Salisu Usman recalled his childhood memories playing with other kids of his age at his neighborhood on the streets of Maradi. He had his primary and secondary education in Niger Republic. The story of his birth and socialization hangs somewhere in the recesses of Niger ecosystem.
Usman, whose grandparents migrated to the West African country almost a century ago, has an extended family consisting of siblings, cousins, grandparents in the country he now calls his own.
It was much later in life, after he graduated from secondary school, Usman learnt that his family origins were in Nigeria. Now 32-year-old Salisu has taken a wife from his home state in Jigawa and moved to Niger Republic where he ventures into tailoring and makes a fortune.
“We have been paralyzed by the news of the planned war. If it happens, God forbid, it will split our family ties. We see Niger and Nigeria as an entity. The authorities have a wrong perspective of our sensibility and world view,” Salisu Usman said.
Salisu Usman is not alone in this traumatic journey since a military junta detained Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum on Wednesday, July 26 and toppled the democratically elected government in the country.
Thousands of Nigeriens troop into Nigeria yearly in search of greener pastures. Also many Nigerians have found a haven in Niger.
26-year-old Abdulkadir Umar is a Nigerien born in Nigeria. He said his father migrated to Nigeria some 57 years ago, and had since formed a large family in Kano State.
“There is a terrifying uneasiness in the family following the news of the impending war ECOWAS led by President (Bola) Tinubu is planning to wage against Niger. My father is right now in Niger where he does his business and all the family is in Nigeria. If the war occurs, it may affect our family members, especially those in Niger,” he said.
There has been a growing tension in the country since General Abdourahmane Tchiani declared himself the head of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland, prompting the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to order the chief of the defense staff committee to immediately activate its standby force after the expiration of a seven-day ultimatum for the restoration of democratic rule.
The 15-member ECOWAS had imposed sanctions on Niger republic including the closure of land and air borders, anda seven-day ultimatum for the coup leaders to reinstate Bazoum or face the potential use of force.
War will sow discord
A security analyst, Auwal Bala Durumin-Iya said declaring war on Niger Republic will sow discord among the two countries.
Auwal Bala Durumin-Iya said, “Military action against Niger junta will definitely open rooms for animosity especially among the border states in Northern Nigeria.
“In the country today, there are pro-junta and those who are vehemently against it; but the action will affect the two divisions of the population.
“There is long held inter-marriage, business relations and interaction between communities in Niger and especially northern states.
“Economically, businesses will collapse because the connection has been cut. This in return may lead to a humanitarian crisis, as Nigeriens will migrate to northern states if the war intensifies
“The region may become lawless leading to military excesses, raping of women, exhortations or indiscriminate killings.”
The security expert noted that Nigerian authorities were concerned the coup might spread to the country
He said, “Successes recorded by army in Mali, Sudan Guinea and now Niger may entice Nigerian army to adopt junta, as enormous pressure will be mounted on them by foreign powers to topple the democratically elected government.”
Although the Nigerian military admitted it was being instigated to stage a coup, it however, described the call as “unpatriotic” and “wicked.”
Culture and languages bind Niger, Nigeria
A lecturer at the Department of History, Bayero University, Dr Kabiru Haruna Isah, said historically, there has been a good and symbiotic social, economic, cultural and political relationship between Nigeria and Niger Republic.
He said, “Majority of the inhabitants of northern Nigeria are Hausa and more than 50 percent of the Nigerien population is equally Hausa. The Kanuri, one of the major ethnic groups in northern Nigeria, have a sizeable population in Niger too. During the time of trans-Saharan trade, especially from the 15th century onwards, the people in Hausaland exchanged goods and services with the people of Niger.”
He added that the relationship had been maintained and nurtured by both sides due to the abundant benefits it brought.
Many northerners traced their roots to Niger
Dr Kabiru Haruna Isah stated that many people in northern Nigeria traced their origins to Niger Republic
He added, “It is a historical fact that many people in northern Nigeria traced their roots to various towns in Niger. According to Mahadi Adamu and Abdullahi Smith, the Gobirawa, who established one of the most powerful kingdoms in Hausaland, were originally from Azben.
“In his seminal paper on the formation of states in Hausaland, Smith posits thus; ‘Gobirawa…are accepted as having been the original inhabitants of Azben, from which they were driven in historical times by the invading Tuareg, as an ancient group attempting to protect itself from Berber domination and certainly not an ethnic group created by the Berber impact.’
“This shows that peoples of Niger and Nigeria are genetically, biologically and culturally linked therefore they will never be separated.
“In the 18th and 19th centuries, many prominent people from Hausaland traveled to Agadez purposely to study under the erudite Islamic scholars. One of these itinerant students was Shaykh Usman Danfodio, the leader of the 19th century Islamic reform in Hausaland, who studied under Shaykh Jibrin. The famous Sokoto Caliphate established by the Danfodios spread its influence and dominion to substantial parts of the present day Niger Republic.”