As Heads of States of the Economic Community of West Africa States, ECOWAS, meet in Abuja today to take a position on the military junta in Niger Republic, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, 14th Emir of Kano, yesterday met with the coup leaders in Niamey, the country’s capital.
Sanusi’s meeting with the coup leaders came as Niger’s former rebel leader launched an anti-coup movement in the first sign of internal resistance in the country.
This is even as the French government yesterday rejected accusations by Niger’s new military rulers that it freed “terrorists” and violated the country’s air space.
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, under the leadership of South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark, also kicked against the adoption of military means to force the illegal government in Niger Republic out of power.
The Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA equally advised ECOWAS against sanctions on Niger, saying dialogue would work better.
Sanusi, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, met the military leadership after the junta aborted a meeting with representatives of the African Union, AU, ECOWAS, and a top US diplomat.
A delegation raised by ECOWAS, led by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, retd, could not broker peace with the military rulers as they declined a meeting.
But yesterday, footage of Sanusi, whose Tijjaniya sect has a large following in Niger, went into circulation.
It was gathered Sanusi went there to open doors for negotiation with the junta.
One of the sources said: “His Highness took the trip in his personal capacity but with the knowledge of President Bola Tinubu, following his concerns about the impasse and the likely consequences it is already having on Nigeria/Niger relations and the citizens of the two countries.”
Sanusi said he was in the Nigerien capital, Niamey, to hold mediation talks with the military leader, General Abdourahamane Tchiani.
“We have spoken to the head of state, the new strongman, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, and will deliver a ‘message’ to Nigeria’s President, Bola Tinubu,’’ said Sanusi, adding that he is not an emissary of the government.
His message comes on the eve of a key summit by ECOWAS on resolving the latest crisis in the Sahel, which will be chaired by Tinubu.
Sanusi is known to be a close friend of Tinubu, who is a former governor of his home state of Lagos.
“We came hoping that our arrival will pave the way for real discussions between the leaders of Niger and those of Nigeria,” Sanusi said.
Tinubu meets Sanusi
Shortly after returning from Niger Republic, Sanusi met last night with President Tinubu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He arrived the Villa at about 8:25pm immediately after a high delegation of the Nigeria Islamic Ulama met with the President.
Asked about his visit to Niger, the former Emir said, “I came to brief him on the details of my discussions with leaders of Niger.“
“We’ll continue to do our best to bring the two parties together to improve understanding. This is not the time public diplomacy is left to governments alone. All Nigerians, all Nigeriens need to be involved to find a solution that works for Africa, a solution that works for Niger, that works for Nigeria, and a solution that works for humanity.
Asked to respond to the reports that he took the initiative by himself and not government’s delegation, he said, “No, I was not sent by the government. Government officials were aware I was going, but it was my personal initiative, using my personal contacts to get there and I will continue to do my best. It is my duty as a leader to do that.”
He said that he was well received by the military juntas in Niger.