12th February, 2015
Reports of the visit of the Special Representative of the Secretary General to West Africa to Abuja indicate that the United Nations had offered Nigeria the peacekeeping platform of the global organisation. The platform has two major components-the strategic and humanitarian. This, especially the strategic dimension, is an offer that must be rejected, if Nigeria is to protect whatever modicum of respectability it has left. The offer of the deployment of peacekeeping in Nigeria, in whatever guise and shape, is a natural outcome of the slippery slope into damnation that was initiated by the African Union. This was with the connivance, we must admit, of the Goodluck Jonathan presidency. The initiative of the African Union expressed the unfortunate consequences of a very dysfunctional internal politics. That brand of politics that has now opened Nigeria to international ridicule. The UN is cashing in on this for relevance. This opportunism must be resisted because it has dangerous consequences for the future of Nigeria. If accepted, Nigeria would be opened up to all manner of external interests who would play out very complicated game plans that can only overwhelm our country.
At its meeting held on 24 November, 2014, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union considered the regional efforts being deployed to combat Boko Haram terrorist group and agreed on steps to be taken to by the African Union Commission in support of member states of the Lake Chad Basin Commission plus One (Benin). This culminated in the establishment of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) of the Lake Chad Basin Commission Against Boko Haram Terrorist Group by the African Union. As humiliating as this development is, notwithstanding the significant diminution of our stature, the MJTF is an instrument that Nigeria can still influence or impact. Operations of the United Nations in distressed countries are a different monster in a different category with their own peculiar internal dynamics that could immensely fragilise or even finish off Nigeria. Nigeria would be a mere pawn in the hands of very experienced international playmasters.
The offer of SRSG Ibn Chambas of the UNDPKO platform to Nigeria is unfortunate as it represents the very nadir of humiliation that failed states are consigned to. Peace keeping operation by the United Nations is the last resort when all else has failed and desperation has set in as in the cases of Liberia and Sierra Leone at the turn of the last century. The formal UN rhetoric apart, peacekeeping in reality is also a tool of powerful states to recalibrate and reconfigure the destiny and directions of states that they perceive to be their playgrounds. In some situations, such state failures are contrived by elite states with strategic interest to protect as in Cote d’Ivoire, when the United Nations, acting as a proxy for France, instituted international intervention in that country. In Liberia, it is the United States and Britain in Sierra Leone. In Guinea Bissau, it is a struggle for control between France and Portugal that has left the country prostrate and now with many complications. Also, in a way, the offer of the peacekeeping platform is a logical development considering the constant attempt of the United Nations to be perceived as occupying the front role in peacekeeping globally. With the roll out of the MJTF, the United Nations DPKO cannot be seen standing by. It may also be observed that historically, sub regional and regional forces have always been in the lead in doing the heavy lifting in robust peacekeeping, only for the United Nations, rather than support regional efforts have supplanted them under the guise of transforming the operations into a DPKO. The usual excuse is that it can mobilise more logistics and funding. But these come at a cost.
In Liberia and Sierra Leone, ECOMOG did the dying and the DPKO takes the credit. Nigerians died massively in both countries, but the formal narratives of how the conflicts ended give Britain and the United States the major accolades. Narratives are that important. The United Nations is successful in this because regional organisations are poorly organised and funded. Even when they deploy successfully, their operational capacities are weak due to poor funding of their member states. The most damning indictment of the United Nations DPKO is in transforming African peacekeeping operations into jobs for the boys and girls from smaller but rich Northern European states that clamour for more high profile posts to compensate them for their huge financial investments in the organisations. These international emergency senior peacemakers often have no iota of appreciation of what the issues are that they are mediating. South Sudan is a more poignant example. In a perverse sense, these people feed on the misery of Africa. Even the Africans sometimes deployed must accept the logic of the organisation and its major paymasters and become tools of western establishments. Their careers are more important. In the end, these operations have become strategic political contrivances and their true raison d’etre has nothing to do with the nobility of the altruism of the UN charter. Nigeria must on no account be brought this low, for whatever reasons.