Is Tinubu Optioning for War? Much Ado About Proposed Troops Deployment in Niger:
THE STATE OF AFFAIRS IN NIGER
On 26 July 2023, the Presidential Guard, led by General Omar Tiani sealed off the presidential palace in Niamey, keeping in hostage, the democratically-elected President Mohamed Bazoum. As reported in the media, series of negotiations were going on but, after series of uncertainty, a group of army officers appeared on the country’s national television to confirm that there was a military coup. The officers who presented themselves as representatives of a movement namely, National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), declared the termination of The President, Mr Mohamed Bazoum’s administration. The further announced the suspension of all state’s institutions, declared a curfew, and proclaimed the closure of the country’s land and air borders.
While the group promised to safeguard the Country’s international commitments, they however demanded that external influences would not be respected, hence requested foreign powers to refrain from interference. They claimed that their action was motivated by “the continuing deterioration of the security situation” and “poor economic and social governance.” Nevertheless, experts in international politics suggest that President Bazoum’s plan to dispose the head of the presidential guard, one General Omar Tiani, from his position precipitated the coup. Tiani has been the Head of the presidential guard for over 8 years, hence has accumulated lots of powers in the realm of governance. By 28 July, General Tiani had appeared on national television confirming the coup and proclaiming that he had taken over the CNSP, making him the de-facto new head of state. This has generated lots of criticism in Africa and all over the world. The military Junta has also named former economy minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine as the country’s new prime minister., barely two weeks of their taking over of power.
SIGNIFICANCE OF NIGER COUP IN AFRICAN POLITICS AND SECURITY
The unfortunate coup in Niger further showcases unfolding concerns in West Africa democracy and put under serious scrutiny the fate of democracy in the Sahel as neighbouring countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, and Chad have experienced military takeovers in recent times. The coup also brought to bear concerns on the prospect of counter terrorism, peace and stability in the Sahel as the country has served as a buffer zone in the fight against insurgency and terrorism.
The military regime in Niger would further launch a new chapter in the international politics as it will open ways for fresh struggle for interest in the region as the new leaders in Niger could align with anti-western interests as it has been the case in Mali and Burkina Faso. This could compel Western allies and other development partners to withdraw their support from Niger, a situation likely to complicate peace, welfare and stability of citizens.
The coup presents a serious challenge to the new leadership of ECOWAS, particularly President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (GCFR) of Nigeria, who chairs the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government. President Tinubu convened a meeting of stakeholders to address the Niger situation during which he gave a deadline for the release of the dethroned President. However, resolving the crisis and restoring democratic order will depend on various factors, including the political leanings of the ECOWAS and AU members and the cooperation of the new leaders in Niger.
The extraordinary meeting of ECOWAS Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) on the Political situation in the Republic of Niger was also concluded on Friday, 4th August, 2023 in Abuja, Nigeria with a conclusion to emphasize on the importance of upholding democratic principles and the rule of law.
Presiding over the extraordinary meeting, the Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Gwabin Musa said their discussions have yielded valuable insights and actionable recommendations. The members of the committee have acknowledged the need for a comprehensive approach that encompasses political, security, and diplomatic dimensions. According to General Musa, he said, “The coup in the Niger Republic represents a blatant disregard for fundamental principles that underpin our regional integration and stability. We must unequivocally condemn such actions and demonstrate our unwavering commitment to democracy.” he noted.
We at Secured Naija is of the opinion that restoring political stability and constitutional order in Niger should be a priority for all stakeholders within and outside Africa. Nevertheless, it should be approached with caution. The country play very important and crucial roles in counter insurgency and counter terrorism in the Sahel, and the unfortunate coup, could unsettle ongoing peace initiatives while empowering terrorist groups to reorganise and expand their activities and objectives. The lessons learnt from similar coups and activities of coupists in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso demonstrate that such actions only lead to broken promises and undermine democracy, potentially paving the way for military rule in the region. To avert further crises, ECOWAS, AU, and other multilateral organizations must employ all measures, but most importantly, long lasting diplomatic means to ensure the rapid restoration of democracy in Niger.
TINUBU’S BODY LANGUAGE
Recently the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Head of ECOWAS Authority of Head of State has come under serious scrutiny on his body language which seems like he is opting for war. Different kind of analysts, political and security technocrats, students, market women, netizens and almost everybody were either criticising, advising or begging Tinubu not to consider the option of going to war. All these were as a result of the support he requested from the National Assembly to deploy troops in the troubled Niger.
Understanding the kind of person President Tinubu is, we are not bothered by his move to deploy his troops in Niger Republic. Tinubu is a unique technocrat, a successful private sector player, an intelligent politician who knows how to attack, when to attack, when to withdraw, when to persuade, how to give and take and achieve results. An accomplished negotiator and an uncompromised giver. He has displayed these ingenuities in business and politics, approaches which could be applied in defence and security issues to get better result. Tinubu has fought politically with military dictators, he has fought with political gladiators, he is fighting the few cabal killing the nation through fuel subsidy and he knows how to get his results. The highest stupidity a follower can be is when he thinks he sees or knows more than his leader. A Yoruba proverb says, What an elder can see sitting down, even if a young man climbs a storey building, he wont be able to see.
Hence, the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not a stupid man. He didn’t achieve all he has achieved in life being stupid. Hence, these much ado as if he doesn’t know his left from right about his request to deploy troops should stop. In defence strategy, there is a term called deterrence approach or tactically called, show of force. The Tinubu body language and steps taken to consolidate his initial deadline are all show of force or otherwise, deterrence strategy to create fear in the minds of coup plotters in Niger. It is to give strength to his utterances to enable the detractors know that his words are backed up with actions and that he means business. This does not mean that the President would go ahead and put boots on ground in Niger if they failed to comply with his directives as the head of ECOWAS. The seven days deadline given has expired, as the President moved his troops to Daura? He only placed units and formation of the armed forces on standby and this means being vigilant.
Tinubu’s body language could also be clearly seen in the words of his Chief of Defence Staff who before today stressed that ECOWAS forces must intensify diplomatic efforts to engage with all relevant stakeholders, saying, dialogue and negotiation should be at the forefront of approach in resolving the crisis in Republic of Niger. In the words of General CG Musa, “We must engage with the transitional authorities, civil society organisations and other key actors to foster an inclusive and peaceful transition process.” I expected security analysts employed by various media house to have seen the peaceful approach to resolving the issue by the ECOWAS generals who will fight the war if there would be any.
Today, the second extra ordinary summit of ECOWAS on Niger conveyed in Abuja, and in his address, Tinubu emphasised on the need to engage. In his words, “Moreso, in reaffirming our relentless commitment to democracy, human rights, and the well-being of the people of Niger, it is crucial that we prioritize diplomatic negotiations and dialogue as the bedrock of our approach. We must engage all parties involved, including the coup leaders, in earnest discussions to convince them to relinquish power and reinstate President Bazoum. It is our duty to exhaust all avenues of engagement to ensure a swift return to constitutional governance in Niger.”
Even with one of the resolutions of the extra ordinary meeting reached today which is to order mobilisation of military forces to intervene in Niger Republic if all diplomatic intervention fails, the ECOWAS presidents are still pushing for diplomatic negotiation, that is why the clause ‘if’… is still the last result. This is also still part of strategic deterrence. It doesn’t mean that if all diplomatic negotiations fail, ECOWAS will move troops to Niger. There are many options to consider before the final decision on this combat approach. So, Nigerians and other ECOWAS citizens should calm down and believe in the ability of their leaders.
Maybe critics would now be at rest that the President understands beyond any layman or foreigner to governance that the enormous challenge facing the Nation is beyond going to look for more Jobs.