Niyi Osundare writes President Bola Tinubu to avoid any action that will add to Nigeria’s burden
Dear President Tinubu,
It all began as a roadside rumour before blasting its way to the front pages of Nigerian newspapers, and the talking points of the electronic media. Now it has become a news item discussed with torment and trepidation by many Nigerians still struggling to cope with the political dysfunctionalities, socio- economic problems, and numerous anxieties of present Nigerian life.
The ‘subject of discourse’ is the coup d’etat in Niger, our neighbour to the north, and the present plan by ECOWAS under your leadership to force the restoration of democratic governance in that beleaguered country. What has got many Nigerians talking – and wondering – is the inclusion of military action in the cocktail of options under consideration by the ECOWAS leaders. And this is also the cause of my worry and grave apprehension. Military force to reverse the occurrence of rule by force in West Africa, with you, President Tinubu, the current ECOWAS President, as leader of the pack? I am both astonished and alarmed that a group of people, least of all, leaders of the West African region would contemplate the viability of military intervention as the solution to the present problem in Niger.
Dear President Tinubu, did you and your colleagues think long and deep before including this option? Did you contemplate the hazards of the action and the possible catastrophe of the consequence? Given the historical, geographical, cultural, and economic proximity between Nigeria and Niger (a Siamese closeness inherent even in the vey nomenclature), how can you do this without devastating collateral damage to Nigeria, especially her northern flanks? In a region where national borders only exist on a misbegotten colonial map, how will your ECOWAS bullet select its casualties without including Nigerians, the people you have sworn to serve and protect? Will the present human traffic and trade routes between the two countries still continue after the ‘war’? What about the possibility of a multiple-front war, considering the solidarity already announced by a ‘league’ of other countries in the region, such as Mali and Chad and Burkina Faso? To how many fronts will the ECOWAS forces train their guns?
For the avoidance of doubt, let no one take my position in this brief intervention as toleration or condonement of military coups and their barbarous assault on human freedom. As a Nigerian victim of about half a dozen coups d’etat in a single lifetime, I know first-hand how brutal soldier-despots are, and how drastically they deplete our very humanity. This is why I believe military juntas have no place in a civilized polity. This is why I also believe and affirm that genuine democracy is the sure antidote to military misrule – a democracy engendered and sustained by respect for human dignity, human and environmental rights, rule of law, liberty, unvarnished integrity of the electoral process, holistic equity, and the right to life that is full, free, and abundant. These virtues are the true and efficacious coup-killers. Not military-contra- military interventions and their thoughtless prosecutions and ceaseless carnage.
So, Mr. President, go back to the drawing board – you and your ECOWAS colleagues. Think hard. Think well. Think up whatever measures could be devised to restore genuine, lasting democracy by getting the military dictators back to their barracks. Probe the cause, course, and symptoms of the present resurgence of military coups in West Africa. Find a cure for this pandemic. More important, find a cure for the plague of political and socio-economic injustices responsible for the inevitability of its recurrence. Remember the present brutish anarchy in Libya and the countless repercussions of the destabilization of that once blooming country for the West African region.
Military action in Niger may only end up complicating the Nigerien fiasco. Remember: a little fire often spirals into an uncontrollable blaze. You may know the beginning of a war; but you can never foretell how it will end. A powerful man may start a war, but it takes a hero to devise a dignifying way of avoiding it. Right now, the Nigerian people have more than enough to worry about, with so much hunger in the land and so many Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) from all manner of bandit attacks. We cannot afford to add war refuges to these crowds. You have promised to reduce the people’s burden. Avoid taking any action that will only add to it.
Domestic security is the inevitable foundation for foreign campaigns. Let your charity begin at home, though we know it must never end there.
Your Concerned Compatriot.
Prof Osundare is a Poet and Literary Critic