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From Junta’s arrogance to democracy’s restoration: ECOWAS summit’s dilemma, by Suleiman Hassan Gimba Esq


From Junta’s arrogance to democracy’s restoration: ECOWAS summit’s dilemma, by Suleiman Hassan Gimba Esq

As the ECOWAS Extraordinary Summit on the Niger coup crisis commences today in Nigeria, it is good to consider, accept and support every decision taken by the regional bloc to restore democracy in Niger Republic.

Announcing a new cabinet hours after meeting with HRH Sanusi Lamido and the complete show of arrogance by the junta don’t portray them as a leadership that has kept its options open. It’s a declaration to keep power at all cost even if the Nigeriens will serve as cannon fodder to ensure that.

It wouldn’t be unwise to support ECOWAS’ military operation as the only way to restore democracy and cancel the reemerging coup culture in Africa. The junta will not pack up and leave, even if they are granted international immunity.

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Now the major challenge will come in the form of legitimising the operation, especially as northern Nigeria – which sees itself as one and the same as Niger – is concerned. Niger is not northern Nigeria, we have already had enough of them crossing over our borders, obtaining our NIN and voters card and sitting on all our pastures that look greener from where they came.

If the sanctions don’t push more of them towards our shores, the hardship from military rule or the effect of ECOWAS’ military would. We must prepare for the humanitarian crisis so as not to condemn the Nigeriens that will be caught up in the conflict to their deaths.

Many are also of the view that Nigeria, and by extension, ECOWAS, is a busy body putting its nose in another country’s internal affairs or doing the bidding of the West. That is completely wrong as even though we’ve been in slumber, we have in the preceding decades risked the wrath of powerful nations on several occasions just to defend Africa. This has always been the centrepiece of our country’s foreign policy and it helped in ending colonialism and apartheid in our continent.

There is the most talked about support of the common folk for the junta, which I believe is far-fetched. We have seen Boko Haram, bandits and IPOB being hailed by the people they terrorise in this country. This is not support, it is a survival instinct.

Then some feel out of place in the current and yearn for a restart in a reinvented wheel. Little do they know that hope is a dangerous thing especially if tapped by the wrong hands. Buhari gave us one, even though he turned out to be a disappointment. Obi continues to give people and whether he succeeds or turns out to be another Buhari – you can be certain he can be challenged, frustrations can be aired and there are constitutional means to check and balance the power he will wield. That’s why we can’t legitimise a coup in this region or anywhere in the world, no matter how faulty our democracy is. And say what you will about it but we have held it for 24 years and there are marketable improvements in governance and people participation.

Everything that has happened from Obasanjo through Yaradua, Goodluck, Buhari and now Tinubu is the work of a single authority and if anything, it shows the people’s power to have and to experiment with different leaders and different policies. Coups take that away. If it is corruption, Abacha’s loot is still being returned from the countries he claimed to be fighting. Inherent thievery lives in the African leader, military or not. Obama described it as the poverty of ambition, but that can be defeated through the active participation of citizens in the matters that affect them.

Nigerians seem to have forgotten that military coups and counter-coups are what set this country up on the road to eternal division and the myriads of problems that now engulf us. Today, every region, every state – no matter its numerical advantage – is making alliances because power is no longer taken by the strong but by those who show they deserve it. We must give that democratic choice to the Nigerien people too.

If we indeed go with the military action, there wouldn’t be an all-out war across West Africa as many have predicted. It is obvious why Mali and Burkina Faso would want the coup in Niger to succeed. But even if they were backed by foreign powers, none would dare a confrontation with Nigeria and Niger would be left on its own. These are countries our civil defence can defeat.

The war would be fought on Niger’s soil with damage to its third-world infrastructure, fractured economy and casualties on its unproductive but still valuable population.

If the meddling is in the form of a foreign power in the form of say Russia, through the supply of ammunitions or mercenaries from Wagner Group, ECOMOG will still have no problem in dislodging the junta. Nigeria is the Mayweather of peacekeeping operations, a view that was pushed in our failed bid to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Finally, this conflict reinforces my belief that our country must invest in and be seen to produce local but sophisticated weapons and defence systems that will ensure the defence of our sovereignty and the advancement of our foreign policies.

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