Nigeria cannot lead any armed conflict against the Niger Republic because it can ill afford it. There is no reason why President Bola Tinubu should agree or be goaded to lead any war against Niger or anybody at this material time. As newly-sworn-in president, Tinubu’s plate is full. In fact, it is over full.
That Nigerians are not on the streets tearing down everything in sight in protest against the biting hardship and lack that have pervaded the land since the arrival of their new President in Aso Villa does not mean there is peace. Or that they are happy. Nigerians are barely breathing. It will be amazing if the Tinubu Government does not realise this.
On Thursday, when the Economic Community of West Africa States came out with their somewhat ambiguous resolution of revving up “its standby” force in readiness for an onslaught against the recalcitrant coupists in Niger Republic, what came to mind immediately was: Where is the standby force? When was it formed?
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Of course, the ECOWAS is free to launch whatever armed attack against Niger coupists, but according to Femi Fani-Kayode, they should leave Nigerian troops out of it. He counseled the ECOWAS to call on “French and their Franco-phone allies in the sub-region, with American intelligence and logistical support to do the job on their own”.
In a very frank opinion piece that the staunch member of the All Progressives Congress addressed to the three-month-old President Tinubu and his team, Fani-Kayode said that the pending attack on Niger Republic is unpopular at home and, if unleashed, would be a monumental error.
Not a few Nigerians agreed with the former Minister of Aviation that that is the bitter truth. He was also spot on when he asked the ECOWAS authority to tell him the truth by disputing the fact that 90 percent of the so-called “standby force” would be contributed by Nigeria and foot almost all the bills.
Hear Fani-Kayode again: “Whose military hardware and assets will be deployed, mobilised and utilised more than any other? Is it not Nigeria? Who shares her Northern border with Niger and whose northern civilian population is bound to suffer the most hardship, the greatest degree of collateral damage, the highest number of casualties and accommodate the highest number of displaced people and refugees? Is it not Nigeria? We have trod this path before and we know where it ended. We cannot be fooled again. If any force is deployed and Nigeria opts to participate we will pay more than all the other ECOWAS nations put together in terms of the loss of civilian and military lives and in blood and treasure. Apart from that, the ECOWAS force and their military capability is nothing without Nigeria and our troops. To say that this would be an ECOWAS versus Niger war as opposed to a de facto Nigeria versus Niger one is misleading and disingenuous. Such a war would be fought, prosecuted and won by primarily Nigerian forces even though there may be a sprinkling of a few others just for show and for the record.”
Is there any more to add? The efforts and fears of the ECOWAS leaders, including President Tinubu, are understandable. They believe that the hurricane nature of military putsch along that region starting with Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea and now Niger is dangerous and should be tamed.
But taming such cancerous development is not like tendering vegetables. Those who carried out the coup knew the consequence before they put their necks on the guillotine. So when they took the plunge and succeeded as the coupists in Niger have done, they would see anyone telling them to restore what and who they have removed as “talking down” on them as the ECOWAS leaders seem to be saying.
There is no amount of ultimatums issued by the ECOWAS leaders, those military goons in Niger have crossed the Rubicon. The entire population may be crushed for all they care. Or has anybody wondered why they called the bluff of everyone that tried to talk them into any negotiation, including their former colonial lords?
So instead of the hard stance taken by the ECOWAS that the coupists should restore the deposed and detained President Mohamed Bazoum, parties should embrace dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the impasse.
As stated earlier, Nigeria is not and cannot afford to embark on any armed fight with any external force now or in the near future. Tinubu, who is the Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forced, is just barely three months in the saddle and as far as anyone is concerned, he is still not “experienced” enough to think of marching his troops to any war for now.
Apart from inheriting an economy that is in very bad shape, the armed forces he met are burdened and over stretched by bandits and terrorists. The state of insecurity across the country is quite a challenge for the Tinubu administration, so there is nothing to spare for any external strife, both human and material resources militarily.
In very plain language, Nigerians need every kobo earned to take care of the hardship brought about by the removal of fuel subsidy by the “infant” government headed by Tinubu.
Because of the biting effect of the removal of fuel subsidy on the economic life of Nigerians, the Tinubu administration has promised to roll out some economic fillip to alleviate the hardship in the land. Nigerians can hardly wait to see all these. So, those who are waiting with baited breath don’t understand why their President should be talking of any intervention push elsewhere.
As it is, Tinubu has not even inaugurated his cabinet. He is still trying to take stock of what was handed over to him by the immediate past government of President Muhammadu Buhari. It could even be said that he has not assembled anything near a war cabinet to confront the local Boko Haram and the rest.
As Fani-Kayode reminded us, Nigeria had trod this path before and we know where it ended. We cannot be fooled again. Remember ECOMOG, the infamous misadventure that cost Nigeria’s armed forces of some of its brightest stars. To that war we lost some of Nigeria’s finest General and Soldiers. This is apart from the humongous cost that some had put at about $15 billion in the Liberia and Sierra Leone misadventure from which the country benefited virtually nothing. Nigeria has always been the big brother, but this time round, there is nothing left to maintain such a Father Christmas figure.
So if ECOWAS is still bent on engaging the coupists in Niger, they are free to do so, but they should leave Nigerian troops out of it. We cannot afford it. There is no “power” to do so. Nigeria does not have anything to gain from it, financially. Nigeria has everything to lose on all fronts. Nigerians are not interested in any medal contest with its neighbours anywhere. And Nigerians will be very angry with Tinubu if he makes any attempt to commit any soldier to fight a war that they don’t understand.
What President Tinubu should be pushing now among his colleagues is the entrenchment of good governance, a narrative his own government too should learn from. If the coup leaders in Niger are to be believed, their push was as a result of the mis-governance by President Bazoum. Inasmuch as military rule remains an aberration, the massive outpouring of the people of Niger Republic to the streets in support of the putsch by General Abdourahmane Tchiani shows that when the people are pushed to the wall, the undesirable becomes the desired. And that is the lesson President Tinubu and his brother colleagues should take away from the happening in Niger Republic.