COUP: Bode George caution Tinubu over decision
George’s warning is contained in a letter he personally wrote to the President in which he put forward other suggestions to resolve the impasse between Niger and its West African allies.
Niger has come under the microscope since Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani led the presidential guard to depose the country’s democratically elected President, Mohamed Bazoum, from office on July 26, 2023.
In a swift reaction, ECOWAS imposed a series of economic sanctions on Niger and also threatened to use military force to restore democratic order in the country if the putschers failed to do so at the expiration of a seven-day ultimatum.
But, George warned Tinubu, who also doubles as the regional body’s Chairman, that the proposed military approach could result in the collapse of ECOWAS.
The PDP chieftain advised the President to continue to explore diplomatic channels as that is better than embarking on a “needless war.”
He stated that Nigeria already has serious economic and security challenges to contend with, and adding the Niger crisis to it may not augur well for his government.
According to George, “In Nigeria today, there is no food, no financial power to buy fuel, no light, no money. Nigerians are psychologically stranded and people are really going through a lot. So, I don’t know what our going to Niger Republic with full military power will achieve.”
He recalled that Nigeria almost singularly “financed ECOMOG military operations and that was when our economy was better. Which economy are we going to use now to finance a full military operation in the Niger Republic, when Mali and Burkina Faso have threatened to take sides with the Niger Republic?”
Read George’s full letter below;
“We all know that Nigeriens, directly or indirectly, are fighting the French because of the Assimilation Policy which has affected the Francophone speaking countries, unlike what we have in English speaking countries, like Nigeria.
“We should think twice before entering another country militarily. Don’t start what you cannot finish. Niger is one of the largest (land border) countries in the world and also one of the poorest. What exactly do we gain if we go to war in Niger? What? So that people can praise us as a defender of democracy? When people are dying at home, do we need that type of commendation from anybody?
“I am a retired General. So, I know that war is not easy. Please, don’t force Nigerians to engage in an endless war.
“Despite its mineral wealth, the Niger Republic has been held down by its leadership for decades. More than 75 percent of Nigeriens are poor and uneducated. At the right time, if they don’t want Tchiani, they will get rid of him. Let Nigeriens deal with their rot and let us focus on how to save our own situation back home.
“I am sure you know that seven Northern states – Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno – share a 1,608 kilometres long border with five regions in Niger Republic. In case of any war, residents of these states will be direct targets of bullets and missiles. This can also lead to a resurgence of criminal activities in the border areas.
“Also, some countries, such as Algeria, Libya, Chad, Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali share borders with the Niger Republic. Can we trust these countries to support us militarily and otherwise in case of a war with Niger Republic?
“In all of these, we should ask ourselves, why did we finance a rail line to Maradi during the President Muhammadu Buhari administration? Russia invaded Ukraine over a year ago. Thousands of people – soldiers and civilians – have been killed, billions of dollars worth of properties have been destroyed and there is still no end in sight.
“In International Relations and Politics, you protect your national interest first. Burkina Faso and Mali openly declared that they would support Niger. Can we also trust Chad which has been under military rule since April 2021? Are we sure this move to invade Niger Republic will not affect ECOWAS? Is this the right time to spend the money Nigeria doesn’t have to fight in another country?”