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Tinubu’s Risky Niger Gamble, Shetty’s Embarrassment

  By Farooq A. Kperogi Twitter: @farooqkperogi President Bola Ahmed Tinubu yesterday wrote to the Senate to inform it of an impending “Mili...

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu yesterday wrote to the Senate to inform it of an impending “Military build up and deployment of personnel for military intervention to enforce compliance of the military junta in Niger should they remain recalcitrant.” This is a dangerous, ill-advised, potentially self-destructive gamble Tinubu would do well to give up because it has the potential to consume not just him but also Nigeria.

I detest military regimes because I am repulsed by any system that imposes unequal, predetermined structural limits on the aspirational compass to leadership. It is for the same reason that I despise the unearned, inherited authority that monarchies represent. Everyone should, at least in theory if not in practice, have the latitude to aspire to the highest level of leadership in the land. Military rule limits leadership to professional soldiers, as monarchies limit leadership to bloodline.

Additionally, as someone who came of age during totalitarian military regimes, I loathe the brutality and dehumanization that accompany all military rules and wish that no country would ever have to endure the nightmare of military monocracies. 

But going to war with another country because it unfortunately devolved into a system of government that, in our judgement, is abhorrent is unwarrantedly arrogant, provocative, and reckless. This is particularly more so because, at least for now, the new military junta in Niger Republic enjoys enormous goodwill among the vast majority of the citizens of the country. 

I have seen massive demonstrations in support of the new military regime in rural and urban Niger— and against President Bola Tinubu whom demonstrators have rechristened “Ebola Tinubu” to signal the toxicity and unwelcomeness of his intrusion into the internal affairs of their country. Nigeriens obviously have no problems at the moment with the junta in power. When they do, they’ll find a way to deal with it.  Who are we to tell them how they should conduct their affairs and whom they should prefer as their rulers?

Plus, in Nigeria, the tide of public opinion is overwhelmingly against any form of Nigeria-led military aggression to restore civilian rule in Niger. Nigeria is itself wracked by disabling internal turmoil on multiple fronts, which the Tinubu administration hasn’t yet shown any willingness to confront, much less contain. Why is Tinubu igniting a fire in another person’s home to “resolve” a squabble there instead of putting out the enduring conflagration in his?  

And who is paying for this unsolicited, foolhardy misadventure? Nigerians have been pushed to the very edge of existence (and several have already fallen off the cliff) by the cruel removal of fuel subsidies, yet the Tinubu administration will expend billions (that it repeatedly says the country doesn’t have) to start a needless and avoidable war in a country that is at peace with its anomaly. 

Is it the 1 trillion naira the government claimed it has saved from the removal of subsidies that it will use to fight a thoughtless war in Niger that has neither tactical nor strategic benefits for Nigeria? It makes absolutely no sense.

Nigeriens don’t want a war. Nigerians, too, don’t. On whose behalf is Tinubu starting this pointless war then? “Democracy”? Whose “democracy”? 

Well, if preservation of civilian rule is the sole motivation for Tinubu’s intervention in Niger, why is he unconcerned about military rule in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea, which are also members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)? True, Tinubu wasn’t president when these other coups took place, but what’s stopping him from adding Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea to his list of West African countries that must reinstate their ousted civilian presidents if “democracy” is his overriding concern?

The only thing that makes sense at this point is the widespread insinuation that Tinubu is doing the bidding of Western imperialist powers whose approval he seems insanely desperate for. Since his conservative, stultifying, and asphyxiating economic policies, which have paralyzed the country, are already merely a page from the World Bank and the IMF, it’s apparent that his greatest aspiration isn’t to serve Nigerians but to be a dutiful poodle of the West. 

On the instructions of the West, he is killing his people with hunger. On the instructions of the same West, he wants to kill his neighbors with war. 

In a private communication, famous University of Texas history professor Toyin Falola pointed out that this is France’s war. “France can give up Mali and Burkina Faso, but Niger is the only country it will not give up without a fight,” he said. “Agadez is the life wire of France, without which it will be using generators like Nigeria. No gas from Russia, and uranium is what it uses for its nuclear energy power. Nigeria cannot use its resources and army to work for France.”

Is Tinubu committing Nigeria to a violent entanglement with Niger on behalf of France because Paris is now his second home—like London used to be Buhari’s second home?

Another dimension to the situation in Niger that Tinubu and his advisers seem oblivious of is that Mohamed Bazoum was a deeply unpopular president who, as Professor Falola said, didn’t win his election. “His predecessor planted him there and gave his [i.e., predecessor’s] son a cabinet appointment,” Falola said. “Niger is a democracy on paper. The mafia distributes rent. Niger has the highest number of land cruisers per capita in Africa.”

What Professor Falola describes isn’t exclusive to Niger, of course. It’s the feature of most “democracies” in Africa. But when you throw Niger’s identity politics into the mix, you are staring at a really combustible situation.

 Bazoum comes from Niger’s Arab ethnic minority (with roots in Libya) who constitute less than one percent of the population. 

The Hausa constitute a little over 50 percent of the population. The Zarma (whom Hausa people call Zabarma, which probably influenced the Yoruba Sabarumo) are a distant second with a little over 20 percent of the population, although they dominate Niger's military and civil service. There are other minor groups in the country such as Dendi (whose language is mutually intelligible with Zarma but who consider themselves different from the Zarma), Tuaregs, Kanuri, Fulani, and Gurma.

Former President Mahamadou Issoufou is Hausa, but for personal gains he rigged Mohamed Bazoum, a minority Arab, as his successor. Bazoum was overthrown by Abdourahamane Tchiani who appears to be Zarma going by the region of the country he comes from, but who enjoys the support of the Hausa. 

The Zarma and the Hausa (who together constitute more than 70 percent of the population) were resentful that an Arab (with a minimal command of the Hausa language and probably zero proficiency in Zarma and whose people are less than one percent of the population) was imposed as president over them without actually winning a legitimate election.

Forcing the return of Bazoum as president would be a declaration of war against more than 70 percent of the country’s population. But that’s not even my worst fear. In the event of an all-out war, there would be refugees from Niger all over northern Nigeria, which could, in fact, flare up a Yoruba-Hausa ethnic strife in Nigeria because the narrative would be that a Yoruba man is killing Hausa people.

 Should that happen, that could end the Tinubu presidency. Is it worth it? I don’t think so.

Maryam Shetty’s Unexampled Ministerial Embarrassment

I had no idea who Maryam Shetty was until I saw what seemed like an unremitting cornucopia of congratulatory messages directed at her on Facebook on her appointment as a minister by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. 

I saw jokes about how almost every (northern) Nigerian on social media somehow found a way to establish connections to her. I was going to join the joke by saying I was connected to her, too, because she shares the same first name as my second daughter, graduated from my alma mater in Nigeria, and even got some sort of certification from Emory University in Atlanta where I live. 

Then I woke up Friday morning to the shocking news that her nomination had been withdrawn. I don’t recall if there is any precedent for this kind of embarrassment. Why was her name announced when the president hadn’t made up his mind that he wanted her on his cabinet? The public ridicule she has been subjected to can’t be redeemed by any compensatory appointment.

I thought her appointment sent a symbolic message to young women that they, too, matter. Kwara State governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq has already blazed a trail in appointing everyday young women with no roots in political dynasties into commissionership—to the annoyance of political old stagers. I thought President Tinubu was following in Abdulrazaq’s lead and was going to write a full-length column to commend this.

The embarrassing but totally preventable flip-flopping of the Tinubu administration is becoming truly unsettling. 


  1. 1. Tinubu is lucky that cheap and docile Nigerians are not giving him enough headache and cause to worry for putting them in hardship via his crass policies. He wouldn't have had time to be meddling in Niger affairs.
    2. If she wasn't from Kano, it would have been different especially if she was from Taraba, Bauchi, Gombe or even my Adamawa. It was obvious "they" wouldn't let her "represent their slot from Kano." Honorable women like Aisha Ismail have been criticized when nominated as minister then let alone a "TikTok girl."
    I honestly wanted her because she would have changed the narrative. As she's gone, I hope she's given another major role to compensate this emotional stress.

  2. Heh Prof, I enjoyed the ethnic explanation of the Bazoum-Tchiani debacle. Of course, its a no-brainer that Nigeria should not be at the forefront or anywhere near any mention of the restoration of democracy. What is practiced here is far from being democratic. And the reasons for the West pushing for this war is totally open to everyone. Unfortunately, if the West has decided that they want war, Tinubu as an illegitimate leader would have no other option than dance to their tunes. The domino effect of a war on Niger is better not imagined than felt.

    I pity Maryam and her embarrassment is linked to the Gandollar corruption empire. She was accused of criticizing Tinubu's Oluwole certificates at some point and the anti-women in governance agents were just too happy to exhume that to execute their arcane plan that it is haram for a woman to head any institution in which men work. At some point Nigeria will have to hold a referendum on how they want to be governed - by law or by religion.


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