BY IBRAHIM MODIBBO
The conventional and social media have for some time now been awash with stories, opinions and commentaries about the absurdity of establishing a Naval Base in Kano by the authorities of the Nigerian Navy. One of them that is worth recalling was an online publication captioned “Our Navy’s NNS absurdity” written by Dare Babarinsa on the 9th of September 2021 at the guardian.ng, criticizing the siting of a Naval base in Kano.
According to the critic(s) of the move by the Navy, which they likened Kano to a wilderness without anybody of freshwater and as such, it was ludicrous for the Navy to have a base in Kano when the basic element (water) required by the Naval forces the world over is lacking.
In view of the strategic importance of this noble decision to the Nigerian people and in fact, like other national issues in Nigeria, the rumble that this move has generated has once again brought to the fore, how matters of national security are treated from the narrow prism of nepotism, deep-seated bias and outrageous example of brazen impunity.
To properly situate and contexualize the issues raised by some of the commentaries and articles read, none of them have advanced fundamental posers on the imperative of sitting the base in Kano from the position of knowledge, rather, the writers succumbed to the temptation of spewing out bottled up idiosyncrasies based on impulses that seems to create a gulf between reality and fiction.
Under globalization and multicultural affinities such as ours, the journalist must conform with the ethical standards of the profession based on social responsibility theory of objectivity, fairness, balance, accurate, factual and correct perspectives among others instead of resorting to “self-help” by deploying ethnic, sectoral and sentimental prejudices. It is sad to note that most of the critics seem to be emotionally troubled and felt very insecure with the patriotic and nationalistic interventions of the Nigerian Navy in the process of good governance and they rely heavily on ethnic, religious and sectional disparities that are fast eroding what is left of our common heritage.
Ordinarily, these writers wouldn’t have been dignified with a response, but because of the erroneous impressions and obvious misrepresentation of facts that became the lot, this rejoinder justifies the strategic importance of siting a Naval base in Kano.
For the avoidance of doubt, it is pertinent to state that the Naval base in Kano is meant for the establishment of the Nigerian Navy logistics college. In the real sense, a Naval base is presumed from a layman’s point of view to be a securely held seaport used as a centre of operation by the Navy. Nevertheless, a Naval base could be built for operations, training, logistics or administration. In the Nigerian Navy, there are three operational commands which are, Western Naval Command with Headquarters in Lagos, Eastern Naval Command with Headquarters in Calabar and Central Naval Command with Headquarters in Yenagoa.
But, let’s assume that some of us are unknowledgeable about military nuances at large and the Navy, in particular, the poser here is, what constitutes a Naval Base? It is imperative for the purpose of this rejoinder to state that all establishments and units of the Navy can be called bases notwithstanding their physical location. Technically, in Navy parlance, bases are called stone frigates.
To laymen, including critics of the Navy’s move to look up North to site a base which ordinarily is considered an exclusive preserve of the south, close to waterfronts or in a maritime environment, is, to say the least, absurd in logic.
Out of sheer mischief, blackmail or both, some critics have advanced reasons for siting Kano as a Naval base to the strings and aprons that could be tied to the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo an indigene of Kano. Rear Admiral Gambo remains in history as one of the most educated chiefs’ the Navy has ever produced. With a PhD in Transport Management, Gambo is an exceptionally accomplished underwater warfare specialist that put to bear intelligence as a footprint. For such an educated man with professional proficiency and the cosmopolitan world, a view could never be swayed nor pander to the whims and caprices of sentiments or sectionalism in his professional calling, but would always act in the best interest of Nigeria with its attendant human capital development.
Verifiable sources disclosed that the Nigerian Navy is presently involved in various internal security operations beyond its primary maritime security roles. They pointed out that aside from serving as a training establishment for the Nigerian Navy logisticians, the base in Kano will also support naval operations in the hinterland.
Also, for some time now, the navy had adopted a strategy of not putting all its eggs in one basket. This is aimed at decongesting its presence in the Lagos area by expanding to other locations, including Calabar, Warri and Port Harcourt. This decision had led to the establishment of the Nigerian Navy Finance and Logistics College in Owerrinta, Abia State; the Nigerian Navy School of Armament Technology in Kachia, Kaduna State; the Navy School of Health Sciences in Offa, Kwara State; the Command Naval Drafting has been relocated to Lokoja, Kogi State, while the School of Music is now located in Ota, Ogun State. Similarly, the navy is considering relocating its Navy School of Communication and Information Technology and PT School to Ife, Osun State.
Apart from the Kano base, the board of the navy approved the establishment of two additional naval bases in Lekki, and Oguta. But, out of these three locations, it’s only the choice of Kano as a base that has elicited acidic condemnations. Other parts of the north where the navy has bases are Benue, Kogi, and the Borno States.
Nigeria isn’t the only country that has a naval presence on the land. There are landlocked cities/countries with navies around the world. A landlocked navy is a naval force operated by a country that does not have a coastline. While such a country is not able to develop a sea-going bluewater navy, it can deploy armed forces on major lakes or rivers, which are plentiful in the north.
Examples of landlocked countries that have operational navies include Azerbaijan, Bolivia, the Central African Republic, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Laos, Paraguay, Rwanda, as well as Uganda amongst others. In the USA, the Naval Construction Battalion Centre is located in Mississippi, the Naval Air Station Fallon is in Nevada, the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic Detachment LaMoure is in North Dakota, while the Navy Information Operations Command – Sugar Grove is in West Virginia. All these states in the USA are landlocked.
Moreover, in the United Kingdom, Her Majesty Ship (HMS) DRYAD and COLLINGWOOD are located on land, instead of on the coast. In Germany, the Logistikschule der Bundeswehr (The Logistics School of the German Armed Forces) is located in Carlstadt, a landlocked city.
From the foregoing, there is absolutely no absurdity in the Nigerian Navy establishing a training school in Kano. In this era of insecurity, as the nation is witnessing, many Nigerians may be unaware that naval officers are involved in many of the internal security operations in states outside the Niger Delta. The affected states include Plateau, Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa and the North -East.
For Nigeria to win the war against terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and other violent and economic crimes that are threatening the very fabric of the country, it requires all hands to be on deck, irrespective of the arm of the armed forces or security agencies involved. The focus now should be how the country can overcome all these security challenges, and not on the mundane issue of where a military base or facility should be sited.
I strongly support the Navy in its quest for a viable and vibrant partnership with the media as the fourth estate of the Realm. According to the Navy, it views Media as a force multiplier and intends to engage the mass media constructively in a mutually beneficial relationship.
Modibbo is an Abuja based Journalist