By Suleiman umaru And Lateef Adegbite
The battle line appears to have been drawn between Godswill Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom state and now President of the Nigeria Senate and President Bola Ahmed Tibu over the use of military hostility to edge out the junta that had toppled former President Mohammed Bazoum in Niger Republic on July 26, 2023.
With the expiration of the August 6, 2023, deadline given to the Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani led junta by the Authority of Heads of States and Government of the Economic Community of West African States , ECOWAS, under the chairmanship of Tinubu, to reinstate the deposed Nigeriene Leader, the Nigerian President may have sent a message to the Niger junta that the options of military intervention is not off the table to kick them out.
The Nigerian Senators may not have found Tinubu’s insistence on the use of military hostility to edge out the neighbouring Niger Republic military junta funny that they have told him ‘’to rule out military hostility as part of the measures to restore democracy in the West African country’’.
The Nigerian President who was said to have approved N2 million each for the Lawmakers for their Recess to win their heart in order to support the proposed military action against the Niger coup Leaders may but was disappointed that the Lawmakers had stood their ground: no to military intervention to resolve the Niger Republic crisis.
Senator Abdul Ahmed Ningi, representing Bauchi Central Senatorial district, may have spoken the mind of the Senate President when he said that ‘’there must be a joint sitting of the National Assembly before the Nigerian Armed Forces could be deployed anywhere by the President to fight a war’’.
Senator Ningi was emphatic that the Nigeria President , who incidentally is the chairman of the regional bloc had requested for the Nigerian Armed Forces to be deployed to Niger Republic to force the military junta out but stated that ‘’there needs to be a joint sitting of the National Assembly’’ to give the approval , as the Senate could not do alone because it is an issue that involves war with another country.
The Bauchi state born Lawmaker may have gladdened the heart of the Nigerian President when he said that ‘’a coup is not something anyone will negotiate or be comfortable with’’ , stressing that ‘’there is nothing under or above the table that should attract a coup detat In any West African country or any other country outside the sub-region.
Senator Ningi, who is the Chairman of the Northern Senators Forum, was said to have made it clear to those that cares to listen that ‘’there was no basis for the Nigerian government to champion the use of military hostility to force out the Niger Republic junta because the history of the relationship between the two West African countries dates back to centuries ago, noting that ’’Nigerian and Niger Republic are almost one if not for the map designed by the colonial powers to suit their political interest’’ .
He was said to have made the Nigerian President to understand that ‘’Nigeria has no better ally on the African continent than Niger Republic and not even Benin Republic or Chad’’. He noted that’’ the use of the naira as a legal tender in Niger Republic bear eloquent testimony to the fact that the two counties are one’’.
The Chairman of the northern Nigerian Senators Forum , who could not hide his feelings was said to have advised the Nigerian President to forget about the use of military hostility to edge out the Niger Republic junta from power , insisting that ‘’there are ways to deal with the coup Leaders other than the use of force’’.
The idea of deploying ECOWAS troops to Niger may have been cancelled by Nana Akufo Addo, the Ghanaian President as a result of the Ashanti Kingdoms king Osei Tutu II’s objection and rejection of military hostility to force out the coup Leaders. The Ghanaian President was said to have told the ECOWAS Leadership that’’ it will not be in his home country that ‘’the Economic bloc will decide to go to war against the Housa/Fulanis, who are their cousins in Niger Republic’’.
Indeed, worried by the depreciating health of the former Niger President, who had no electricity since August 2, 2023, let alone have contact with the outside since August 4, 2023, the 15-member West African nations Leaders meeting on the Niger crisis was said to have been postponed indefinitely in Accra, Capital of Ghana.
The regional body Leaders were due to meet in the Ghanaian Capital, Accra, on Saturday, August 12, 2023,‘’to discuss how to tackle the Niger Republic crisis after they had approved in Nigeria the deployment of a stand-by force to restore constitutional order in the country.
Informed sources told Thee Value News that the Accra meeting which was supposed to be a follow-up to the Abuja meeting in Nigeria was initially set to inform the Organisation’s Leaders about ‘’the best options ‘’ for activating and deploying military force to Niger Reppublic.
Hassoumi Massaudou, Niger Republic Foreign Minister during the Administration of deposed President Bazoum, who had said that the ECOWAS military options is not a declaration of war against people but ‘’ a police operation against hostage takers and accomplices’’ in the country.
The regional body had ordered its standby force to prepare move into Niamey, Capital of Niger Republic ‘’to restore constitutional order. Omar Alieu Tourey, the ECOWAS, President was said to have made the declaration while reading out the resolutions of the regional bloc on the Niger coup at the its Extra-ordinary meeting in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, on Thursday, August 10, 2023, had said that there was no going back plan.
Working closely with Tinubu, the Chairman of the Authority of Heads of States and Government of the ECOWAS, the regional bloc President, who was said to have called on the African, AU, under the Leadership, of President Azali Asoumani of the Union of Comoros and other partner countries including institutions had urged them ‘’to support the resolution taken by the sub-regional body to use force to edge out the Niger military junta’’.
The Authority of Heads of States and Government of the ECOWAS, in its meeting in Nigeria had directed the Committee of the Chiefs Defence Staff, CDS, of the 15 member Economic bloc to activate the standby force with all its elements and roll out the military tanks t Niger Republic, to restore constitutional order in the country.
The question on the lips of most people in the sub-region was why the ECOWAS, is hell bent on removing the Niger Republic military junta using force but had not considered it necessary to do same in Burkina Faso and Mali, ruled by the junta. Ibrahim Traore, a 35 year-old Army Captain had toppled Col Paul -Henri Sandaogo Damiba, a military Leader, in a coup in Burkina Faso in October, 2022. The toppled Burkina Faso military Leader had deposed the country’s former President Roch Kabore in a coup. In Mali, Colonel Assimi Goita, an Army colonel and the country’s Vice President , had mobilised the soldiers to overthrew the elected President Bah N’daw to foist military rule on the country.
The military Leaders of the two Sahel region and West African countries who had described the use of military hostility to oust the Niger Republic junta as a declaration of war on the country are waiting in the wings to see the regional bloc implement their decision to roll out the tanks against Niger to work against the plan by mobilising their own troops to fight alongside the Niger troops which may internationalise the war.
This is because France, Russia and the North American country of the United States, US, may see it as an opportunity to test run their new military hardware on the African soil and which may have a spill over effect on the Nigerian economy. Already Russia, which is already at war with neighbouring Ukraine has warned that ECOWAS, military intervention could lead ‘’to a protracted confrontation’’ that may take time to solve.
At present France and US operate military bases in Niger Republic which were said to have been used over the years to launch attacks against Jihadist groups in the wider region.