The news that Nigeria will be contributing troops to the West African military force heading to The Gambia to enforce the election results that saw long-term leader Yahya Jammeh lose has been met with different reactions here at home.
While some people laud the decision as necessary to uphold the choice of the Gambian people, others are of the opinion that Nigeria should not get itself involved in what they view as a local Gambian problem.
In the logic of those against the decision, Nigeria is beset by so many internal security challenges of its own: an Islamist insurgency in the North-East albeit against a weakened terrorist group, Fulani herdsmen militia attacks in Southern Kaduna that have the risk of blowing into a country-wide sectarian war, intermittent clashes between Biafra agitators and security forces in the South-East and militancy that is rearing its head again in the Niger-Delta.
Not only that, they also believe that Nigeria is too broke to embark on a foreign military mission, having been in an economic recession for close to a year and having less revenue from crude oil exports.
However, critics of Nigeria’s participation in the military force by member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) fail to miss a number of important points:
Firstly, Nigeria is not taking the lead in the military intervention as compared with past ones in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Rather, it has left that role to The Gambia’s next-door neighbor, Senegal. This is largely for logistics reasons: Senegal being next to The Gambia can easily mobilize ground troops way faster than Nigeria can.
Secondly, the number of troops Nigeria is committing to this military intervention is a very small percentage of the total size of our military. With a total military strength of 209,000 soldiers, we can afford to deploy one naval battleship and 200 men of the air force and air assets to The Gambia without having our capacity to handle present security challenges diminished.
Thirdly, it is very apparent that the Gambian military of only 2500 soldiers is not going to be any match for a West African military force. It is going to be very easy to mobilize a much larger force in both numbers and firepower. Also, an already difficult task for Jammeh’s military has been made worse by the fact that even the Army Chief has said that he will not stand in the way of a regional military force and with news that the Navy has also abandoned him. All put together, it looks like this will be an easy job for the regional military force in ousting Jammeh from the presidential palace.
Lastly, the West African region will always look to Nigeria for leadership on regional issues, internal problems notwithstanding. Our long-standing record of doing this for decades has given us the clout and respect that other countries look up to. This will not be the time to shirk from our responsibilities.
There is no need to fear from participating in this military intervention.