Last Wednesday’s military coup d’etat in Niger Republic, a West African country and Nigeria’s closest northern neighbour, is another wake-up call for African leaders on the need for good governance in their respective countries.
Sixty-two-year old army general, Abdourahmane Tchiani, who declared himself the new leader in Niger, said he seized power because of several problems in the country, including insecurity, economic woes and corruption, amongst other matters. He has been in charge of the presidential guard since 2011 and was promoted to the rank of general in 2018 by former President Mahamadou Issoufou.
Although the coup, which sacked President Mohammed Bazoum, has been roundly condemned by the international community, as usual, it has further exposed the failure of most leaders in the West African sub-region to deliver good governance to their people despite their much-flaunted and self-professed commitment to democracy.
The development in Niger is really a big challenge to Nigeria as it is coming just a week after President Bola Tinubu took over as the new chairman of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) with his strong opposition to military coup d’etats in the sub-region and the warning he gave in his inaugural speech as ECOWAS leader that coups will no longer be tolerated in the sub-region.
It is worthy to note that the recent sacking of President Bazoum and the tough posture of the military junta in Niger are coming on the heels of a similar development in Mali, three years ago, where the country’s military also sent the democratically-elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, packing, despite the opposition of their action by ECOWAS leaders and the international community.
A coup in August 2020 had overthrown President Keïta, following which an interim government led by a civilian president, Bah Ndaw, and a military prime minister, Moctar Ouane. was put in place They had been tasked with overseeing an 18-month transition back to civilian rule but were also sacked after 10 months in another military coup led by Mali’s interim vice-president, Col Assimi Goïta, who accused them of not consulting him about the formation of a new government.
Most Nigerians will still recall all the efforts of President Nana Akuffo-Ado of Ghana, who was the leader of ECOWAS then, and that of the immediate past president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, to mediate in the crisis in Mali to no avail . All the peace missions to that country led by former President Goodluck Jonathan have not achieved lasting results till date as the Malian military is still in full control.
The military in Mali has since embarked on actions that might further put the entire sub-region in greater risk and insecurity with its new romance with the Wagner Group, the mercenary private army from Russia, which led to the order for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to leave the country after 10 years of operation.
While the situation in Mali has not really seen any improvement since the military take-over, the authorities there have also disengaged with France, the country’s former colonial master, thus opening the country’s resources to further exploitation and plundering by the Wagner Group with the full support of Russia .
Sadly, a similar development is playing out in Niger Republic where the military junta is holding the ousted president hostage and allegedly issuing tough instructions to the Finance Minister to either refund the ”stolen money” of the Nigerien people within 48 hours or face the firing squad. This ugly development in a neighbouring country, without doubt, has put the chairman of ECOWAS, Tinubu, in a dilemma as he is due to meet with ECOWAS leaders today in Abuja on the coup in Niger.
A statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Dele Alake, on Friday, said “President Tinubu as Chairman of ECOWAS, in a statement he personally signed on Wednesday, July 26, 2023, condemned the current political situation in the neighbouring country and promised that ECOWAS and the international community would do everything to defend democracy and ensure democratic governance continues to take firm root in the sub-region.”
We join other well-meaning Nigerians and the entire ECOWAS community in condemning the coup in Niger. We are happy that US Vice-President, Kamala Harris and United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres , have also condemned the coup as they expressed strong support for Nigeria’s efforts towards the restoration of constitutional order in Niger Republic, with frantic efforts also underway from the ECOWAS special representative, Beninoise President, Patrice Talon, who had earlier been dispatched to Mali.
As Tinubu meets with other ECOWAS leaders in Abuja today, we urge him not to overlook the continuous need to stress the importance of good governance as panacea to coup d’etats in a region that is unfortunately being regarded as the sub-region most-prone to military coup in the entire African region. Military coups won’t stop by mere rhetoric and empty threats unless West African leaders decide to lead their people according to democratic principles and give a human face to governance instead of seeing themselves as ”tin gods” and rulers who rule with iron fists in the face of obvious local challenges.