Prof. MK Othman
Coup d’état is a bad omen to any country, no matter the situation. It means the destiny of a nation and its people is placed squarely in the hands of regimented armed personalities who more often than not, suspend the nation’s constitution and severe the democratic structure with alacrity. They do and undo, make and unmake as they please without qualms. To hell with everybody, the leader of the coup is a kind of “supreme being” who barks orders with the maxim of “obey before complain”. Just like armed robbers, before the coup plotters get involved, they must stake all they have including their lives, and be ready to pay the supreme price in case of failure. There were uncountable losses of lives and properties in the coup process in several countries. Nigeria suffered irreplaceable losses of fine sojas through Coup and counter Coup d’état, the country is still suffering from the hangover of military dictatorship, over two decades later. The Coup Plotters could bullshit whoever challenges them and may set the country on fire to kill or be killed just to retain power or save their skin if they could not withstand the pressure. This might have been the reason why one of the juntas in Niger, Colonel Abdoulaye Madaba Issifou was reported boasting “If they want to restore Mohamed Bazoum to power, we will help them restore the corpse of Mohamed Bazoum to power. They will have the blood of the people on their hands and the first victim will be Mohamed Bazoum, the former head of state of Niger.”
This is the prism of watching the recent Coup d’état in the Niger Republic. As expected, the junta is behaving like a bull in China’s shop, which requires deep thinking for safe removal but using force may be a catastrophe.
However, the coup in Niger could set a dangerous precedent in Africa, where military coups and unconstitutional changes of government are more frequent in the region than any other in the world. This could lead to increased political volatility and decreased regional stability. This is a serious cause for concern for the people of Africa. Nevertheless, can the coup in Niger warrant military action that may degenerate into full war?
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) should rethink a strategy to reinstate the democratic structure in Niger devoid of violence. Nigeria should be the last country to crave any kind of military expedition in Niger because of the grave consequences that may escalate to Nigeria. Historically, military adventurism between countries has always been bloody, costly, and unpredictable with suicidal and calamitous outcomes. It allows the weapon manufacturers to test their weapons and enrich their bank accounts and consuming innocent lives.
The security, economic and diplomatic implications of military action against Niger Nigeria cannot be overlooked. Diplomatically, the Nigeria-Niger border has seven states – Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe, and Borno covering a distance of 1,608 km. The people of both countries, Nigeria and Niger share a common language, religion, and culture with intermarriages.
Economically, Nigeria is the most important country in ECOWAS not because its President, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the current chairman of ECOWAS, Nigeria accounts for more than half of ECOWAS’ Population and nearly half of ECOWAS’$60 billion annual GDP. The next two largest members are Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire with 8% and 7% of the population, respectively. So, ECOWAS’ plan for military intervention in Niger would majorly be borne by Nigeria economically and personnel-wise. Can the Nigerian economy accommodate the extra budget expenses of the external war in this year, 2023?
Still, on the economy, there will be massive disruptions in Regional Trade. Nigeria is a major player in the regional trade bloc, ECOWAS, and depends on Niger for key imports and exports. The conflict is leading to border closures or disruptions in trade routes resulting in economic losses for Nigeria. Niger is a major transit country for fuel imports, and any disruption in fuel supply could affect prices in Nigeria, which heavily relies on imported fuel. This could lead to inflation or increased transportation costs for Nigerians. Already, the recent removal of fuel subsidies is biting Nigerians mercilessly and crippling economic activities across the nation. People are merely surviving the economy and confounding it with military action with the neighboring country will be a suicidal mission.
There will be a negative impact on border security. It will lead to insecurity along the border shared by Nigeria and Niger. Nigeria could face increased threats from insurgents and terrorists, as porous borders are usually exploited for illegal activities. Nigeria could face heightened risks of cross-border attacks by terrorists owing to the shared border and porous nature of the region.
Similarly, the Niger Republic is a key partner in the fight against terrorism in West Africa. The ECOWAS intervention could lead to uncertainty or a power vacuum, which could impact regional security and Nigerian roles in peacekeeping operations. Likewise, the power vacuum could be exploited and pose a risk to regional security and increase the likelihood of violence and insecurity in Niger, Nigeria, and other neighboring countries.
There will be an increased Refugee Crisis in the border towns. Nigeria is already dealing with a displacement crisis due to Boko Haram insurgency and banditry. The military intervention in Niger will lead to an influx of refugees from Niger who may flee from insecurity and violence.
It is in Nigeria’s best interest to closely monitor developments in Niger Republic following the coup, and take proactive steps to mitigate any negative impact on the country’s economic, political, and security situation. Nigeria must show leadership and play an active role in regional affairs to ensure stability and peace.
In the world of today, democracy is the best form of government for the people by the people and of the people. Democracy is an evolutionary process, nurtured over time requiring inclusiveness, collective ownership, and self-belonging. Even in Nigeria, we cannot boast of entrenching a democracy as long as vote-buying and selling significantly count in our democratic elections. How many of our elected representatives at both executives and legislatures came to power without the monetary inducement of the electorates? Why don’t we work to perfect our democratic process instead of intervening internal affairs of another country? In any case, the coup in Niger was the fourth in Francophone countries of Africa in recent years and may not be the last as long as the neo-colonial policies of France are being implemented many decades after their independence.
Last line, it is gratifying to note that many concerned Nigerians and Nigeriens are working tirelessly to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Diplomacy should be sustained until a good solution without firing a shot is found, every problem discussed is halfway to its solution. To borrow the words of Winston Churchill, “It is better to jaw than to war-war “, still on a borrowing spree, J.M., Martinez, a Latin American Social Scientist said “Violence is the easiest, but the costliest manner of settling our disputes”. And, closing with the song of our statesman, Sonny Okosun in his famous song, Give Peace A Chance”. Nigerians are hungry, they need peace not war.