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The strange naval base in Kano

In Nigeria, events happen so fast that many bizarre things come and go, giving citizens little or no time to reflect on them. One of such events is the federal government’s decision to have a naval base in Kano. The announcement of this decision came as a flash on the pan but has come to stay with us.

That decision is not only upsetting but also seems to have sent the entire country into the theatre of the absurd where fooleries, irregularities, illogical and senseless reasoning becloud rational thinking.

The ancient city of Kano is a great one. For several centuries, it was the centre of Hausa civilization and the epicenter of Islamic scholarship in the Northern region of Nigeria. We admire the city for that. But it is a landlocked city, hence our discomfort with the whole idea of a Naval Base in that city.

Nigeria, unfortunately, has degenerated into a country of anything goes. This has become worse in the last few years. Government can just wake up and take decisions without a single consideration for rationality, national interest, economic importance, or reasonableness.

Before now, the government had offended the sensibilities of Nigerians with the decision to search for oil in the Northern part of the country that futile effort has gulped billions of naira. The decision has also been made and, of course, being implemented, to construct a rail line that will run from Lagos-Kano-Katsina to Marradi in the Niger Republic.

For us, no decision could be crazier and more absurd, more so when we are reminded that lack of a functional rail system is the singular reason Apapa, the nation’s premier port city, has become a wasteland, a byword for congestion and gridlock that account for millions of naira daily revenue loss.

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In all its fine attributes, including its long history and power, no one could have predicted that one day, Kano would have a naval base. But today, it has come to pass as hollowness, pointlessness, and vagueness in government reasoning.

By this action, Kano becomes the only place in the world, an inland location housing a naval base. It remains to be seen what economic or even political point anybody hopes to score by taking a naval base to a dry-land.

In their bid to act what looks like a script, the federal government and its agencies make blind decisions that are, in most cases, wasteful and counter-productive. We share the views of Jackson Lekan-Ojo, a security expert, who is quoted as saying that the Nigerian Navy has no business on dry land. He pointed out that the idea of building a Naval base in Kano sounds out of place.

“The Nigerian Navy should be concerned about the inter-territorial integrity of the country through the waterways which is its primary function. To me, the Navy has no business on dry land. The Navy is for the inter-territorial integrity of the country through the water. That is it,” he said. We cannot agree more.

On the strength of the above, it remains absolutely unclear to us what the reason for this naval base in Kano is. But we know that the navy’s constitutional duty, just like the army and the air force, is to defend the territorial integrity of the nation.

Agreed that, occasionally, members of the armed forces may be involved in internal security with the permission and directive of the Commander-in-Chief, but still, the armed forces duty is really to protect the nation from external enemies. The army deals with the enemies by land, the air force by air and the navy by sea. Now, let us look at Kano and think of the sea!

It beats our imagination that Vice-Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, the Chief of Naval Staff, who is a fine gentleman, a highly educated officer with Masters and Doctorate degrees from the Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso, in Oyo State, could pander to this lopsided decision. Is this action intended to impress or achieve a national purpose? Or it is meant to show that “I am a son of the soil”?

Like other Nigerians, we wonder how the boats and ships would be transported to Kano for the use of this strange naval base. Would they be shipped by road or by air? Are they going bytrain? Or we are returning to the old reliable means, the camels that were used for the Trans-Saharan Trade?

In more ways than one, this fiction only shows Nigerians what is happening in the power arena, especially among those in possession of it at the federal level. It shows that at that level, particularly within the military high command, there are too much ‘yes-siring’.

This, regrettably, seems to defeat constructive debate about better alternatives when decisions and policies are made. And it is, perhaps, why the country is left, most times, in strange lands such as a naval base in dryland that can only serve a narrow-minded and parochial interest.

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