THEWILL EDITORIAL: ECOWAS And The Dilemma Of The ‘Big Brother’

BEVERLY HILLS, October 27, (THEWILL) – Nigeria is seen as the ‘Big Brother’ not only in West Africa but the entire African region. This is not only as a result of the population of the largest black nation on earth but also in recognition of the huge potential in a country that is unarguably Africa’s largest economy.

With a population of over 200 million people, Nigeria is also the largest market not only in West Africa but the continent as a whole. Little wonder then, that the regional African Continental Free Trade Zone (AFCTA) couldn’t take off effectively until Nigeria signed on to the deal after much persuasion and initial refusal.

Such is the power Nigeria wields in the sub-regional and regional blocs that its influence in almost every sphere of life is really great in the socio-political and economic spheres in the continent.

Aside all these, multilateral organisations and the international community do not joke with Nigeria when it comes to their African affairs and diplomacy. From the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN), Nigeria is always a force to reckon with.

On several occasions, Nigeria has led sub-regional, regional and multinational peace missions, delegations as well as mediating teams not only in Africa but in other parts of the world with excellent outcomes.

The most recent mediation team led by Nigeria was the ECOWAS mediation team led by former President Goodluck Jonathan in Mali. The mission to Mali, however, failed woefully because of the empty arrogance of the ECOWAS leaders, including Nigeria.

While trying to protect their colleague who had, apparently, been rejected by his people for stubbornly refusing to hearken to the call for change, the ECOWAS leaders were busy issuing empty threats and giving conditions that proved to be dead on arrival, forgetting that real power lies with the people.

While THEWILL believes that the Malian experience is enough warning, it is unfortunate that ECOWAS leaders seem not to be learning any lesson from it. Only a few weeks ago, opposition leaders in Cote d’Ivoire came to Nigeria, seeking the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari in the crisis in the Francophone country ahead of general elections in that country.

Unfortunately, the physician, most countries in the sub-region and the region as a whole are looking at for healing, has not been able to heal itself as the present circumstances have proven. Sadly too, the ECOWAS and other African leaders appear to be so intimidated that they have found it difficult to even look the ‘Big Brother’ in the face by telling President Buhari the hard and bitter truth.

ECOWAS chairman and President of Ghana, Nana Akuffo-Ado, said last week that he had spoken with President Buhari about the ongoing crisis in Nigeria and Buhari had assured him of his commitment to dialogue.

THEWILL commends him for this but we expect more than this as Akuffo-Ado knows the real implications of an implosion in Nigeria, not only on his country but on the entire West Africa sub-region.

THEWILL is of the opinion that a violent crisis rocking the proverbial ‘Big Brother’ and the ‘Giant of Africa’ for two straight weeks, without the president saying a word, required more than just a phone call. ECOWAS should have constituted a special delegation to interface with the Nigerian leader. This could have been done virtually given the tense situation on ground in Nigeria.

A statement from the ECOWAS Communication Directorate, Thursday, was, however, consolatory, even if came a bit late.

THEWILL, nonetheless, finds it disappointing that when President Buhari eventually decided to speak to Nigerians, after much persuasion and expression of great worries from the international community, especially following the Lekki shootings, his speech was not only vague but also left very much to be desired as it did not in any way meet the expectations of majority of Nigerians.

Reeling out old stories of his administration’s achievements and how it has performed more than any other administration in the country, the president appeared so reluctant, with the speech lacking any form of emotional empathy, as he cleverly avoided talking about the soldiers who stormed a peaceful protest at the Lekki toll plaza and started shooting sporadically.

From all indications, we are not convinced that the president really has a full grasp of the fact that the #EndSARS tagline is just a metaphor for an end to everything that is bad in government of which he is the head as he appeared to have been totally disconnected from the people.

As if that was not enough, President Buhari, also, openly showed that he is averse to good counsel from leaders in the neighbouring ECOWAS and the international community, asking them to always seek information before making “hasty pronouncements” on the development.

THEWILL is, however, glad that former Nigerian heads of state and presidents have risen to the occasion by interfacing directly, though virtually, with the apparently tired old General who appears to have been totally disconnected from the reality on ground. We have stated on many occasions that the leadership style of about 40 years ago is no more effective for dealing with the challenges of present-day Nigeria.

The nonchalance and inability to act quickly in an ever-changing society like ours, as well as the glaring leadership failure, has cost the nation so much in terms of lives lost and properties destroyed in just a few days. We nonetheless believe that a new Nigeria will surely emerge from the ruins as we hope the dust will settle soon for Nigerians to pick up their lives once again.