By: Philip Agbese
In a major boost to his global acceptability, President Muhammadu Buhari had a phone call with President of the United States, Donald J Trump. That meeting has reversed years of travesty as Trump committed to helping Nigeria’s military by the hardware needed for fight fighting terrorism. Not only has his predecessor refused to sell arms to Nigeria, he also blocked other willing nations from doing so, citing right abuses that were never proven beyond reasonable doubts.
It is rightly an endorsement of the accolades that have come the way of President Buhari. His spokesperson, Femi Adesina revealed that “President Trump encouraged President Buhari to keep up the good work he is doing, and also commended him for the efforts made in rescuing 24 of the Chibok girls and the strides being taken by the Nigerian military. President Trump assured the Nigerian President of U.S. readiness to cut a new deal in helping Nigeria in terms of military weapons to combat terrorism.”
The travesty under the previous US government of Barack Obama was one in which weapons were handed to terrorists affiliated rebel groups in Syria and the Middle East and a sovereign nation like Nigeria is denied the right to buy military equipment to fight terrorists. More worrisome are reports that some of the weapons given to the rebels find their way into the arsenal of Boko Haram and made defeating the group take longer than necessary.
Further to blocking the sales of weapons to Nigeria, that previous administration also did not make meaningful contributions to anti-terror efforts in Nigeria but instead NGOs that were sympathetic to its policy of destabilization kept cooking up reports of rights violation against Nigeria’s military and security agencies, which were then further used as justifications to allow Boko Haram gain ground in those days by not allowing the country buy the needed weapons and equipment.
But for the ingenuity and relentlessness of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt General Tukur Buratai, who made the Nigerian Army look inwards to its electrical and mechanical engineers in refurbishing abandoned and unserviceable equipment and weapons, it might have as well been over for Nigeria as the terrorists would have overrun the country.
In addition to using the available hardware to defeat Boko Haram, the leadership of the armed forces also demonstrated unwavering commitment to the rights and safety of the civilian population and by and large the human rights record of the Nigerian Army under General Buratai improved enough for the immediate past US administration to have lift what was effectively sanctions on the sales of arms to Nigeria but it never did.
As someone that would not sacrifice practicality on the altar of political correctness – he actually detests that concept, President Trump has demonstrated better assessment than the government he replaced. With the phone call to President Buhari, he has proven he is convinced that America can now sell weapons to Nigeria, being satisfied that the military has done much to conform with best practices under the current leadership.
That phone call has proven several other points that should make the scales fall from some person’s eyes and the wax plugging their ears to melt off. Separatists in the south east under the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), relying on the campaign of disinformation by compromised international NGOs had revved up for confrontations with the military in the hope that Trump would order missiles to rain down on Nigeria.
Before the phone call between both leaders, IPOB propaganda machine cranked to the maximum, giving false hopes to the average Joe that the US President would read the riot act to President Buhari to allow Biafra secede. No responsible nation will ask that of the leader of another sovereign nation. It turned out that even the IPOB and MASSOB members that hosted congratulatory marches for the inauguration of Trump were victims of fake news, another of the world’s emerging problems that the US President dislikes with passion. The IPOB leadership had lied severally that Trump endorsed their acts of treason against the Nigerian state.
Like IPOB, the delusion of militants in the Niger Delta, whose salesmen have been trotting the globe to market separatists’ agenda to foreign lawmakers, has also gone bust. Same applies to killer herdsmen that leave trails of blood across the land. They are all the product of the same mold as Boko Haram. Their disdain for the state and carrying out attacks lump them all together.
Those lending themselves to the activities of these groups would do well to request the transcript of the phone call. For one, nowhere was it discussed that they have the free pass to turn Nigeria upside down. Two, what was discussed included “cooperation in the fight against terrorism”, under which their nefarious activities fall.
One must therefore urge the Presidency not to allow the invitation for a US visit to cool now that relations between both countries has shown improvement. Beyond setting out concrete terms of the military hardware Nigeria will be buying, President Buhari should use such visit to provide clarity to the US President on the dangers posed by these groups that are yet to make it onto the list of international terrorist organizations even though they are already known as such locally.
On the other hand, Mr President must encourage the military to continue to improve on their rights records as the aforementioned terror oriented entities will contrive provocative incidents in efforts to make Nigeria look bad before the US. While at it, General Buratai should work more of his magic. The Nigerian Army should graduate from salvaging mothballed military hardware to mass producing many of the ingenious designs that are being fabricated under his watch.
With this, when the next US President is calling to discuss with a Nigerian leader he should be getting assurances that Nigeria will sell hardware to his country.
Agbese, a public affairs commentator writes from the United Kingdom.