The politics of nuclear weapons is one of the more intriguing whims of international diplomacy and illustrates the adroit skills required to make absolutely insane points without even acknowledging to yourself that you are extremely unreasonable. The zeitgeist today is that the loudest proponents of nuclear non-proliferation are those countries that either have nuclear weapons or have defense pacts with nuclear-armed states. In simple terms therefore, we are invited to believe that nuclear weapons in the hands of some represent no greater threat to world peace and security than in the hands of others, or that the restraint imposed by the sheer destructive potential of these weapons can only be expected from certain humans. Be that as it may but the NPT itself clearly recognizes the unsatisfactory nature of these assurances and mandates total denuclearisation across the world.
My concern is about Nigeria, an established regional power with considerable potential to become a world power, middle income nation and a significant economic force. When this happens, Nigeria will have strategic concerns about the disposition of other countries towards this growing influence, especially those aggressive and war-like nations like USA, Britain and France, who have a very long history of military and economic hegemonism, often making the friend-ally-foe transition fairly quickly when the elite-determined national interest deems this necessary. The question of how Nigeria will anticipate these plausible future threats is therefore pertinent now. The example of China is poignant- the South China Sea is full of US bases that have no reasonable function other than a strategic choke and military finger-wagging at a rising power.
One could learn from Canada, Japan, Australia and Germany and declare that these are high-income high-influence countries that have managed to meet similar security concerns without relying on nuclear weapons. Some would even argue that this makes any such security concerns untenable, even as a future proposition. However, we must bear in mind that Germany, Canada and Australia are essentially old European colonies that benefit from close ties with their old cousins and, in the case of Germany and Canada, are protected by a multilateral defence treaty (NATO) and others by specific bilateral treaties and superpower guarantees. Canada and Australia are also protected by their peculiar geography that limits the threats they might conceivably face. It cannot be assumed that Nigeria could rely on the racial affinity that some of these rich non-nuclear states could count on, in part at least, for their security. Nigeria is readily accessible to hostile attention through a long navigable coastline and thousands of kilometres of land borders.
Economic utility is another protective factor, as the utility of being an active trading nation with multinational corporate influence and a guarantee of markets, funding streams and specific technologies, increases the incentive for partners, seeking to stabilise markets, to guarantee your security. Economic development also inevitably implies that the technological capability to make nuclear weapons and reliable delivery systems is not far off. This would make Germany and Japan not so much non-nuclear as nuclear-capable-if-need-be, itself a strategic protection.
For these reasons, and perhaps others, we need to start thinking about a multi-layered defence strategy that is based on a realistic appraisal of current and future threats and the peculiarities of our economics, geography and history.