Opinion

It’s a NO to Invasion of Niger!, By Akaninyene Esiere

Niger is a poor country by every standard. It is one of the poorest in the world. The country is north of Nigeria. And it’s a country of 27.3 million people; that is slightly less than the population of Lagos, Oyo and Osun States combined. The largest ethnic groups in Niger are the Hausa (who also constitute the major ethnic group in northern Nigeria) and the Zarma Songhai, who also are in parts of Mali.

 

Niger sits on some of the world’s largest uranium deposits, but is one of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC). Niger is landlocked. It is bounded on the northwest by Algeria, on the northeast by Libya, on the east by Chad, on the south by Nigeria and Benin and on the west by Burkina Faso and Mali. The country is larger than Nigeria in landmass by about 300,000 km2. About 65 percent of the land is desert, and the rest is savanna. Their per capita income is about $1,330. That is about what an average Frenchman or woman makes in ten days!

 

If the handlers of Nigeria had allowed things to work well in the country, Niger would have enjoyed a spinoff, just as many other West and Central African countries. The giant of Africa appears to be permanently amputated. That means all of its neighbours must stay poor; as if they receive poverty inspiration from Big Brother Nigeria! It is not for nothing that some of us continue to advocate for a better Nigeria, even when it appears to be a hopeless hope. At the minimum, the dignity of the Black Race would be restored.

 

The coup d’etat in Niger should be seen in the light of the context of a dysfunctional Nigeria. The country is simply a dependent nation: dependent on power from Nigeria; dependent on smuggled petroleum products from Nigeria; dependent on medium scale investments from Nigerian Hausas; dependent on handouts from France, its former and present day colonial master; dependent on Western and Russian order and command; dependent on the price of raw uranium determined in the boardrooms of Western businesses.

 

So, when on July 26, 2023 the army easily shoved off the government of Mohamed Bazoum, who came into power as an elected President in 2021, the West cried foul; foul because their prefect had been removed and not because they cared about the citizens of Niger; they cried foul because they fear that their perpetual influence over the country would switch to Russia, which has its private army in that country.

 

To stymie the coup plotters, led by General Abdourahamane Tchiani, from the presidential palace, the West looked for a poster boy; and they found a ready man in Nigeria’s new president, and even more freshly minted ECOWAS Chairman, Bola Ahmed Tinubu; the man who appears to talk first and think later. They want him to defend “democracy” in Niger by all means, especially via military invasion of that poor country.

 

Tinubu cannot be the poster boy of the West. We cannot waste our meager human (military) and financial resources to defend what has brought untold misery, suffering and hardship to Nigeriens. The coup against Bazoum was not against him as such but a desperate liberation move against the hegemony of France. The result of the Nigerien “democracy” is that the country is among the ten poorest nations on planet earth. Can Nigeria, where global poverty is headquartered despite operating its own kwashiorkored democracy for 24 unbroken years go and defend such a system in Niger?

 

Make no mistake, Reflections! is not against democracy. Despite its imperfections, democracy still remains the best form of government man has developed. This writer is actually craving for a democratic government, but certainly not what is being practiced in Africa. I have argued that Western democracy, which many African countries deceitfully think they are practicing, has not delivered good governance to the people. Much of the Arab world is not democratic, yet two things are clear: The West let them be; and the people are by far wealthier than subsaharan Africans. In fact, when the Brotherhood led by Mohammed Morsi took over Egypt through western-styled democracy, it was no less the greatest defender of democracy that helped return the country to military rule!

 

ECOWAS heads of state have directed the deployment of standby military troops to restore constitutional order in Niger. This should not be allowed to happen as the military that took over power in that country is not a threat to any West African country. Thankfully, in Nigeria, the Senate has passed a resolution calling on the President not to use force against the military government in the country. Other States in the subregion need to rein in their armed forces from attacking our sister country. Burkina Faso and Mali, also ruled by the army had kicked against the use of force.

 

Niger, just like many other extremely poor African nations, has lived on Western handouts for far too long; and has produced negative effects. It is probable that the people of Niger want to take their destinies in their hands. What ECOWAS owes the 27.3m people of Niger is brotherly support for freedom from Western hegemony and not a military intervention. ECOWAS should not allowed itself to be used by the West to further erode the rights of the people of Niger to decide how they want to be governed. The crowds that have gathered in support of the military, whether arranged or not, should send a strong message to the world that the people do not want Bazoum back in power. Mohammed Bazoum may have been properly elected, but do the people of that country gotten better since he was sworn in; do the simple majority of the people support the coup de tat? Maybe ECOWAS could help conduct a referendum to determine if the people want the dethroned government or the military government.

 

Reflections! had argued previously that Western democracy may work perfectly well for the people of the West and that has a lot to do with the cultural context of Western societies. The fact that it works for Western societies does not necessarily mean that it will work in African societies. There’s currently no poster child for democracy in Africa that we can point to. Tinubu can claim for all he wants that the election that threw him up as the winner was free and fair. But even the umpire, Mahmud Yakubu knows for sure that it was far from being fair. More importantly, the practice of the so-called democracy in the country since 1999 has not benefited the people of Nigeria. Instead, it has worsened inequality in the land with just a handful of people getting stinkingly rich while the majority get poorer. Our per capita is well below $2,000 which makes us poorer than most nations of the world. With over 100 million people in multidimensional poverty, with our economy in intensive care unit, with insecurity now a norm, going to war should be the last thing on our minds. Many other African countries said to be practicing western democracy are not any better.

 

Imagine the amount of money poor African countries expend on political party affairs, conducting elections and campaigning and keeping elected politicians and appointees in office, who mainly end up squandering state funds. Imagine Africans funneling these resources to develop their countries’ economies, education, health care and social security and bringing their people out of abject poverty and misery. When will we be tired of suffering? China closed its doors to foreign influence and developed the way it wanted to be governed and then moved on to developing its economy. Within a generation, China moved over three hundred million of its citizens out of poverty. Today, China is the second largest economy in the world; and it is not practicing western democracy. At a public function in the late nineteen nineties, the late Sir. Arthur Mbanefo stated that when he first went to China in the late nineteen seventies, he could not differentiate between a man and woman because of the level of poverty there. And by the time he made the statement, the country had already moved away from being an extremely poor country to being among the world’s biggest economies. In another generation, China will be the dominant country in the world and still not practicing western democracy.

 

Tell me, how many countries in the super rich Mideast are rich in democracy? Many are kingdoms and dictatorships yet they are prosperous. Apart from Turkey which is both a European and a Muslim nation, all others are undemocratic. So, why is the poorest continent on earth burdened with the most expensive system of government even when it is not ready to follow the simple tenets of that system? It is like asking an ant 🐜 to carry on its back a stranded elephant back to its habitat.

 

Hear one Adamu Garba II on ECOWAS’ plan to invade Niger: “The West, under France and the U.S. have perfectly set a TRAP for ECOWAS to go into a total war in the region. Any mistake of military intervention in Niger means we are done with.

 

Any military coup that lasted beyond 24 hours becomes successful. At that point, the military would have secured the approvals of all the stakeholders of that country. Trying any military means of restoring order means a total war against our neighbors, particularly when the people are happily jubilant.

 

In essence, it means we will be shooting missiles against each other across our borders. A total catastrophe against our countries and peoples.

 

Imagine the influx of refugees from Niger Republic into Nigeria, with our current dearth situation in Nigeria. This should never be imagined.

 

President Tinubu must be courageous enough to resist French and U.S pressure on ECOWAS to wage any military action against Niger. We must use non-kinetic, diplomatic approach.

 

If we make a mistake of involving military means in Niger, we may end up inviting more internal problems to ourselves and to the effort we made so hard in building a democratic government in place.

 

The truth of the matter is, West Africa has failed to protect democracy. Our only option now is to learn from the failures and prevent repeating it, not to completely destroy our region in the interest of Western Powers, against our security interests.”

 

Nothing to add.

 

Esiere is a former journalist

© 2023

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