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Stakeholders To Tinubu: Sending troops to Niger akin to leaving leprosy to treat ringworms

By Gbenga Salau (Lagos), Azimazi Momoh Jimoh and John Akubo (Abuja)
06 August 2023   |   7:28 am
As the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), currently under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, considers stringent sanctions, including military intervention, against the junta in Niger Republic, there have been widespread calls on the regional body to tread with caution

President Tinubu

• Senate, PDP Govs ask Tinubu, ECOWAS to explore political, diplomatic options
• ‘Stop giving legitimacy to electoral fraud, imposition against will of people’
• At heart of Every Coup is yearning for better governance, improved welfare of citizens –Rasfsanjani
• ECOWAS can’t sustain, succeed with military intervention, says Onuoha

As the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), currently under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, considers stringent sanctions, including military intervention, against the junta in Niger Republic, there have been widespread calls on the regional body to tread with caution.

From political, religious to business leaders across different strata of the society, they spoke in unison, as they urged President Tinubu to explore more diplomatic options to ECOWAS’ attempt to restore the ousted democratically-elected government of Mohamed Bazoum.

Specifically, the Senate asked President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and other ECOWAS Heads of State to explore political and diplomatic options in resolving the crisis in Niger Republic.

It called on President Tinubu to further encourage other ECOWAS leaders to find ways of strengthening the political and diplomatic ties existing among ECOWAS states while trying to resolve the Niger crisis.

This was disclosed by the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, after a closed door meeting, which lasted for four hours yesterday over the letter sent to the Senate on Friday regarding the resolutions of ECOWAS leaders on the Niger crisis.

Reading out Senate’s resolutions on the matter, Akpabio made it clear that President Tinubu never sought approval of the Senate to deploy the armed forces to Niger Republic.

Similarly, Governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rose from a meeting with the party’s national leadership and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in Abuja yesterday, and advised President Tinubu to avoid any form of war with the Republic of Niger over the recent military coup.

The meeting, which was convened by the PDP Governors’ Forum, under the chairmanship of Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, urged that all tools of dialogue and diplomacy should be further employed.

The meeting, which was attended by the acting National Chairman of the PDP, Ambassador Umar Ilya Damagum and the party’s Vice Presidential candidate, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, among others, equally counselled the Federal Government to show leadership in curtailing the cost of Governance in the country.

The meeting advised that the 48 Ministers and several special advisers and assistants should be reduced to ensure the health of the nation’s economy.

In a communique issued at the end of the well attended meeting and read by Governor Mohammed, the meeting “advised the President, Commander in Chief and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria not to go into any form of war with the Republic of Niger over the recent military coup in the country, rather all tools of dialogue and diplomacy should be further employed.”

Nigerian Senate

Another dissenting group is that of 58 Senators in the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). They warned the ECOWAS and President Tinubu against taking military action in Niger Republic.

A statement released last night by the Northern Senators Forum condemned the military coup that ousted the administration of Mohamed Bazoum in Niger Republic last week, but advised the use of diplomatic option in resolving the crisis. They also frowned at the economic and other sanctions being imposed on Niger by ECOWAS.

Signed by its spokesman, Suleiman Kawu Sumaila, (NNPP, Kano), the Northern Senators Forum, under the leadership of Senator Abdul Ahmad Ningi (PDP, Bauchi) stated: “We, the Northern Senators Caucus of the 10th Senate under the leadership of Sen. Abdul Ahmad Ningi, note with concern and condemn in its entirety the unfortunate development in Niger Republic, where the military forcefully upstaged a democratically elected government of President Mohammed Bazoum.”

On another hand, experts in international affairs and relations also carpeted most political leaders on the continent for poor leadership, which impoverishes their populations, hence giving reasons for insurgents or military take-overs in the guise of coups.

Niger Republic Coup

It would be recalled that after days of uncertainty, the commander of Niger’s presidential guard claimed leadership in a televised address after ousting Bazoum. General Abdourahmane Tchiani, who goes by the first name, Omar, on state television, said: “We have decided to intervene and seize our responsibilities” in asserting power over the country.

But in a letter to the National Assembly, President Tinubu had intimated the Senate of a military build-up and deployment of personnel for military intervention to enforce compliance, in the event that the military junta in Niger remains recalcitrant.

Tinubu’s letter came on a day the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff (CDS) ended their three-day Extra Ordinary Meeting on Niger, with the defence chiefs calling for a comprehensive approach that encompasses political, security and diplomatic dimensions to address the situation.

The ECOWAS says its actions are meant to weaken the coup plotters to succumb to re-instating the toppled democratically-elected government. Already, the Nigerian government has cut electricity supply to the country, and citizens are already experiencing the multi-dimensional negative effect of action.

A journalist based in Niger Republic, who preferred anonymity, in a chat with The Guardian said: “It is obvious that the ECOWAS decision has impacted the daily lives of citizens. Niger imports goods from other countries. The country has no port. People are refueling across Nigeria and Benin republics. Today, everything is closed and the traders have already raised the price.

“As for power cut, the consequence is clear. The local populations live in untimely power cuts. This means that everything is in slow motion. For the leaders of ECOWAS, it is to do everything to have a quick dialogue. Find a solution in order to alleviate the suffering of citizens.

“At the moment, we cannot say that the dialogue has failed. Just a contact meeting and we hope that the regional institution will be able to find a favorable outcome,” he said.

The journalist expressed the fear that in the crossfire, many Nigeriens would die, businesses would be paralysed, and humanitarian concerns might increase in the country regarded as one of the poorest in the world.

Reacting, the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Transparency International (TI) Nigeria, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), insisted that African Union (AU) and ECOWAS must take drastic action against election riggers and tenure elongators as well as move away from being a regime protector to citizens’ defender.

He observed that the interventions by ECOWAS at present makes it look at if it is more interested in protecting regimes rather than the people, especially as it does not call heads of member states to order when undemocratic tendencies are playing out in their countries.

He insisted that as an advocate of freedom, justice, human rights and democracy, democratic governance is the best system of governance that can deliver good services to the people, adding that despite the continued injustices, lack of transparency and accountability in governance being experienced in most West African countries, constitutional democracy is the most viable option for getting the people out of the situation they have found themselves in today.

ECOWAS leaders

Musa observed that when there is coup in member states, ECOWAS leaders are quick to denounce it, but when things are going south in those countries, and heads of state are taking undemocratic steps, including tampering with the constitution to remain in power, ECOWAS leaders usually keep mum.

As such, he stressed the need for peer review for ECOWAS because of the incessant recurring coups, adding that part of the measures to curb the excesses of the recurring coups in West Africa is for member states to make a firm resolution to stop tenure elongations, giving legitimacy to electoral fraud and imposition against the will of the people.

“Second, which is very important, leaders in West Africa must ensure good governance in their countries because at the heart of every coup is a yearning for better governance and improved welfare of citizens in terms of economic progress and development and security of lives and properties.

“Corruption is prevalent in West Africa and lack of transparency and accountability in governance and leadership, mismanagement of nations resources, embezzlement, fraud by government officials. All these must be effectively addressed by ECOWAS for African countries to be free of this recurring pattern of coup. Moreover, the welfare of the security agencies must be improved.”

The CISLAC boss maintained that good governance is indeed an important pillar of strength, hope and confidence for citizens and all stakeholders about the government.

“The African Union have a big role to play by providing efficient policies and frameworks within which the West African states must operate to combat bad governance. These policies and frameworks must be implemented and taken seriously by every country and sanctions be effected for violators. This is to keep the leaders and governments in check so that they deliver on their mandates to the people they represent.”

On his part, Professor Freedom Onuoha of the Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria Nsukka, said that the threat by ECOWAS to use militariy intervention in Niger to restore the government of Bazoum is obviously contemplated in the regional body’s normative framework that prohibits unconstitutional change of government.

“But the assertive prominence given to it in tone and texture as contained in the Communique is poorly thought out and not strategi,c given the huge implications of possible military misadventure for regional stability. I would have expected ECOWAS to invest more on strategic dialogue than on provocative communication.”

But can ECOWAS muscle the right military force to oust the military government in Niger considering Niger is bigger than Nigeria in land mass and the military in Nigeria has not been able to end insurgency in few states in Nigeria? Onuoha expressed doubt as to whether ECOWAS will be able to muster, deploy and sustain such force to successfully influence the outcome of the military intervention in the best of desired form.

“In fact, the challenge of financial constraints, the existence of multiple internal security challenges bedeviling some of the member states, and the fact that terrorism is already percolating down the coastal states of West Africa impose serious limitations to the prospect of sufficient force generation and sustainable deployment. Things will even get worse if Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger pull out of ECOWAS and Algeria or other countries such as Russia provide covert or overt support to the junta in Niger,” he added.

Meanwhile, a former Deputy National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Bode George, in a letter to Tinubu, commended him for sending a delegation consisting of former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), and Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Saad Abubakar, a retired Brigadier-General, to meet the Military High Command in Niger, because diplomacy is always a better option to war and to jaw jaw is better than war war.

George, however, observed that when there is a crisis within, that is what should be solved first before going international with a ‘Big Brother’ posture. “In your last national broadcast, you even admitted that Nigerians are going through a lot and everything is being done to alleviate their suffering.

In Nigeria today, there is no food, no financial power to buy fuel, no light, no money. Nigerians are psychologically stranded and people are really going through a lot. So, I don’t know what our going to Niger Republic with full military power will achieve.

On his part, renowned diplomat, Prof Bola Akinterinwa, also advised ECOWAS, especially the Nigerian government to refrain from hastily taking action on Niger, describing the gesture as an unwanted goodness and self-suicidal terrorism

“It is good to think of sending a military expedition to Niger Republic when considering the rule of law, especially sanctity of agreements, that is, when considering the rule of pacta sunt servanda. True, the ECOWAS is a supranational authority to which the Republic of Niger belongs. It therefore owes the responsibility of faithfully complying with the obligations contracted as a result of membership of the regional organisation.

The ECOWAS, as such, also has a standing rule that under no circumstance would any unconstitutional change of government be acceptable in its inter-state relations.

“Recall that, in President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s acceptance speech as Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority, he said that Nigeria stands firmly with the elected government of Niger and that the ECOWAS shall not waiver or flinch on its stand to defend and preserve constitutional order. Military intervention in Niger is consistent with the policy of non-acceptance of unconstitutional change of government. Seeking to act in compliance with this policy is good in itself in the spirit of pacta sunt servanda.

“However, law is made for the man but not the man for the law. In other words, where a law or a policy is detrimental to the survival of man, it is only reasonable to apply further common sense in the application of the rule. For example, any military intervention in Niger Republic, Nigeria’s friendliest contiguous neighbour, has the great potential to be detrimental to the maintenance of peace and security in Nigeria, apart from the fact that the ECOWAS is even already divided against itself before going to the war theatre.”

In halting recidivist coup incidents, Akinterinwas, who lectures at the Department of International Relations, Achievers University, Owo, Ondo State, said emphasis must first be placed on differentiating between military and civilian coups so that it is not the people that are first made the target of sanctions or declaration of war.

Besides, he insisted that at the heart of the crisis is usually lack of good governance, adding that the role of the African Union cannot but be to show greater commitment to the policy of non-acceptance of unconstitutional change of government.

“One good way of promoting good governance is firstly to avoid rigged and controversial elections as basis of bringing politicians to power. Additionally, more regular peer review of rule-based governance in Member states is strongly recommended,” he said.