THERE is palpable tension that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) would invade Niger Republic to restore President Mohamed Bazoum who was deposed by soldiers from the presidential guards on July 26, 2023. The coup leader, Abdourahamane Tchiani, who was the head of the presidential guards, is now the self-acclaimed leader of the military junta there.
As a result of this, the ECOWAS Authority and Heads of States and Government met on July 30, 2023 and issued a number of resolutions by sanctioning Niger, and gave the military junta a seven-day ultimatum to return power to President Bazoum. But by far what has caught the attention of almost everybody was the one about military intervention.
People are very worried that military intervention would worsen the situation and it is like a brother fighting his brother as some people from the northern part of the country don’t really see Niger as a foreign country, but rather as an extension of Nigeria. They share the same language, religion and culture.
In fact, some years ago, I was listening to a radio where a professor in Niger was saying that the Hausa people had their origin in Niger.
Pictures and songs resurfaced emphasising the closeness between the two countries that one is bound to ask if indeed Nigeria is declaring a war on Niger.
There are scrambles to explain that the ultimatum was not issued by President Tinubu but by the ECOWAS. Some may however not agree with this assertion, as the President of Nigeria is the ECOWAS Chairman. Also, that ‘Nigeria is ECOWAS’ as some say, since it is the major funder of the organisation among other influential roles it plays.
Nigeria had cut off electricity to Niger among other economic sanctions to make the military junta feel the squeeze, but unfortunately for the ECOWAS, instead they are rallying people about defending their country against external aggression.
Religious organisations and others are prevailing on President Tinubu not to toe the line of war but to use diplomacy, especially since Nigeria is battling its internal monsters of insecurity.
It is no doubt that military coups have become outdated and should not be brought back in the name of fighting corruption and so on, only for the military to keep postponing their stay in power or to be elected ‘civilian’ presidents. As it is in the West African sub-region, there are military rulers in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea
Even though ECOWAS should observe its protocols on such matters, some feel that we should not cry more than the bereaved by taking military action in order to restore democracy there.
As it is, Nigeria has many displaced persons chased away from their homes by bandits in the North West. If a military intervention happens in Niger, only God knows the Nigeriens that would run to Nigeria.
While it may be the ECOWAS decision, Nigeria would carry the burden coupled with many internally displaced persons that it cannot cater for, it would be a huge cost that the Nigerian economy cannot afford.
The Western countries seem keen to back ECOWAS led by President Tinubu which make some people worry and hope that Tinubu would tread carefully and not allow himself to be pushed into something he would regret. The military rulers of Mali and Burkina Faso have declared their support for the Niger military junta. They have visited Niger and said any military action against Niger was against them as well.
In case of a war, it would not be carried out in the UK or the US. The death, devastation, displacement and the criminality that would follow will all be here in Africa, in Niger and Nigeria.
Therefore, whatever the breach of the rules by a member country, war is not an option. Africa has many problems that hinder its development such as corruption that should be tackled head on.
We don’t need wars that we would not know when they would end and the catastrophe they would bring!