Northern Nigeria – the Strategic Imperative

(Part I).

Northern Nigeria, the jewel of Sahel, with influence stretching beyond the Maghreb, is a shadow of what it once was. It lies at the heart of the African Sahel, with a landmass that encompasses distinct Savannah bands, and terminating at the southern fringes of the Sahara.The strategic importance of Northern Nigeria was never so obvious. It is the key to Nigeria’s survival as a state.  

Nigeria’s destiny lies in how development efforts in the northern half of the country are managed. This is more so in the context of resource transformation, leading to wealth formation and capital accumulation to fund national development in a country with rapidly exploding population figures.  

The region’s value can be examined in the context of roles it will likely play in the country’s economy in the near future. The region’s relevance is centered on the existence of vast concentration of resources – human and natural, land-living space (Lebensraum) and market potentials of astronomic proportion. Amongst physiographic factors which gives the region a unique sense of being, are the vastness of its undulating plains immensity of freshwater reservoirs.

Complementing these is the strategic factor of contiguity in supra-regional scale, as may be seen in Nigeria’s international borders with multiple countries and markets and along its northern frontiers, and the North’s position as a gateway to under-explored worlds for national power projection in the Sahel, Sahara and beyond.  From a geo-strategic standpoint, the country’s northern region is a factor of immense significance. This is more so in terms of comprehensive national power, and in assuring the long-term survivability of its internal productive forces. 

In terms of grand policy projection, the capture and integration of Northern Nigeria into a unified Nigerian state sufficiently explains the logic of in the founding of modern Nigeria. There exists no configuration of such proportion in Africa.    

 Indeed, the overriding logic behind Nigeria’s enactment as a modern Westphalian state was the imperative of leveraging composite productive forces active in its internal markets. This was a necessary step towards the formation of the superstructure that became known as the Nigerian state. 

What factors define survivability within the state-centric political environment? Effective access to material resources, technical know-how to transform resources into capital and capital into resources on an industrial scale. Availability of transportation corridors interlinking markets, integration of these composite markets into single Lebensraum to fuel capital expansion, wealth accumulation, and credit investment answers the question of survivability. 

Simply put, a state’s potentials and ability to advance its interest in a hostile state-centric international environment is determined by the quantum of critical resources accessible to its internal productive forces, and the condition of access, the rapidity of conversion of resources into capital, distribution of this within internal markets, and the integration of markets into a composite economy. The greater control a state exerts over these, the greater the chances of its survival.

Adjoined by the republics of Chad and Cameroon to the East, the Republic of Niger to the North, and the Republic of Benin to the West, Nigeria’s northern region is indeed a regional actor with extensive international exposure and influence, in an immediate and potential sense. The region’s exposure to trans-border security challenges may be seen as a direct consequence of its geopolitical standing in a region extending from Maghreb and French Equatorial Africa in the East and North East, to the mouth of River Senegal into the Atlantic, in the West. 

A significant portion of this challenge comes in form of an eleven years old armed insurgency waged by armed extremist armed Jihadist group, Boko Haram. The group splintered in 2015, with the formation of the Al Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) an affiliate of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant  (ISIL). 

In addition to the carnage wrought by extremist factions in the country’s North-East region, new fronts have been opened by a handful of armed maverick socio-cultural groups and criminal organisations in northern Nigeria. The danger this poses to national security is explained by the fact that solutions so far have been implemented have failed to effectively arrest the tide of insecurity sweeping across villages, towns, and cities in virtually all the States in the region.

Insecurity in northern Nigeria is sustained by the capacity of crime and Jihadist networks to enlist assets transferred to them from collaborating crime networks in outlying countries into villages, towns, and cities in northern Nigeria.  

Towards re-establishing conditions of security in the region, re-fortifications of security architecture along the country’s northern frontier seem of prime importance. This position may seem reinforced by the fact that the Nigerian region is most exposed to devastating effects of security and civil society collapse in many Sahara-Sehalian states adjoining it.  

By David Danisa

Part II will be published shortly





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