Opinion

Tunde Leye: America’s Hypocrisy At Not Selling Nigeria Arms

I’m one who hates to be in a position where I am at the mercy of anyone to provide me anything. I cherish my independence and try as much as is within my power to be self sufficient, or at least have as many options as possible in order to ensure I can explore alternatives where any one option begins to impinge on my dignity as a person.

Our army has made a series of blunders with regards to how they simply allow Boko Haram to overrun their positions and leave weaponry, arms, ammunitions, equipment and I daresay intelligence documents intact for the insurgents to loot and stockpile for their arsenal. In fact, there are reports that Boko Haram gets a slim majority of their weapons in this way. We are also aware of the excesses of our soldiers. Even away from the warfront, we experience this daily in the cities where they are stationed.

But none of this justifies the undignified manner in which the South African government handled the cash for arms deal. Whilst the Nigerian government committed unmitigated blunders, there are better ways that the government of two sovereign countries who are not hostile to one another can resolve these things, especially considering the dire situation Nigeria finds itself in.

But if the South Africans were mischievous, the Americans are being plain hypocritical. I am not one of those anti-west, west bashing Africanist crusaders. But I recognize hypocrisy when I see it, and the American refusal to sell arms to Nigeria stinks to the highest heavens. There are no hostilities between Nigeria and America. In fact, until recently, America was the biggest market for our oil. Nigeria has a democratically elected government with a vibrant opposition and free press in place. We have diplomatic relations with the United States. We are under attack from a ferocious group which the Americans have designated a terrorist group with affiliations to other global jihadists such as Al Shabab, Al Quaeda In The Maghreb and more recently ISIS. We have military relations with the Americans, with some of our soldiers trained there. Before now, the Americans have sold us arms. It is therefore a wonder that now at the point of our dire need, the Americans refuse to sell us the arms we need to prosecute and win the war against Boko Haram. The very convenient and flimsy excuse for this is what they refer to as the poor human rights record of our army. This is an insult to our collective intelligence as Nigerians.

Today, in the face of the threat from ISIS, the same United States supplies arms, free of charge, to the Syrian rebels. The same Syrian rebels who have committed many grotesque and documented atrocities. The same Syrian rebels who are linked with the Al Quaeda terrorist group. These Syrian rebels are non-state actors. But the United States conveniently overlooks this because of the ISIS threat. But for a sovereign state like us, the Americans decide not to sell us arms. Or is the human rights record of our army in this democratic dispensation any worse than that of the Israeli army in Gaza? If we have friends like South Africa and America who abandon us in this manner in our time of desperate need, then we need to reconsider our friendships and perhaps explore new relationships.

I recall that we are part of the Non-Aligned Movement and this means we are not constrained to buy our arms from the United States. We are also not yet constrained to desperate moves like we made with the South Africans. We can begin to look to Eastern Europe and Asia for our weapons in the interim. It is important in our resolve to defeat Boko Haram. But ultimately, we need to build capacity to at least manufacture most of our weaponry within our shores. Nothing stops us from commissioning Innosson Vehicle Manufacturing Company to either manufacture armored vehicles or refit regular vehicles to be armored for example.

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I watched a video on Sahara Reporters where a Nigerian Army officer under fire from numerous Boko Haram terrorists, including an RPG, stood his ground and fought back. One of the terrorists eventually crossed over and engaged him in hand to hand combat. Not once did this soldier drop his weapon whilst gallantly defending himself, a professional to the core. My heart swelled with pride at the conduct of the soldier. This tells me that our soldiers are not cowards or mediocre and the numerous reports of deserting bases and towns upon Boko Haram approach do not add up. It is of great concern that soldiers of the caliber of the officer in the video would do this. The leadership of the armed forces has questions to answer, in the face of the performance in the North East. After the ceasefire debacle, simply put, Badeh should not have his job.

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Article written by Tunde Leye

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