Let ECOWAS do the talking


You may have viewed the video of a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Nigerian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Aminu Wali, as he threw President Bola Tinubu under the bus for carrying the Economic Community of West African States’ load of the military putsch in Niger Republic on the head of Nigeria.

Wali said, “The initial approach by both ECOWAS and the coupists was wrong. What I am scared of is a proxy war in Niger (Republic)… because the whole of ECOWAS is looking (up to) Nigeria… And when… we need our… military resources to bring peace and security in our country. We are not secure ourselves.

“So how can we use the… meagre resources that we have to go and start funding wars in a foreign country?… I pity (President) Tinubu. ECOWAS… Heads of State… discussed between themselves.

“But I thought diplomatically, they should go back to their countries and consult with the various stakeholders, like we in Nigeria too. The President should have come in consultation to various stakeholders. That could have (prevented) what had happened in the Senate.”

It is interesting that Ambassador Wali only picked the enforcement of military compliance, whereas Tinubu’s letter included closure and monitoring of land borders… cutting of electricity supply… preventing the operation of aircraft flights and… blockage of goods in transit… and sensitisation of Nigerians and Nigeriens to the imperative of these actions.

Some people even dug up a video of the late Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa telling the American Congress, “We in Nigeria appreciate the advantages which the size of our country and our population give us. But we have absolutely no aggressive intentions.

“We shall never impose ourselves upon any other country, and shall treat every African territory, big or small, as our equal, because we honestly feel it is only on the basis of equality that peace can be maintained on our continent.”

Despite the effort of Arise TV anchor, Dr Reuben Abati, to impress on him that President Tinubu only conveyed the ECOWAS position to the Nigerian Senate, the former Boss of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf, kept insisting that Tinubu, whom he described as inexperienced (probably in diplomatic matters), would be on his own if he moved the Nigerian military against the Niger Republic junta.

You also wonder what the other members of his doomsday opposition choir think of the voice of President Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast in support of ECOWAS initiative to stop the coupists.

Mahdi Shehu is even more caustic, as he suddenly avoided answering questions posed to him on the “rightness” of ECOWAS planning to send troops into Niger Republic to reset the heads of the coup plotters in the quest for returning democracy to Niger Republic.

Shehu said: “Here is a country, Nigeria, that has multitudinal (sic), multidimensional, endless social, political, economic and other problems… (where) people are living in abject poverty… don’t even have the money to pay (salary) arrears, no money for infrastructure… (but has) money to lead a war!”

He wondered aloud, “How many countries in ECOWAS have the money (to finance a war)?” He concluded that “Nigeria will finance this war, and Nigeria doesn’t have the capacity to fund this war.” He has a point though. Nigeria, with 60 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product of West Africa, is the richest economy in West Africa.

Whereas Ambassador Wali, Prof Yusuf and Shehu are from Northern Nigeria, and probably have first cousins in Niger Republic, like former President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof. Adewale Alonge, obviously a Yoruba, going by his name, seems to have a contrary view.

Alonge said: “The Nigerian social media… is consumed by fear mongering about impending war and doomsday prediction about how (what he calls) the ragtag Niger military (with 10,000 men) will make mincemeat of the Nigerian military (with 350,000 men).”

The Arewa Consultative Forum, a pressure group of the Northern Nigerian political establishment, has weighed in practically on the side of the Nigerien junta, even though it condemned the coup and asked for the personal safety of President Mohamed Bazoum and his family.

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The ACF demanded immediate restoration of Nigeria’s electricity to Niger Republic, the opening of all Nigerian/Nigerien borders, suspension of all sanctions or restrictions against Niger, continuous consultation and deliberate action to move away from the perception that Nigeria is going to prosecute a war on behalf of the Western powers.

But you must commend the Muslim clerics, who visited Niger Republic, after obtaining the approval of Tinubu, and were able to extract a commitment to peaceful resolution of the matter between ECOWAS and the junta.

You may probably feel sorry for (or angry at) the President, who is now appearing like an orphan, as he appears to be pitting Nigeria against, not only the military junta, but also the people of Niger Republic.

You may also be right to think that if Nigeria leads ECOWAS to impose military sanctions against the junta, it may lose the right of way to transport its gas to Europe through Niger Republic, while Russia continues to dominate Europe’s gas market.

If you saw a pathetic Ajuri Ngelale, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, justifying ECOWAS sanctions and explaining that Tinubu’s position on the Niger Republic junta is dictated by ECOWAS, you will feel sorry for him too.

The raft of criticisms directed at Tinubu (and to Nigeria, by implication) is a result of poor management of information, a mixing up of communication responsibilities of the media team of the Nigerian Presidency and that of ECOWAS.

The President’s media and communication team ought to have left whatever steps that Tinubu took on behalf of ECOWAS to the ECOWAS communication team, so that it will be clear that ECOWAS is talking and not Nigeria.

Whenever Tinubu must speak on behalf of ECOWAS, he should ensure that the ECOWAS Secretariat team is with him. Right now, the ECOWAS media and communication team is tucked far away from the consciousness of the Nigerian public.

Look, it is merely coincidental that the ECOWAS Commission is in Abuja, the seat of the Nigerian Presidency. Please separate the communications of ECOWAS and Nigeria, even if President Tinubu heads both.

The President’s media team makes him look like a man taking paracetamol for the headache of ECOWAS by unwittingly making him look as the sole protagonist of the ECOWAS initiative. This is unfair to Nigeria and its President.

The faux pas by Tinubu’s media team even gives the Niger military rulers an elbow room and a tonne of opportunities to deflect from the fact that they truncated the fledgling democracy of their country.

They have been assisted to assume the toga of champions or heroes of Nigerien citizens, underdogs that the imperialist Western powers want to use Tinubu and the might of Nigeria to oppress.

Now that the ECOWAS Commission President, Omar Touray, says that the extraordinary summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government has announced a standby force (as last resort) to restore constitutional rule in Niger, maybe Prof. Yusuf will cease the shellacking of Tinubu.

But, to save Tinubu and Nigeria from unwarranted blames, his media team must (almost) completely yield the floor to the ECOWAS media team.

  • Twitter@lekansote1, lekansote.com


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