By Emeka Obasi
West African leaders should wake up, the party is over. What we are witnessing is neo nationalism in form of ECOWAS Spring, get ready everyone it will go round, from Dakar to Niamey, up North in Tangier to Bissau Southwards.
I wonder why people are surprised that Gen. Abdouhramane Tchiani, Commander of Niger’s Presidential Guards sacked President Mohammed Bazoum. It happened in Nigeria when Col. Joseph Garba, Commander Brigade of Guards, announced the exit of General Yakubu Gowon.
Tchiani assumed office as Head of State on July 28, 2023. Garba’s announcement came on July 29, 1975. The only difference is that although Garba was fully involved in the coup, the plotters invited Brig. Murtala Mohammed to sit on the throne as Head of State.
When Murtala was assassinated in 1976, power brokers in Nigeria deceived themselves by saying that they had to go for the most senior officers from today’s North – West after OBJ became head of state. Between Lt. Cols Muhammadu Buhari and Shehu Yar’adua, they settled for the latter as Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters.
There were at least two officers, senior to Buhari and Yar’adua. Cols Mamman Remawa and Abba Wali were from Kano, the same state as Murtala. Remawa, like Yar’adua, was at Sandhurst but from September 1961 and was commissioned with Nigeria Army Identification N/389. His mates included Patrick Anekwe, Emma Nwobosi and Jonathan Egere.
Yar’adua moved to Sandhurst in January 1963 with Ibrahim Bako, Duro Ajayi, Oye Alimi and Attah Esuk. When commissioned, he got the tag, N/ 547. Although, Yar’adua and Buhari joined the Army same day in 1962, Buhari could not make it to Sandhurst. He was sent to Mons where six months training earned him commission
Buhari’s dad was said to have settled in Nigeria from Maradi, in Niger Republic. He was a popular duck merchant in Dumurkul, Daura Emirate and known as Mai Agwagwa ( duck seller) in Hausa. The senior Buhari chose a Kanuri wife.
Yar’adua’s father also hailed from Maradi. He was a muslim scholar, invited to Katsina by the Emir and renamed Yar ( child ) of prayer (Adua). Quite strange that when Murtala died, two men with roots across the border were considered over and above others.
President Olusegun Obasanjo made sure, Shehu Yar’adua’s younger brother, Umaru became president in 2007. Vice president Atiku Abubakar had no chance because he was completely fenced off. Dr. Peter Odili was deceived into a country wide shuttle that yielded nothing.
Gen. Sani Abacha also had something with Niger. At least, one of his children attended University there. Today, his wife, Maryam, owns one of the big universities in that country. The Abacha family feels very much at home in Niger, maybe because of Chad/ Yemen / Shuwa Arab/ Kanuri links.
When Buhari planned a refinery and rail lines in Niger, he was home sick. Remember, in 2019, the governors of Maradi and Zinder respectively, Zakari Umar and Issa Moussa, were in Kano for his presidential campaign. And they wore All Progressives Congress ( APC ) uniform.
Peter Onu, from Ebu, the Igala speaking part of Delta State was Acting Secretary General of the African Union ( then known as OAU) between 1983 and 1985. As Head of State, Buhari could have asked him to continue but he chose not to break an unwritten rule. His favourite, Ide Oumarou, from Niger got the job.
During the Civil War, Gen. Emeka Ojukwu and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe were in Niamey for AU Peace initiatives. They met with Presidents Hamani Diori, Hailey Selassie of Ethiopia, William Tubman of Liberia and Arthur Ankrah of Ghana. Gowon did not show up.
Diori and Alhaji Ahmadu Bello were good friends. If the Sardauna had listened to Chief Ladoke Akintola, he would have joined the Nigerien president in Niamey, a few hours to the January 15, 1966 coup. The Premier of Northern Region planned to spend Sallah in Sokoto.
The first governor of North Central State, Abba Kyari, was born in Dewa, Niger Republic. Abdulrasheed Maina found comfort across the frontier after misleading the Pension Reform Task Team. Ali Mohammed Magashi was nominated as Ambassador by Buhari, while his brother, Ahmadu Haruna, occupied a top political position in Niger.
President Bola Tinubu will soon give Mohammed Bello Matawalle a ministry. Maybe, ministry of Defence. In 2022, Matawalle was honoured with the Order of Merit of Niger, Great Master of National Award. Aliko Dangote, Abdul Rabiu and Badaru Abubakar, were not left out.
One former Nigerien president, Ibrahim Mainasara, shared the same May 9 birthday with Ernest Shonekan. Another, Mahamane Ousmane, flew back to Niamey from Abuja in 2010 after exile. Yet another, Col. Mamadou Tandja was Ambassador to Nigeria and lived in Lagos.
Zakary Adebayor plays for Mena and scored against Eagles in Kigali. His family moved from the South – West although he denies this identity. Hassan Abubakar was coach of Olympic Niamey before Gombe United brought him back.
ECOWAS leaders need to go for some History lessons. Using Nigeria to wage war will not solve anything. Those who are pushing Abuja into battle will run away when the heat is on. Nigerians have been so impoverished since 2015 that Niger Republic is away from good news.
It is no longer business as usual. Russia and their Wagner Warriors are looking for food. The French do not want to be denied their mealy uranium. Honestly, Nigeria needs an experienced Foreign Minister, not a politician, to handle this.