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April 17, 2010

AfriCom HQ - Nigeria?

The US-Nigeria bilateral commission is a primer for AfriCom.
Nigeria is the arguably most influential country in Sub-Saharan Africa with the largest population of native Africans anywhere in the world. African economic empowerment would probably succeed or fail based on the impart it makes on Nigeria. With a quarter of the the world population of Blacks and with Africa still very much the worst continent hampered by mass poverty, employment and disease; the economic success or failure of Nigeria would be the most far reaching event towards emancipation of the Africans. According to a World Bank report 10% growth in South Africa leads to 2% growth spill over across the Southern African region. But this figure would be more for Nigeria. Unlike South Africa, the population of Nigeria is 100% African, its labour force is very mobile, more easier to integrate into the skills pool across the continent and vice versa.
Why AfriCom wants Nigeria
These may not be the only reason the US wants AfriCom in Nigeria. The growing threat of Al-Qaeda in Africa (Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb) now magnified by the Abdulmutallab incident and the recent religious extremism in Northern Nigeria; to counterbalance the forays of China (Asian tigers and India) into Africa; to protect its only supply of oil from a “non Islamic” state and its huge investments in the country (mostly through the oil majors) may be some of the factors drawing the US towards Nigeria and with it the need to establish an operational command on site to maintain a finger on that pulse. But should not Nigeria let them. Have Nigeria nothing to gain from that association. The US-Nigeria bilateral commission is a primer for AfriCom.
Why Nigeria should host AfriCom
Many organisations and international interests might question the establishment of US AfriCom in Africa without regard to the needs and circumstances of African countries, but AfriCom-Nigeria partnership is the most potent combination that is able to deliver both military (and consequently economic) stability to Africa. The powerful and dominant role of Nigeria in peacekeeping in Africa (especially its sacrifices in ECOWAS military arm ECOMOG), its understanding and involvement in training other west African countries military, makes the Nigerian military not only very influential (in West Africa at least) but also gives it the vital local knowledge and respect needed by the US military to achieve any end in the complex African arena. And believe me African politics is a dangerous mix for any foreign military. There’s a curious mix of politics, religion, ethnicity and economic variables in Africa.
For AfriCom to succeed a country like Nigeria must be involved right at the top of the strategic and tactical levels of its operations. If AfriCom was there or if the US was more supportive of Nigeria in the past, ECOMOG would have been more successful in countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Having AfriCom in Africa is not about neo-colonization. US military bases are had by many powerful and fiercely independent countries including Germany and Japan. But it would be subjugating if Nigeria (or Africa) fails to engage the US commanders and the politicians (including the  US President and secretary of state). Nigeria and African leaders must make inputs in US engagements and policies for Africa even now before AfriCom is established in Africa. There is no better country to lead that thrust than Nigeria.
The Nigerian military needs a role model. It needs to take its place as a professional fighting force. A good way to achieve this is to have it associated with other professional and stable military. The US military would be excellent for this job. AfriCom will establish a corporation that will help stabilise the Nigerian military after it emerged from a brushing political era. It may even help guarantee that military coups are safely eliminated not only in Nigerian but elsewhere in Africa.
Al-Qaeda has rapidly cast itself as an organization against the rest of the world and against all religions, races, and people. Nigerian cannot afford to sit on the fence neither can it pretend to be able to contain this threat on its own terms. The best option is to align itself with the allied forces, which is what most of the Arab world has done.
Whether you like it or not when the US is ready they would get a base in Africa. There are many countries in Africa that would very easily host anything as long as it pays the bill. Ethiopia would also most likely host the command headquarters anytime. But it is to the best interest of Nigeria to not let US policies towards and affecting Nigeria to be routed through Addis Ababa and without primarily consulting Nigeria. In other words the sought of thing that is happening in Pakistan now could happen in Nigeria. Drones would infiltrate the North of Nigeria and take out extremists or suspected Al-Qaeda members or in the South to take out militants and our military would probably read about it in the news.
And come to think of it, of any Western country that Nigeria could be allied with the US is the best, most liberal, and most accommodating. Many Nigerians are “equal” citizens already in the US. But this cannot be said of any Nigerian in any European country including Britain. Europe is largely native country and would easily differentiate between its “citizens” and “citizens” from other nationalities.
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