Opinion

Niger Coup Conundrum: Say No! to the impending war, By Cyril Oleh, PhD

I have read a couple of posts about the faceoff brewing between Nigeria and her neighbouring brother, Niger republic. A few things are important to note.

 

War is not an achievement in whatever form. No one actually wins wars even if one side capitulates after some scuffles. The Russia-Ukraine war is a good example. Most people including Russia thought it was going to be a short “police action” as General Gowon was quoted to have described what Nigeria was going to do to Biafra in 1967.

 

The Biafran war lasted for three years with heavy casualties on both sides. Gowon himself declared, no victor, no “anguished.” Decades later, Gowon himself realized the emptiness of war as he embarked on his pet project, ‘Nigeria Prays.’ The erstwhile Generalissimo of the people’s army became a later day prayer warrior. As a country, Nigeria is yet to recover from that war. Some say only the theatre has changed.

 

There have been many coups in Niger republic in the past. Nigeria never got involved in any of them beyond mere political rhetorics of condemnation. Why are we so upbeat about this one? There are a few conspiracy theories connected to this.

 

In international politics, governments that fail at home (or failing at home) usually stir up quarrels with neighbors as a way of causing distractions at home. The present scenario may fit into the theory. Will a presidential election petition tribunal be willing to remove a president who has declared war against a neighbor? Who will inherit his war and fight it for him?

 

Another theory is that president Tinubu is fighting to safeguard the alleged loots of his predecessor most of which are reportedly stashed away in Niger republic. Remember the reports of the SUVs which Nigeria donated to Niger republic? Remember the free railway from Katsina to Maradi. Were all these and more done *pro bono* or were they conduits used by our past leaders to siphon money for personal use? We may never know.

 

Many Nigerians are uncomfortable with the way this government is handling the Niger republic coup matter. There is a coup in Niger republic. Yes. ECOWAS which we chair has condemned it. ECOWAS has sent the General Abdulsalami Abubakar team to visit the coup plotters with a view to looking for an exit plan. While the team was in Niger, Nigeria announced that it had cut electricity supply to Niger republic without waiting for the ECOWAS emissary to return with a message from the new leadership in Niamey. This was untactful. There seems to be a dangerous overlap between the intention of ECOWAS and that of Nigeria whose president currently chairs the regional body.

 

For the records, Nigeria did not provide free electricity to Niger republic. Before now, Niger had attempted to checkmate Nigeria’s undue influence around her by using what she has to get what she wants. That effort led to Niamey constructing Kandadji Dam at Tillabéri department around 1991 in order to control the flow of River Niger to Nigeria. part of the trade off was the bilateral symmetry that Nigeria provide electricity supply to Niger republic in exchange of free flow of water into Nigeria. It was thereafter that Niamey stopped the damn project which it later reopened its construction in March 2016.

 

According to one of my friends, a retired diplomat who served in Niamey in the early ’90s, if completed and mutually managed by Niger and Nigeria, the damn could help in controlling the excessive water to Nigeria and check the perennial ugly experience at the Lokoja Benue/Niger Bridge! So there was a diplomatic agreement of quid pro quo (rub my back, I rub yours).

 

Now that Nigeria has provoked Niger republic by cutting it’s electricity, there is nothing stopping our Niamey brothers from retaliatory diplomacy (do me I do you, God no go vex), as we say in local parlance.

 

Niger republic may dredge the River Niger at their own end at Nigeria’s discomfort. In international politics, every country has a bargaining power. And God has deposited in every nation, including Niger republic, some survival chips, Uranium.

 

One more worry or two: If anyone is looking at Niger republic in a possible war against Nigeria and think that Niger republic is a minion, I will only say, not at all. Russia will do anything to fraternize with Niger republic. Russia’s military wing, the Wagner group is already in parts of Africa signing military treaties. Russia’s emissaries are also in parts of Africa signing treaties for Russia to supply grains and food stuff to those African countries including Niger republic.

 

There is hunger across Africa, including Nigeria and Vladimir Putin understands this. I can safely argue that if the devil himself can provide food for Africa, Africans will follow him to go and marry Lucifer. Food is also a weapon of war. Chief Obafemi Awolowo said so emphatically during the Nigerian civil war that hunger was a tool for prosecuting war, hence there were attempts by the Nigerian side to stop international humanitarian agencies including CARITAS from sending relief materials to the Biafran side.

 

Russia will do anything to have a strong hold in Africa to challenge the economic hegemony currently enjoyed by the NATO group led by the US and UK. Vladimir Putin can do anything to spite America including striking a deal with the Wagner group to infiltrate Africa. I see Russia signing a Defence pact with Niger republic in a few weeks time. My prediction.

 

Niger is not an arid, barren nation. That country is sitting on uranium, perhaps the fourth biggest deposit in the world. It produces the world’s 5% uranium. In Africa, it leads, Namibia and South Africa in uranium production

 

Latently, the scramble and partition for Africa has resumed. What happened in Berlin in 1884/85 will be a child’s play compared to the present. Russia is still blaming itself for allowing America kill their ally, Muammar Gaddafi the way they did. Before him, they killed Patrice Lumumba, Samora Machael, Jonas Savimbi, Thomas Sankara and many other Russian allies. Have we forgotten the Angolan war of attrition. Putin himself fought physically in Angola and trained many gorilla fighters in that country.

 

Nigeria has a lot of internal wars to fight. It will be inglorious to engage in a major war outside the country. There are also lots of Nigeriens living in Nigeria who may become security risks in the event of a full blown war against their country.

 

Seriously speaking, APC government has enough reasons to fear. There is an Hausa proverb which says, if you see your neighbour’s beards on fire, start dousing your own beards with water. There is palpable fear that Niger republic is too close for comfort.

 

Truth be told, this present government in Nigeria has no moral ground to stand and query the military junta in Niger republic. The clean hands doctrine requires that one who comes to equity must come with clean hands. Does Nigeria have clean hands in this regard?

 

Coups happen in different forms: a faulty electoral process that produces a questionable leadership is as bad as a military coup. Any electoral system that encourages it’s citizens to *seize it, grab it and run with it* is worse than a military coup.

 

The present leadership in Nigeria will be taking its luck too far to fight what Chinua Achebe would call a *war of blame*. Nigerians are so disatisified with the APC government that they will not support this government for a wasteful expedition that will endanger the lives of her citizens, waste the money they claim they do not have to subsidize petrol, expend money that could have been used to fix the refineries.

 

Above all, the Nigerian army is reportedly infiltrated by foreign mercenaries, some of whom may include Nigeriens. Who knows! This crop of soldiers does not look like those General Ibrahim Babangida used to prosecute the ECOMOG wars in the sub region in the 90’s. Today, morale among the Nigerian army may be low because of the general economic predicament citizens find themselves.

 

Let us say no to the impending storm. Usually, politicians ignite wars but they do not fight wars.

 

*Cyril Oleh, PhD* wrote in from Abuja. He can be reached at: cyriloleh@gmail.com

 

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