Today I am lending my platform to Fola Aina, a policy analyst and advocate of good governance and youth development. Hear what he has to say-
RETHINKING NIGERIA’S AFROCENTRISM: THE IMPERATIVE FOR EXPANSION IN THE WAKE OF TERRORISMOn March 28th, 2015, Nigerians came out en mass to vote in the country’s presidential elections which had been shifted from its previous date. The news making the rounds was that the elections had to be rescheduled to allow for time to oust the dreaded Boko Haram sect in the North Eastern part of the country. Nigerians has since shown the world that their collective will surpasses the acts of misguided terrorists who hide under the cover of innocent and unarmed citizens. The elections have since been credited as being one of the most credible in the history of Nigeria’s democratic sojourn.
From Mali to Kenya, and across the rest of the African continent, the threat posed by terrorism remains real. Its effects have left devastating and irreversible scars on inhabitants of local communities and city centres, across the continent. While terrorism remains universal, it has become a major issue to an increasing number of African governments, thereby impeding efforts aimed at fast-tracking economic growth and development on the continent. With an ever increasing population and an emerging economy, Nigeria has an undeniable responsibility in providing the much needed leadership in dismantling, decapitating and ultimately destroying organised terrorism on the continent.
Before now, Nigeria’s foreign policy took on a more vibrant and assertive posture in West Africa. Nigeria was at the forefront of efforts aimed at ensuring peace and security in the sub region. These efforts were complimented by the active participation of Nigerian troops, adjudged to be one of the best in the world, in UN peacekeeping missions. However, domestic challenges emanating from the Niger Delta region a few years into the forth republic, in the form of armed militancy, brought on Nigeria, the need to re-evaluate and cut short on her Afrocentric adventurism in West Africa.
Some are of the opinion that Nigeria still has a lot of issues to content with at home and as such, cannot afford the luxury of stepping up for those who seek her wealth of experience in peace building and peacekeeping. While these postulations hold true, they should not negate the necessity of timely engagement, taking into account the likelihood of looming domino effects resulting from negligence. Make no mistakes; Nigeria’s failure to demonstrate and follow through on her commitments to providing actionable leadership in Africa is a grave strategic miscalculation on the continent. Nigeria must demonstrate its collective resolve in rooting out terrorism within her boarders while intensifying concrete steps directed at suffocating the menace posed by terrorist groups on the continent.
The attack in Garrisa, Kenya in recent times, by a group of armed terrorists which left 147 people dead is a constant reminder that all efforts need to be on deck in crippling terrorist activities on the African continent. In pursuing this objective, Nigeria through trust building, should seek for additional ways in which she can match her diplomatic rhetoric with demonstrable actions. It is not enough to ‘pledge support’ to our friends and allies as they struggle with the devastation that accompanies acts of terror. For instance, Nigeria should be able to, and politically willing, to consolidate on her diplomatic relations with Kenya, by sending a small contingent of Special Operations Forces, alongside a medical team, equipment and logistics as a ‘show of support’ to Kenya.
Nigeria must also strengthen the collective resolve of her regional partners such as Chad, Cameroun, and Benin, in dislodging terrorism. It is unacceptable and unfortunate that while we were once the envy of these countries, we have had to almost completely depend on them for our external security. The need to embark on the task of rebuilding Nigeria’s military apparatus has never been more urgent. No country should have to suffer in the hands of terrorists.
No efforts should be spared in mobilizing resources aimed at establishing a truly formidable 21st Century military force. Lives are at stake. We should therefore give this the due attention it deserves. We should never seat back, with our arms folded while innocent lives suffer in the hands of barbaric miscreants who call themselves terrorists. Freedom is a universal human right which must be respected. The kidnapping of over 200 girls in Chibok community, exactly a year ago is a painful reminder of the need to vigorously pursue the safety of lives and property in the wake of growing terrorism both domestically and internationally.
This is call to all and should not only be heeded by African leaders, but also African citizens as well. We all have a collective responsibility to ensure that we stand up for the most vulnerable in our midst.
Follow Fola on Twitter @folanski