ECOWAS should use diplomacy in Niger, not force – by Dr. Omenazu Jackson

This is not the time for Nigeria, which President, Bola Tinubu currently chairs the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to consider military option in the coup that happened recently in neighbouring Niger Republic. Also, the regional body does not need force to tackle the coups that have happened in Mali, and Burkina Faso.

What Nigeria needs to do is to gather a team of seasoned diplomats and eminent persons to work with the coup plotters and work through a programme of actions to return their countries to Democratic governance. It is a very tough order, but with determination and broad based support within and outside the region, it can be achieved. Military intervention will backfire as it may amount to disrespect and intrusion into the rights of other sovereign states.

All nations are sovereign and deserve respect. The people of Niger Republic are happy with the change of government they have experienced recently. I make this assertion because I have seen several video clips of the populace jubilating over the coup. They have also showed massive support to the military interventionists.

Though military rule or authoritarian government is outdated in the current world order, but sovereignty belongs to the people. If the Niger people welcome the policy trust of their military so be it. It is within their sovereign right to choose or support any leader and the government of their choice.

Nigeria must not allow its ego to dictate the way it manages the affairs of ECOWAS. There is a limit to foreign intervention that is allowed within the concept of boundaries and the sovereignty of other nations. Carefulness should be the watchword. Not even the UN has succeeded in talking Russia out of Ukraine despite the backing of the U.S. and EU. Yet, talks are still on to end the war in Ukraine.

One mistake we must not make is to underestimate the resolve of a people that are determined to be socio-economically liberated. Let’s assess Niger Republic through economic and social standpoints. Is it doing well in terms of GDP and other national growth indicators? Are its citizens happy under previous civilian administrations?

Can Nigeria or any other member of ECOWAS say that Niger citizens are enjoying the dividends of democratic rule? Thousands of Niger citizens are loitering about in Nigeria looking for menial jobs to feed. Some of them even engage in crime to survive the hardship ravaging their country.

I make bold to say that if Nigeria has strict immigration policy, the social crisis in Niger Republic would have occured long ago. I make this assertion because Nigeria has been an economic refuge for thousands of Niger citizens who are socially dislocated and serially violated by their political leaders.

Some Nigerians from Northern extraction complain that the people of Niger give them a bad name by engaging in crime. A friend from Sokoto State lamented how we from the Southern part of the country easily classify Niger citizens as Northerners and Hausas. That is correct, because it is difficult for an average Southern Nigerian to differentiate between a Northern Nigerian and somebody from Niger.

The fact remains that the harsh economic terrain in Niger is forcing it’s citizens down to Nigeria in droves. Some of them do unimaginable things to survive and cater for their families back home. Some are finding things easy having literally penetrated Nigeria.

I have never seen any sane citizen of a sovereign nation running away from their country unceremoniously when they can  fine comfort within.

ECOWAS should go with moral intervention. Nigeria must first stand on a sound and solid moral pedestal before leading ECOWAS into using the military to intervene in Niger Republic.

Dr. Omenazu Jackson is the Chancellor of the International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

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