The Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ghanaian President, John Dramani Mahama, has called an emergency summit to be held this week to discuss the security threat which the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has posed to the Government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
At present Boko Haram has captured most towns and cities in north-eastern Nigeria, with a recent attack on the town of Baga where thousands of people were reported killed and the entire town demolished.
President Mahama stressed that Nigeria was undergoing a serious security crisis that could possibly extend to other parts of West Africa if actions were not taken to halt it.
Besides, he said the crisis in Nigeria cannot be solved by one country alone but collectively.
He considers that before Western countries could come with assistance to the regional bloc, “We should first help ourselves before looking up to Western countries to come to us with assistance.”
Earlier, former United Nations Secretary General and African peace icon, Kofi Annan, had raised the concern in a BBC interview, calling on African governments to find solutions to the Nigerian problem as it is getting worse.
It is generally perceived that African countries, when faced with such a crisis, look to their former colonial masters to come in and help. The matter was different during the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970), when the country’s military was a mighty force and Nigeria did not need external assistance to put down the Biafran rebellion. When, for example, Liberian President William V.S. Tubman convened a summit of African Heads of State to discuss the Nigerian civil war that country’s leaders cooperated and sent representatives, but pleaded with the Liberian President not to intervene in the conflict because the Nigerian government could deal with the crisis itself.
Today, however, the country’s military has shown signs of weakness. On many occasions, before Boko Haram attacked an area, the Nigerian military forces have reportedly fled, leaving the people totally defenseless.
Now that the crisis is getting totally out of control, it seems to be the perception of Kofi Annan and President Mahama that African governments should take some kind of initiative to address the problem, before seeking external assistance.
Specifically on the involvement of United States, Mr. Annan noted that President Obama has other external problems, including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and therefore cannot be fully involved with African domestic problems of that magnitude.
The former UN Secretary General, who refrained from suggesting any specific action either peaceful negotiations or military action, indicated that depending on the gravity of the situation one of the two actions can be prioritized.
It has to be considered that the situation is becoming more urgent as the Islamist militants have for several weeks now, extended their activities into neighboring Cameroon, where they clashed with the military there and scores of Boko Haram fighters were reportedly killed. Over the weekend Boko Haram fighters revisited Cameroon and following an attack abducted hundreds of men, women and children.
Chad has vowed to mobilize military men and equipment to join Nigeria and Cameron to fight Boko Haram.
Since the insurgency was launched in 2009, this is the first time African countries are coming out with a plan to take action to rescue Nigeria.
Nigeria as the regional super power in Africa, has always demonstrated brotherly love towards African countries, including Liberia, when it was strangled by civil war or other disasters.
It was Nigeria that took the first step in organizing military assistance under ECOMOG. Nigeria also deployed the highest number of troops to Liberia in 1990 during the civil war.
In 2003 Nigeria headed ECOMIL in Liberia when war entered Monrovia from all fronts until the arrival of the 1,500 United Nations troops.
In Liberia’s election in 2011 Nigeria donated over five vehicles to the National elections Commission (NEC) to help with logistics.
Currently, Nigeria has identified with Liberia in the Ebola crisis by sending medical experts and donating US$1.5 million. Its initial contribution to the Ebola fight was US$500,000.
The planned meeting to mobilize resources to help Nigeria to fight Boko Haram could be seen as a step towards reciprocating Nigeria’s largesse, which she has on many occasions extended many nations in distress or need.