Niger Coup: What ECOWAS Should Rather Do

Sequel to the military takeover of Government in Niger Republic, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, (a regional body coordinating affairs among West African States), is reported to be mulling over the possibility of a military action against the new regime in order to restore democratic rule in that country. This much was gathered from the statement issued by the Nigerian head of state, President Ahmed Bola Tinubu, new ECOWAS president, while addressing the situation in Niger.

Tinubu’s indication came when Northern senators had cautioned against military action on the West African state by the Tinubu-led ECOWAS, warning against the dire consequences.

The Northern lawmakers led Sen. Abdul Ahmad Ningi (Bauchi), had also however, called for political and diplomatic means to restore democratic government in that country.

The forum, in a statement by its spokesperson, Suleiman A. Kawu Sumaila, cautioned that military force would cause the death of many innocent citizens in Niger Republic and seven Nigerian States that share borders with that country.

The statement said, ‘We take exception to use of military force until other avenues as mentioned above are exhausted as the consequences will be casualties among the innocent citizens who go about their daily business.

‘Besides, about seven northern states that share borders with Niger Republic; namely, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Zamfara, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno, will be negatively affected.

‘There is serious implication for our country if military force is used without exhausting all diplomatic channels.’

While we agree with the position of the Northern senators on the implications of waging war against Niger, we however want to raise what we consider a salient issue which not only ECOWAS seems to ignore and what the mother body in Africa, AFRICAN Union, AU, also ignores. That is the need to address the major factors that lead to coups.

Yes, ECOWAS and AU, seem to focus their attention on protecting themselves, using the two umbrella bodies, by resisting coups in member countries; probably mindful that they too could be affected by it at any point in time.

But then, they forget that coups, in most cases, are triggered by bad governance, faulty and flawed electoral process and the sit-tight leaders who keep elongating their tenures. These three factors are also like coups by the leaders against their people and are not something that should be glossed over.

But our leaders in Africa ignore this and are only after protecting their hide by moving against things they consider dangerous to them even when they happen in sovereign entities.

Look at the way the ECOWAS countries quickly made Nigeria’s president their new chairman despite knowing how he came on board and that his victory is still being challenged in court. Would anyone hope to get anything useful from such a body that turns a blind eye to matters of general interest but does everything to protect themselves, including going to war against sovereign countries?

It is in this light that we advise ECOWAS to shelve the idea of using military action against Niger. Apart from the dire consequences any war can bring to the region, it will  pay more for them to promote good governance and the right electoral process which is the bane of many African countries. Leaders who emerge through the right process are generally  deemed good enough for the job by the people and such people usually offer good leadership.

Rwanda, a formerly poor and war-ravaged country in Africa, is today one of the continent’s fasted growing economies and it is down to good leadership. It is not likely that anyone or group will like to truncate such a good government through a coup.

African leaders should wake up and embrace the proper things, be they under the aegis of ECOWAS or AU.