The scowl on the face of Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Aminu Bashir Wali spoke volumes as he emerged from a meeting at the Sheraton hotel on 29 January. Earlier that day, Nigeria had suffered the indignity of its internal security failings being scrutinised by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council at the AU summit.
Two weeks earlier, Ghana’s
President John Mahama had
suggested that the AU consider backing a
multilateral force in West Africa to tackle the Islamist insurgents of
Boko Haram. Based in
north-east Nigeria, Boko Haram was fanning out and
slaughtering civilians in neighbouring states. But, if the AU were to
set up a multilateral force to help Nigeria fight Boko Haram,
President Goodluck Jonathan’s
detractors would inevitably compare it with the AU force
helping Somalia fight Al Shabaab. So Nigeria’s diplomats
at the AU,
including Wali, fought to scupper the proposed force.
That will now be
just a Lake Chad Basin security initiative between Nigeria, Chad,
Cameroon and Niger. However, Chad’s military
successes against Boko
Haram this week have raised fresh doubts about Nigeria’s
to tackle the militia. Some 2,500 Chadian troops crossed into Nigeria
and ejected Boko Haram fighters from Gambaru near the Cameroon border.
So far, General Muhammadu Buhari,
Jonathan’s main opponent in this
month’s election, has resisted publicly reminiscing. Thirty years ago,
he was military head of state, having seized power after a weak
civilian government had failed to back its military in border
skirmishes – with the Chadian army.