The military coup in the neighbouring Niger Republic is condemnable, and rightly deserves every sanction imposed until the soldiers return to their place in the barracks. But going to war to enforce a return to democracy should not be a mandate for Nigeria to burden itself with.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is chaired by Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu gave a Sunday deadline for reinstatement of the deposed Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum. That deadline has now elapsed without the military incursion ECOWAS threatened.
It is our position that this is not a time to unilaterally play big brother and deploy an already overstretched, ill equipped Nigerian army to war. More so with a neighbouring country that has not directly committed any acts of aggression against our country. Nigeria shares 1,608 kilometres of border with Niger, and also has tens of thousands of refugees in that country having fled violence in different parts of Nigeria’s volatile north.
This is not a time to unilaterality play big brother and deploy an already overstretched, ill equipped Nigerian army to war
Biggest country or not, for Nigeria to lead a war on what should be a collective action by West African states will see more Nigerians paying the price. The thousands of Nigerian refugees that have been offered a hiding place in Niger will become the first set of casualties. Their losses will become two-fold having been failed by the Nigerian state in the first place that made them refugees. The failure of Nigeria to protect them while on Nigerian soil from bandits and terrorists saw them fleeing to a neighbouring country, and if Nigeria declares war on that country, they would again become targets.
Nigeria’s north is almost entirely bordered by Niger republic, and this same northern Nigeria has been the epicentre of violence, insecurity and war against terrorism for almost two decades. A war that would undoubtedly be largely fought in that region when missiles from the other side find their way in, would surely worsen the security situation there.
We believe that sanctions as already announced and imposed by ECOWAS should suffice. Economic sanctions if deployed properly and sting adequately should force any illegitimate occupants of the presidential palace out of it. Importantly, also, is that if the people of Niger republic want the junta gone, they must take the lead, not Nigeria or any external force for that matter.
Beyond Niger, even the military-controlled Burkina Faso, Mali and others can only be returned to democratic rule when the people of those countries decide that enough is enough. And this is assuming there is anything happening for them to be fed up with. But if truly they are being repressed by the military and sanctions imposed against the countries are making life difficult for the citizenry, then the people must fight for their own destinies.
If at all there would be need for external interventions, it should be because the people have trooped out to send the soldiers back to the barracks (where they belong) but are being attacked, or worse, killed. Such a humanitarian condition could set the stage for external intervention. But until the people of those countries decide they have had enough and lead the fight to remove their dictators, then Nigeria and ECOWAS must militarily stay put.