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February 20, 2010

Coup in Niger: Nigeria must Respond

Niger Coup coutesy Reuters TVThe dreadful military dictatorship of Gen. Sani Abacha and the populist democracy demonstrations that brought it down (with the support of the allied nations) has made military coups in Nigeria a very remote possibility. Of course the Military leadership in Nigeria has also demonstrated some leadership in recent times. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazau and the Chief of Defence staff, Air Marshall Paul Dike have continued to demonstrate unrivalled leadership (See A Defining moment for Nigerian Military). And so to continue to push back military dictatorship it is absolutely necessary that the Nigerian responds to the events happening around them especially in neighbouring Niger Republic (and in Gabon).
 This must be done in a deceive way to send out a strong message to the world: “We are done with military dictatorship, we face other challenges but our military is now fully professional and the commander-in-chief firmly the President of the country”. For several reasons this is the role of Nigeria as a leader in Africa and particularly in West Africa. 
 Niger is too close for comfort
Nigeria must respond to the events in Niger Republic because that country is too close for comfort. Many Nigeriens could pass for Nigerians. They have similar cultural background and language group with many Northern Nigerians. Some of the crisis Nigeria has had in the North could possibly be traced to Niger immigrants. Many of them are relatively poorer and are more easily used by restive elements in the North for political gains, sometimes under religious pretence. The safety of Niger people is closely tied with the safety of many people in the North of Nigeria.
How Nigeria must respond
The Nigeria leadership must send out a strong communication to the military leadership in Niger and Gabon about their disapproval of events there. They must improve monitoring around Nigerian borders with Niger Republic. They must increase screening of people travelling from Niger (and Gabon) to Nigeria. Depending on the severity of the situation in these countries Nigeria must scale down or completely withdraw diplomatic relations. Nigeria must make sure that the lives of the ousted leaders of Niger (and Gabon) are not taken. Nigeria must take the lead in providing support to democracy in Africa, West Africa and particularly in Niger Republic right now. The peacekeeping credentials of Nigeria is without question. Nigerians economic support of Africa and West African economies is also not in question but now is the time to take a more active involvement in extending the ideals of democracy to this region. Nigeria must provide support to any action by the civil (Nigerien or Gabonese) population against these coups. Nigeria must impose some sanctions, especially against military cooperation between Nigeria and Niger and Gabon. Recently the Nigerian government expelled some Niger people for immigration offenses. This is a good thing and most be done more vigorously now. The sooner the North can be cleansed of illegal immigrants the sooner the incessant crisis in the North can be controlled and true development delivered to the real Nigerians in the North. Nigeria cannot afford not to respond to these events in its neighbourhood. They are too close to ignore.
Leadership failures
President Mamadou Tandja could easily be blamed for providing the impetus the coup plotters needed to carry out the take over but that can never justify a coup. The talk by Nigeria Senate President Mr Ekwerenmadu insinuating that Nigerian could possibly have fallen to a similar fate if the National Assembly did not take action to empower Ag. President Good luck Jonathan is irresponsible. The National Assembly must sanction him. As a leader of parliament he has not shown leadership here. It suggests the accusation that some members of parliament were actively welcoming the idea of a military take over is true. Nigeria must never welcome a military coup in whatsoever condition.   Tensions have been simmering in Niger Republic since last year, when the democratically elected President Tandja, whose second term in office was about to expire, suddenly assumed emergency powers and changed the constitution to extend his term by three years. At this point the West African regional leadership in ECOWAS was unconvinced and went ahead to suspended Niger last October over Tandja's moves to hold on to power. But this was a little too late. Mr Tandja should have got more pressure on him to rescind his actions particularly from Nigeria.
Similar events are unfolding in Ivory Coast. Now is the time to take a decisive action by ECOWAS leadership. Ivorian President, Laurent Gbagbo's, have decided to dissolve the government and the Ivorian electoral commission, once again delaying the presidential election which originally was slated for 2005, 5 years ago! This is absolutely unacceptable. The whole of ECOWAS should pile up the pressure now so that Ivory Coast would toe the line. If diplomatic pressures fail more drastic measures must be looked at. Nigeria must take the leadership here. Many Nigerian soldiers has paid the prize keeping peace in West African wars. That prize must not be in vain. Nigerian Leadership of ECOWAS must aggressively push the new Niger leader Salou Djibo to quickly restore constitutional order, He (Salou Djibo) must understand that his rule (and other similar suppression of democratic ideal) is very strongly detested and unwelcome. Nigerian civil democracy organisations must also raise their voices and as much as possible push for similar resistance in Niger, Gabon and Ivory Coast. They must never let the same things they fight against happen anywhere else especially so close to home. Like they say “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”
Read more:                                                                                           After a Third Term, Niger President Ousted                                                                                                                                                            

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