West African leaders must not be carried away by Alassane Dramane Ouattara’s offer of troops to commence the invasion of Niger Republic in what may eventually create more hardship for the impoverished people of the West African sub-region. Ouattara wants to use Niger to shift attention from Cote d’Ivoire where he faces mounting opposition for usurpation of power. By declaring as illegal the overthrow of Mohamed Bazoum by his presidential guards in Niamey, the Ivorien leader is more interested in perpetuating himself in power. Ouattara was supposed to quit in 2020, having served two terms as president. He promised to leave the scene although the opposition doubted his sincerity. The idea was for Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly to run for the prime position.
Unfortunately, Coulibaly did not live to achieve that. Presidential elections were scheduled for October 31, 2020. The Prime Minister died in July. Ouattara still made Ivoriens believe he was not interested and was preparing someone else. Events moved fast and the president announced himself as eligible. It would have made little sense if Ouattara asked for six months extra following the crisis that engulfed the country after the November 2010 presidential elections. His stand was that by the new constitution, the first tenure should not count. By Ouattara’s skewed calculations, he had done only one term in 2020, instead of two.
For someone who had been president since 2011, it sounded most illogical. His countrymen were therefore forced to allow nine years count as one term. This reasoning is enough to cause another civil war in Cote d’Ivoire. There has been intensive campaign against Ouattara at home ever since. ECOWAS leaders must be properly briefed so as to understand the desperation coming from the Ivorien leader. We may be forced to admit that by sending troops to Niger, Ouattara plans to keep his country’s Armed Forces far away from home. That will take their minds off happenings at the home front.
It could also guarantee his position as president for a longer time. By making available a battalion of troops before ‘Big Brother’ Nigeria, Ouattara appears to have blazed the trail. This will propel President Bola Tinubu who is ECOWAS Chairman to show leadership. We can read between the lines. After the initial ultimatum issued by ECOWAS leaders, Tinubu has faced criticisms in Nigeria for being too hasty. There have been demonstrations in Kano, home of the new Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party, Abdullahi Ganduje. Prominent groups in Northern Nigeria have spoken against war in Niger. In the National Assembly, senators from the North are not in support of aggression. Muslim clerics went further to visit Niamey where they were received by the new leaders. Ouattara has gone ahead to release 150 million United States dollars for the proposed ECOWAS forces. This amount is expected to sustain the mission for at, least, three months. Immediate action that is all the Ivorien president demands.
What he has not factored in is that Tinubu’s first move will not be the decider. There have been interventions by experienced leaders within West Africa calling for caution. After the cold treatment given to General Abdusalami Abubakar and the Sultan of Sokoto, Gen. Abdurahmane Tchiani received the former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. It does appear Ouattara, who has seen military intervention in his country over the years, is afraid of his own shadow because he supported Gen. Robert Guei when Henri Konan Bedie was overthrown in December 1999. Ouattara apparently is the most experienced of all the ECOWAS leaders. He was a minister, Prime Minister and presidential candidate before finally making it to the presidency. The Ivorien has quite some international exposure through the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The people of Cote d’Ivoire are watching.
ECOWAS failed to call Ouattara to order when he went for a third term in 2020. The African Union went to sleep as the man retained power through a dubious interpretation of the constitution. Flying to Abuja and Accra, campaigning for war when diplomatic channels have not been exhausted and condemning the coup in Niger without admitting his own flawed assumption of office for a third term, cannot hide the obvious. Ouattara wants war in Niger to keep his job.