Heart of Arts

A soundly-argued Open Letter

Professor Victor Oguejiofor Okafor

A May 3, 2024 “OPEN LETTER TO MR. PRESIDENT AND THE LEADERSHIP OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY (NASS) ON THE DANGERS OF THE RELOCATION OF AMERICAN AND FRENCH MILITARY BASES FROM THE SAHEL TO NIGERIA” by a group of six members of the Nigerian intelligentsia1 comes across as a soundly argued appeal. Its conclusion is particularly poignant: “By standing firm against the pressures to house foreign bases, Nigeria can affirm its commitment to self-determination and foster a more stable and prosperous future for all its citizens. Let us choose a path of cautious diplomacy and strategic independence, ensuring that our nation remains a beacon of stability and a model of sovereign integrity in Africa.”2

For those of you who may reason otherwise, I urge you to ask yourselves the following question: would the French and/or the American governments allow the Nigerian government, along with any other foreign entity, to establish a military base within their French or American sovereign territories? Of Course, no! And French and American citizens would, and should, rightly object to such a hypothetical Nigerian encroachment upon their national sovereignty. Then ask yourselves this follow-up question: If neither the French nor the American government would allow a foreign country, such as Nigeria, to establish a military base on either the French or American soil, as reported by the afore-mentioned letter, why would the same French or American government wish this undesirable and unacceptable outcome for any other country? The fact that we have in place anywhere in Africa a political leadership that may even need a lesson on this simple logic of life, this simple logic of national security, and this simple logic of international diplomacy is in and of itself a problem. And then, I must ask: what is ideologically wrong with an African leader who would even give a minute of attention to an anti-African proposition of having a foreign military base established on his/her sovereign land except for temporary patriotic purposes of helping to restore peace and tranquility within the motherland through the agency of the United Nations or the African Union? Why do we, why does the Black Man/Woman, continually appear to play the child in global affairs? When are we going to grow up and listen to the wise counsel of our own blood-strewn history, the voice of the patriots of our struggle-littered history, the wise counsellors of African history like the Kwame Nkrumahs whose vision was that Africa should form its own political union, form its own army, form its own navy, form its own air force in order to be able to safeguard its hard-won sovereign freedom and protect its vast natural resources for the benefit of the welfare of African peoples? Malcolm X of African Diasporic memory also has a word of wisdom that is apropos to this controversy: instead of seeking to enter and live in the house of your oppressors, build your own house. To translate, this means build your own army; build your own navy; build your own air force.

The open letter is replete with evidence that the experience of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger from hosting foreign military bases demonstrates that those bases were not necessarily being operated for the purpose of furthering African sovereign and human interests, such as peace and tranquility on the continent, political cohesion, political stability, economic wellbeing and economic prosperity of African peoples. Instead, the experience of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger appears to point in the opposite direction. As the open letter demonstrates, the foreign military bases were being used “to carry out surveillance operations in the region to serve [the] geopolitical strategic interests” of the occupying foreign powers. Take note also that in a UN General Assembly speech a few months ago, the pragmatic, no-nonsense Head of State of Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Traore did call attention to the anti-African nature of the agenda and missions of those military bases.3 For details, open and watch: https://youtu.be/0mKFzQP-R8k.

Countries Pursue Their Own National/Sovereign Interests
Given that naturally, countries of our world tend to seek to advance their own national/sovereign or strategic interests in their international engagements, why would you expect the French or American governments to act otherwise in their multi-billion-dollar foreign military base designs? Why on earth would you expect the French or the American government to direct their taxpayers’ revenue towards foreign military bases that would be geared towards serving purposes other than French or American national and strategic interests? No government in those lands would survive the next election if their electorates were made to believe that their tax-payer revenue is being used abroad simply for charity purposes, simply to advance African interests. This is so because those governments are reasonably accountable to their people; they operate on the foundation of a governmental system that is effectively democratic—that is, a governmental system that tends to be based largely on the will of the people as demonstrated through the ballot box though from time to time, some outlying politicians may act in rather self-interested directions. Votes count in those societies. For the most part, governments do not emerge through manipulations of the electoral ballot system, through forged electoral numbers.

Another point to note is that, in general, the peace-loving, comfort-craving citizens of these relatively accountable governments of the Northern Hemisphere, such as the French and American governments, given the choice, would not want to see their governments meddle in the affairs of foreign countries or disturb the peace of other countries. In general, what some of their governments cite as “strategic interests” may, in reality, serve elitist economic interests of the humongous multinational corporations which may or may not even allow patriotic sentiments to override their business calculus and agendas. In other words, in lobbying and manipulating their governments to serve as their proxies to deploy military bases abroad for protection of alleged “strategic interests”—which tend to translate into precious natural resources contained within the foreign countries that receive such military bases—the multinational and transnational corporations’ interests may not necessarily coincide with the grassroots’ dollars and cents interests of French or American citizens.

Africa welcomes foreigners with open arms
As we reflect further, it is also important to note that historically, African peoples in general do welcome and embrace foreigners. Even early European explorers attested in their notes that the Africans they encountered were broadly friendly towards foreigners. Generally-speaking, the African cultural heritage exudes a worldview that tends to perceive the external world from the standpoint of a sense of human brotherhood and human sisterhood. Furthermore, the African cultural worldview is not known to hegemonic—that is, to harbor an impulse for imperial conquests and acquisitions abroad. However, over the centuries, Africa has learned the hard-way that the world beyond its shores is not of the same mindset—that is, that the world beyond is not necessarily content with what it possesses within its confines and instead looks vulturously at what Africa itself possesses within its territorial fold. Of course, within the global community, it is healthy for countries to seek to acquire what it lacks from others, from external sources through peaceful trade and commerce. On the other hand, what is not healthy and helpful to global peace is for one country or the other, or a group of countries, to seek to take resources from other nations by force, by conquest, or by trickery.

At this juncture, let’s recall that in urging the Nigerian government to learn from the experience of their neighboring African countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger on the issue of hosting foreign military bases, the open letter by the aforementioned group of six cites strong evidence to show that that experience did not advance African sovereign and human interests. Below is an illustrative extract from their open letter.

  • It is apparent that the presence of American troops and other intelligence personnel in Niger Republic is not serving any useful purpose. This is for the simple reason that terrorism, far from abating, has in fact risen dramatically since the US began its operations in the region. Data sourced from the Pentagon, indicate that ‘with 2,737 violent events, the western Sahel (Burkina Faso, Mali and Western Niger) experienced the largest escalation in violent event linked to militant Islamist groups over the past years of any region in Africa, a 36% increase.’ …’ Fatalities in the Sahel involving militant Islamist groups rose even more rapidly, 63%, resulting in 7,899 fatalities. Niger in particular in particular `saw a 43% increase in violent events in the past year. `All told, …attacks linked to militant Islamist groups in the Sahel have jumped 3,500% since 2016.’ `At a minimum, more US security assistance isn’t leading to more security and all signs suggest it plays a role in making matters worse’ (Elizabeth Shackelford). `The Sahel now accounts for 40% of all violent activity by militant Islamist groups in Africa, more than any other region in Africa. …Militant Islamist violence in the Sahel is also responsible for the displacement of more than 2.6 million people.

Build your own African army; build your own African navy; build your own African air force!
What more evidence would the skeptics want to see in order to come to an understanding that foreign military bases would not and are not designed to serve the internal and external security, peace, economic wellbeing, and economic prosperity interests of the host African countries, including Nigeria? From the foregoing essay, you must have gleaned that my own position is that instead of embracing military bases from either the West (France, Britain, Germany, USA, etc.) or the East (Russia or China), African countries should form their own collective African army, their own collective African navy, their own collective African air force, and their own collective ancillary defensive forces and institutions by which African peoples can safeguard Africa’s hard-won independence from imperialist vultures from either the West or the East who never seem to get tired of seeking new lands to conquer/occupy either wholly or through the backdoor of neocolonialism.

Need to Re-imagine Our place in the world
As for the Western or Eastern geopolitical powers that never get tired of seeking new lands to conquer and new “strategic interests” on someone else’s land to protect through the subterfuge of a military base, I would advise as follows. Please, begin to re-imagine our place in the world as a co-neighbor with sovereign countries whose territories are not meant to provide us with “strategic interests” for us to plunder. Deploying military bases for purposes of protecting the natural resources located within the territorial jurisdiction of another sovereign country is tantamount to running the affairs of the 21st century with a 15th century imperialistic mindset. However, deploying the military for noble purposes, such as the protection of a community of fellow human beings who are facing genocide or are facing an imminent threat of a genocidal annihilation by an oppressive majority, serves as an acceptable and gracious exercise of military might. The militarily mighty nations of the West and the East need to re-imaging their places among the comity of nations; they need to consider the fact that each country on earth cherishes its own territorial land, cherishes its own natural resources, cherishes its own cultural space as much as and no less than the militarily dominant nations value their own. An egalitarian new sense of our place amongst the comity of nations can further the goal of world peace and security, a world of live and let live.

I end this essay on a good note. As of May 6, 2024, a newspaper report, citing Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris, stated that the federal government of Nigeria “has no plan to host foreign military bases within its borders.”5 The report quoted the Information Minister as describing as “false alarms,” `the suspicion among observers that the government was considering approving military bases for the US and France following their ejection from neighboring Niger.”6



1 The authors of the letter are: Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, Centre for Democratic Development, Research and Training (CEDDERT) Zaria; 2. Kabiru Sulaiman Chafe Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP) Kaduna; 3. Attahiru Muhammadu Jega, Bayero University, Kano; 4. Jibrin Ibrahim, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) Abuja; 5. Auwal Musa (Rafsanjani), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) Abuja; & 6. Y. Z. Ya’u, Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
2 Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, Kabiru Sulaiman Chafe, Attahiru Muhammadu Jega, et al. AN OPEN LETTER TO MR. PRESIDENT AND THE LEADERSHIP OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY (NASS) ON THE DANGERS OF THE RELOCATION OF AMERICAN AND FRENCH MILITARY BASES FROM THE SAHEL TO NIGERIA (May 3, 2014), https://groups.google.com/g/usaafricadialogue/c/HCPkC-a0318/m/hUdsWQ4WAQAJ?utm_medium=email&utm_source=footer&pli=1.
3 Shockwaves across Africa as Burkina Faso leader boldly lectures the West on the UN general assembly. YouTube (May 3, 2024), https://youtu.be/0mKFzQP-R8k.
4 Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, Kabiru Sulaiman Chafe, Attahiru Muhammadu Jega, et al. AN OPEN LETTER.
5 Kabir Yusuf, Nigeria has no plans to host American, French military bases. Premium Times (May 6, 2024), https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/691873-updated-nigeria-has-no-plans-to-host-american-french-military-bases-official.html.
6 Kabir Yusuf, Nigeria has no plans to host American, French military bases.


Professor Victor Oguejiofor Okafor holds a Ph.D., African American Studies, Temple University, 1994; a Master of Public Affairs (MPA) with a concentrated in Development Management, Indiana University in Bloomington, 1988; and a BA, Journalism (Business minor), Indiana University, 1986.
Dr. Victor Okafor is head of the Department of Africology and African American Studies at Eastern Michigan University. Author of five books, Okafor has also contributed chapters to several anthologies, and published a variety of scholarly articles in such refereed journals as the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, Africa Update, and the Griot. Okafor’s writings have appeared in national magazines and newspapers. He has presented papers at dozens of professional conferences, conventions, and meetings of student groups, as well as other groups.
Professor Okafor is a certified Quality Matters (QM) Peer Reviewer of Online Course Designs. He has three certifications in the areas of 1) Online Course Designing and instruction, 2) application of Quality Matters (QM) Principles and Rubrics to Online Course Designs, and 3) Quality Matters (QM) Peer Reviewer of Online Course Designs. Okafor has been designing and teaching online courses since 1999.

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