No leg’s too short to reach the ground. -Lyndon Irving
In 1962, France conducted a nuclear test in the deserts of its former colonial territory, Niger. Nigeria and a few other nations were outraged. Nigeria took very strong steps to protest, including a suspension of diplomatic relations with France. Niger Republic was made to feel the anger of a very intimate neighbour, but is doubtful if it could have done anything about it. In 1964, Israel gave a few million dollars as foreign aid to Nigeria. Although foreign policy was in the exclusive list, the Northern Regional government decided it was not going to accept any part of the aid for political reasons. The rest of the country shared the aid. During the Nigeria civil war, France worked frantically to whip up support for the rebel cause, and having recognized Biafra itself, succeeded in getting a few African countries to support the breakup of Nigeria. It lost its cause, and promptly found new opportunities in the Nigerian economy and market that soon became one of its largest in Africa.
From the early 1970s until the successful establishment of ECOWAS as a regional economic grouping, Nigeria and Togo run into French resistance at every turn. Nigeria in particular was seen by France as a major potential rival in francophone Africa; and Nigeria in turn viewed France as a major obstacle in the attempt to fully decolonize West Africa. In 1975, Nigeria took momentous decisions to challenge European support for apartheid, and flexed its muscles in a historic series of events that dealt fatal blows to a regime that drew its life blood from Britain, France, Holland and a few others. Nigeria rallied Africa around a resistance against a system that negated every element of our humanity. The system crashed a few years later not only in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau, but in its most fortified enclave, South Africa.
Nigeria had registered its presence and credentials as a leader, and the world took notice, and accorded it its place. It needed no one’s approval, resources or support to rally West African countries to contain rebellions and civil wars in Chad, Liberia and Sierra Leone. It spent huge amounts of its own resources, and many of its men and women made the supreme sacrifice to secure the survival and peace of many African countries.
Then came the crash. Nigeria took its eyes off the ball, and virtually lost all the grounds it had acquired. A series of domestic political setbacks beginning with the early 1980s focused attention of leaders only on domestic issues. The steady decline in our ability to manage internal political developments reflected poorly on the international level. Nations which once looked up to this huge country with massive resources and potentials to become a world power walked away, or joined the queue in exploiting its collapse. African nations lamented the decline of this once awesome African nation, and promptly took up the space it left. The rest of the world moved in to cash in on its corruption and serial incompetence in managing its affairs, and peddled doomsday scenarios about its future. Far from developing into a world leader, Nigeria declined in stature and relevance, and while its oil and gas were still valuable, its people were kept at arm’s length by the rest of the world.
The nations in ECOWAS which used to look up to Nigeria for leadership and periodic economic support began to court old friends and masters. A number of them quickly re-wrote their history, expunging references to the heroic exploits of Nigerians in preserving their nations, ridding them of horrible dictators and ending civil wars.
A nation of 170million people, with resources and potential to become a leading world economic power became content to be ignored or pushed around by smaller nations, or others who previously trembled over its anger on matters that affected Africa. It is now at a stage when the British Prime Minister will announce plans to investigate how its leaders used the trillions of dollars it earned. It is the nation which is begging, knees on the ground, the United States, Britain and everyone else who cares to look in, for help to deal with a home-grown insurgency, even though they all give the same response: look inwards, the answers are there. This is the nation which a few years ago joined the rest of Africa in resisting the creation of bases for operations of a United States Africa High Command (AFRICOM); but is now asking the same US for any help to deal with a domestic security threat.
This nation, without muscle, vision or respect, is now a cheerleader for a French blitz in Mali. Its troops will sacrifice lives and limbs, earn a few dollars, and probably be allowed a few crumbs in equipment, but they will only legitimize French and its allies’ re-colonization of Africa. This is the nation which is now a spectator in an unfolding drama which will expand the threats in Africa, and secure strategic, long-term interests of western nations.
The drones which will have bases in Niger Republic will make profound statements over the abject impotence of Nigeria in influencing affairs around its citizens and Africans. They will tense up and complicate an already delicate security situation. They represent intolerable threats to the remnants of our territorial integrity and sovereignty, and they should not be allowed to stay. The government of Niger Republic should be prevailed upon to review its agreement to provide bases for U.S drones. If the administration of President Jonathan is unable or unwilling to this, citizens should raise their voice until it does. We may be sinking as a nation, but we have not hit the bottom yet.