Nigeria. 57th Independence Anniversary.
On October 1 1960, Nigeria gained independence from her colonial master - Great Britain. Ever since, the country has always celebrated this occasion of her independence on October 1 every year. In the run up to this year's celebrations, Gaskiya.net went to town to ask Nigerians their opinion on the current state of affairs and their views on the future of the country.
The brutal beheading of Egyptians in Libya: We warned the world!
On Sunday 15 February 2015, the Islamic State (IS) released a video showing the brutal beheading of 21 Egyptians in the Libyan town of Derna. That despicable action prompted the deployment of Egyptian Air Force jets in a dawn raid the following day against sites suspected to house terrorist fighters, their leadership and weapons.
In a recent news analysis, Gaskiya.net had warned of the threat the several militias in Libya, armed by western nations in the heydays of the struggle to remove Colonel Moammer Ghaddafi from power, pose to the rest of Africa. Titled “Cleaning up the mess in Libya,” we drew attention to the chaos that the country has become, identifying the origins of this mayhem as being rooted in the excesses of the lawless militias that we said “allegedly committed several atrocities against Black Africans and Libyan citizens perceived as not to have been sympathetic to their cause” during the uprising.
The world kept mute and should we have been taken aback much later, when “…those ‘brigades’ were allowed to do whatever they liked, make their own rules and enforce them as they pleased. Any surprise therefore when, after the regime (of Colonel Ghaddafi) had been uprooted and ‘normalcy’ restored, than we started seeing further breakdown of law and order, beginning first from Benghazi and then spreading gradually to other parts of the country. In fact, the militias in Benghazi, the very moment they drove out loyalist forces from their territory, had declared their area independent of Libya.”
The despicable slaughtering—for that was precisely what it was—of those innocent Egyptian citizens only confirmed Gaskiya.net’s worst fears in sustained acts of bestiality occurring regularly after Gaddhafi’s removal but left unreported. Indeed, we had argued that “…it is useful to observe that the international media that had vociferously supported the uprising and the various anti-Gaddhafi militias in the subsequent civil war refused to report the mess that Libya was becoming. The western nations that flooded that country with the weapons now being used to commit gross human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law also kept quiet...” It has now taken the emergence of IS inside Libya—again should this be surprising—for the world to wake up!
Libya, as we noted in that analysis, is a mess, for want of a better description. That mess was created by the United Nations Security Council (through Resolution 1973 passed on 19 March 2011) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) whose warplanes bombed the country and who flooded that African state with thousands of weapons. We affirmed that a “… direct fallout of the Libyan crisis is the subsequent outbreak of armed conflict in Mali and its implications for the stability of Mauritania, Algeria, Nigeria and Cameroon.” Today, we reiterate that the horrendous killing of those 21 Egyptians is also directly attributed to that fallout and if our warning had been heeded for the UN to intervene and correct its mistake, perhaps this tragedy could have been avoided. We hate to say it…but we warned the world!
Libya today has two parallel governments operating from Tripoli and Tobruk simultaneously, although none of them controls any territory. Anomie reigns supreme across the country and the security and governance vacuum obviously can be adduced as the reason for the emergence of IS affiliates there. President Abdelfattah Al Sisi of Egypt has rightfully taken strong measures in retaliation for the death of his country’s citizens. We make bold to say that it behoves other African states, especially Nigeria and Algeria, to equip their military forces sufficiently enough to be able to undertake strategic missions either in Libya or elsewhere in order to suppress a growing threat whose reach and impact remain yet unfathomable. The prospect of more African states becoming less able to impose sovereignty over every inch of their geo-political territory in the face of this expanding threat is worrisome, as is the likelihood that IS could spread from Libya to link up with its murderous counterparts in the vast Sahara desert, thereby fostering a reign of terror on most of the continent.
President Buhari's adoption of Oyo Empire Strategy to confront Boko Haram
The recent directive by the President of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of its Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari, for the Chiefs of Army and the Air Staff to re-locate to Maiduguri, the epicenter of the campaign against Boko Haram, generated mixed reactions.
A local newspaper reported, in the aftermath of the order, that the top brass of the military were unhappy at the directive. Quoting unnamed sources, the publication alleged that the top brass were unhappy at the directive as they felt it was intended to humiliate them. They were quoted as saying that asking them to move to the north east was akin to trying to equate them with the GOC (General Officer Commanding) Nigerian Army’s 7th Division (which holds sway over that area).
Upon actually relocating to the city however, the service chiefs that had been said to be unhappy about the move appeared quite cheerful and confident. That caused some to wonder whether the report published by the newspaper in question was actually true. Furthermore, the assertion by the chiefs that they have always paid regular visits to the area of operations to get a first hand experience of how things were proceeding and also to boost the morale of the troops and fighter pilots suggested that they did not equate the relocation with any unsavoury intentions by the President.
Indeed, the directive by President Buhari brings to mind the position of some African historians that modern African States do not apply the good practices in African history to contemporary efforts at state building. It is suggested by these scholars that there are many good practices that obtained in pre-colonial Africa that could help improve political administration today.
In the case of President Buhari’s directive to his military chiefs, it resonates with the practice in the old Oyo Empire—that thrived in present day Western Nigeria and spread all the way to the border between Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire. Given the fact that the two most powerful people in the Kingdom were always the Alaafin (Oba or King) and the Aare Ona Kakanfo (Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces), both could not stay in the capital. In fact, the Aare was required to always remain deployed in that part of the Empire that was most likely to suffer from an attack from external forces.
Scholars suggest that this was in order that he might be kept busy and also to ensure he is distracted from interfering in political matters. Furthermore, such permanent deployment served as a deterrent to the Empire’s enemies, who, knowing that the Aare was based in the location where their attack was most likely to originate from, would think twice before launching it. This would explain the location of Aare Afonja (in Ilorin) to checkmate Fulani encroachment into Yorubaland during the 19th Century Jihads (though he later invited them in when he fell out with the Alaafin—an act that explains the origins of the socio-political and demographic reality of Ilorin vis-à-vis mainstream Yorubaland today).
The celebrated Yoruba civil wars, or, more appropriately, the “Ekiti Parapo” wars, would appear to have profited from a dysfunction in the system that fed that policy, albeit indirectly. It all began when Aare Kurunmi—who, perhaps remains the most feared Aare in Yoruba history—was stationed in Ijaiye to checkmate threats from that direction, to the well-being of the Oyo Empire. Everything went on well until the Alaafin in power died and was replaced—against tradition—by his own son. He had gotten the Oyomeesi (Council of Chiefs) to swear on oath to allow this to happen. Kurunmi however refused to accept it—some experts say because he was quite old and conservative and preferred the old order—and so he refused to recognise the new King. The internal schism that thus resulted, seemingly with two monarchs in the Empire, fractured the political order. It also fractured the army, as the eventual civil war that resulted saw Oyo forces fighting against a fractured Ibadan and Egba confederate army. The Ekitis—another Yoruba group—saw that as an opportunity to break off the sovereignty of the Alaafin over them and so instituted what would later be described as the Ekiti Parapo wars. This was the situation when the British arrived and sought to impose indirect rule, using an Alaafin whose political power and clout had been considerably weakened. Of course it failed!
Thankfully, the Nigeria of today is a Republican democracy and not a monarchy, where political power and headship of all military forces is vested in one person—the President and Commander-in-Chief. However, the policy of stationing top military commanders in locations harbouring potent threats to the well-being of the state, perfected by the Oyo Empire, appears logical and sound. This may be why President Buhari, a strategic expert in his own right, may have been influenced by it and thus went ahead to apply this strategy.
From the foregoing therefore, President Buhari may have become the first African President to adopt a well-known and historically documented pre-colonial policy in African strategic reality to address a modern day military threat, even if threats to the well-being of the state are not a preserve of pre-colonial societies. His action is likely to re-open the debate on the need for modern African states to revisit their past and adopt sound polices initiated by their forebears to advance the well being of their peoples and drive the development of their societies.