I remember vividly the day the guest on an NTA programme was retired Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Victor Malu. Some of the things he said then have since stuck to my mind. Perhaps this is due to the fact he said some things relating to my country of origin – Cameroon – and how the US was playing the Machiavellian advocate in the conflict between both countries. However, with the recent events of the past few weeks, that whole programme came flashing to my mind.
During my days in Nigeria, I rarely watched the National Television, but there was one programme I never missed. That programme was called POINT BLANK. It was hosted by the then Director General of the Nigerian Television Authority Tony Iredia. Living to its name, this was a programme that was started during the Abacha era, during which guest were drilled POINT BLANK by the host without fear or favour. Something similar to BBC’s Hard Talk, guests had to answer well researched questions about the issues of the day affecting their departments, ministries or even personal life.
I have not been able to get the talk, but during a quick research, I have come across an interview Victor Malu granted the Sunday Sun on July, 31st, 2005, where he expressed almost carbon-copy sentiments. Below are excepts of this interview which sheds a lot of light in the current US quest to ‘help’ Nigeria find Boko Haram.
“I didn’t have disagreement with Obasanjo. I went first to the Minister of Defence to tell him the Americans are not coming to train us on peace keeping. The Nigeria Army should teach the Americans on peace keeping. Peace keeping is not nuclear, chemical or biological warfare. That’s the job for an infantry man who walks on his feet, carrying his ammunition, rifles, you maneuver to get to the point using fire. That is what Americans don’t do.
The Americans would first bomb the place before going in. If you survive, you survive but you can’t do peace keeping that way.
“If you remember Ambassador Twaddel, he was the last but one U.S ambassador in Nigeria. He represented the American government at the Liberian crisis. At the end of that crisis, he wrote a report to the American government. I had come back, he had gone back to the U.S. He sent me two copies of the report. There were whole chapters that were on the Armed Forces of Nigeria after observing them in operation.
“What they said in effect was that if in future, the American government wishes to support any regional grouping that has a peace-keeping outfit like ECOMOG in the case of ECOWAS, they should not talk about sending personnel. He said give the people the logistics. He found out that what the Nigerian Army did could not have been done by any American soldier. That man never knew he would ever come to Nigeria as ambassador.
“If you remember the five years of Abacha, we had completely severed from any other western country. All our officers who were in the various institutions abroad were sent back. We were not going on course. America was curious to know how from a third world country with all the sanctions, the Nigerian Army could achieve the feat we achieved in Liberia. And then, they came and found a willing person in the name of Obasanjo. They got everything they wanted. It was at that point I told him (Obasanjo), ‘Sir, we cannot have Americans come here to tell us they want to train us on peace keeping.’
“An interesting thing happened in Sokoto. The Americans insisted on staying in the barracks with our soldiers. I said over my dead body. I asked General Danjumah who was my GOC before he became a chief of army staff, ‘Would you, during your tenure have allowed this foreign troop to come and stay in the barracks with your soldiers?’ He said no, that he would need to discuss it with Obasanjo.
“At a stage, we agreed that the Americans would give us some support in terms of equipment required for peacekeeping operations. We compiled a table of tools and equipment so that they would help us with them. That was the only time that we agreed that if they are giving out equipment, they should not give us what we already had in our ordinance. We agreed to allow them train us on that equipment for as long as they wanted.
“We were waiting for them after we gave them the list to tell us what they were bringing and the quantity so that we could start arranging the training. We woke up one day and found many American instructors. Where is the equipment? No equipment. So what are you going to give us? They said they were to start training us on peace keeping.
“So, this kept going on but the dangerous part of it was that as at that time we were in Bakassi nose to nose with the Camerounians. The same Americans that were claiming to be training us for peace keeping were training and equipping the Camerounian army. I was the one that captured that place and I know what we suffered.”
Reading this again today, I now remember how I felt back then. I wonder if the US has drastically changed its strategy in Africa. If this is not the case, then this Boko Haram saga has just handed them an opportunity to completely distabilise the whole West and Central African region.