Reuters News Agency reported last week that the Nigerian government has drafted in mercenaries from South Africa and the former Soviet Union in the war against Boko Haram.
The mercenaries are allegedly on $400 a day and are said to number in their hundreds.
The government has denied it, claiming they are just “trainers” and “advisers” to help with new equipment.
The denials should show all concerned that deploying mercenaries in this conflict is bad news.
I can see why the government would do it. President Goodluck Jonathan needs to make swift gains against Boko Haram as the presidential election approaches on 28 March. The Nigerian Army were being routed by the militants in several battles and the militants were controlling huge swathes of territory in the northeast.
Some Goodluck apologists have also argued that the US used what they euphemistically call “security contractors” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the difference here is that we are using mercenaries to defend Nigerian territory. The inability of the Nigerian Army to perform this function is a severe indictment of the army and Goodluck as its Commander-in-Thief.
The Nigerian military has been degraded for decades with professionalism going out of the window as a result of coups and counter coups and subsequent purges, corruption denying troops of much-needed equipment and morale hitting rock bottom for the grunts on low pay and conditions that have to do the fighting and dying while the “pepper soup generals” feed fat on juicy defence contracts.
Introducing mercenaries into the mix makes matters worse. How would the soldiers on low pay feel fighting alongside guns for hire on $400 a day? What would this do to morale?
While it makes short term sense to to try to defeat Boko Haram by any means necessary, we are compromising our sovereignty by contracting out the defending of our country to foreign guns for hire.
Surely, this is one case in which the end does not justify the means. But if you see the “end” in terms of electoral gain as Goodluck does, then this is in the same spirit in which he is squandering the nation’s wealth in order to “win” the (s)election, with scant regard for the consequences.