“Those who hunt monsters must take care that they don’t become monsters themselves… for when you stare down into the abyss long enough, the abyss will stare back into you.”
– Friedrich Nietsche
The hope is that Nigeria’s Niger problem has been put to conclusive rest by the screwball from Gabon; that and the universal chorus of dissent across the entire breadth of the country’s polity.
But it is one thing to hope by making a wish, yet a whole different thing to plan for abject reality. Sure it might drag out and slowly fizzle as is already happening but it is important to note that the crisis will quite likely form the basis of the West African front in the new Cold War between the West and a resurgence led by a power from the Global South. That ride is only just starting, so we still have the whole of it ahead of us.
Not only Niger apparently, but Nigeria is itself by accident in the crosshairs of both forces in this conflict making it a lose-lose kind of situation for us. Nigeria cannot play the ostrich in its own backyard, but it must address its challenges by intellect and strategic planning. For the avoidance of doubt, it will be against the interests of the Nigerian state for the coup in Niger to go unanswered because such might herald the entrenchment of the Russian economic and military complexes in that country. And that is bad news for Nigeria because when two elephants fight for the outcome of an equation – it is the grass that suffers. Guess what Nigeria is within that equation. We can all rest assured that that fight will come down on us big time should we ever let ourselves be enlisted in either cause as it were.
That notwithstanding, we are Niger Republic’s neighbours for life, we cannot pack up and move elsewhere. We must deal with that and dealing with it also means we cannot let rogue military officers hijack state power without having anything to say about it. They too will have to deal with that reality.
So while we exercise our will in opposition to the Tinubu solution, we must also applaud this principled stand. In my estimation, President Bola Tinubu has absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose if Northern Nigeria goes to hell and that should be a direct answer to the conspiracy theories about a malicious agenda against the peoples of northern Nigerian and their cousins from across the border.
The Niger question should certainly form a foreign policy thrust of the Nigerian government, but priority has to be given to getting ourselves in the right order to play in the big leagues. We have a great many of our own problems and it would be suicide to start an actual war on our borders with Niger Republic, a place already constituting potent national security threats. If there is an actual conflict, the rest of Africa that stands for the African Renaissance will most likely also stand with Niger and therefore against Nigeria. This is an Africa that is rapidly evolving and coming of age.
If today’s Africa were to take the form of a pop culture social stereotype, it would be a rastaman in combat boots. It was only a matter of time before the information revolution birthed an African consciousness that is so strong it is given expression in terms of popular will. This is something we have seen in the fallout of the coup epidemic across Francafrique… in all those countries, news of the coup was greeted with rapturous celebrations in the street. Yes, those people on the streets have heard about democracy but to them, democracy is not an overriding political sacrament. To them, military autocracy is an acceptable alternative to a democratic plutocracy and who are you to tell them otherwise? Where were you and democracy when their bones were being picked clean by every vulture and vermin under the sun? They also know that democracy is a slow and painful process of stumbling onto the right choice instead of going straight forward to the wrong one, but they are also living things just like yourself.
I remember being taught in biology class that a living thing must always respond to stimuli. You obey that rule only as much as anyone does – meaning that you are a product of your own circumstances. You could care less about democracy and the inviolability of a reigning order of state leadership if you were like them “a bakin kura” (or in the jaws of a predator).
In this emergent African consciousness, Bob Marley’s Natty Dread is riding again. It has always been the fight against the rastaman. The inviolability of the constitution, the state, or anything else they were not well represented while being cooked. But this time, the fire already burns. This fire does not recognize the legitimacy of any system of ethics and reality enshrined under the hegemony of powers that kept them in bondage.
President Bola Tinubu is a veteran of the democratic struggle in Nigeria, and no doubt considers it a moral duty to stand firm and provide leadership in the resolution of this problem. He was a veteran whether he fought or ran because he lived through it. And because of the fact that he might have run just as much as he fought, he was at the receiving end of its kobokos more than most of us.
Regardless, he has fought it long and hard. He is a survivor of autocracy, and to him and many others, this is a truly vile monster that must be eradicated by iron and blood. But, alas! If Tinubu insists on this Niger adventure, then he would have inadvertently taken the form of this monster himself. His fanatical devotion to the objective of democracy then ends up being his own undoing. He who hunts monsters is at the greatest risk of monstrosity. We see evidence of that every day from policemen and security forces throughout the world.
The common denominator for all those deposed African strongmen is autocracy. If Tinubu sends the Nigerian military into Niger in spite of the Senate withholding legal assent and against the wave of popular opinion, then he too would have ended up an autocrat. And, with such a mistake, Natty Dread might ride again in Nigeria too.
Natty is unstoppable.