By Tislo Pam
Over the course of the last three days, news of impending attacks by the Nigerian military on Niger have filled the airwaves. The coup which happened on the 27th of July, 2023, has had the world speaking especially considering the players who are involved. Think pieces and articles have been written opinions have been given on the situation. However, the real cause of the issue must be discussed for what they really are.
The interference from the French who have held on to them by the apron strings since the end of colonialism. Nigeriens consider the interference of France as imposing and exploitative as their fortunes have not improved despite their proximity to the French.
In videos showing the celebrations of citizens in the streets of Niger, they expressed similar sentiments on the presence of France has been detrimental to them, chanting phrases that indicate the dislike for France.
The issue has been discussed and has hit the crescendo of concern with the Nigerian public which are largely concerned about a lot of things should this happen: the impending embarrassment that awaits the Nigerian army and its people in general as details show they have the support of the Russians; the doggedness of the new my sworn in President Bola Tinubu whose legitimacy is being challenged at the court with other contestants and the potential influx of unwanted migrants into the country particularly the Middle Belt. This concern is one that worries many from the region because in time past, numbers have been a major problem in determining power rotation and politics.
A potential migrants influx into the region does two things: heightens the conflicts that have bedevilled the region and give the upper hand to settlers of which the current settlers of Fulani descent share affinity with. In relation to the ousting of Bazoum, the Nigerian president who was deposed by the Nigerian military, the core north has shown its immense displeasure at the treatment of the man.
For a lot of core northerners in Northern Nigeria, sympathy is at an all time high for Nigeriens with whom they share ancestral affinity with. With an already porous border in the north, movement of migrants will occur unchallenged. Porous borders can mean access to unscrupulous migrants who can cause further harm, especially since Nigeria has fought against insurgency against Boko Haram and Fulani herders. With a very tumultuous history of fighting insurgents and a clear struggle to keep them at bay, this could result to full scale conflict of heightened proportions.
Migrants especially in a place like Nigeria cannot be kept out and as such will migrate down south which would require them going through the Middle Belt. What we will be dealing with essentially will be refuelled agitations of settlers in the Middle Belt as migrants with who they deem brothers, to secure political positions and challenge the place of natives.
This sympathy could become an Achilles Heel for natives who have hundred thousands of natives who have been displaced and settled elsewhere. Villages which have been razed down and lay empty, will then be reoccupied by these foreigners and a slow and gradual attempt at rewriting the history of the Middle Belt. This is a fight for existence and survival.
The Middle Belt should not ignore the impending dangers of the coup that intends to destroy what we have as a people, a region and most of all, an identity.