By Ismail Abdulaziz
Abuja, Aug. 24, 2023
President Bola Tinubu has directed the delegation of Muslim Ulamas (Muslim scholars) mediating in the Niger Republic crisis to return to the junta in order to have a tentative commitment.
After a closed-door meeting with the president, Ustaz Abdullahi Bala-Lau, leader of the delegation, said that Tinubu was desirous of avoiding the use of force in resolving the crisis and restoring constitutional order to Niger.
He said that Tinubu accepted their suggestions to avoid the use of force in settling disputes of any kind, especially concerning neighbours and long time allies.
“’The president was receptive of our suggestions about avoiding the use of force by all means. Just as we have spoken to the leaders in Niger and they accepted to avoid violence, the president also accepted it.
‘’That is why he is sending us back to Niger to continue with the dialogue about restoring constitutional order to the country. He also directed us to remind the military leaders that there is a pending ECOWAS decision about the takeover,’’ Bala-Lau said.
He said that the intervention of the Ulamas had been positive, adding that it allowed the junta to accept the ECOWAS delegation of the retired Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and Sultan Abubakar Sa’ad III.
Bala-Lau said that Ulamas would be heading back to Niger in order to continue the dialogue, adding that they also understand that war must be the last option put on the table.
Also speaking, Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Prints, said that the meeting by the president with the Ulamas was a sign of the ECOWAS openness to dialogue.
‘’As you know, the ECOWAS leaders were open to all options but still they are continuing with dialogue aggressively. This is a sign that the military action will be the last option. The Ulamas involvement is a way forward.
‘’Definitely, when you are engaged in a dialogue it’s usually a back and forth issue. All sides must be given opportunity to express themselves fully.
“Dialogue and diplomatic trading is not a one off thing and it needs to be explored to the fullest. That is what the president is trying to do in this case,’’ Abdulaziz said.
At the 2nd Extraordinary Summit on the socio-political situation in the West African country on Aug. 10 in Abuja, Tinubu reiterated the ECOWAS intention to defend democracy and protect the people of Niger.
‘’We have reaffirmed our commitment to the people of Niger and to the progress of our entire ECOWAS Community.
“We will continue with that. From the communiqué of this extraordinary summit, no option is taken off the table, including the use of force as the last resort. If we don’t do it, no one else will do it for us.
“We remain steadfast in supporting Niger in the journey toward peace and democratic stability.
“The road ahead will undoubtedly have challenges, but I firmly believe that with our collective resolve, we can navigate these obstacles and chart a path toward peace and prosperity for Nigeriens and citizens of ECOWAS,” Tinubu said.