BREAKING: Let’s Not Confuse Our Policy On Niger

Umar Ardo, Ph.D

I write to advise that President Bola Tinubu streamlines his policy thrust and direction on the Niger imbroglio so as to achieve the desired outcome as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

As made abundantly clear, the policy objective of ECOWAS is the restoration of constitutional government in Niger; but the means of attaining this objective is being muddled up by flurry of unwarranted activities and persons….CONTINUE READING

ECOWAS gave an ultimatum which came along with punitive measures of economic sanctions, closure of borders, imposition of no-fly-zone and cutting off of power supply against Niger. But the response coming in from Niamey indicates neither the ultimatum nor the punitive measures shook the resolve of the junta in retaining power. The regime seems undeterred! With such a resolve from Niamey, Abuja obviously has boxed itself in a corner as it became obvious that the punitive measures and threats of military action will not work. Hence the president then took the right approach that guarantees success – i.e. diplomatic dialogue!

He formulated a high and more sophisticated practical political/diplomatic approach to the issue, using the common historical denominator binding the communities of the Sahel for centuries as a means to achieving peaceful resolution of the crises. He rightly employed the services of respected leaders, former Head of State Gen. Äbubakar AbdulSalaam and the revered traditional ruler, the Sultan of Sokoto, to undertake and implement the necessary diplomatic errand and mediation with the junta in Niger.

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This highly placed envoy went and initiated discussions with the junta with great success. It returned and briefed the president on the next move forward. Then all of a sudden, out of the blues, we saw pictures of the 14th Emir of Kano, Mohammad Sanusi II, along with the Emir of Damagaram in Niger Republic, surfacing with the head of the Nigerien junta.

So what is the meaning of Sanusi’s visit and meeting with the leader of the junta? By his own admission, he went there not on behalf of the president and government of Nigeria or on behalf of ECOWAS because already the Gen. AbdulSalam envoy is still in place. He said he went there on his own initiative, thereby making the entire affair a free-for-all game. This, certainly, does not portray the government in good light. Although he said government knew of his going, but how did he get into Niger given that government has officially closed both the land borders and air space?

This means that the borders are only closed on certain categories of people, making gibberish of the border closure policy. Even at that, did he inform his traditional leader, the Sultan, knowing that the latter is an official envoy of government on what was taking him to Niger? I do not know, but I doubt it. If he did not, then it is an inexcusable fault. Since he was neither sent there by government nor unlikely to have informed the Sultan before going, his trip is therefore a breach of both state and traditional protocols. With all due respect, for him to have returned and briefed the president on the outcome of his private visit also tells so much on the lack of a clear cut direction of government on this matter.

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I wonder what value Emir Sanusi’s visit to Niamey will add in the resolution of the problem, other than further complicating things for government. Has the 14th Emir convinced the junta in Niger to relinquish power to the deposed President Bazoum? Other than seeing the head of the junta and having a photo session, did he attain any milestone more than what the AbdulSalsm team attained? The answers to these questions are certainly in the negative! So what is the value of the visit to government? I bet nothing! For the value of it, the visit should not have been sanctioned by government in the first place. Now what is the position and role of the AbdulSalam team? Has the president lost confidence in them! There is definitely a dearth on good advice in the presidency!

Then again things became further grimmer when the president yesterday received members of Nigerian Council of Ulamas, enjoining them to mediate with the Nigerien junta. With all due respect, one will have to ask – how? How are they going to mediate? Are they to go and meet the junta and talk to them to relinquish power? Or are they to meet their counterparts in Niger and admonish them to go talk to the junta to relinquish power? Or are they to go into prayers and spiritually get the junta to relinquish power? Has purely political, diplomatic and power issue now become spiritual? How the ulamas will mediate on this matter I just cannot fathom! In fact, even if granted that they can mediate (which I cannot see how), who is the paramount leader of the Islamic ummah in Northern Nigeria? It is not the Sultan? How come then government called Islamic clerics to mediate on a matter of this nature without the Sultan being involved? These are basic conventional standards that need strict adherence for positive results.

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I think the government is not only making the wrong choices on this issue, but it is also going about it wrongly. It is obvious the president’s advisers are not thinking through issues well and thorough, hence leading him to taking impulsive and inappropriate decisions. For me, the best way forward is for the government to stick strictly to the Gen. AbdulSalam envoy already constituted and is at work. It is guaranteed to scale through and deliver the needed results. Any other thing will only cause confusion and portray the government as lacking in clarity and direction. Too many ingredients in the pot only spoil the soup, goes a wise African proverb….CONTINUE READING