By Sunday Eze
The tendency of Nigeria to fight her neighbours is not in the nation’s guidelines on foreign relations. Suffice it to say that any war against Niger will have huge negative impact on Nigeria. Prosecuting the impending war involves unfortunately a waste of time, men, material, energy and scarce resources. It is instructive to mention that Nigeria foots over 70% of ECOWAS bill. As usual, other nations look up to Nigeria to still play the big brother role.
However, Nigeria is in a fix at the moment. She is at war with herself. The rising cost of living occasioned by fuel subsidy removal is a big burden government is yet to frontally address. People are frustrated and it takes an irresponsible government to fight a meaningless war when its house is on fire. Experience has shown that Nigeria never recovered resources wasted to restore peace or democracy in Africa.
How much interest of Nigeria was considered or protected in rebuilding South Africa, Liberia and Sierra-Leone? Hopefully, this war will be avoided and if not, West African sub-region will never remain the same again. Therefore, the idea of use of brutal force or engagement in full scale hostility is not the solution to the coup. As the current leader of ECOWAS, Nigeria should avoid conversations pitched around war and toe the line of diplomacy and peace. It is expedient to avoid war for that is the right and most sensible thing to do. West African leaders should disregard external pressure nudging them to create a new crisis spot for the vultures to feast on.
The position of Senator Shehu Sani regarding the crisis as culled from his Facebook page entitled, “Tinubu should not sacrifice our lives for Niger” is worthy of mentioning. Sani averred in the epistle that, “the Nigerian Senate should not approve any military action against Niger Republic. This country should not be plunged into war and eventually stuck in war in the Sahel. President Tinubu shouldn’t allow himself to be misled by foreign powers. Saudi in Yemen, America in Afghanistan and now Russia in Ukraine should teach us a lesson that war doesn’t end in days, weeks or months. Senators should weigh the implications and consequences of their decisions, especially those senators representing states along the Niger border. Weaponising electricity supplies to Niger is also condemnable. President Tinubu should continue to explore diplomatic channels and save the lives of those who will be sacrificed.” Interestingly, the Senate of the Federal Republic had graciously declined the approval of war against Niger.
Those who are close to the president should counsel him on the need to rescind the drastic decision taken on electricity supply to Niger immediately. It seems that he does not understand the underlining historical factors leading to the supply of electricity to Niger and the consequences of his action. Let the president be told in clear terms that it was a diplomatic arrangement to discourage Niger from constructing a dam at the upper Niger of their end which could jeopardise free flow of water to Jebba, Shiroro and Kainji dams. Niger also pay Nigeria in dollars for the power supply. It is not for free as many people ignorantly think. They also come to Nigeria monthly to service their dedicated turbine while ours are in shambles. If Russia eventually supports them with the needed fund to complete their own dam already in progress before they were reminded of the existing pact, Nigeria will live to regret her action.
The situation in Niger must be handled with utmost care and in the best of mutual regional interest. The street assessment of Nigerien and African citizens’ reaction to Niger coup is not averse to democracy or restoration of an overthrown democratic but for a change and transformation of Africa for the desired growth and development. An average African has come to terms with the fact that the continent is not poor. With this hindsight, growing support for any government driving the process of recovering Africa’s lost glory is high. Africans are very much aware that these crops of leaders issuing orders for democracy to return in Niger cannot be said to be democratic in the real sense of it. They only hide under a global ideology to win elections, retain power and wield authority. Most of them rig elections and circumvent the peoples’ will to remain in office, thus have lost the goodwill of citizens. The stability of Africa will be ruptured with a war in the Sahel.
Pundits have lent their voices to the rising tension in Niger and offered recommendations for truce. There are no better recommendations situated for the government of Nigeria to consider in ensuring peace and stability in Niger and the Sahel in general than the “Thirteen reasons Why Nigerians must not support any armed invasion of Niger Republic,” espoused by Senator Shehu Sani. Let me reiterate them once again. One, ECOWAS armed invasion of Niger Republic is simply a war between Nigeria and Niger because of our proximity. Two, Russia and Wagner may come in support of Niger Republic and Nigeria will have to use its own money to prosecute the operation; Nigeria offsets 70 percent of the budget of ECOWAS. I don’t see the US Congress approving unlimited arm supplies for ECOWAS to wage war against another country. Three, our bordering states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa and Yobe will incur direct hit in the event of war. Four, if there was no military action to dislodge the military coupists in Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad, why that of Niger Republic? Five, why did the American and French military bases inside Niger Republic refused to stop the coup and now they are encouraging us to go to war?
Six, Niger has been helpful to Nigeria in the fight against terrorists groups and the country is currently hosting over 303,000 Nigerian refugees; in the event of war this can be in danger. Seven, President Tinubu should not allow himself to be pushed to initiate and trigger a war with a neighbouring country and later be left stranded. No West African country has any military capability to start or sustain a war with Niger Republic; everyone will be relying on Nigeria. Eight, we should not cry more than the bereaved; If the people of Niger Republic don’t want Military rule, let them fight to remove it themselves. We fought our own military rulers and some of us even went to jail in that struggle. Let them fight their fight. Nine, Saudi Arabia is still bogged down in Yemen after spending hundreds of billions of dollars which we don’t have. Ten, the military regime in Myanmar is still there and not one stronger nation is contemplating military action. Eleven, we have a war at home against terrorism let’s concentrate here. Twelve, Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinean forces will likely enter the war to support Niger Republic and they will attack Nigerian territories. Thirteen, President Tinubu must continue to toe the line of dialogue with the military authorities in Niger and not war.
Ironically, Nigeria is at the fore front of preserving democracy in another man’s land but pays lip service to her own internal democratic processes. This is why nations no more take Nigeria seriously. The conduct of Nigerian leaders against democracy stands to bear witness against them in this their hypocritical quest to restore democracy in Niger. Government has a duty to listen to opinions and general counsel canvassed and advanced by Nigerians to desist from war. Seven days ultimatum is too short a period to explore all diplomatic means to resolving the impasse. The coup in Niger is first an internal problem which should be left for them to resolve internally. Diplomatic option is the best on the table for now while economic sanction should be on standby. Only at the point of extreme deviance will the military option suffice. Nigeria has lost her respect and reputation with the way and manner the coupists treated her envoys. Nigeria is already at war with herself and she does cannot afford to destroy her sub-regional goodwill by fight a meaningless war.
Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, a Media and Development Communication Specialist writes via firstname.lastname@example.org