The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has advised President Tinubu to focus on how Nigeria can play its role without getting stuck in the crisis in Niger Republic.
This advice was contained in a statement signed on Wednesday by its leader, Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Ayo Adebanjo (Leader, Afenifere), Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu (President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide), Dr Pogu Bitrus (President, Middle Belt Forum) and Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien (National Chairman, PANDEF).
The forum counselled that the president should realize that his primary responsibility is to the peace and security of Nigeria but commended him for the effort to restore constitutional order to Niger.
It noted that it has observed how Nigeria and the entire global community have been confronted with the complications from the disturbing events of the unconstitutional change in government, in our neighbouring country, the Republic of Niger.
The group pointed out the position of the Senate which suggested that peaceful means should be used to settle the problem, instead of engaging in a fratricidal war.
The statement observed that Nigeria’s active involvement in censuring the coup and the need to bring sanity back to the country is also because President Bola Tinubu is the current Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State, noting that the burden of resolving the crisis seems to have fallen on him.
While condemning the coup, SMBLF suggested: “Since we know that military governments have also taken power in neighbouring countries of Mali and Burkina Faso, the addition of Niger to the list for such a breach of national constitutions, just on the other side of our border, is very uncomfortable and definitely cannot be allowed to stand.
“It is, therefore, necessary that concerted efforts should be put in place to ensure that democracy is restored urgently in the Republic of Niger and that the new military leader, Tchani, and his cohorts, are made to abdicate the power, which they seized by force.
“Nonetheless, as important as the restoration of democracy is to Nigeria, the ECOWAS, and the global community, we advise President Tinubu to realize that his primary responsibility is to the peace and security of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, all actions of our government should therefore focus on how Nigeria can play its roles and obligations without getting stuck in the crisis in Niger.
“This is why we commend the President for taking moves to follow up negotiations and political contact using the former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, and the Sultan of Sokoto.
“This process should be accelerated, using other sources both within Nigeria and our neighbouring countries that can be of benefit to the cause. The information available to us shows that there are other personalities in Nigeria and international figures who can also be used to intervene in the matter.
“We discourage the temptation to adopt military means to force the illegal government out of power. From our judgment, such a move will be resisted sternly by forces both within Niger and Nigeria.
“It is important to note that several of our Nigerian communities in the extreme north do not see Niger as mere neighbours but enjoy a lot of traditional and cultural ties. In those border areas, there is no difference between a Nigerian and a Nigerian.
“There are tenable concerns that if war comes, normal lives will be disrupted in the border communities, insecurity will increase, and there will be an influx of refugees. From our previous experience of wars, in Chad, such refugees do not stop at the border areas but penetrated the farthermost points in Nigeria and became a source of concern to all of us.“
In a related development, Islamic clerics have warned against the use of military action in restoring ousted President Mohamed Bazoum to power.
The Islamic clerics after meeting with President Tinubu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday warned against military action in Niger and advocated for diplomacy.
In an interview conducted in Hausa with correspondents after the meeting with the President, Professor Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, Secretary General of Jamaatu Nasrul Islam (JNI), said that the meeting discussed the proposed military action in Niger.
He said they were invited by President Tinubu based on their positions as clerics and they respectively honoured the invitation.
He said: “Our visit also serves as a working (official) visit. We discussed important matters relating to our dear country and we gave our advice on good leadership, we discussed subsidy removal and we gave our own advice on that too and we told him we wish he had had this consultation before subsidy removal so that its implementation would have been smooth devoid of all this hardship.
“Regarding Niger issues, we told him our stand which is dialogue. Diplomacy is the best option, military intervention will not yield the desired outcome. We do not support military intervention, we are emphasising the use of diplomacy.
“When we intervened in Liberia how did we get out of the mess? Look at what is happening in Libya, we should try as much as we can to avoid that scenario. Niger has all the tendencies of becoming Libya if we are not careful.”
On the assurance given to them by the President, he said, “We are on the same page. He is not insisting on military intervention too. All peaceful means will be followed and exhausted.”