Is foreign intervention a Nigerian solution?


There have been calls from state and non-state actors in several parts of Nigeria, to the government of Nigeria to put an end to acts of terrorism from the dreaded Boko Haram by any means necessary, even if it means ‘foreign boots on the ground’.  However, with the intervention track records of Western forces in other countries of the world, is foreign intervention in Nigeria a valid solution?

The images are fresh when one takes a look at the outcome of foreign intervention in several countries of the world. For the United States, which President Goodluck Jonathan has stated during a recent media chat the government will partner to improve security against insurgency, one looks at the aftermaths from Vietnam to Iraq, to Afghanistan and Latin America. The scramble for oil was long and brutal, but longer and worse still may be the scramble for Africa.

Yet one may ask, Can Nigeria solve its security problems by itself? Perhaps the question answers itself; acts of violence by the Boko Haram group have clearly transcended proportions manageable by the government forces in Nigeria. Early this year, Kashim Shettima the Governor of Borno state where the insurgency began called on President Goodluck Jonathan to revisit military resources as engagements with the group indicated that the group had superior combat resources. A fact which Boko Haram demonstrated by earlier coordinated attacks on security facilities in Nigeria such as the attack on Giwa barracks in Maiduguri, Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji in Kaduna state and a bombing in Sani Abacha Barracks in the capital city of Abuja. These events show that there is urgent need for Nigeria to rethink its approach to these security challenges.

In truth, Western nations have always been present in countries of Africa and this reflects a commitment to maintaining global interests. Intelligence training in Congo, training of special operators in Cameroon and an East African Special Operations in Zanzibar is perhaps the least of activities being carried out by the United States in Africa. Nonetheless, the task to curb the activities of Boko Haram is one which may transcend having military drones sweep mass amounts of land or the provision of intelligence, training and weapons inventory updates for the Nigerian military. Actual boots on the ground may be required. And having western boots on the ground will clearly not be without a social and political price.

Northern Nigeria, although maintaining a solid relationship with Britain over the years since independence, remains a region with little or not enough trust for western nations. A suspicion, which is largely a matter of religious affiliations. The northern hemisphere in Nigeria which is predominantly Islamized has shown a significant amount of adaptation to middle-east style religious radicalism and conservative group-think relationships. Northerners have always displayed an affinity to relationships with countries in Asia and the middle-east and visits to countries like Saudi Arabia during yearly pilgrimages; which have helped to maintain relationships with middle-east regions.

As real as these security problems are, there will also be real solutions to match them. The North/South relationship is a strained one. Foreign intervention on Northern Nigerian which may seem necessary in the wake of the insecurity challenges, in the long run, may be no ordinary change to the political future of Nigeria. Especially because this cannot be devoid of the political undertone it represents, and that is; a President from Southern origin being responsible for such a development.

No matter what approach Nigeria takes to its security problems, natural consequences will follow. War begets war, victims become dependent, reality crushes people in denial, and cynics contribute nothing. And if those directing the affairs of the country keep doing the same things they have done, hoping that this time the results will be different, then that would be blatantly refusing to face reality.

Albert Einstein reportedly said, “

The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them”.


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