Despite the hysteria about who has been made a Minister and who has not and the euphoria about which portfolios they have been given or not been given, let us remain focused on the major issues of the day and not take our eye off the ball.
And other than our economic and security challenges the most weighty issue is the conundrum that we are presented with in Niger Republic and the challenge of military Governments in our backyard.
The facts are as follows.
Sudan, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Guniea have all been plagued with coup d’etas and military Governments over the last 3 years.
They have formed a formidable and intimidating ‘coup belt’ of unelected military rulers which stretches from Guniea on the western flank of the West African sub-region right on the Atlantic ocean up across the southern flank of the North African Sahel and the Lake Chad region all the way to East Africa and the Pacific ocean.
They have effectively drawn an iron curtain and uninterrupted chain of unelected and unconciable military juntas right across the center of our continent dividing North Africa from the rest of the continent.
It follows that the greatest challenge of our time is to ensure that this leperous belt of unconstitutional Governments does not get any bigger, stronger and wider and that the virus of military interventions and coups does not spread any further.
We must, no matter the cost, fight for and defend our democracy and preserve our freedom and way of life.
We cannot do this by relying on foreign and regional armies to come and save us and neither can we achieve it by marching into Niger in a gung ho attempt to restore democracy.
We can only do so by winning the hearts and souls of our people by providing good governance, justice and accountability for them.
Once you do this and any military adventurer tries to do a coup, the people themselves will come out in the streets in their millions to denounce and resist it.
In such circumstances you will not need any foreign force to come and reinstall or reinstate you.
This is the point that President Bazoum failed to appreciate.
He allowed his people to suffer under the yoke of the French and was totally oblivious and insensitive to their yearnings andi aspirations to be freed from the vestiges of neo-colonial bondage.
That is what the mutineers took advantage of.
Let us hope that other African leaders can learn from his mistakes.
If they do, we shall go from strength to strength and democracy shall
flourish in our respective countries.
If they do not they can expect the worse. The choice is theirs.
Permit me to conclude this contribution with a final word on the misplaced notion that a military assault or threat of it on Niger would be a fruitful endeavour and the best and only way to restore democracy in that beleaguered nation.
After the meeting of the Chief of Defence Staffs and military commanders of the ECOWAS countries in Accra on Thursday the following definitive statement was made by the commanders of the ECOWAS Force.
They said, “we are ready to storm Niger Republic”.
This despite the counsel of the African Union and powerful North African countries like Algeria not to do so.
I am constrained to respectfully put the following questions to these ECOWAS military commanders and I challenge them to provide the answers.
Can we successfully attack a country where the civilians are holding rallies in solidatiry with their supposed oppressors?
Surely, in the end, no one will come out victorious as these things are always easier said than done.
Russia thought Ukraine would fall in two weeks yet today it is well over a year, hundreds of thousands of innocent lives are still being lost and the war is still raging.
Quite apart from that has this ECOWAS “force” already been formed or will they divide the operation into sectors with each country taking a sector?
Where is the Command HQ located? Who takes care of Nigér’s sector 3 of the MNJTF in the Lake Chad, for I guess they will withdraw their troops?
If Burkina Faso and Mali join Nigér forces, as they threatened they would, who blocks the southward movement of the insurgents and terrorists scattered around the triangular borders of Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigér?
Is the Russian Wagner force still active in the region? Have we prepared adequately to handle the weapons and drug-trafficking across the borders with Niger since our partners in that nation are now our enemies?
Even with them working with us, cross border crimes are still serious issues.
Will the AU or the UN or the West be responsible for the logistics? As at now Nigeria can’t afford to do so like it did in ECOMOG. We simply do not have the financial wherewithal or the resources.
In my view we should still vigorously pursue the application of conflict resolution mechanisms in order to buy time to address these questions.
We must approach the entire matter with the utmost caution, wisdom and care.
If Niger Republic and her allies deliberately open a corridor for the elements of ISIS, AQIM, ISWAP etc to move into Benin and Togo, ECOWAS’ weakest link, then the whole of Nigeria’s western borders, from Sokoto to Lagos, would be vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
Already some of the elements have penetrated into Niger State, around Borgu and Shiriro, very close to Benin Republic and some states in the South West of Nigeria.
These questions need answers.
There is no doubt im my mind that an attack on Niger Republic would result in a massive military conflagration that will engulf the entire West African sub-region and which would eventually spread to North, Central and East Africa.
The mutineers and coupists have agreed to dialogue and now ECOWAS wants to use force, launch an attack and endanger the life of President Bazoum? This hardly makes sense.
If we are not careful and if we refuse to use diplomatic means to resolve this matter we may end up throwing ourselves into the greatest and most destructive war in the history of Africa and few African nations would survive it.
That is what the proponents of an attack on Niger are toying with.
Treading the path of war is a reckless and dangerous adventure which would result in a frightful and horrific Dickensian nightmare and Shakespearean tragedy.
May we never see it.
In conclusion let me say this.
If the Western powers, including the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the European Union and even France are worried for their vital and strategic interests on the African continent in the light of all this I sincerely and honestly believe they have every right, reason and need to do so because the stakes are high.
The Russians and Chinese ought to be worried as well.
Apart from those that wish to depopulate and destroy our continent and sell their arms, no-one, least of all the African people, stands to benefit from a rash collective of vicious and unaccountable military Governments strewn across Africa or from what may end up being a massive continental war which, to all intents and purposes, may end up transmuting into a proxy one between the world’s super powers.
Worse of all such a war will probably be partly fought by mercenary armies from both sides of the divide.
May God deliver us from evil.
(Chief Femi Fani-Kayode FFK is the Sadaukin Shinkafi, the former Minister of Aviation and the former Minister of Culture and Tourism)