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“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” – Groucho Marx
As the Nigerian government, clearly being prodded by Western powers, continues to talk up the possibility of embarking on a military expedition into Niger to ‘restore democracy’, it ought to be reminded of the dictum that if you break it, then you own it.
It is clear that a military intervention in the unfortunate event in Niger would not only put the final nail in the coffin of the democratically elected government of
, it would also throw that country into a major socio-political upheaval that would make the subsequent extraction of our forces hard to justify. Think of the US and its Afghanistan adventure.
Of course, ECOWAS is right to insist on a return to civilian rule in Niger and it has deployed a variety of tools to impress it on the junta in Niamey that it does not belong to any decent society. But I find the threat of military intervention in the country worrisome. A military approach would turn ECOWAS into that proverbial frog in slowly boiling water: It is doing OK…until it is no longer doing OK and has become boiled meat.
Play around with a revolving door long enough and you will get smacked by it in the face. How long would it take ECOWAS leaders to realise that the voodoo doll they are gathering needles to stab probably looks like themselves.
The junta in Niamey is nobody’s fool. One of the things it did was to put Bazoum and hundreds of his associates in detention. If the Nigerian-led armed forces move into Niamey to uproot the junta, it is debatable if it would still feel obliged to keep these people alive. So, for all practicable purposes, the Bazoum government would be permanently over and the fight would then be about what comes after.
Without doubt, ECOWAS forces would be able to subdue the junta and evict it from the presidential palace in Niamey. ECOWAS would also have to appoint a (non-democratically elected) transition team to govern the country. That’s when the real fun would start.
The first task would be how ECOWAS intends to sell this new government to Nigeriens and the international community? But that would still be a walk in a well-lit park in comparison to how it would get this new government to enforce its authority on the country. The reason for this is simple: will a militarily victorious ECOWAS dissolve the Nigerien military or get its chastened leaders to rally the demoralised troops (still licking their wounds from a drubbing by invading forces) behind the new interim administration?
Both options are tricky. A disbanded Nigerien military will just melt into the country, where its members would join forces with the various terror gangs already operating in Niger and neighbouring countries, and they would be reinforced by outside powers intent on deepening the chaos. The ex-soldiers might even decide that they need to return Nigeria ‘the favour’ by teaming up with Boko Haram or ISWAP terror groups to stage attacks. Our troops have struggled to pacify the terrorists operating in Borno and Yobe for so long, how then do we ever hope to defeat them in a country the size of Mali?
A grateful West would not leave us alone to deal with such insurgency and instability, after all we are fighting for democracy and the rule of law? Could that be right? Well, one can only hope so. That was the same expectation when we went into Liberia and Sierra Leone years ago. Till date, the West is yet to redeem any of its pledges of support to Nigeria back then, even though their companies – not ours – have been the ones reaping the benefits of peace in those countries since then. The same situation would surely re-occur in Niger. The West has poured close to $190 billion into Ukraine over the past one year in the – so far failing attempt to push Russia back. That war is likely to remain their main focus for the forseeable future. Can they provide us with a minimum of $1 billion to take over and stabilise Niger, so that their companies can continue to operate there, or are they going to push us to the IMF and the World Bank for loans to prosecute this war?
More intriguingly, would the West look away if we were just to go the whole hog and fold Niger into Nigeria? This would mean that Nigeria can take over the country’s vast mineral riches. It bears repeating that Niger is highly resource rich. The country
We could use this to offset our immediate expenses for the conquest and assimilation – as well as for the future development of what would then be new states of Nigeria.
Niger would then transform from a landlocked, struggling francophone nation into another state (or two or three) in a richer (better governed) Anglophone Nigeria that would not only become one of the largest countries in the world, but one that could emphatically pronounce itself as truly the giant of Africa. Of course, the French might have to remove their troops and US might also have to shut down its drone base (Nigeria does not permit foreign bases in its soil), and this means reduced expenses by these countries. So, it is a win-win situation all round. What is there not to like about this?!
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