are not convinced, look no further than the tragic consequences of the tidal wave of illegal and often dangerous immigration into Europe these past ten years.
It is often said that if you want peace, prepare for war. Each sunset over the Sahel brings further confirmation of how true this is. I just hope that sixty years on from independence, Nigeria does not become subject to a very different empire to the one it became independent from.