Will engaging China end Nigeria’s insecurity?

Since the emergence of the current security situation in Nigeria, as well as the entire Lake Chad and Sahel regions of Africa, every sane person knows that there are international directions to these insecurity quagmires. Most notable is the geo-politics involved. Particularly with France losing its grip from its sustenance (its former colonies in West and Central Africa), specifically with the Chinese incursion to what was considered exclusive reserve territory of France even by the United States.

This Chinese incursion devastated French political-economy status not only in Africa, but even among European Union (E U) member states. As French influence is rapidly diminishing at a speed never expected or even anticipated. Thus, not only Chinese, Indians, Korean (South Korea), Japanese, and Russians accelerated their presence in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly West and Central Africa (as North Africa is a super reservation for the French and Southern Africa for the Britons, and Eastern Africa sharing between Britons and their Yankee cousins!)

It takes the present administration in Nigeria almost six year to realize that it needs the international community (though there has been other international involvement in addressing the insecurity in the Lake Chad area. But the committee involved the same international suspects of bankrolling the groups fighting in the area). Just recently, April 28, 2021) the Minister of Police Affairs came out publicly displaying Nigeria’s interest in engaging the Chinese in addressing our insecurity problems. This raised the question why the minister of police affairs? Does the Nigerian central government really mean engaging the Chinese or is it only playing politics with the insecurity problem? Where is the minister of defense? Where is the National Security Adviser? Where is the vice president or Mr. President? Stating Nigeria will engage the Chinese by any of the above-mentioned, national office holders will really tell everyone that Nigeria is waking from her slumber. But, minister of police affairs, no one will regard us to be serious on this matter. By the way, the minister was only diplomatic considering the guest he was having at the time he made the statement.

No doubt that Nigeria needs China in addressing our insecurity problems. But China only or alone (as an international partner) may not provide the desired results needed at this time. There are observers who believe that Chinese presence in the Lake Chad and or Sahel regions of Africa will end the current insecurity in the regions. For example, Muhammad Qaddam Sadiq Isa writing on his Friday back page of Daily Trust (April 30, 2021) said, “With a rival like China deeply involved in the geopolitics and security of the sub regions, France will certainly have to struggle to keep its influence… more supportive than France anyway, which would, in turn, have to be more cooperative lest it lose its influence”. As he pointed out, that Chinese presence will not necessarily mean a winning ticket for the countries in these regions, most probably because of China’s economic interest in France as well as larger European Union territory which France and Germany are lording over the remaining members.

Engaging Chinese only will probably prolong the insecurity situation, as the French would not just fold their hands and be looking at the Chinese coming into their (the French) sphere of influence (as per as African politics and governance is concerned). The Chinese would also be reluctant to accept to play any vital role knowing their economic interest in France Europe. For example, total import from China to France in 2019 stood at US$59.56 Billion, thus China would not sacrifice this trading just for the sake of African countries or Lake Chad and Sahel regions. And looking further, total imports of European Union member states in 2019 is US$468.63 Billion, which France would easily scatter as one of the hegemon powers of the E U bloc.

Thus, what the Lake Chad and Sahel regions need is a hybrid of international actors in the region. The Chinese, Russians, and even Iranians, these three countries’ technological and scientific advancement in defense or security, is recognized globally. By bringing these three countries to the Lake Chad and Sahel regions, all the international actors involved would be reduced drastically if not totally eliminated. Their presence will send jitters to the other international actors that are harbouring the criminal organisations operating in the regions, as they have no country to focus their retaliation to. The French and European Union need Russian gas (during the harsh winter season) then they may be thinking of abandoning the Russian at all for their involvement in Africa.

We also witnessed how the Russians helped stabilize the Central African Republic (CAR). CAR became like the Sahel region i.e. there were lots of French troops, but the insecurity kept escalating by the day. At one time there were more than 2,000 French soldiers in this tiny African country (with a population of 4.75 Million). Also, in Mali, at minimum there were 5,000 French soldiers there, but despite all these troops, the security situation kept worsening by the day, which necessitated the CAR to engage the Russians. Within months of the Russian soldiers’ arrival the CAR started reaping from their investment of drawing the Russians into their security equation.

Thus, as Mr. President said, Nigeria needs international assistance in confronting our insecurity situation, but it needs to be carefully designed by our security architectures. And engaging the Chinese and Russians must be looked at and in the totality of the circumstances we found our nation as well as the accusation of Europeans and Americans in the worsening security of the regions (Lake Chad and Sahel).

Abdullahi writes via [email protected]

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