BREAKING: Niger War Drums – Diverting Attention From Election Tribunal

President Bola Tinubu and the All Peoples Progressives (APP) party should be thanking their stars for the intervening news concerning the coup in Niger Republic for it has for precious weeks driven off details and analysis from the Election Tribunal theater.

Supporters of the major parties in the on-going drama have stayed captivated by the emerg­ing details, ticking off the emerging tidbits as reasons why the parties they support should celebrate on the day of judgement….CONTINUE READING

It was becoming clear by the day that the judgement would be more controversial than any such judgment Nigeria had ever witnessed and how to contain its fall outs must have caught the attention of the security agencies.
Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani and Bola Tinubu

Then, like a bolt from the blues, a loud boom sounded from Nigeria’s North-West border; Niger Republic. The soldiers there announced the boot­ing out of the civilian President and set up a military regime there. Though that was expected to be an ordinary news item, hardly an explosive one within the nations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) because coups have never stopped being endemic in West Africa. The reality on ground bears this out: Since August 2020, five coups have oc­curred in three West African countries – Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea. The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau have con­tained attempted coups – with admira­ble results. And in neighbouring Chad, just to Nigeria’s North-East, an uncon­stitutional change of government, led by Lieutenant-General Mahamat Idriss Déby after his father’s death in 2021, did not rustle many feathers and did not cause non-Chadians sleepless nights.

As a news publication put it, “The spate of coups questions the effec­tiveness of democratic transitions in West Africa. It also strains cooperation between regional governments when it’s most needed to contain the ever-ex­panding violent extremism threat.

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While tipping points are con­text-specific, coups in West Africa have been analysed against the backdrop of structural deficits in the affected countries. These include mounting socio-economic pressure, poor hu­man development indicators, the youth bulge and failed security sector reform.

Democratic backsliding resulting from governance crises, third-termism and constitutional manipulation play a role. Geopolitical shifts in alliances and insecurity linked to terrorism and crime have also been considered. This is the case particularly for Mali and Burkina Faso, which experienced two military coups in a few months.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), African Union, United Nations and other ex­ternal actors have struggled to pres­sure military authorities into keeping transitions short and civilian-led. In fact, coup leaders in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso have been in power for 30, 17 and 13 months respectively. They project themselves as agents of change, and some have post-transition political ambitions.”

As recently as 2006, the entire West Africa was engrossed with the news about the then Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s attempt to change Nigeria’s constitution just so that he would be granted a Third Term – a third tenure of four years at the presidency, after the constitution­ally allowed eight years.

That is why President Tinubu’s hawkish stand on the coup in Niger Republic appears to be just a calcu­lated attempt to take attention away from the Election Tribunal and the out-pouring of failures on the part of Independent National Electoral Com­mission (INEC). Despite the appear­ance of great intent on attacking Niger Republic all in a bid to get the military junta there to back down, what is in­volved must be obvious to Tinubu.

It actually appears that the incen­diary nature of the situation is not lost on Mr. President. Last Thursday, at the last meeting of Heads of Gov­ernment of ECOWAS member states, Tinubu set the tone for the meeting in his address to the attendees before they went into a closed door meeting, when he announced that diplomatic negotiations remained the priority in the ways open towards resolving the crisis. It should not be otherwise- for several reasons. One: For Nigeria to participate in a war against Niger Re­public is to fight a war against fellow Nigerians too, for the Nigerian-Niger border is ill-defined. People along the border who find themselves either in Niger or in Nigeria laugh at such geo­graphical silliness.

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They go to school where they choose, seek employment where they choose and even vote in whichever of the two countries that catches their fancy at any given moment. Nigeria cannot claim that it does not know that some bonafide citizens of Niger Republic are present within the Nige­rian Armed Forces. Inter-marriage binds the people of that area togeth­er, just like religion, too, to the extent that it will appear like a civil war to the people living along the borders of the two countries.

Two: Nigeria cannot afford to open fire against Niger Republic anywhere along the Northern border for the Ni­ger–Nigeria border is 1,608 kilometres (999 miles) in length and runs from the tripoint with Benin in the west to the tripoint with Chad in the east. Here and there along the border, bandits and Boko Haram have their havens that are not even controlled by Nige­rian forces. That leads us to the third reason.

Three: That Niger, Chad and Cam­eroon Republics have been helping Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram is the only reason why Niger has a modicum of an answer to Boko Haram terrorism. If Niger Republic funds Boko Haram in any way or even provides safe haven to the terrorists, Nigeria will be in deep trouble.

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Hey, there are thousands of Nige­rians displaced by the Boko Haram terrorism that are being harboured in Niger. They are still there, at pres­ent, even though Nigeria has closed her border. Nigeria did not even bother to repatriate them before announcing the border closure. Four: Nigeria is already engaged in four full-fledged wars at the moment. There is the war against Boko Haram, another against the bandits, another against terrorist Fulani-cattle herders, a war against IPOB. So, if Nigeria opens a war against Niger Republic, even if as a part of an ECOWAS force, it would be involving itself in a fifth war. Apart from the clear and acknowledged fact that our soldiers have been stretched thin on the ground, and that the poor soldiers are already battle-weary, Ni­geria’s economy is in such a shambles that what remains of the economy would simply collapse…totally. Al­ready, the border closure against Ni­ger is adversely affecting the Nigerians who have traded with the other side of the border from time immemorial.

Five: Any war against the Niger Republic will drive a knife into the heart of what remains of Nigerian unity. Northern Senators, Northern elders, Northern Traditional leaders have made it clear that they want no war with their brothers and sisters of Niger Republic. Nigeria should not try to see what would happen when core Northern soldiers are asked to war against the people of Niger. It would be interesting to see how Northern of­ficers would fare when saddled with commanding troops to assault Niger Republic….CONTINUE READING

For now, the controversy is redirect­ing attention away from the election tribunal and that provides a breathing space for APC.