Niger coup saga: Diplomacy, not bullets
By Umar Ardo Ph.D
For ECOWAS and Nigeria especially, diplomatic option is preferable and not war in resolving the current imbroglio in Niger for the following reasons:-
1. War will only lead to the disintegration of ECOWAS and plunge the subregion into more violent conflicts to the benefit of the armed industrial west to sell their arms and further plunder our vast natural resources;
2. Increase poverty, death and destructions, insecurity, insurgency and terrorism in the subregion;
3. At the current height of ideological war between the west and the east, we will only turn the subregion into a proxy war theatre of foreign superpowers;
4. A military coup that was carried out without bloodshed in a sovereign country cannot be enough reason to warrant plunging the entire subregion into a bloody war;
5. Specifically for Nigeria, going the route of war against Niger Republic does not in anyway advance her strategic interest. In fact, it will only compound the problem as war has two downsides: a) Nigeriens will see us as working against their interests…and that we’re in support of the US, UK and France’s interests, thus advancing the interests of neocolonialism; b) it will not only be a major distraction to the fight against ISWAP, it will also lead to a loss of our longstanding major political, economic, diplomatic ally from independence through to the civil war to the current fight against terrorism and insurgency;
6. The war will be a long and expensive one as Niger borders 8 countries, 5 of which are under military rule that will for self-survival support Niger, being all geographically continuous. Already, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Algeria, have pledged support the Nigerien military junta, and the junta has reciprocated by opening its borders with these countries;
7. Since Nigeria will foot most of the cost of this war, she has enough financial problems of her own that it makes no economic sense to prosecute an international war on a country that has not wronged her in anyway but merely on account of a so-called democracy;
8. It will directly jeopardize the lives of more than 300,000 Nigerian refugees in that country, and about 200,000 in other neighboring countries;
9. In specific terms, Northern Nigeria, will bear more brunt and consequences of such military conflict as the North and Niger, are one and the same people geographically, ethnically, culturally, economically and politically; and we have always enjoyed good and harmonious relationships with them; and
10. And for the Tinubu regime, the president should be well advised that declaring war on Niger Republic, will make him lose the support of the Muslim North, especially those of the Northwest and Northeast, thereby rendering this part of the country ungovernable for the regime. I believe he needs to know this fact!
Based on the forgoing, the following is strongly suggested: –
1. Military option in resolving the issue must be put off the table;
2. ECOWAS should therefore halt its position on the use of force in such a way without losing face as there is nothing sacrosanct about its immediate implementation;
3. Formulate a high and more sophisticated practical political/diplomatic approach to the issue, using scholarly knowledge of the common historical denominators binding the communities of the Sahel for centuries as a means to bringing peaceful resolution of the crises; and
3. Employ the services of respected leaders, like Obasanjo, Jonathan, AbdulSalaam and other revered traditional rulers such as the Sultan of Sokoto, relevant Emirs and religious leaders in Nigeria and former leaders in other member states of ECOWAS to undertake and implement the necessary diplomatic errands across the subcontinent in bringing about the peaceful resolution of the issues at stake.
To me, this is the best, and only, way to go. Anything other than this, especially the use of force, will only spell further crises for Northern Nigeria, for Nigeria, for the Tinubu regime and for the subregion.
Ardo writes from Abuja.