Silencing the war drums and option of dialogue
We have General Abdulsalami Abubakar and the Sultan of Sokoto, His Highness Sa’ad Abubakar, to thank for silencing war drums by ECOWAS and pressing for dialogue to resolve the quagmire into which Nigeria has been dragged, putting President Bola Tinubu at a crossroads. With their intervention, downscaling tension that had literally risen sky-high across our land, we can genuinely heave a sigh of relief. General Abdulsalami and the Sultan were President Tinubu’s emissaries to the Niger Republic. Trailing them closely on the peace mission was a group of eminent Muslim clerics who already had Tinubu’s nodding to the troubled land with which six of Nigerian states share borders. The clerics already had the President’s clearance to go there for the second time.
In view of the loud and vehement opposition to Nigeria getting involved in war, an external conflict for that matter, Tinubu has no choice but to find a way to extricate himself out of the web in which he has been trapped by virtue of his position as the leader of ECOWAS Presidents and Heads of State and at the same time the Nigerian leader. He could not have found a more appropriate eminent Nigerians to be his emissaries to meet the unsmiling military junta brandishing their riffles in the corridors of power in Niamey. General Abdulsalami’s military credentials are well known, but hardly do most Nigerians remember that the Sultan was in the military and he retired as a one-star General, that is as a Brigadier-General after a meritorious service of 31 years. He retired in 2006 to ascend the throne of his forebears.
In the course of his military career he was in the Armoured Corps, the crucial arm in the Army that was almost synonymous with Ibrahim Babangida. Mention Armoured Corps, and the mind races to Babangida and most of the gallant men who served in the unit were proud to be called “Babangida Boys”. Indeed, the then Col. Sa’ad Abubakar headed the Presidential security unit of the Armoured Corps that protected Babangida as President. On his glittering testimonial he quietly tucked in his brief case when he undertook the journey with General Abdulsalami to meet the Niger Republic leaders read as commander of 231 Tank Battalion in the ECOMOG operations in Sierra Leone. Before then he had commanded a Battalion of African peace keepers in Chad. For nearly four years he was Defence Attaché to Pakistan with brief to cover Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
So, the two envoys of the President were in Niger armed to speak the same language as the putchists and if it came to diplomacy and leadership credentials they were at home with them. General Abdulsalami was a former Head of State and His Highness Sa’ad Abubakar is not only the Sultan but head of Muslims in Nigeria, a huge community believed to be more than 98 million faithful. With the pre-eminence of the Nigeria’s envoys, it is inconceivable that General Abdourahamane Tchiani would disregard their mission and if you like, their words of wisdom and guidance borne out of experience.
As it is said, it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war. While Nigeria may have elected the option of dialogue and conversation to resolve the impasse, the AU and ECOWAS are not backing down resulting in hardening of heart by the military leaders who are insisting that they be given three years to right wrongs and straighten things in their country. The hawks in AU and ECOWAS pressing for a blow-out are glossing over the complexities of a war in the West African sub-region. The basic is encoded in the warning words of wisdom that “the race is not always for the swift nor is the battle always for the strong.” With Nigeria resolutely out of the furnace blast, can the AU and ECOWAS go to war without her? Now, the situation has become complicated with the overthrow on Wednesday of President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon who had ruled his country for 14 years. The election that was to put him in power for another term is disputed.
The coup leaders said the presidential election was marred with irregularities and so it lacked credibility.
This brings to eight the number of coups in West and Central Africa from 2020 in just about three years. His father was, Omar Bongo who was in power for 42 years, bringing the total number of years the family has been at the helm to 56. The putchists see the disputed election as an attempt by Ali Bongo to follow in the footsteps of his father and indeed become life President. He has been put under house arrest and political institutions, as is the custom in the political development of this nature, have all been dissolved. Gabon is again another French-speaking country! Will France feel obligated to further stretch her declining resources thin to save the democratic dispensation in Gabon in addition to Niger?
The development in the Central African country, Gabon, is bound to generate a new round of heated debate on the dictatorship direction the country has chosen with the putsch, with analysts wondering whether it is a signal to another round of coup epidemic the kind that swept through West Africa in the 60s. I pray not and hope not. For Nigeria, in the words of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1983: “The worst civilian rule is better than the best and most benevolent military dictatorship.” Most African countries can relate with the picture Chief Awolowo painted, including Egypt where Abdel Nasser and Mohamed Naguib jingled the bell to trigger the first dawn marshal music ever—to kick out King Farouk on 23 July, 1952.
Naguib himself had to be shoved aside by Nasser to become the President in 1954. He was in the saddle until his death in 1970 and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat in 1971. Sadat was assassinated in 1981. His successor, Hosin Mubarak, was led out at gunpoint in 2011. The coupists’ next port of call was Togo in 1963 with Gnassingbe Eyadema leading the band, killing Silvanus Olympio. Nigeria was to be bitten by the bug in 1966 and the “Khaki Boys” were in the corridors of power with their tanks for 32 years! In 1971, long before Chief Awolowo spoke, the celebrated columnist, Sad Sam had written, asking in his then accustomed satirical prose: “Who says Nigeria is in need of being saved—from the politicians or from the soldiers?” Although Eyadema did not immediately assume power after Olympio was removed he was four years later to take over and he ruled for 38 years. Which way then for the AU and ECOWAS? Will they be banking on France and the United States lurking in the shadows should dialogue fail in Niger Republic and now Gabon in the face of Russian support for Abdourahamane Tchiani? Russia has promised to supply arms to Niger. Recently Russia also wrote off Niger Republic debts. It is promising the country food and help to break international sanctions.
It is unlikely that Euro Americans would like to burn their fingers in a blast furnace and rub their noses in the dust in a West African war as they have done in some foreign wars. With the defeat of France in North Vietnam and in the forced withdrawal of the United States from South Vietnam after its humiliation paving way for triumphal advancement of Ho chi Minh’s troops to push on towards their desired goal: the unification of Northern and Southern Vietnam, the Western powers have learnt their lessons that the race is not always for the swift nor is the battle always for the strong. After Ho chi Minh’s death in 1969, his men marched on; they succeeded in overrunning Southern Vietnam and brought about one united communist Vietnam in 1975. Today, there is only one Vietnam. Not wanting a frontal confrontation with Russia, the United States is on the ringside under the cover of NATO in the on-going Ukraine –Russian War. It is sending sophisticated weapons to Ukraine as Germany and the United Kingdom are doing.
If Mali and Burkina Faso make good their promises to attack ECOWAS if the body attacks Niger Republic what would France do, especially if Russia is behind them, as it has said it would? France must be tired of being, like the United States, a policeman over many countries. With rebellion here and there among its former colonies, France has been losing money and influence. Cost of living is riding everyday back home and the youths are restive. It has been spending a lot of money and energy to check religious terrorism in the former colonies. It helped Algeria to put its house in order and Algeria became a peace broker wherever jihadist terrorism raised its head. When it flushed out religious insurgents, some of them migrated to Mali to form Al-Qaeda which is behind Boko Haram and ISWAP in our country, Nigeria.
France rallied its former colonies to form a regional block of five bulwarks against insurgents. They were known as the 5G countries comprising Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad.
Mali came under military coup on May 24, 2021. A few weeks before his own deposition last month—on July 26, 2023—President Mohammed Bazoum solemnly announced the “death” of the G5 with the withdrawal of Mali, only a few weeks later for him to be toppled by his guard, General Abdourahamane Tchiani. Algeria has expressed opposition to an ECOWAS military strike as Nigerians are in stout opposition to it on the grounds that it would impact it with influx of refugees.
It is likely that the military support promised Niger by Mali and Burkina Faso for a shooting war is coming from military government brotherhood which binds all the three countries, a contagion which ECOWAS abhors like a political cancer. If the platform is to raise an Islamic fundamentalist irredentism and for regional insurgency with religious undertones, then Niger will be isolated; indeed already it has been suspended by AU. Bola Tinubu can’t but clap for that as he abhors military government. He was in the front line in the battle for restoration of democracy in Nigeria. And being a centrist in matters of religion he is at home with his colleagues most of whom are moderates in AU as well as in ECOWAS. But what does he do if ECOWAS and AU keep insisting on military operations to dislodge the obstinate and recalcitrant junta in Niger?
There are if’s and if’s and more if’s. That is the confusion mankind have created for themselves by ignoring the laid down order in Creation by its Author. War does not bring lasting solutions. The continental bodies will have to meet the coup leaders half-way without necessarily according them legitimacy as government. To ask them to unconditionally vacate office is unrealistic in view of the implications for their own lives. They are not going to leave feeling humiliated.
Our world and we in this Creation are governed by an eternal and unswerving Will of the Creator simplified for all creatures as the Laws of Nature or the Laws of Creation which is also the same as referring to them as the Divine Laws. They are perfect, incorruptible and self-enforcing because they are living laws. That Will prescribes individual development. In the enlightenment of these times we learn as follows: “What applies to one does not apply to all! What helps one person may harm the other. Each individual must make his own way to perfection.” As the law applies to every human being so does it apply to communities as well as to nations. It is thus not for nothing that the charter by the founding fathers of OAU now AU states that there should be no interference in the internal affairs of individual member nations. Experiences polish and make for a better people.
The Nigeriens should be allowed to go through their own experiences which are fruits of their past and present deeds and thoughts. When the fruits of the seeds sown ripen and taste sour no one would tell the other to throw them away. In the case of a governmental system it is discarded. When the people of Niger Republic have learnt their bitter lessons by embracing military rule and experiencing coups and counter coups and no development nor progress they will go for the lesser of two evils, which is called democracy. A mother does not tell a child not to touch fire. The tongue of fire in the native open clay lamp is beautiful; it is irresistible to a child. The child learns the lesson of life by himself by touching it. There should be no gaps in the development of individuals or nations nor should anyone be made to skip the rungs of developmental ladder because they are agreeable to others from afar. They should be allowed to move in accordance with their own light and at their own pace. All others should do is to envelope them in prayers and love.
Of course, as I hinted last week, neither both Democracy and Militocracy nor even Religion, the three forces in contest in Niger Republic, is recognised by the Laws of Creation. Leaders are born, not made; sent, not electable. In the primordial system of governance, mankind did not choose their own leaders.
From higher spheres of existence, their leaders were appointed, anointed, prepared for their mission, along with those persons who would be their aides, sent down to the earth in circumstances of birth which would lead them to their tasks. The persons to whom they are sent would recognise them either through divination, intuition or their works. Democracy arose out of class envy and class hatred. Citizens who are not knowledgeable about even their own lives are permitted by democracy to make decisions on public matters for not only themselves but for all of society. It is like one blind man leading other blind persons through a gigantic factory of huge working automatic machines on a floor space with exposed heavy voltage electricity cables. Democracy was an inevitable result of the abuse of authority by the primordial mechanism of governance among men. Militocracy is inflicting on democracy what democracy inflicted on Divine guidance in the governance of men on earth.
Leaders to lead are in every community who are to lead those they are sent to help with love to the next level of their development. Some are to even teach us how to tend plants, flowers, the art of beauty, beauty that would blow minds. They serve selflessly. They are to move quietly without seeking public recognition, applause or public acknowledgement. Soliciting for votes is out of the question for them.
We may wish to ask ourselves: Who elected Abraham as the father of all nations? Who elected John the Baptist about whom the Lord Jesus Christ said: “Of all born of women there is none like John the Baptist, but he is the least in the Kingdom of my Father?” Who elected Zoroaster in Iran then Persia over his people? Who elected Buddha in India? Who elected Lao-Tse over the people of China; who elected Moses, all the Teachers of mankind? Who elected the Prophets such as Isaiah, Elijah, Jeremiah and many others, and other teachers of mankind not named here? Who tells us that the Almighty Creator of all the worlds, who created all of us and the universe cannot govern His world and needs human beings to wade through slaughter to the throne as William Shakespeare was wont to put it, killing themselves for His sake?
For anyone anywhere on earth who is seriously following the course of the spiritual (not religious) history of mankind on earth it is plain to see that a crucial cycle of events is closing under intense pressure by the Laws of Nature manifesting the power of the Holy Spirit. Every wrong idea introduced by mankind into his affairs are being lit up, strengthened and energized so that it may burn itself out. We would encounter these blow-outs and blow-ups in the family, offices, in religious organisations, in government, in relations between and among nations. What is unnatural and therefore spiritually illegal will inevitably collapse. Are we not following reports of shooting of school children in the United States? Or reports of fire in Haiti and Greece, of flooding; sudden deaths, etc.? The storm called Hurricane Idalia is the latest in town. It is sweeping through Florida’s Apalachee Bay in the United States at a speed of 125 miles per hour. It is said to be the strongest in 125 years, that is since 1896. Aberrations! Aberrations!! Aberrations!!! No wonder from higher realms, the earth is looked at in these times in the unprecedented intensification and acceleration of events and collapse, chaos and confusion, as an asylum!
Man must bow before the omniscience and omnipotence—the greatness of the Most High, the Almighty, our Maker and God!
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.