An Expanded Conflict in The Niger Republic: Whose War is It?

by Dele A. Sonubi
Niger Republic

Some people have asked me for my opinion regarding the threats of war in the neighboring Niger Republic and whether Nigeria is really determined to push for military solutions that might lead to war. They asked for my opinion. Initially, I had none. But as the scenario grew, I began to become apprehensive of the threat to global peace that others see in the ECOWAS-Nigar debacle, which I did not take care to analyze in my mind.

When the military took over in Niamey, as a democrat and a strong believer in democracy, I supported the call for calm and a return to normalcy (democracy) that the regional multilateral organization; Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), issued. The threats and ultimatums given to another country’s junta as if ECOWAS is a boy scout company running the West African countries like an uncrowned big brother gave me cause to wonder how this would play out. The strong will of ECOWAS to stop the civil war in Liberia played out very well. The Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), which is a military reserve of the ECOWAS made up of generals from member states but led by Nigeria who supplied the largest human personnel, performed wonders, and came out of the Liberian war unbruised. ECOMOG played key roles in the civil war in Sierra Leone and came out with a little bruise that soon healed. But these were better times across the West African region; socially and economically. During these periods, the Nigerian economy boomed and there were no serious internal threats or fears of war, so we could play the roles we played so technically executed and without ulterior intentions, which made our roles, albeit leadership roles, so well appreciated and noble. Recently, with Gambia, the entire democratic world wanted Nigeria to support the oppressed people of Gambia and allow one and not two presidents to reign. So our intervention in The Gambia played out so technically well that there was no single gunshot reportedly fired. How will a war against the people of the Niger Republic play out in the year 2023 with Nigerian booths heavily on the ground and our military hardware stored for the Nigerian fights against local insurgents exhausted in the war that France should be waging where France has questions to answer to her own post-colonial Francophone citizens, and if we are to be honest, how is this fiasco a Nigeria problem? Can we not, as we did in the case of Eyadema(s) in Togo, choose to look away and see how the sanctions we imposed on the Niger Republic go? Judging by the undisputed fact that we have greater threats locally than regionally, should we not tread softly and cautiously? My thoughts are the following:

  1. Niger Republic is one of the countries within the Francophone bloc. Like every other country in that block, France’s histories of colonial experiences were unpleasant and unpalatable. Even the post-colonial era was not entirely credible, leading the Francophone bloc to distrust Anglophone people and governments in our numerous interactions and regional discussions. France had planted the seeds of division, undependable loyalty, and discord among the people of West Africa; now it is reaping the benefits of where it invested. So, France has political problems with its former colonies. Problems that it has caused, and they must be resolved looking back at how she treated, abused, and hypocritically made the people who lived in France’s share of territories from The Berlin Conference partitioning of Africa in 1884–1885, hypocritical citizenship by assimilation. Let France look at the way Africans in French colonies were treated before and after both World Wars 1 and 2 and how France has continued to treat them till date. If the treatments were fair, equitable, and just, then let France answer directly to people in her former colonies and bear her own touch. France and only France must answer for her own good will and or atrocities in these territories, with no use of proxies—least of all Nigeria through ECOWAS. Unlike the case of Donal Trump, who answered the questions of the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi for and on behalf of the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman even better than the Saudi Government did, questions raised by the anti-France movement should only be answered by France herself and not countries considered Anglophone to answer for her. The cost of being France’s mouthpiece is too high, no matter the political benefits and negotiations behind the scenes.
  2. Niger Republic is not a peaceful country without its own crises, as people are describing it. She has been going through conflicts with internal rebels and insurgents of the Tuaregs for decades, so why are people drumming the beat that the Niger Republic is peaceful?
  3. Nigeria is not too stupid to think that, despite all the challenges and threats of civil unrest that she has going on here, her problem is to focus on bringing peace and political justice to another country. How is the equation calculated and placed on a pivot of cost-benefit?
  4. Assuming that Nigeria is not the one pushing the other members of ECOWAS to wage war over the coup in Niger, since Nigeria is the biggest in the ECOWAS block; she is actually the mightiest, the loudest, and justifiably, the big brother of the rest and indeed Africa, how come it has not been able to calm the others down and avoid the rhetoric of war? This is unless there are other reasons for Nigeria’s involvement in a regional drumbeat of war!
  5. The Nigerian presidency is not yet stable. There are political cases in the court that could disrupt the legitimacy and tenure of the present government; a war with another country will automatically turn any judicial proclamation against the government into a practical and desired “judgement of convenience”. There is no single way a country at war will change its leader. That swift change in leadership will strategically result in the end or defeat of the war. I suspect that this might very well be one of the reasons for pushing for an ECOMOG military intervention in Niamey.
  6. Four countries in all Francophone countries are already running military leadership after a successful military coup de tat in West Africa. The reasons for the takeovers are flimsier than the reasons that the Nigerian army can conjure and use as a basis to justify a coup in Nigeria. The economy is wholesomely bad, making the citizens poorer with the unprecedented decline in the purchasing power of her currency. The root reason for these coups is that democracy has failed. The Nigerian election was adjudged the worst ever in Nigerian history and pronounced “awesomely not credible”, Ethnic strife has been the order of the day, the present government made a presumptive error at its beginning by the manner in which she handled fuel subsidy removal, making graveyards of streets and terrible hikes in everything. Kidnappings are high, insurgencies by Boko Haram are still ongoing, and unpopular policies that are recipes for military incursions are still being enforced. Who knows if the Nigerian coup is still coming? And to quickly debar that from being a possibility could be one of the reasons why the government wants to push the Nigerian army generals out to chase the foolish and clueless presidential guards out of the presidential palace in Niamey! And should there be a coup in Nigeria, who or which country in West Africa will have the audacity or the military confidence with a loud enough rejection voice to tell the Nigerian army to march back into the barracks when it had marched out onto the seat of government like Nigeria is telling juntas of other nations now?
  7. I think there should be greater concerns about the way things are going. Every day, the countries of West Africa are becoming more and more impoverished, and these are the indicators of violent strikes, making a seamless spread of popular military coups in West Africa, particularly in Nigeria, inevitable. If a coup happens in Nigeria, West Africa will not be a happy region at all. Nigeria, with her population, is just too awesome for the region to swallow. Nigerians will flee from Nigeria, west Africa will be overpopulated, and there will be crises extending to the rest of the world. The entire world is not done yet with COVID and the Russia-Ukraine debacle; there must be peace and stable governments in Nigeria and West Africa to avoid a new one. The optical show of the solidarity visits of religious leaders to intercede in the on-going crisis between ECOWAS and Niamey is simply what it is, an optic display for theatrics. The religious leaders (particularly in Nigeria) have become too clownish to be able to help anyone but themselves. They too have become criminals, preaching fake and money-centred prophecies so often that governments have relegated them to the status of comedians. So, they cannot be the best mediators. They had mostly collected their thirteen pieces of silver a long time ago, to become effective in today’s situations.
  8. What can help prevent this on-going disaster from escalating is if civil society groups and people(s) of Nigeria become actively vocal to prevent Nigeria from taking this more seriously than the people of the Niger Republic do. Nigeria does not need to take this incident too seriously for there to be peace. If Nigeria is not active, ECOWAS and its standby forces, ECOMOG, cannot go ahead as planned; where will they find the bulk of the army to fight an external war? The Nigerian government will listen to her civil society, which still has a loud voice in matters such as this one, which obviously threatens its own vulnerable internal peace. And it better use this loud voice now before it becomes unreasonable and useless once the war has started. I think civil society should continue to hammer the drumbeat of no to military incursions in the Niger Republic and push for more diplomacy and dialogue instead, even if she has to continue with the show of clerics and clergies.

America has a significant impact on global issues. Its presidents have altered lexicons and shaped our worldview. We now use the term “fake news,” to condemn any public information we do not like. The Republicans have threatened to remove Vice President Joe Biden from office even though they have not yet levelled any impeachable offenses against him. Despite having committed a constitutionally recognized act of treason, the military junta that ousted a democratically elected government three weeks ago now wants to hold high moral values by claiming to have investigated the treasonous actions taken by that deposed president. On what moral grounds are they judging? The president was adjudged to have committed treason while in office three weeks after they took office from him without known reasons. Are these not clowns; the characters of place jesters instead being called presidential place guards? This shows that the guards never had any legitimate grounds to seize control in the first instance other than quests for power—the Emilokan syndrome. This is so pathetic. Please, Nigeria, allow France to answer its questions in the francophone bloc and leave us and our fuel prices alone to decide what priority trips are to be made with our private cars or public transport.

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