It must certainly be a major surprise, to those who don’t know very much about Kano, that the Nigerian Navy wants to establish a naval base there. It would play into the fear and angst of those who see such, as another example of a misplacement of priority, just to serve the interest of the North. Caricatures have even appeared on social media, showing warships being dragged through deserts, by camels, ostensibly because for those drawing them, Kano is just desert land. Well, the truth is that Kano, is not just desert.
It is the location of some of the most important bodies of water in Nigeria. The Hadejia-Jama’are River; the Yobe; the Komadougou, that comprise the Lake Chad Inland Drainage system, are part of the riverine landscape of Kano. These are areas of banditry and insurgency; the area also contains ungoverned spaces, such as the Falgore Forest Reserve, that was becoming a major security flashpoint in recent years. The naval presence on the waters would help with the country’s security architecture. The SBS of the Nigerian Navy, is one of the best special forces in Africa. Their deployment in the Kano waters and neighbourhood, would redound to our overall benefit.
I’m not surprised about the feeling that’s trailed news of the plan to establish the Kano naval base though. During the Babangida administration, with the NRC-SDP duopoly of political parties, one of our friends, Prof. Ibrahim Muazzam, was in charge of the NRC, in Kano. As preparations went for elections, they had listed logistic items needed for elections, to include boats! Officials from the HQ of the electoral body, from Abuja disagreed that boats would be needed in the desert, which for them, was what Kano was. It took field trips, around the state, on the Hadejia River, to convince them, that Kano was indeed a land of both desert and water.
But if the distinguished people had a little knowledge of history, they would have seen references, from the Middle Ages! Because a learned visitor of the period, ibn Al-wazzan, better known as Leo Africanus, had visited Kano, I think, in the reign of the most famous of the Habe Kings of Old Kano, Muhammadu Rumfa. He mentioned the incredible riches, including the riches of its rivers.
So establishing a naval base in Kano, isn’t a waste. It is also not a Northern hegemonic agenda. It expands the reaches of the Nigerian Navy and would hopefully assist in the security of Nigeria.