An old reality in Nigerian politics just dawned on southern Nigerians, namely; that some Nigerians of Northern Nigerian extraction are Nigeriens by their bloodlines, temperament, orientation, culture, religion, language, and history.
And they are beginning to look like fifth columnists, citizens within a country that is at war, who feed and render assistance to the enemy nation by words of discouragement and spreading of rumours against their country and leaders.
You would be right to ask, “Which side you dey?” as it is asked on the streets of Lagos when their conduct or even affiliation is showing that they are neither what the Yoruba describe as “oshakala” or “oshokolo,” nor a bird nor a rat, like the nondescript bat.
The phrase, “fifth columnists,” came into use during the 1933/1939 Spanish Civil War, when a crowd of supporters went to welcome General Emilio Vidal and his four columns of soldiers into the city of Madrid.
The sympathetic crowd became the fifth column of General Vidal’s army of resistance.
So, if President Bola Tinubu donates soldiers for possible military action of the Economic Community of West African States against the Niger Republic junta, Nigerian military officers with Nigerien bloodlines or sympathies may align with the enemy.
Reports (or rumours) were rife of military officers of southern Nigeria extraction who complained that their comrades-in-arms from northern Nigeria scolded them for being too efficient in prosecuting the war against the Boko Haram insurgents of Northeastern Nigeria.
Some argue that such an attitude (of divided interest) has been responsible for the long time it is taking for the expensive war against the insurgency to be concluded. As the war lingers, Nigeria spends more money and loses more men.
Others posit that former President Muhammadu Buhari failed woefully to arrest the menace of herdsmen killing farmers because the marauding herdsmen shared religious, language and cultural affinities with most of the security agency chiefs.
If that is true, history may repeat itself if Nigeria joins an ECOWAS military action against the Niger Republic junta, whose membership has the same lingua franca, religion and culture as most of the Northern region of Nigeria.
You may have observed that Muslim clerics who visited General Abdourahmane Tchiani spoke in Hausa, the language that is common to both groups, though their visit was (presumably) on behalf of Nigeria, with English as its lingua franca. Former Nigerian Head of State, General Abubakar Abdulsalami, too spoke to the press in Hausa.
As Nigeria’s northern neighbour, the troubled Niger Republic shares more than 1,600km of border with six northern Nigerian states, namely, Sokoto, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno.
Hitherto closet Nigeriens in Nigeria, with relations in the Niger Republic, came out of the woodwork after the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government said no to the Nigerien military junta.
Probably the most prominent Nigerien in Nigeria is former Nigerian President Buhari, who openly admitted to having first cousins in Niger Republic, the country of his father who migrated to Nigeria to trade in ducklings.
If the wife of General Tchiani is indeed a Nigerian from Kebbi State, you could comfortably say that Nigeria and Niger Republic are metaphorically and literally joined in the hips, with all puns intended.
The hue and cry from Nigerien Nigerians are fuelled by the assumption that President Tinubu is (probably) keen on fighting a war with Niger Republic because he is a southern Nigerian, who has little or no cultural empathy with the people of Niger Republic.
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Also, they complain that the disconnection of electricity, done in compliance with the ECOWAS joint agreement, was carried out by Tinubu because he has nothing to lose from the Niger Republic economy. That may be true. But only the President can confirm the veracity of that allegation.
A friend, a 94-year-old retired corporate player, suggests that the pronouncements of Tinubu (and that of ECOWAS) may not be more than the feints of a swordsman, whose thrusts won’t harm, but serve as an assurance of certain sanction if the opponent doesn’t act appropriately.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Dr Abdel-Fatau Musah, just disclosed that ECOWAS had rejected the three-year proposed reign of the junta and that ECOWAS military chiefs were about agreeing on a D-Day to move against the junta.
Musah declared, “We are ready to go, once the order is given,” though he was careful to add that, “All options (including diplomatic solutions) are on the table.” He hinted that the Nigerien junta should read the handwriting on the wall and take steps to prevent ECOWAS from using military force to settle the matter.
That sounds like the wisdom of deterrence offered by the 94-year-old senior citizen. And it will be wise for the junta, and the Nigerien Nigerians goading them to defy ECOWAS, to take advantage of the counsel and pull away from the brink of certain disaster.
It’s interesting that many of those who shed crocodile tears on behalf of Nigeriens, who they (correctly) argue are suffering under French imperialism in Niger Republic, are some of the world’s most dyed-in-the-wool feudalists.
They are in the phylum of compradors who enter into cahoots with agents of International Monopoly Capital, who own and run the multinational corporations that take advantage of the resources of Africa.
Now they seem to be waxing revolutionary, mouthing narratives about Western imperialism that no military regime has been able to dislodge from Africa since the first military coup took place in Togo in 1963.
By the way, the leader of Wagner Group, a Russian military contractor, Yevgeny Prigozhin, first spurned the imperialism twist to the Nigerien coup, when he argued, “What happened in Niger (Republic) is nothing, but the struggle of the people of Niger (Republic) with their (French) colonisers.”
Yet, General Tchiani’s coup speech merely said the coup was staged to arrest “the continuous degradation of the security in our country,” and “bad economic and social governance,” while acknowledging “the considerable and valued support of our external partners,” whom he did not identify.
This is not to say that the people of Niger Republic are not having grave economic issues under supposedly democratic, but rapacious, governments. That may have informed the rallies held in support of the junta by Nigeriens, some of whom may, however, be a rented crowd.
Those who think ECOWAS is putting its nose where it has no business should read Section 58 of the ECOWAS Treaty, which states that “member states undertake to work to safeguard and consolidate relations conducive to the maintenance of peace, stability and security within the region.”
Also, the preamble to the ECOWAS Treaty agrees that, “The integration of the member states into a viable regional community may demand the partial and gradual pooling of national sovereignties to the community within the context of a collective political will.”
That is probably why the Nigerien junta made a U-turn and finally agreed to meet the ECOWAS peace-seeking team led by General Abdulsalami Abubakar and Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar of Sokoto, earlier rebuffed as Nigeria’s envoys.
Nigerien Nigerians should not mislead the confused young people of Niger Republic while clandestinely fighting their own private wars against Tinubu who may not feed their peccadilloes. ,
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