President Bola Tinubu on Friday, in a letter to the Senate and read at plenary by Godswill Akpabio, President of the Senate, sought the support of the National Assembly on the military action planned by the defense chiefs of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) against the defacto government in Niger of General Abdourahmane Tchiani.
The potential escalations of hostilities, including the invasion of Niger, is an ominous outcome of resolutions supposedly agreed upon at the Extraordinary Summit of ECOWAS in Abuja.
The phrase by ECOWAS – “will explore all measures necessary” to restore democratic governance in Niger, including “the use of force.” It is characteristically irresponsible.
President Tinubu, in his correspondence to the Senate, was notified of the decisions of the ECOWAS leaders. This development is a fallout of recent military takeovers in the Sahel region. New military leaders have eased out the French and are seeking association with the east, especially Russia, via its proxies such as Wagner PMC.
The situation in Niger has increased the issues befuddling President Tinubu as the leader of Africa’s most populous nation and chairman of the regional bloc, ECOWAS.
The desire to redress the deposition of Mohamed Bazoum would not be easy, as the military junta warned that it would meet force with force. “Any aggression or attempted aggression against the State of Niger will see an immediate and unannounced response from the Niger Defense and Security Forces on one of (the bloc’s) members,” was announced in a statement delivered on national television late Thursday.
The new Nigerien Government has withdrawn diplomatic representation in Nigeria, France, the United States, and Togo. In a terse statement on national television on Thursday by Tchiani, the Government said it has “put an end” to the function of the extraordinary ambassadors and plenipotentiaries of the Niger in the four countries. The deteriorating situation has witnessed the snubbing of ECOWAS Special Representative General Abdulsalam Abubakar, as the delegation left Niger without meeting the leader of the new Government.
The incarceration of deposed leader Mohammed Bazoum and other top officials, including former Defense Minister Kalla Moutari, Interior Minister Hama Amadou Souley, head of the ruling party Fourmakaye Gado, Transport Minister Oumarou Mallam Alma, Oil Minister Mahamane Sani Mahamadou, Mining Minster, Ousseini Hadizatou is now integral to the overall negotiations.
A full or gradual release of Bazoum and members of the former Government while talks are being held to address the current situation, maybe an excellent opportunity to salvage the tense situation.
The solicitation for war by the strongmen of the Nigerien Armed Forces calls for caution with the clear and present danger lurking with Wagner PMC that has prodded military regimes in Mali, Central African Republic, and Burkina Faso.
It is clear a scripted sequence of events is unfolding, with Assimi Goita of Mali engineering the exit of the French forces therein and the severance of the extant diplomatic relationship.
This same strategy was devised in Burkina Faso before recent developments in Niamey, with Russian flags openly paraded and the exaltation of Russia as the new savior of Francophone West Africa.
The wave of disinformation across the board is a classic Wagner PMC template. Wagner operates in Sudan, Mali, Mozambique, Chad, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Libya, and Central African Republic (CAR). Wagner is premised on non-democratic ideals, focusing on exploiting mineral and natural resources.
Naturally, the presence of Wagner nearer Nigeria puts our gold deposits in Zamfara State, amongst other prized minerals in Nigeria, at risk.
The seven-day ultimatum issued to the military junta to reinstate Bazoum into power will lapse on Sunday. The military intervention by ECOWAS might then be decided. This decision would fulfill the declaration of support by leaders of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea for General Tchiani.
These new occupants of power in the Sahel recently attended the Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg, where they openly romanticized the Russian Government.
It is assumed the Armed Forces of Niger cannot stand the firepower of Nigeria and the collective Defense Forces of ECOWAS. Still, a recurring decimal is who will fund this new adventure, possibly leading to an intractable regional war.
The regional bloc led by Nigeria already has existential issues like Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, communal clashes, farmers and herders clashes, oil theft, and separatist agitation by IPOB, amongst others, to contend with.
The Northern Senators caucus has voiced out to President Tinubu that the impending skirmish will claim the hegemony of the seven Northern states – Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe, and Borno sharing a 1,608 kilometers long border with the Niger Republic.
If kinetic warfare does not resolve, non-kinetic action would be employed to obtain either a victory or a stalemate, and civilian endeavors like farming, fishing, trade, and commerce would suffer.
Life is already tough regionally with astronomical increases in fuel pump prices, inflationary spikes, and increased cost of living pressures, amongst others, to now contend with thoughts of bullets, shells, and bombs flying in warfare that’s beyond our collective control.
West Africa is a theatre of political instability, rising jihadism, terrorism, the proliferation of small and light arms, and banditry, and it’s illogical tocontemplate or envisage a multi-national armed group imposing a new theatre of war in Niger.
Olusegun Obasanjo and Aliyu Gusau should be incorporated in all peace initiatives exploring dialogue to resolve the extant issues that could morph into unending crises with a cross-flow of refugees and internally displaced persons across the West African coast and beyond.
In conclusion, it is imperative to state that the citizenry of West Africa, especially Nigeria, and Niger, should not be the canon fodder in any situation.
The entire population would suffer sanctions as the belligerents are prepared for economic sanctions.
Nigeria and Niger Republic are some of the poorest countries in the world, and both are contending with food and hunger crises, amongst others. In the end, common sense should prevail to curtail this impending crisis of immense proportions across multiple touch points.
Ayoola Ajanaku is an Advocacy and Communications Specialist based in Lagos, Nigeria…