Open Letter to President Tinubu on Niger Republic – by Chief Olabode George
By Chief Olabode Ibiyinka George
I write to you as a Nigerian, a retired General in the Nigerian military, a patriot and a war tactician.
On July 26, 2023, the Commander of the Presidential Guard in Niger Republic, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum, seized power and is now the new strongman of the Nigerien Armed Forces.
As the leader of ECOWAS, you immediately invited other West African leaders and an ultimatum was given to Tchiani that Bazoum must be reinstated or else, a strong military force (just like ECOMOG in Liberia and Sierra Leone) will invade Niger Republic and forcefully reinstate him.
The population of Niger Republic is 27,294,785 (just like Lagos State).
Niamey is the capital and the population is 1,437,000 (not up to Alimosho Council in Lagos) and as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who gets security briefings everyday since you were sworn in on May 29, 2023, you may have been told that even a Brigade of the Nigerian Army, commanded by a Colonel, can crush the soldiers in Niger Republic.
Now, my observations:
First of all, you have done the right thing by sending a delegation consisting of former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), and Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Saad Abubakar, a retired Brigadier-General, to meet the Military High Command in Niger.
It is okay to send a delegation. Diplomacy is always a better option to war. To jaw jaw is better than war war.
But, I believe, it would have been better if the full Nigerian colouration was reflected in that delegation.
Some diplomats (serving or retired) should have been included in the delegation. Diplomats are trained for a situation like this. What is happening in Niger right now is not only for the military.
Number two, when you have a crisis within, you solve that first before going international with a ‘Big Brother’ posture.
In your last national broadcast, you even admitted that Nigerians are going through a lot and everything is being done to alleviate their suffering.
In Nigeria today, there is no food, no financial power to buy fuel, no light, no money. Nigerians are psychologically stranded and people are really going through a lot. So, I don’t know what our going to Niger Republic with full military power will achieve.
If you remember, Nigeria, almost singularly, financed ECOMOG military operations and that was when our economy was better. Which economy are we going to use now to finance a full military operation in Niger Republic, when Mali and Burkina Faso have threatened to take sides with Niger Republic?
Will this not lead to the collapse of ECOWAS?
Do we really know the type of partisan game Western Powers, on one hand, Russia and China, on another hand, and some other African countries, are playing behind the scene? Can we really trust any one of them? Should Nigeria’s interest not play a major role before taking any decision of this gargantuan dimension which can lead to loss of lives and destruction of properties?
I saw a video today of some Nigeriens, on a road show, backing Tchiani and abusing you. That may have been arranged by the coupists quite alright but do we need that type of distraction now when everything is being done to ensure that Nigeria moves its economy to the next level?
Do we know the involvement of Russians because of the Uranium in Niger?
In Nigeria, the electoral process is yet to be concluded, the palliatives you promised because of the removal of fuel subsidy payment are still in the air, so why do we want to send our soldiers to engage in a needless war?
In ECOMOG, Nigeria paid for almost everything. But the economy then was different from what we have now.
We all know that Nigeriens, directly or indirectly, are fighting the French because of Assimilation Policy which has affected the Francophone speaking countries, unlike what we have in English speaking countries, like Nigeria.
We should think twice before entering another country militarily. Don’t start what you cannot finish.
Niger is one of the largest (land border) countries in the world and also one of the poorest. What exactly do we gain if we go to war in Niger? What? So that people can praise us as a defender of democracy? When people are dying at home, do we need that type of commendation from anybody?
I am a retired General. So, I know that war is not easy. Please, don’t force Nigerians to engage in an endless war.
Despite its mineral wealth, Niger Republic has been held down by its leadership for decades. More than 75 per cent of Nigeriens are poor and uneducated. At the right time, if they don’t want Tchiani, they will get rid of him. Let Nigeriens deal with their rot and let us focus on how to save our own situation back home.
I am sure you know that seven Northern states – Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno – share a 1,608 kilometres long border with five regions in Niger Republic. In case of any war, residents of these states will be direct targets of bullets and missiles. This can also lead to a resurgence of criminal activities in the border areas.
Also, some countries, such as Algeria, Libya, Chad, Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali share borders with Niger Republic. Can we trust these countries to support us militarily and otherwise in case of a war with Niger Republic?
In all of these, we should ask ourselves, why did we finance a rail line to Maradi during the President Muhammadu Buhari administration?
Russia invaded Ukraine over a year ago. Thousands of people – soldiers and civilians – have been killed, billions of dollars worth of properties have been destroyed and there is still no end in sight.
In International Relations and Politics, you protect your national interest first. Burkina Faso and Mali openly declared that they would support Niger. Can we also trust Chad which has been under military rule since April 2021? Are we sure this move to invade Niger Republic will not affect ECOWAS?
Is this the right time to spend the money Nigeria doesn’t have to fight in another country?
Politically, economically, socially, we are still in a quagmire. Then you want to add the fourth one: Warfare.
Anybody who has been in the military will tell you war is not an easy thing. We must be careful.
Thank God you have started the diplomatic move.
Let the envoys continue the diplomatic discussion in Niger.
War is not a tea party.
▪︎ George, a retired military general & chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is the Atona Oodua of Yorubaland