• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Understanding Nigeria’s strategic but humiliating back down on Niger Republic sanctions

President Tinubu (2)

Nigeria backed down in humiliation on 13 March from a high-horse of ego-driven sanctions against our neighbour, the Niger Republic, and three other countries in the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu led ECOWAS to impose sanctions on Niger Republic because of its military coup. It was a hasty foreign policy move that lacked the necessary due diligence and support of the internal forces.

Nigeria’s sanctions against the Niger Republic and its withdrawal represent a case study on the nexus of internal dynamics and foreign relations. Nations must secure the total support of their home audiences in playing diplomatic games in the international arena.

The Niger Republic shares borders and consanguinity with five Nigerian northern states. They are cousins and walk across the colonial borders as in the olden days. The family ties are strong.

President Tinubu acted against the Niger Republic leadership based on an assumed consensus against coups and military rule in West Africa. ECOWAS, under Tinubu’s leadership, feared a contagious domino.

Curiously, the leaders of Niger Republic called Nigeria’s bluff. ECOWAS then humbled itself in February and climbed down on the sanctions. Curiously, the four countries said nary a word. They ignored Nigeria and ECOWAS.

Meanwhile, the federal government suffered from internal dissension over the continued closure of the border between Nigeria and the Niger Republic and the other sanctions our country imposed. Internal matters of food inflation and scarcity continued to play up.

Northern political and religious leaders pressured the federal government. In some cases, the politics of the situation included disrespect to the president. In Sokoto, the Sultan sent the president’s wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, to her husband about hunger in the land. It was a cultural anathema.

The other day, a Muslim cleric in Bauchi wished death upon the First Lady. The core North crossed the line several times on the matter. They piled pressure any way they could.

Those were fillers. The final trigger is a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit published on Monday, 11 March.

The report reviewed the challenges the Tinubu government has faced since it commenced reforming the economy with subsidy removal and currency floating. The publication mentioned but equally denied a coup possibility.

The Economist Intelligence Unit report on Nigeria stated: “A military coup is the more plausible (but still unlikely) way that the government’s term would end early, motivated by rising unrest (and a sense among the top brass that change is urgently needed- the security forces are already overwhelmed by various security crises).

“There is precedent: economic conditions were used as the prime justification for coups during the military rule era, which ended in 1999. Christopher Musa, the chief of defence staff and the highest-ranked Nigerian military chief, went on record in late February, warning against those calling for a takeover by the army, which confirms that this is a live worry within politics. The army also quickly rebutted a report by a widely followed newspaper report of a coup attempt in late February.

The risk of the government being overthrown is low, as Nigeria has a more successfully established democracy than other countries in West Africa that have experienced coups. Still, the gap is not huge, and there are commonalities among them: endemic corruption, anti-establishment feelings, widespread insecurity, and economic decline.”

The climb-down will fetch a significant reprieve for the Federal Government from internal and external foes. It should satisfy the North and allow the government to face implementation of its policies.