Those of us of a certain age, ALL, recollect with pride, the moment we heard our Head of State, Murtala Mohammed declare to the world that: “Africa has come of age. It is no longer under the orbit of any extra continental power. It should no longer take orders from any country, however powerful.”
The speech was at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) summit in Addis Ababa, on January 11, 1976, and it pushed Africa to rise to resist the US’s pernicious pro-Portuguese position in Angola, Mozambique and the rest of Southern Africa. In the run-up to the Summit, the US had intensely lobbied African countries to support the pro-imperialist UNITA and FNLA as against the popular and revolutionary MPLA to form the immediate post-independence government in Angola. The speech made Africa stand on the side of progress. It also made us so proud that the time of grovelling at the doorsteps of imperialist forces was gone.
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On Tuesday, 27th April 2021, we were all dazed to hear our President, Muhammadu Buhari appeal to the United States to consider moving its military headquarters overseeing Africa – AFRICOM to the continent, from Germany to better tackle growing armed violence in the region. It was a sea change in our foreign policy direction. We had neither expected nor had been prepared for the policy change. When I first saw the headline, I dismissed it as yet another fake news, then I saw it posted on President Buhari’s verified Twitter handle, SIGH!!!
The U.S. Africa Command has the objective of countering transnational threats and malign actors that threaten the interests of the United States.
Its purpose is first and foremost to defend the national interests of the United States – a perfectly legitimate goal to which we have always said fine, but not our African soil. For this reason, the U.S. Africa Command has always been headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, as one of eleven U.S. Department of Defence combatant commands, each with a geographic or functional mission that provides command and control of military forces in peace and war. AFRICOM employs the broad-reaching diplomacy, development, and defence approach to foster interagency efforts and help negate the drivers of conflict and extremism in Africa.
It is a full-spectrum combatant command, responsible for all U.S. Department of Defence operations, exercises and security cooperation on the African continent, its island nations, and surrounding waters. The area of responsibility consists of 53 African states, more than 800 ethnic groups, over 1,000 languages, vast natural resources, a landmass of 11.2 million square miles (three-and-a-half times the size of the U.S.), and nearly 19,000 miles of coastland. It’s called imperialism. It is the legacy of the massive growth of imperial power of the United States following the victory of the allied forces after the second world war. In its current incarnation, it was created by George Bush in 2007 and at that time, numerous delegations were sent to cajole Nigeria but we were steadfast in refusing to be associated with it. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, during his State visit to the United States in December 2007 rejected the request on the ground that it would undermine our regional leadership role, our non-aligned credentials and worse, reduce us to the status of a mere surrogate of an extra African state. The Nigerian position was so strong that even Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia who was interested in offering her country had to backtrack on the issue.
There is such a broad consensus on keeping AFRICOM out of Africa at the continental, regional and national levels that the least I expect is wide consultations before such a decision is taken. Are the African Union and ECOWAS with the Nigerian President on this matter? What we know is that countries that have had American Forces on their soil – Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and so on have had terrible histories of prolonged civil strife. This is not necessarily due to the Americans. My point is that there is no empirical basis to show that if the Americans move in, we would be moving closer to solving our security crisis. The opposite might indeed be true. I urge caution and sober reflection on this matter. In any case, the United States is currently in a withdrawal mode in terms of its global security engagements. Trump is gone, for now, but America First is alive and kicking and solving Africa’s security challenges is not on their agenda. Our government must develop our own home-grown strategy to address our security challenges. There is no short cut via Washington D. C.
Toast to Professor Omotoye Olorode at 80
Progressives all over the country converged in Abuja yesterday to celebrate the contributions of Comrade Toye towards Nigeria’s struggle of liberation and progress. The event was chaired by Comrade Attahiru Jega while Comrade Femi Falana gave an excellent lecture on the theme – Labour and the Quest for Nigeria’s Development: Reflections and Prognosis on the way forward. In the lecture, Falana said clearly in relation to AFRICOM that: “Instead of giving Nigerians the false impression that the United States is going to send troops to defend them, the federal government should be compelled to embark on mass recruitment of military and police personnel, equip and motivate them to defend every part of the country.” I concur.
I had the privilege of proposing the toast to my comrade and listed five points why we converged to celebrate his life and achievements. For the past five decades:
He has lived an exemplary life of struggle to improve the conditions of life of the masses, by so doing, he has been an inspiration to generations of young people that have followed the life of working for the downtrodden rather than for self.
He had been a patient teacher, always seeking to improve ideological clarity of comrades – away from obscurantism and towards the interests of the people and the Nation.
He had been central to anchoring progressive organisations to lead the struggle, winning many battles, even if the war is yet to be won.
He has been focused on mobilising the masses and not just the elite in the struggle for a progressive Nigeria.
Finally, at difficult moments such as the present one, when the nation is tearing at the seams due to ethno-religious squabbles provoked by our irresponsible elite, he has always come out clearly on the side of building a cohesive Nation.
Respect and salutations, our dear mentor and Comrade, Omotoye Olorode, Professor Emeritus of Botany.