By Nick Dazang

NEWSDAILYNIGERIA: It is true that the ECOWAS protocol sternly forbids the overthrow of democratic governments by violent means. In fact, it insists, vehemently, that “every accession to power must be made through free, fair and transparent elections”. It also exudes “zero tolerance to power obtained or maintained by unconstitutional means….”

Arising from the above, and by virtue of the powers invested in him as the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State, he could issue a one-week ultimatum to the putschists in Niger Republic to release President Mohamed Bazoum, who they have held captive since Friday, July 26th, and to revert, forthwith, to constitutional order.
It is also true that, by so acting and ordering, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, comported himself based on precedent. In 2011, rather than to mediate the stalemate between former President Laurent Gbagbo and Alas-sane  Quattara, following the presidential election of October 31,2010 in Cote D’Ivoire, former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was ECOWAS Chairman, descended into the fray. He sided with the West in preference for Alas-sane Quattara. President Jonathan, with a zeal that verged on the Catholic, threatened to overthrow President Gbagbo who was running for a second term. Gbagbo had scored 38% of the votes in the presidential election compared with Quattara’s 32% at the first ballot.
If President Tinubu acted based on ECOWAS protocols and a precedent set by President Goodluck Jonathan in the Cote D’Ivoire crisis, he cut for himself, and Nigeria,  a quixotic and pathetic picture. He issued an ultimatum which he could not execute. By so doing, he did not only put Thomas Hobbes and Nicollo Machiavelli, two Uber thinkers of power, on their heads, he violated the most pedestrian law of international relations: Never issue a threat you cannot carry out.
Even if President Tinubu is predicating his action on precedent, he must be hanging it on a very weak and languid hook. This is because when there was a coup in Niger Republic  in 1999, in which former President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara was killed, President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Soldier’s soldier, did not find recourse in military force. He used diplomacy to ease out the coup leader, Daouda Malam Wanke, and his cohorts.
Troubling is the indecent haste with which President Tinubu assumed the Chairmanship of ECOWAS. Hardly had he been inaugurated on 29th May than he was elected Chairman of the August body. This followed a session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government in Bissau, the capital of Guinea Bissau, on Tuesday, 9th July.  It is intriguing that even before the election, speculations were rife about the prospects of his election in the Nigerian media.

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More troubling is that against clarion appeals by stakeholders, of all hues, for President Tinubu to tread softly, and to find recourse in diplomacy, he had resorted to warmongering and Sabre rattling. Not a few Nigerians tried to impress on the President  that Nigeria and Niger share cultural and religious propinquity and that these affinities go back to antiquity.
But for colonial boundaries, most Northern Emirates and defunct Empires, extended up to present-day Niger, Cameroon and Chad. Beyond this, Niger Republic had always viewed Nigeria as a big brother. It has  also stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Nigeria in its moments of travails such as the fratricidal Nigerian Civil War and the current menace of Boko Haram insurgency. This is not to add the fact that as quid pro quo, Nigeria supplies Niger Republic with electricity to prevent its damming the River Niger upstream. 
Nigeria’s relationship with Niger Republic is so intricately webbed, delicate and storied that it is captured in legend and regaled in songs. The lyrics of one such famous songs goes thus:NIGERIA DA NIGER DUK DAYA SUKE! meaning:NIGERIA AND NIGER ARE ONE AND THE SAME!
Compounding the zeal with which President Tinubu wants to undo the coupists in Niger Republic is the alacrity with which he imposed a raft of sanctions on that impoverished country, including severing its electricity, regardless of the long standing Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) between Nigeria and Niger Republic in respect of the latter refraining from damming the River Niger.
President Tinubu’s animus towards the coupists in Niger Republic is so visceral and so bizarre, especially against all appeals, that not a few stakeholders have begun to conjecture and insinuate an ulterior motive. It is now being alleged that he is allowing himself, wittingly or unwittingly, to serve as a proxy for the United States and France, which seem to be losing out in the Superpower rivalry, in that beleaguered country. 
It is curious – indeed baffling – that while Niger Republic was reeling under the scourge of insurgency and alleged bad governance under Bazoum’s administration, the United States and France, which still keep military bases in Niger Republic, were merely concerned with extracting Uranium in Arlit and Akokan in the Agadez Region. Niger Republic is the fourth largest producer of Uranium in the world. Its Uranium is reputed to be of the highest grade for producing nuclear energy and weapons.
In a recent insightful op-Ed in, Khaled Abou Zahr, Editor of Alwatan Al Arabi, underlined how France is losing out to Russia and China on its former colonies in West and North Africa. He wrote:”Despite uttering words of regret for colonialism, France continues to lecture, rather than engage in meaningful relationships”.
While critics point to President Tinubu’s vulnerabilities, in terms of the alleged personal blemishes and lacunae in his resume, and the manner he was declared president, to suggest that he may be a willing lackey of the West, the point needs to be underscored here: that Nigeria faces far more daunting challenges than Niger Republic. It suffers from worse and heightened insecurity. And it suffers acutely from the near absence of good governance. Besides, when in 2011 President Jonathan chose to align himself with the West in endorsing Quattara(who is now spurring Tinubu on), insurgency, banditry and terrorism had not overwhelmed the country. And though the economy was bad, Nigerians were not as asphyxiated as they are now when they are pleading for space to breathe.
With our vital statistics so grim, with poverty so pervasive, with millions of youths trudging the streets without jobs, with Nigerians being cut down in their numbers by bandits, marauders and terrorists on a daily basis, with millions of Nigerians going hungry, with millions of other Nigerians despairing on account of wanton suffering, President Tinubu will do well to focus his sights and devote his energies on these challenges. He will discover, to his eternal delight, that the political preservation, which he desperately seeks, resides in running a damn good government: A government that delivers dividends expeditiously to millions of Nigerians who are hurting. 
Charity, the time-honoured saying goes, begins at home. It begins in Nigeria. Please, Mr. President, focus on Nigeria like the laser beam. Let Niger Republic be.


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