Sunday August 6, 2023, was deadline given by the West African block ECOWAS to the coup makers in Niamey to return power to deposed leader Mohammed Bazoum. The Nigeria led block has threatened military action as possible resort in the event of recalcitrance on the part of the junta.
It need be emphasized again that it will amount to a major policy miscalculation for Nigeria to lead the onslaught or shoot at Niger at this time. Many have pointed to the exacerbating political and security situations in Nigeria as major setbacks for the country as the plan unfolds, and while it is true that Nigeria indeed faces critical crises at home, however Nigeria retains significant military capabilities.
In fact, despite the security challenges bedevilling the country, Nigeria is thought to maintain the 35th strongest military in the world, and it comes 4th in Africa behind only Egypt Algeria and South Africa. I am convinced that the SA military may actually claim d top slot given nuclear developments in d country which the ill fated Botha-Aparthied regime claimed could be promoted and weaponized; some though argue that Nigeria could share same spot with SA since the southern Africans have lacked the combat and operational exposure enjoyed by the Nigerians.
With about 250 thousand active personnel and relatively versatile airpower, Nigeria is the dominant force west and central Africa. Mali Burkina and Niger share combined military strength of less than 70 thousand personnel with limited airpower; in fact Niger has less than 14 thousand personnel boots on ground. Calculation is that in the event of any conflict in the exposed direction, Nigeria would overwhelm and clobber strategic military and other assets and infrastructure in all of Niger Burkina and Mali using superior airpower.
But that is as far as the calculation goes in one direction. As already hinted, it would be a fool’s decision to plunge Nigeria into a war with its northern neighbour.
There exist deep cultural and family ties crisscrossing the borders of Niger and Nigeria, and a war between both countries is likely to engender strange realities on the battlefield.
Sadly, Nigeria has set a bad example in rushing to disfigure it’s treaty obligations to Niger by cutting electricity supply to the country. Sound legal assistants would have cautioned President Tinubu against such hurried action, as Nigeria would have waited for more internationally coordinated action by the UN and the AU which would have offered authouritative crest for reneging on such treaty obligation with regard to electricity generated from shared waters in the Niger River.
More importantly, it appears quite slant that the West would use Africa to fight a war in support of imperialism and neo colonialism on the continent. The history of Franco African colonial and post colonial relations is one of the most sordid available. France fought wars of domination against African nations, and has acted to utilize African resources to service the needs of the French economy. Nigerien (Niger) gold and uranium deposits have been controlled by the French, in fact Niger’s uranium power about 80% of France’s nuclear power installations for energy and power, while the African nation languishes as the second or third poorest nation on the map. The major interest of France appears to be the sustenance of a political system in uranium and gold rich Niger which would guarantee its continued impious exploitation of these resources without measured and adequate payment for them.
Nigeria and indeed Africa must therefore refuse to be used as stooges in reaching the ends of neo colonialists in this light.
Of even greater concern is the risk of turning West Africa into a theatre of contention between Western powers and Russia. The untamed and volatile Wagner military group retains a commercial presence within the territories of some of those northern neighbours, and although such presence lacks surgical airpower, yet it must be a major calculation for our military policy makers.
Although hammered greatly by Western propagated capabilities in the Ukrainian fronts, a frustrated and indignant Russia may be willing to use Africa to upstage western interests, and already the Sudan is embroiled in colourations of such conflict. Furtherance of the belt of conflict from Chad to Niger and Burkina through Mali down to Guinea may prove quite catastrophic for us in Africa, and this possibility must be properly scrutinized and avoided.
Barr. Stanley Okafor, legal and security analyst, writes from Awka, Anambra State.