When the refrain “Africa the Centre piece of our foreign policy” carried so much weight; when we were revered among nations: a distinguished founding member of the Organization of African Unity, later African Union, a key member of the Non-aligned Movement during the cold war era, though not geographically located in the Southern Africa sub region, such was our influence financially and diplomatically that we were a member of the Front Line States:
The group of countries in Southern Africa who were ardent allys in the struggle against the obnoxious apartheid regime in Rhodesia and South Africa.
When the great anti-apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela visited Nigeria after 27 years of incarceration, Madiba was appreciative of Nigeria clothing his wife while he was in prison.
For even in the seemingly mundane on the diplomatic front, we made a difference. We were the beacon of light and hope, not just for Africa but the entire black race. Boasting of petrol dollars and a burgeoning population, we had clout on the world stage.
Fast forward decades later, pointedly two decades plus, of uninterrupted civilian rule. One wonders what is behind President Tinubu’s reasoning that he wants to wear the toga of a war time president, a ‘hero of democracy’ to the rescue of a recalcitrant neighbour.
Perhaps taking inspiration from the Liberian and Sierra Leonean playbook, the president seems determined to re-enact the Liberian and sierra Leonean experience -Big Brother, coming to liberate hapless citizens, flushing out errant soldiers, and restoring democratic rule.
Perhaps, the President forgot that democratic rule which cannot deliver good governance to its citizens is an invitation to rebellion, chaos and dissent.
Agreed, it was a resolve by ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments to checkmate coup d’état in the sub-region but pushing Nigeria into spearheading the use of force to return our northern neighbor to constitutional democratic rule is tantamount to an open invitation to anarchy and instability in the sub-region and beyond.
How can we open a frontier of carnage and disaster for another proxy war in Africa?Russia invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation, Europe and America (NATO) refrained from direct military intervention to stop the Russians.
They reckoned that the consequences may certainly be devastating beyond any human imagination.I really can’t recall when there were drumbeats of war against a neigbour from the highest quarters save in 1981 during the administration of President Shehu Shagari when Camerounian gendarmes killed five Nigerian soldiers along the disputed Bakassi peninsula .
With emotions running high, the president “ordered mobilization and operational planning for a possible military response”. One loud voice angling for war was the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Edwin Ume – Ezeoke whose cry was “fire for fire”.
Fortunately, reason prevailed and the path of dialogue and diplomacy was taken. So, how can President Tinubu preside over an ECOWAS leadership to try out such generational military misadventure? Sadly, we are a diminished country.
Our influence has waned on the international scene. In Liberia and Sierra Leone we had the resources to prosecute two wars in foreign lands. Not anymore. We have declined in power, Waned in influence, tottering on the brink, due to decades of mismanagement of our resources and our country.
A financial and socio economic mess with famished citizens, two thirds of whose population live in abject poverty. A beggarly nation that can’t fight her own wars. Ours is a case of “physician heal thyself”.
How can the President talk about the use of force in another country when his own government has grappled with the menace of insurgency and terrorism for over a decade without any meaningful success? What will be the socio economic benefit of shedding the blood of poor Nigeriens to restore failed leaders who have impoverished the nation in the name of democracy?
Not to talk of its destabilizing spillover effects on Nigeria and neighbouring countries? What is even the rationale behind wasting military resources on such a senseless venture when we cannot effectively manage our own resources to fight terrorism in our land? Nigeria is famished, impoverished and wallowing in poverty, torn apart by local insecurity that has molested all security outfits in the country, And our democratic rule? Not the best of examples , so, what moral right will the Nigerian government have to strike a target in Niger in the name of restoration of democratic rule?
The Committee of Chiefs Of Defence Staff of the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) at the end of their meeting in Abuja regarding the situation in Republic of Niger stated that “We have acknowledged the need for a comprehensive approach that encompasses political, security and diplomatic dimensions…..
We must intensify our diplomatic efforts to engage with all relevant stakeholders. Dialogue and negotiations should be at the forefront of our approach in resolving the crisis in the Republic of Niger.”
Mr President should please allow reason to prevail.
..Published in the Sahel Standard Newspaper of 6th August, 2023.