Nigerian President’s Stance on Niger’s Coup Faces Backlash Amidst Complex Regional Dynamics.
Bola Tinubu, the President of Nigeria, has found himself facing significant backlash domestically following his assertion of potential military intervention to reverse the coup in neighboring Niger. Recent reports suggest that within Nigeria, there is strong opposition to the idea of military intervention, even within the Senate – the upper chamber of parliament – which is under Mr. Tinubu’s party’s control.
Interestingly, the resistance to military involvement was particularly evident among lawmakers representing regions along the extensive border shared with Niger. Moreover, widespread condemnation of the prospect of war reverberated throughout the nation.
Against the backdrop of these developments, the West African regional bloc, Ecowas, had imposed a deadline for the junta to relinquish power, with potential military action looming as the consequence of non-compliance.
President Tinubu’s position as the current chair of Ecowas, coupled with Nigeria’s substantial influence in the organization, significantly shaped this decision. However, even though the junta has defied the ultimatum, Ecowas refrained from immediately deploying troops, a move that resonated with Nigerians who advocate for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.
The matter also encompasses practical and procedural considerations. Deploying the military requires parliamentary approval, which further complicates the seven-day deadline initially set by Ecowas. Additionally, some actions undertaken in response to the situation have ignited controversy, such as President Tinubu’s decision to cut electricity to Niger, leading to blackouts in the capital, Niamey, and other cities.
Critics argue that this move contradicts a treaty that previously allowed Nigeria to construct a dam on the River Niger. Supporters of President Tinubu assert that these power cuts aim to pressure the junta into reinstating ousted President Mohamed Bazoum without resorting to military confrontation.
The delicate nature of the Nigeria-Niger relationship cannot be underestimated. The two nations share robust ethnic, economic, and cultural connections, and any military intervention against Niger could have direct implications for northern Nigeria, which already contends with its security challenges.
Notably, a group of influential Muslim clerics in northern Nigeria emphasized that President Tinubu should avoid “rushing into an avoidable conflict with a neighbor at the behest of global politicking.” Mohamed Bazoum had been a crucial ally of Western nations, enabling France and the US to maintain military bases within Niger to combat militant Islamists in West Africa.
The complexity of the situation extends to the involvement of military juntas in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, pledging support for Niger’s coup leaders in the face of potential Ecowas military intervention. The possibility of a substantial regional conflict is now a concerning reality.
All eyes are on President Tinubu, who has been an outspoken critic of coups in West Africa. As the leader who recently assumed control of the regional body, he has emphasized the importance of democracy, governance, and the rule of law within the Ecowas region.
However, constitutional regulations in Nigeria stipulate that the president cannot deploy troops without the National Assembly’s approval, encompassing both the upper and lower chambers of parliament. The extent of support President Tinubu will receive from the National Assembly remains uncertain, given the internal opposition he is currently encountering.
As the Ecowas summit convenes in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, leaders will determine the subsequent course of action. While some West African countries have expressed willingness to participate in potential military intervention, the absence of Nigeria’s backing could significantly impact the viability of such an endeavor. President Tinubu now stands at a crossroads, navigating between his roles as Ecowas chairman and Nigeria’s president, with complex ramifications for both roles.