Nigeria’s President Tinubu faces criticism over military intervention in Niger

The recent news of Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu threatening military force to reverse the coup in Niger has sparked a significant backlash at home. This article explores the potential impact of President Tinubu’s actions and highlights the need for caution in handling the situation.

The threat of military intervention in a neighboring country has raised concerns among lawmakers and citizens alike. Despite the Senate being under the control of Mr Tinubu’s party, there was strong opposition to military intervention, particularly from lawmakers representing states along the border with Niger. The possibility of war has been condemned countrywide, emphasizing the need for diplomacy and peaceful resolutions.

Ecowas, the West African regional bloc, had set a deadline for the junta to relinquish power, which was seen as Mr Tinubu’s decision as the current chairman of Ecowas. While the junta defied the ultimatum, Ecowas did not immediately send troops, providing relief to those who preferred a diplomatic resolution. It is important to note that deploying the military requires parliamentary approval, which poses challenges given the time constraints of a seven-day deadline.

Critics have also expressed concerns about President Tinubu’s decision to cut off electricity to Niger on his orders, causing blackouts in the country’s capital and other cities. Some argue that this violates a treaty that allowed Nigeria to build a dam on the River Niger. Supporters of President Tinubu argue that the power cuts are aimed at pressuring the junta to return power to the ousted President without military confrontation. The potential consequences of military intervention extend beyond Niger, affecting northern Nigeria, which already faces security challenges.

A group of influential Muslim clerics in northern Nigeria has urged President Tinubu to avoid rushing into a conflict with a neighbor for global political reasons. The ousted President of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, was an ally of the West, allowing military bases for France and the US to combat extremist threats in West Africa. The military juntas in Mali and Burkina Faso have declared their support for Niger’s coup leaders, raising the specter of a regional conflict should Ecowas resort to force.

President Tinubu has been vocal in condemning coups in West Africa, emphasizing the importance of democracy, governance, freedom, and the rule of law. However, he cannot deploy troops without the National Assembly’s approval. Given the opposition he faces, it remains uncertain whether Mr Tinubu will obtain the necessary support.

While Ecowas issued an ultimatum to the junta, some Nigerians feel that the decision was hasty, and President Tinubu did not fully consider the domestic implications of using force. The historical and cultural ties between Nigeria and Niger also raise concerns about engaging in a conflict against a region that was once part of Nigeria.

It is worth noting that President Tinubu does not have a military background, nor does his national security adviser. The statement from Ecowas army chiefs that military intervention is a last resort further highlights the need for caution. Rushing into decisions can have unintended consequences, as evidenced by the chaos caused by President Tinubu’s unscripted announcement of ending a fuel subsidy earlier this year.

To address the ongoing situation, Ecowas leaders will convene in Nigeria’s capital to determine the next course of action. The participation of other West African countries in any potential military intervention is uncertain without Nigeria’s backing.

President Tinubu finds himself in a challenging position, representing both Ecowas and Nigeria. While acting in the regional interest and defending democracy is crucial, it also carries potential costs. This situation calls for careful navigation, diplomatic resolutions, and the consideration of regional implications to achieve stability and security in West Africa.