As efforts to end the Niger crisis continue, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria has flatly rejected General Abdourahamane Tchiani’s requests for direct access and communication, according to Empowered Newswire. Tchiani is the head of the military junta in that West African nation.
According to diplomatic sources, approving such direct one-on-one discussions is disrespectful to the Nigerien President, Mohamed Bazoum, who is still incarcerated, as well as the region’s democratic governance.
A group of Muslim Ulamas who had met with President Tinubu in Abuja approximately a month after the Niger coup approached him with Tchiani’s request, according to sources close to the Niger’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York.
The Ulamas informed the Nigerian President, who also serves as the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, of General Abdourahamane Tchiani’s request for a direct one-on-one meeting as a potential means of resolving the issue.
According to the sources, President Tinubu categorically rejected any such interaction with the leader of an unlawful administration that took control following a military coup that toppled a democratically elected government of Niger at the meeting held in Abuja on August 24.
The opinion of President Tinubu that direct contact with Tchiani would wrongly legitimise a coup leader whose authority isn’t even recognised by ECOWAS was also confirmed by Nigerian government officials.
“The President outrightly rejected the overture, insisting that ECOWAS leaders would be disappointed besides the fact that such an interaction would send the wrong signal about democratic governance in the continent.”
The standoff over the Niger situation has lasted without much sign of hope, despite the fact that many in the African diplomatic community, in particular, believe that President Tinubu’s denial of a direct conversation with Tchiani at this time would indeed be a terrible signal.
Diplomats underlined that in order to deal with the military takeover, President Tinubu and other ECOWAS leaders needed to maintain a united front.
Although the Niger military junta finally communicated with them, Niger officials in New York contended that sending envoys from the Nigerian government who are themselves former military regime beneficiaries to the coupists in Niger is itself a contradictory signal.
It should be remembered that on August 19, a few days before the Niger Ulamas met with President Tinubu, former heads of state General Abdusalami Abubakar and the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Sa’ad Muhammad Abubakar, visited Niger to discuss potential solutions.
The previous head of state had travelled to Niamey prior to the arrival of both Abdusalami and the Sultan in Niger, but was unable to meet with the members of the new military junta.
Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi posted images of a productive meeting with the Coup Leaders later on August 9th.
In addition, commentators claim that the emir’s position as the Khalifa of the Tijaniyya Islamic sect, which enjoys a sizable following in Niger, helped him succeed in his attempt to meet with Tchiani and other members of the Military Junta. On the same August 9th, Sanusi was also at the Presidential Villa. Later in August, the Ulamas came to Aso Rock.
Abdulsalami Abubakar, a former military leader of Nigeria, had been chosen by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to lead a mission to Niger for mediation. Additionally, it was determined that the Sultan of Sokoto, who is regarded as important within the Muslim community in both Nigeria and Niger, would accompany him.
At the meeting where the Ulamas presented Tchiani’s request to meet Tinubu directly, an idea they also supported the ECOWAS leader according to an Aso Villa statement implored the “delegation of Islamic scholars (Ulamas), who were previously engaged in discussions to facilitate the restoration of constitutional democratic governance in Niger Republic, to expedite progress in their ongoing dialogue with the military junta.”
President Tinubu told the Islamic delegation as reported in the statement “that the military junta must be held accountable for putting the entire people of Niger Republic in jeopardy. They cannot use the gun given to them to protect the sovereignty of the country and turn it against the people of the country,” he said.
According to the official statement from the Presidential Villa the Nigerian President “received a comprehensive briefing on Thursday at the State House in Abuja, from the Ulamas, who were led into the meeting by Sheikh Bala Lau. The briefing followed the Ulamas’ two most recent visits to Niger Republic.”
The statement continued : “The Islamic leaders had informed the President that the military junta was open to deepening dialogue with ECOWAS as more steps are being taken to forestall armed conflict with a more detailed acceptance of the ECOWAS position by Niger military council officials.
“Responding to the delegation of Ulamas, against the backdrop of ethnic rumours peddled by domestic political figures inside and outside of the country, President Tinubu emphasized that he is at the forefront of a peaceful resolution of the crisis, even in the midst of more hawkish individuals urging swifter intervention.
“I am managing a very serious situation. If you take ECOWAS aside, other people will react, those who are outside of our control. I am the one holding those sides back. I am the one holding back ECOWAS.
”Even as of this morning, I have been inundated with phone calls on the readiness of countries with their military force and contributions. However, I told them to wait. I am meeting with the Ulamas and I will get back to you,” the President added.
President Tinubu also pledged at the meeting “that ECOWAS will remain steadfast in its commitment to diplomatically engage with all stakeholders and seek a peaceful resolution to the impasse in Niger Republic.
”I will draw a line in the sand and ask you to make arrangements to go back to Niger Republic.’