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Tinubu’s war drums in Niger Republic By Dr. Bisi Olawunmi

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President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s federal government of Nigeria is rearing to go to war in Niger Republic. Is history repeating itself?

Twelve years ago, in 2011, Nigeria was similarly bullish about going to war in Ivory Coast over the presidential election dispute in that country.

That time, President Goodluck Jonathan was the Chairman of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), just as President Bola Tinubu is ECOWAS chairman today.

There had been a presidential election in Ivory Coast on October 31, 2010 with many candidates in which President Laurent Gbagbo led with 38 percent of the vote, while Alassane Quattara was the runner up with 32 percent vote.

Because no candidate scored up to 50 percent of the vote, the two leading candidates – Gbagbo and Quattara – had a run-off election on November 28, 2010.

On December 2, 2010, the country’s Independent Electoral Commission declared Quattara winner of the run-off election with 54 percent of the vote, but on December 3, 2010, the Constitutional Court, which has the mandate to certify/review the election result, declared President Gbagbo re-elected with 51 percent of the vote.

The ‘International Community ‘stepped in, with the United Nations Representative in Ivory Coast issuing a certification of the Quattara victory!!!

Yes, a UN Representative became or arrogated to himself the role of the certifying authority of a presidential election in an African country!

However, President Gbagbo, supported by the Ivorian military and civil service was sworn in for a second term while Quattara, holed up at the Golf hotel in Abidjan, protected by UN Peacekeeping troops, declared himself president. There was stalemate, with two claimants to the Ivorian presidency.

Enter President Goodluck Jonathan, ECOWAS Chairman, not as a mediator, but rather a hell-raising, combative warmonger rearing to topple President Gbagbo, who had been tagged a sit tight president who did not want to relinquish power. Jonathan backed the position of the UN Representative.

Like President Jonathan, President Bola Tinubu entered the political fray in Niger Republic, not as a mediator, but projecting as a combative democracy warrior leading ECOWAS on a mission to teach coupists a lesson for daring to sack an elected president.

Whatever local circumstances which might have prompted the coup were of no consideration to the new ECOWAS chairman, who is also barely two months in office as president of Nigeria, and whose victory in the election is still being challenged in court.

President Tinubu has shown no clue on how to tackle Boko haram insurgency, widespread banditry and kidnapping in Nigeria, yet he is consumed about restoring democracy in Niger Republic, following the ouster of President Mohammed Bazoum from power in coup on July 26, 2023 led by the Commander of the Presidential Guard, Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani.

At its Sunday, July 30, 2023 first extraordinary summit on the Niger crisis, ECOWAS had imposed several sanctions on the coupists and handed them one week ultimatum to reinstate Bazoum or face military action.

At its second extraordinary summit on Thursday, August 10, 2023, ECOWAS activated a Standby Force to actualize its ultimatum .

I had written an article on the Ivorian political crisis, dated January 30, 2011 and published in many newspapers including The Guardian (February 17, 2011) titled : ‘ Nigeria’s war drums on Ivory Coast ‘.

One can apply that title to the current situation as: Tinubu’s war drums on Niger Republic. The African Union had initially opted for dialogue on the Ivorian crisis, but eventually towed ECOWAS line as the primary authority in West Africa.

I will quote extensively from that my 2011 write-up to highlight the similarity to Tinubu’s warmongering on Niger Republic.

I had noted: ‘’ The ECOWAS has a responsibility to diffuse the volatile situation, but the mediator is now becoming a rabid partisan, eager to deploy the military to dislodge President Gbagbo’’.

In fact, Jonathan, had on January 24, 2011, in a letter, lobbied the UN Security Council for a resolution authorizing ECOWAS to deploy the military in Ivory Coast!

The letter was delivered by Jonathan’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Odein Ajumogobia (SAN).

I had observed: ‘’ What is most unsettling about the letter is its undue belligerence, with a touch of braggadocio’’, as Jonathan thundered: ‘’ Gbagbo must be made to understand that there is a very real prospect of overwhelming military capability bearing down on him and his cohorts’’.

Tinubu is exhibiting similar macho on the Niger crisis. In the article, I had posed the question: Why is Nigeria so gung-ho about war in Ivory Coast?

That question is worth repeating today: Why is Tinubu so gung-ho about leading ECOWAS to war in Niger Republic?

Unlike Jonathan, the Tinubu-led ECOWAS has dispensed with UN Security Council resolution on the threatened war against Niger republic, apparently to establish Tinubu as the new Sheriff in West Africa with a smoking gun!

At the end, Jonathan got UN Security Council resolution for military intervention in Ivory Coast, but he and ECOWAS were sidelined in the military operation, in spite of their gra-gra about war.

It was essentially UN Peacekeeping soldiers and French forces which captured President Gbagbo at the presidential palace on April 11, 2011 and eventually installed Quattara as president on May 21, 2011.

President Gbagbo was sent to trial at the International Criminal Court at The Hague where he languished for 10 years in detention.

President Jonathan and ECOWAS became pawns of the ‘International Community ‘ to perpetuate French economic stranglehold on Ivory Coast, a vice grip that President Gbagbo was trying to dismantle.

Similarly, Tinubu and ECOWAS may be suckered into a proxy war in Niger Republic on behalf of France and the U.S. to sustain the West’s economic exploitation of that country.

But he, apparently, deludes himself as a Big Boy playing in the Big League!

Perhaps, Tinubu and his Aso Rock advisers are both ignorant of history and naïve in international geopolitics. Just like Jonathan’s outing in Ivory Coast, Tinubu is turning out as lacking depth in policy decisions and precipitate in action – shooting before aiming!

The seemingly over-hyped Lagos political tactician and ‘magician’ may be unraveling before our eyes.

What is his understanding of the underlying local factors which triggered the coup in Niger Republic? Can ECOWAS realistically dismiss the support for Niger Republic by Burkina Faso and Mali, both ruled by military juntas?

The laughable aspect of the Tinubu ECOWAS Ensemble is touting Alassane Quattara and President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo as defenders of democracy.

This is Quattara, installed by France in 2011 and who in 2016 changed the country’s constitution that allowed him to run for a third term of five years in 2020, winning 94.27 percent of the vote, and giving him a cumulative 15 years by 2025.

President Gnassingbe, in 2005, succeeded his late father, President Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo for 38 years. After resisting term limitations for 14 years, he got his party-dominated National Assembly to pass a constitutional amendment in May 2019 that now included a two-term limit for the president, but without retroactive clause.

The amendment gave him a fresh two terms that allowed him to run in the 2020 presidential election and the option to also run in 2025, potentially allowing him to remain president till 2030, a reign of 25 years!!

These are the Tinubu Apostles of Democracy on Evangelism mission to Niger Republic!!! What a joke!

Quattara, the French-installed lackey in Ivory Coast, fronting for his benefactors in urging Tinubu to war, had after the August 10, 2023 ECOWAS Summit in Abuja sought to deflect Nigerians’ criticism of Tinubu’s warmongering by stating that it is an ECOWAS collective decision. Who is deceived?

As in Ivory Coast, the ‘International Community ‘, a euphemism for U.S. and NATO, could possibly aid a lightening victory for Tinubu-led ECOWAS military invasion of Niger Republic if France and the U.S. provide carpet bombing air cover for the ground troops.

That could be the pledge emboldening Tinubu to throw caution to the wind. But then, Tinubu would have only been railroaded into a fratricidal war with Niger Republic for the economic interests of the West in their continuing exploitation of African countries.

Except for the nebulous claim of promoting democracy, no one has articulated the specific benefits accruing to Nigeria or ECOWAS from an invasion of Niger Republic to reinstate the ousted president, Mohammed Bazoum.

Virtually all stakeholders in Nigeria have opposed military invasion of Niger Republic by Tinubu-led ECOWAS. But does the Lagos City Boy care.? It appears Tinubu does not give a damn, for as long as he can flaunt the anticipated success of his Audacity of Warmongering in Niger Republic!!!

 

Dr. Bisi Olawunmi, Senior Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Adeleke University, Ede, is a former Washington Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria and Fellow, Nigerian Guild of Editors.

Email : olawunmibisi@yahoo.com

PHONE (SMS): 0803 364 7571

 

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