A Naval Base In Kano Is An Unfitting Gift.

The new base by the Sahara adds to the list of disastrous decisions that have resulted in our arrested development; another evidence of a defective and incurable system managed by incorrigible leaders.

Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo.
Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo.

Nigeria has done it again.

It has in the 21st Century launched a naval base in the Sahel, running a command where ships cannot go and national defense by water is impossible.

Such is the insanity that Nigerians face on top of the daily madness they grapple with.

The new base by the Sahara adds to the list of disastrous decisions that have resulted in our arrested development; another evidence of a defective and incurable system managed by incorrigible leaders.

When the Nigerian Navy Board took the decision to establish the second largest base in Kano State, 1,000 kilometres away from the main operational base in Lagos, its main reason was that the navy did not need to have proximity to a water body.

It claimed that dry bases exist in other parts of the world.

But it does not require any intelligent analysis to see the motive behind the award of the base to a place where no naval fleet would ever be based.

What the Navy failed to disclose was that the current Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, is a native of Kano who simply gave his home state an unfitting tribal gift.

The Navy has since given one moronic reason after the other to rationalise why the nation’s vast maritime estate across the southern coastline or the great rivers was not a better fit for an area of the country where the base would serve no strong military purpose.

Of the many dumb reactions by the Navy, the one that sharply defies logic and common sense is that because other nations have bases on dry ground, Nigeria must.

One does not have be a naval scholar to know that the preference of every nation’s military is to have a navy by large bodies of water, and one that is able to get out on the blue sea.

What the Navy failed to disclose was that the current Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, is a native of Kano who simply gave his home state an unfitting tribal gift

There is sufficient evidence by searching Google for the location of naval bases in various countries.

It is rare to see landlocked or inland navies, the kind that the naval authorities alluded to. In normal cases, non-water naval forces are only considered when a coastline base is not possible.

As an alternative to the sea, countries create naval bases near large rivers and lakes. When they do, such bases are established around the border areas where they may need to respond quickly to aggression from their neighbours.

A riverine naval base can also be established as a strategy to move military or war-time resources close to battle.

There are only a few nations with a landlock navy, including Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uganda, Central African Republic, Turkmenistan and Serbia.

Ethiopia’s navy presents an interesting case. It was established when the country had a coastline, which was lost as a result of the independence of Eritrea.

To survive, the Ethiopian navy operated from foreign ports until it became senseless to carry on- it was dismantled in 1996.

Similarly, Bolivia established a navy when it had direct access to the Pacific Ocean. With proximity lost after its war, Bolivia downsized its force and situated its navy around the large rivers.

Azerbaijan’s navy operates on the Caspian Sea while the Central African Republic’s tiny naval force is right on its largest river, Ubangi, which links to another country with a potential for conflict, Congo.

Countries that are not landlocked almost always establish blue-sea navies, with interior navies existing only where there are large rivers and lakes near a neighboring country or the logistics of moving materials from rivers to sea makes sense.

Nearly all of the 75 US military bases have sea-going vessels, with the few non-sea bases situated by the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River – which are huge bodies of water.

Other such naval establishments are for recruitment and non-command purposes, for which Nigeria does not yet have a similar luxury.

The logic of the Nigerian Navy leadership for taking one of only a few naval bases to a place without water is one which can only be explained by the illogical.

Many of us have become so immune to the illogical that if the Chief of Naval Staff were to announce he took the Navy to Kano out of tribal allegiance, it would have sounded more acceptable.

I looked at the map of Kano and all I could see were tiny pockets of rivers with dams built at their tips for irrigation farming.

No naval ship would sail from Lagos and make it to Kano, except the Navy also creates a river with the engineering feat displayed in America with the diversion of the Colorado River to Western US.

That project remains one of the most expensive in America’s history. Nigeria has neither the skills nor the money to make that happen in this generation.

If an inland naval base became so necessary for the northern powerbrokers, there were acceptable options before the Federal Government.

Nigeria has two major rivers with connections to the sea – Niger and Benue. All the government had to do was locate a base by these inland waterways and dredge the river all the way down to the Atlantic Ocean.

It would also make some sense to have a small naval base around the Lake Chad, since it would border a large body of water shared with other countries where conflict is possible.

That is, if the rich maritime resources in the Niger Delta became so repulsive to the Nigerian Navy Board, which appears to have been hypnotized by Vice Admiral Gambo.

The national petroleum refineries that were run aground as a result of corruption are still consuming billions of naira in maintenance costs without any production

A base in Kano is just like a computer without electricity or a car without roads.

That naval base is absurd and will be built at a huge cost with little benefit to Nigerians.

So, why would this wasteful expenditure even cross anyone’s mind; talk less of being approved by the administration of a president who was a military general? I keep scratching my head.

It is the same way Nigerians scratch their heads about a myriad of other disastrous decisions that have left the country in a state in which everyone is looking for a Plan B to escape from the crushing security and economic realities.

We do ask ourselves why an oil-blessed nation is also spending most of its money on purchasing petroleum from abroad. Its most abundant resource is also the scarcest.

The national petroleum refineries that were run aground as a result of corruption are still consuming billions of naira in maintenance costs without any production.

And the government waited until they have almost outlived their useful lives before deciding to rehabilitate them for an unreasonable $1.5bn.

If at all revived, the refineries would re-emerge only to compete with a humongous private refinery that was largely sponsored through federal facilities.

There is a sea of senselessness in the way Nigeria is being managed without purposeful opposition; and this is the environment which permits a 100-hectare naval base to spring up where no ship can reach.

Written by Tunde Chris Odediran

Tunde Chris Odediran studied and practiced journalism in Nigeria. He is now a Technical Communications and Information Technology professional in the United States.