President Bola Tinubu on Thursday, August 31, assured those intervening in the political crisis in Niger Republic that the military option would come last for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) after all diplomatic options must have been exhausted.
Receiving the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs led by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, at the State House, President Tinubu noted that the alternative of kinetic intervention in the Niger Republic had not been jettisoned.
According to a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, President Tinubu, however, insisted that any forceful removal of a democratic government remains “wholly unacceptable.”
He said: “I must thank you for your several visits to Niger Republic, Your Eminence, but you will still have to go back. My fear has been confirmed in Gabon that copycats will start doing the same thing until it is stopped. We are neighbours with Niger Republic, and what has joined Nigerians together with their great people cannot be broken.
“Nobody is interested in a war. We have seen the devastation in Ukraine and Sudan. But, if we don’t wield the big stick, we will all suffer the consequences together,” the President warned.
President Tinubu noted that Nigeria, under General Abdulsalami Abubakar, instituted a nine-month transition programme in 1998, and it proved very successful, leading the country into a new era of democratic governance.
The President said he sees no reason why such cannot be replicated in Niger if Niger’s military authorities are sincere.
“Your Eminence, please don’t get tired, you will still go back there. The soldiers’ action is unacceptable. The earlier they make positive adjustments, the quicker we will dial back the sanctions to alleviate the sufferings we are seeing in Niger,” the President affirmed.
On the hardship faced by many Nigerians post-fuel subsidy removal, the President assured that all ongoing reforms will liberate and reposition the economy, which will benefit the majority of the population in terms of opportunities, infrastructure, healthcare and education.
“Nigeria is headed for a promise. Our diversity will turn into prosperity, not adversity. We will build a country that our children will be proud of.”
The President told the delegation that the Federal Government had opened talks with State Governments to provide land for the proper sustenance of animals with a view to developing pan-national animal husbandry and agro-allied production and processing facilities for mass export, job creation and revenue generation.
He added: “If Nigeria is still looking for vaccines for basic health issues; if infant and maternal mortality is rampant, then we should examine ourselves. I will commit to consulting with other leaders, like the NSCIA, and we will meet the needs of our people.”
In his contribution at the meeting, Vice President Kashim Shettima said the President had budgeted N50 billion to support the ongoing rebuilding of lives and property in the North West and North East, with a new focus on dialogue to address security challenges.
The Sultan of Sokoto pledged “one hundred per cent loyalty” to the President, affirming that a leader can only reach a position by the will of God, and not man.
He assured the President that the NSCIA would be available to advise and support President Tinubu to realize his dream for the country, adding that “God will hold all leaders to account, in justice and fairness.”
He suggested that the distribution of palliatives across the country should be monitored and augmented, where it fails to reach some of the people who remain in dire need.
“I honestly believe we will come out of the challenges stronger,” the Sultan of Sokoto concluded.
Meanwhile, speaking to journalists at the Presidential Villa, after the meeting, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Muhammed Idris, said the President had been insistent on seeing to a speedy resolution of the crisis in Niger, so as to prevent the sort of situation in Gabon.
He noted: “The President always says that there should be engagement and it is precisely for the reason of Gabon that he has asked that the issue of Niger be resolved. If we don’t nip it in the bud, as they say, Gabon and things like that could continue to happen.
“He’s a democrat, he believes that changes can only come through constitutional means. Therefore, he has asked the Ulamas to continue to engage and to tell everybody in the world to respect constitutional order.”
Also speaking to journalists, Secretary-General of the NSCIA, Professor Is-haq Oloyede, said the body lent its own idea to the President on how it thinks the various challenges being experienced across the country could be managed.
Oloyede noted: “The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, under the leadership of His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto and the President-General, is here to pay a courtesy call on Mr. President, to appreciate him for the nation and to also advise him as to what the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs feels should be done to make sure that he continues to rule with transparency, honesty, equity, to the benefit of all members of this great country of ours.”