Nigeria and the Crisis in the Republic of Niger

Nigeria and the Crisis in the Republic of Niger

Monday, September 4, 2023 2:20 pm

Ademola Araoye

Ademola Araoye,

Ademola Araoye

The crisis that is playing out in the continent on the management of the coup d’etat in the Republique du Niger that toppled constitutionally elected President Mohammed Bazoun from office is significant and unprecedented. It is revealing how the antecedents and the internal evolution or devolution of the various African states have created profound divergences in their approaches to the challenges posed to the future direction and attempts at forging the fundamentals of new relationships of the continent with the international system. The diverse narratives of the Nigerien stalemate adopted by various stakeholders and the consequential preferred options in responses to the crisis by them demonstrate the internal circumstances of the various states as well the constraints to policy directions entailed in obligations freely entered into by some states with elite forces in the global system.

The coup in Niger thus pit deconsolidated and status quo states in West Africa, which dominate the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), against assertive post-liberation and consolidated states in Southern Africa and in Northern Africa that mostly emerged into the state’s system through armed resistance. Some of the assertive states, like Rwanda, had gone through traumatic historical experiences in the march to nationhood. Consolidated states are mobilized by pan-African tenets undergirding a radical policy driving the imperative to complete the emancipation of Africa from all forces that had brought the continent, even in the post-independence era and in post-liberation, to ruins. In the post-liberation era, the focus has been particularly on uprooting the vestiges of neo-colonial powers, including the removal of their local proxies under various guises from strategic platforms across the continent.

For these consolidated assertive states, dislodging entrenched external forces from the continent is a non-negotiable axiom for the constructive transformation of the parlous conditions of the continent. The overthrow of the entrenched local stooges of neo-colonial powers is indeed the first conditionality for the total liberation of the continent. This is irrespective of the basis of the claim to power of such proxies: whether by virtue of instrumentalized democratic election or enthroned through other dubiously legitimated processes. This non-negotiable has become more salient, especially with the turbulence characterizing the evolution of the global order. In the understandings underpinning the policies of consolidated African powers, the volatility and uncertainties in the new arraignment of forces, especially in the shifting coalition of elite forces across the globe, have presented a historic opportunity for Africa to redress some of the fundamental underpinnings of its subordinate status in global affairs. Consolidated states are leading the charge in the struggle to retrench neo-colonial forces.

Deconsolidated African states have tended to be conservative and subservient in their relationships with elite forces. These states are wary of upsetting a system that favors the small corrupt ruling classes that are delinked from the often horrible existential conditions of the people in their insular obscure capitals. These pretentious leadership cadres have coalesced into a continental club of status quo-oriented privileged persons at all levels of political interaction on the continent. Consequently, the policy options of these rulers perpetuate Africa in its ancient subordinate status in the international system. Accordingly, the clash of vision and perspectives witnessed on the challenge of Niger reflects the acknowledgment of different existential realities of the consolidated and deconsolidated states.

Approaches to achieving the radical objective of retrenching neo-colonial forces from the continent have been problematic in the relations of consolidated states with deconsolidated states. The latter tend to hang on to colonial powers to validate the regimes in power. The group of states in ECOWAS, mostly deconsolidated status quo states, with challenging internal circumstances as well as compromised in their respective capacities to mobilize and articulate a legitimate national will at the international level, are perceived largely as lackeys of neo-colonial forces on the continent. These states, a nebulous coalition of stooges of Western elite forces, in responding to the coup in Niger, conveniently adopted a narrative of entrenching democracy in the sub-region as the basis of their decision to impose sanctions and to intervene militarily to reinstate the ousted Mohammed Bazoun. ECOWAS leaders, perceived to be proxies of their respective Western allies were (sic) insisting on restoring constitutional order in Niger. In many cases, the internal circumstances and personal careers of leaders of these states with dubious legitimacy at home inextricably lock them to the interests of their Western allies. These Western neo-colonial overlords guarantee, as an incentive, the continued international legitimacy of these administrations that are perceived as barely legitimate at home.

In relation to the crisis in Niger, in a comparative assessment of the protagonists advanced by Lasisi Olagunju, he states that there is a problem where “cow thieves”, as ECOWAS leaders were described, sitting in judgment over “fowl rustlers” as the junta in Niger was characterized. The narratives of the crisis in Niger adopted by the two opposing sides mainly from Southern Africa plus Algeria and West Africa seemed irreconcilable. This was manifest in the deadlock at the Peace and Security Council of the African Union which eventually failed to endorse the decision of ECOWAS and refused to validate the imposition of sanctions on the junta in Niger. The Peace and Security Council repudiated the planned military intervention to restore ousted President Mohammed Bazoun into office.

For states in the Southern African region that went through the crucible of violent resistance to internal colonialism, the priority would seem to be that any initiative taken to remove the influence of France across the African firmament is welcome. For these radicalized societies, the ouster of Bazoum, perceived to be a staunch ally of the West, from the presidency in Niger was a mere and insignificant collateral in the unending larger historic pursuit of the worthy cause of total liberation of Africa. The evolved differences in understanding of the fundamental challenges confronting Africa between radicalized Southern African states and the Anglophone states of West Africa are indeed paradoxical when viewed from a longitudinal evolution of foreign and security policy in the West African sub-region.

In the 1980s, the advancement of policies toward the establishment of a concert of black interests and state activists to articulate such a vision elicited frontal opposition in France. France interpreted any expression of African solidarity as a threat to its continued hegemony in West and Central Africa. Such an initiative automatically elicited destabilization by France, often operating through its main proxy, Cote d’Ivoire in the sub-region. Indeed, such was the case of the civil war in Liberia. In the calculus of Charles Taylor whose war began the long years of internecine conflicts across West Africa as an arch of conflict, Houphouet Boigny, who had a sordid career in the service of France, was France’s point man in destabilizing Africa. In West Africa, the aim then was to derail progressive Anglophone states from consolidating a vision of an economically integrated West Africa. As head of state in francophone Africa’s wealthiest country, Boigny is reputed to have exerted “significant influence in the neighboring francophone countries, so much so that he initiated profound political changes in his region.

His most important initiative was the overthrow by insurgents of Liberia’s President Samuel Doe in 1990. Nigeria’s counter-offensive against France and Cote d’Ivoire failed. At the continental level, Boigny was also a sponsor and mentor of the Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. Here Nigeria’s support for Augustino Neto’s Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) was robust enough to thwart the resistance of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the whole cohort of Western allies against the emergence of a pro-Africanist government in liberated Angola. The MPLA was also indeed conveniently a Marxist organization. With many private investments of France’s political elite in Côte d’Ivoire, Houphouët exercised much influence in French policy toward francophone Africa. After Houphouët’s death in 1994, Côte d’Ivoire itself began a long slow decline into political instability and civil war that lasted until 2012.”

Again, in Angola, while the rest of Africa had recognized the MPLA as the legitimate government of Angola, Houphouët, and his colleague Léopold Senghor in Senegal, had decided to support Savimbi. To continue to destabilize Angola, as the United States was providing defensive shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles and antitank weapons to UNITA, Houphouët was providing money-laundering services. Savimbi had a permanent agent in Abidjan who received diamonds from Savimbi’s couriers. The diamonds were taken from Angolan fields during UNITA raids and exported as Ivoirien commodities. (during the Angolan post-liberation civil war). Such was the power of a deconsolidated African state in the full services of neo-colonial forces on the continent.

The strategic objective of France in Africa and its reliance on Cote d’Ivoire as the proxy vanguard spear to execute its dirty plans remains the same in 2023. It explains France’s massive investments in the rebellion that overthrew Laurent Gbagbo to literally enthrone Allasane Ouatarra as the latest pivotal stooge in the post-Boigny era. An indolent Nigerian foreign policy circuit did not fathom the grand deception in the narratives bandied about on epochal events unfolding in its neighborhood. At the same time, the ruling political class in Nigeria pursued their personal political careers by compromising the integrity of the progressivism that had marked the policy of the most populous black nation in the world. Nigeria’s policy in the Ivorian conflict marked a massive retrogression and the biggest deviation from the principled commitment to the pursuit of the full emancipation of Africa from the clutches of neo-imperialist forces. Adebayo Adedeji, in contrasting the deterioration of West Africa which started in the second half of the 1960s with Southern Africa and East Africa, attributed the lack of serious development towards sub-regional integration and cooperation in West Africa partly to the further complication of French interest and the establishment of a Paris motivated and controlled francophone economic cooperation entity over and above the ECOWAS.

France in opposing any semblance of continent-wide solidarity of the people, in the context of its neo-colonial regime in its ex-colonies, was right as the founding of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), spearheaded by a then more confident, dynamic, and focused Nigeria, basking in the victory over internal secession, and Togo demonstrated. Progress on the developmental vision of ECOWAS has been stalled partly due to France-inspired parallel Francophone structures and institutions created to rival the pan-regional effort. The proxies of France, such as Houphouet Boigny in Cote d’Ivoire, who interfered in the internal affairs of his neighbors often with deadly results, also sponsored the destabilization of Anglophone countries in the sub-region such as in Liberia. Houphouët-Boigny instigated the first Liberian Civil War (1989-1996). Cote d’Ivoire was a major supporter of Charles.

The role of Cote d’Ivoire in undermining continental policies toward the Apartheid regime in South Africa through a policy of dialogue with the racist regime reflected the propensity of deconsolidated African states to detract from the critical impact of consensus decisions designed by African states by leaders assimilated into different extra-African interest orbit of elite forces. In more recent times, Cote d’Ivoire, under Alasanne Ouattara, has sustained the national propensity to, as a proxy of France, sabotage progressive pan-regional policies to integrate the sub-region into a functioning working economic community. In the latest episode, conniving with Emmanuel Macron, Alassane Ouattara derailed the launching of the common West African currency, the Eco, by appropriating the name of the currency to merely replace the old CFA under the guise of revitalizing the francophone currency.

In late December 2019, Cote d’Ivoire President Alassane, in collaboration with France, announced that the West African CFA franc, used by the former French colonies of Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo, as well as by Guinea-Bissau, would be retired sometime in 2020 and replaced with a new currency – called the Eco. Ouattara’s announcement came as a surprise to the six mainly Anglophone ECOWAS members who don’t use the CFA franc. The announcement represented a big setback for the effort at the economic integration of the sub-region that had been the original mandate of ECOWAS. In furtherance of this objective, in June 2019, ECOWAS leaders formally decided at a summit that the region’s planned common currency should be called Eco — the same name as the CFA zone group now planned to adopt.

It is an unfathomable paradox that Nigerian leaders have incrementally shifted into protecting French interests in order to safeguard personal political agendas. This was evident in Olusegun Obasanjo’s siding with France against a pan-African Laurent Gbagbo in the Ivorian crisis. Nigeria’s policy in the Ivorian crisis was related to advancing Obasanjo’s personal bid for an unconstitutional third term in office. Nigeria was more aligned toward the Western implacable policy of regime change than the position of progressive African states calling for a negotiated settlement in the Libyan crisis. In the melee of the final days of the rebellion instigated by the West, the West eventually oversaw the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi by allegedly directly by a French operative. The policy of progressive African states on the Libyan crisis was consistent with the Security Council resolution 1973.

The Security Council resolution, which was also the official position of the South African government, was against the NATO bombing of Gaddafi’s forces and in support of the African Union’s “road map to peace” which called for an immediate ceasefire, opening channels for humanitarian aid and talks between the rebels and government. I cite South Africa here to put in proper context the perspectives of establishment megaphones attributing self-induced policy setbacks of Nigeria to South Africa. Such fixations merely distort reality and stand in the way of realism in policy formulation. Meanwhile, France was determined to neutralize Gaddafi to protect certain secrets around financial transactions between the French state on the one hand and private prominent members of France’s political elite on the other hand with Gaddafi. Nothing has changed in the policy of France since the 1960s.

In 2023, it is prostrate Nigeria that has capitulated as part of its totalistic decline in the context of the deconsolidation of its statehood. This is amply reflected in the sad, lame, and virtually irrational proposal of a Nigeria-led ECOWAS to intervene militarily in the affairs of neighboring Niger. The rejection of Nigeria’s application to join the BRICS is another calamitous reflection of how the mighty have fallen. It is a story for another day. Meanwhile, in relation to the events in Niamey, every rookie analyst comprehends that the current fluidity in the global strategic order presents a unique opening for Africa to reposition itself in global affairs by retrenching the preeminence of neo-colonial powers in its affairs. There are new options in the international system to be explored through imaginative policy formulation by serious African states. The historic exploration process would naturally begin with removing the proxies of entrenched destructive external order in the affairs of Africa. Ousted President Bazoun was perceived as one of these. Restorative coups as in Niger are indeed welcome. Many such tsunamis are encouraged. Of course, not the retrogressive farcical melodrama of the Bongo clan in Libreville. That is a different kettle of fish.

Finally, consistent with its bizarre policy evolution, Nigeria is yet again serving as a proxy of France in the Nigerien crisis. The previous developments in the same mold had not gone unnoticed in the circle of radical states on the continent. This seems to have exacerbated tensions in the relations with South Africa over the coup in Niger. Coup d’etat had been a prominent phenomenon in the unstable political universe of the African state system. However, given the conjuncture of forces and strategic considerations, the coup in Niger was more than just another regime change. A new dynamism had been injected into the sub-regional political landscape by young disenchanted elements in the military in the orbit of France’s hitherto inviolable orbit. This youthful generation seems determined to reorient the trajectories of their nations in radical directions through radical processes, if required, through military intervention in the political realm. In the face of the gale force propelling this momentous change, a confused and disoriented Nigeria should get out of the way.

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