Bola Tinubu’s leadership in the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, was tested 15 days after he declared that the region had witnessed five successful coups since 2020, and would not tolerate any more coups.
This is as members of Niger’s presidential guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum and announced a change of government. This first test has however left many individuals asking what Tinubu’s leadership can do to restore Niger’s democracy.
While it is too early to determine whether Tinubu’s leadership in ECOWAS will be able to restore democracy to Niger, let us examine some of the actions the Nigerian president has taken and what could happen in the coming days.
Emergency ECOWAS summit and imposition of sanctions
President Tinubu reacted to the ousting of Niger’s president with a warning that ECOWAS would not tolerate untoward acts that could hinder the smooth functioning of legitimate authority in Niger or any part of West Africa.
He also chaired an emergency ECOWAS summit in Abuja that ended with the imposition of several sanctions, including a no-fly zone over Niger. These actions emphasise Nigeria’s concern over the unfolding events in the country.
Tinubu sends delegation to Niamey
Also, Tinubu sent a high-powered delegation from Nigeria to Niamey, Niger’s capital, to engage with the coup plotters. Reports say the delegation comprised of immediate past Governor of Katsina State, Senator Aminu Masari; Director General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Hassan Abubakar.
Newsmen further reported that the Chadian leader Mahamat Deby was also dispatched to Niamey as an envoy of the bloc to engage with key stakeholders.
One-week ultimatum to restore constitutional order
After the ECOWAS emergency meeting in Abuja, Tinubu’s leadership issued a one-week ultimatum to the interim military government in Niger to restore constitutional order. He also noted that failure to do so will make the bloc apply force.
Is ECOWAS’ threat to take action a bluff?
There have been questions as to whether the ECOWAS threat to apply force is just a bluff or could lead to potential action. In an attempt to provide answers to that question let’s look at how ECOWAS used the threat of force to restore order in Gambia.
The intervention happened when former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh lost the December 1, 2016 elections and refused to step down. After negotiations between Former President Muhammadu Buhari and Jammeh in Banjul failed, the option of military intervention became more realistic.
Buhari was compelled to deploy its air and personnel assets to enforce the result of Gambia’s election. In a show of force, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), on January 18, 2017, moved a contingent of 200 men and air assets comprising fighter jets, transport aircraft, light utility helicopters as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Dakar, Senegal, from where they could deploy into Gambia.
While military intervention is possible in Niger, analysts say its success will be dependent on how ECOWAS can coordinate its members and external bodies like the African Union.
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