The United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, visited Nigeria on Tuesday as part of a four-nation diplomatic shuttle, including Cape Verde, Cote D’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Angola, to discuss diverse issues and strengthen bilateral ties.
Discussions with President Bola Tinubu focused on security cooperation, boosting bilateral trade and investment, and deepening democracy. While these are fine aspirations, the devil is in the details.
According to Blinken, US-Nigeria security collaborations, especially in combating terrorism and regional instability, must be firm, particularly in building the capacity of the Nigerian security forces to combat the scourge, so that economic and development efforts in Nigeria can thrive. He pledged American support through intelligence sharing, training, and equipment.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, hardware alone cannot defeat an insurgency. Nigeria’s military is already awash in weaponry, with its soldiers notably underequipped. Unless accompanied by reforms to strengthen accountability and win locals’ trust, security assistance risks being wasted.
Trade and investment also look promising in principle. Nigeria seeks to reduce its reliance on oil exports by developing other industries, such as technology. American capital and expertise could help. However, for American companies to invest seriously, Nigeria must tackle its reputation for corruption, red tape, misrule of law, and currency controls.
There is no doubt that Blinken’s visit may have made a great impact, at least in putting pressure on the Nigerian government to find a lasting solution to the scourge of terrorism affecting virtually all aspects of the country today.
We believe that Blinken’s visit shows that Nigeria is open to international partnership, putting the responsibility on such international partners to prove their credibility and worthiness, not only in effusive declarations but in practical commitment to issues consequential to Nigeria and Africa’s sustainable and inclusive growth, peace, security, social cohesion, and stability. The visit is good, and we believe that Nigeria must devise a way to address this insecurity instead of the frequent rhetoric that has achieved nothing over the years.
We support the position of experts that, instead of worrying Washington with such distant and intangible issues as supporting Nigeria to join G20 or help Nigeria gain permanent membership in the UN Security Council, we should be asking the US where it can cooperate to narrow our yawning infrastructure deficit, provide practical support with money and equipment in containing the escalating concerns of insecurity, and concessional access to US markets.
The US wants to prove to Africa that it is a trusted friend and partner, amid the growing influence of China in Nigeria and other countries worldwide following China’s massive infrastructure development on the continent. Nigeria and indeed all African countries can leverage this opportunity.
The diverse challenges facing Africa mean that America can play an important role in practical problem-solving on the continent. Inundating Washington with a practical roadmap to achieve this is the epic challenge to Nigeria’s, nay, Africa’s diplomacy.
The dangerous security situation in the Sahel region and the seemingly intractable Boko Haram insurgency and terrorist attacks in Northern Nigeria are escalating due to the lackadaisical approach and sometimes the complicity of security officials.
The problem has been compounded by the kidnapping for ransom and banditry, expanding the illicit economy within local communities and increasing criminality in parts of the country amid deplorable poverty.
Therefore, this newspaper tasks Nigeria and other African countries to diversify their partnerships and focus on permanent interests, especially in the areas of the economy and security. The Tinubu administration can leverage its relations with the US to create an atmosphere where citizens can meet their basic needs with minimum effort.