BY FEMI FANI-KAYODE
A dear and respected friend of mine who was once our Ambassador to a European country, who has relatives and strong links in and with Niger Republic and who is well versed in security and intelligence matters, told me that up to 40 babies are dying each day in Niger as a consequence of our cutting off electricity supplies to them.
According to him, these babies die in hospitals and incubators across the country as a consequence of the fact that there is no electricity supply and there is no fuel to power their generators.
This was confirmed by one Dr. Abdoul Djibou, a Nigerien medical practitioner, in an interview with Newsonlineng.com.
They wrote, “According to a source in Niger Republic, Dr. Abdoul Djibou, there have been reports from Dosso Regional Hospital and Cominak Hospital about the recent spike in infant mortality.
“According to him, over 40 babies die daily in Niger since the Nigerian government cut off electricity supply to Niger and also closed its borders.
“It has affected hospitals badly as they’re unable to power their incubators and other life supporting equipment to assist these babies.
“He also mentioned that the closed borders have made it nearly impossible for hospitals to access petroleum products especially diesel and petrol to power their plants and generators.
“This is aside from the untold hardships that the general populace is grasping with in Niger.
“He has made a passionate appeal for the Nigerian government to reconsider its decision even though backed by the ECOWAS.
“He stressed the need for the Nigerian government to remember that the people of Niger are more like an extension of northern Nigeria.
“In his opinion, he believed strongly that the ongoing negotiations with the junta leaders will yield results and stressed the need for the negotiations to be intensified instead of beating the drums of war and upholding the current stiff sanctions that have now crippled the economy and the health sector especially.”
I cannot possibly confirm the veracity or accuracy of these assertions and reports but if they are anywhere near the truth it is enough to prick anyone’s conscience.
Furthermore I doubt that our President, being a humane, rational and reasonable leader, would have allowed this to happen if he was aware of the harsh and cruel consequences of the “cut off all electricity to Niger” policy and that is precisely why it is important to bring it to his attention in this article.
Quite apart from that, according to UNICEF, “more than two million children have been affected by the crisis and are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance” and millions of dollars’ worth of vaccines for polio and other dangerous diseases cannot be safely preserved or stored due to power outages.
On its own part Africanews.com reports: “The U.N. is spending over 20 times more money than usual on fuel for generators to keep millions of vaccines in Niger from spoiling due to incessant power cuts.
“The outages are the result of severe economic and travel sanctions imposed by regional countries after mutinous soldiers toppled the country’s President last month. Country Representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund in Niger, Stefano Savi, said it has spent $200,000 powering generators to keep vaccines, including for polio and rotavirus, across the country cold during the first three weeks of August.
“That’s up from approximately $10,000 a month previously and might soon run out of money,” he said. Niger relies on neighboring Nigeria for up to 90% of its power, but after soldiers ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum in July, Nigeria cut off part of its electricity supply as part of sanctions imposed by the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS.
“The sanctions are taking a toll on the population with the price of goods rising, residents unable to easily access cash, and people living in the dark. Now there are mounting concerns it will gravely impact the health system, particularly the ability to keep some 28 million vaccine doses in the country cold.
“Although there were power cuts before the sanctions, they usually lasted a few hours, but now the cuts are much longer – sometimes up to 18 hours a day. UNICEF only has enough money until the end of August and is appealing to donors for emergency funds, he said.”
How can we as a nation inflict such damage and unleash such wickedness and misfortune on innocent people who live just across the border from us and who are essentially our people too?
This is unacceptable and especially so given the fact that we are not at war with Niger and the overwhelming majority of our people regard them as our brothers.
This begs the question: Is this the way to treat our African neighbours and brothers even whilst we lay claim to seeking and preferring a diplomatic solution to the crisis? Methinks not!
If our claim and intention is to better the life of these people by insisting that they must have a democratically-elected government and by resisting a military one, is our purpose truly served by killing the children of the very same people that we claim we want to help?
Again does this murky and murderous course serve our national and security interests and does it enhance better relations with other African countries? Does imposing sanctions and policies like cutting off electrical supplies and that, albeit inadvertently, lead directly to the death of innocent babies and defenseless children help our cause, bring glory to our name or give credence or credibility to our so-called fight and quest for democracy? I doubt it very much.
We must never forget that there is a distinction between the government of a nation and its people
I call on our leader and President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is currently the Chairman of ECOWAS, to review and reverse this policy and allow us to continue to supply electricity to Niger.
This is all the more so given the fact that cutting off electricity to that nation is bringing death, suffering and hardship more to the women and children than to their government officials and members of the newly-installed military junta.
Surely Niger’s suspension from both ECOWAS and the African Union coupled with the imposition of a series of strong economic sanctions including the closing of borders and the imposition of a no fly zone, are enough punishment.
We must never forget that there is a distinction between the government of a nation and its people.
Punishing the people for the sins of their leaders and government is not only unjust and unkind but also counter-productive.
Outside of that, it is interesting to note that our French allies and partners, who are amongst those western powers that want us to bring the Nigeriens to their knees and even attack them, recently described Russia’s targeting of power grids in Ukraine and denying the Ukrainians gas to power their electricity supply as a “war crime” and “crime against humanity” yet they are encouraging Nigeria to do the same to Niger.
When will the application of these double standards by our French friends stop? Just in case anyone is in any doubt about the high handedness and excesses of the French in Africa, permit me to conclude with the strong words and powerful admonition served to French President Emmanuel Macron by Giorgia Meloni, the courageous, passionate and stunningly beautiful Italian Prime Minister.
In a blistering and thunderous speech, she exclaimed the following words with orgasmic passion,
“Macron, your France undermined and destroyed the good relationship we had with Gaddafi, destroyed Libya, unleashed a wave of refugees and immigrants into Europe and appropriated the resources of African countries and plundered their wealth.
“Children and the underage work in feudal and inhuman conditions in Niger just for you to take a big percentage of their uranium that powers your electricity and nuclear reactors.
“Niger has no light and is dirt poor all because of your policies”. What a lady! She has said it all!
Now just in case we doubt her, let us consider the words of a towering figure like the former French President Jaques Chirac who said the following at the 21st France/Africa Summit in Yaounde, Cameroons in 2001 where 30 Heads of States were gathered.
He said, “While speaking of Africa, we must check our memory. We started draining the continent four and a half centuries ago with the slave trade. Next, we discovered their raw materials and seized them. Having deprived Africans of their wealth, we sent in our elites who destroyed their culture.
“Now, we are depriving them of their brains thanks to scholarships which are definitely another form of exploitation because, in the end, the most intelligent students do not go back to their countries. In the end, noticing that Africa is not in a good state and as bonuses for the wealth we made on its back, we are giving lectures” (Canard Enchainé, January 24, 2001).
If there were ever a public admission and confession of neo-colonial and imperialist malfeasance and malevolence by a revered and highly respected French leader and colossal figure, this is it. He was honest, candid, and forthright about his nation’s egregious and pernicious atrocities and outrageous policies in Africa and we commend him for that.
Yet, this begs the question: Are these the French on whose behalf ECOWAS is considering fighting a war and invading a brother African nation?
The west may have many African leaders in their pockets and eating out of their hands but the hearts, minds and souls of the overwhelming majority of the African people are with Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation who are now perceived, rightly or wrongly, as the champions of the oppressed and the architects of a new and just world order.
Wind of change
There is a wind of change blowing in Africa and indeed the world today and every vestige of neo-colonialism, imperialism, pseudo-fascism, economic bondage and fiscal subjugation shall be blown away with and by it. We have seen this happen with the meteoric and laudable rise in power, glory and influence of the formidable BRICS block of nation’s which include China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa and the admission of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Argentina, Iran and Ethiopia into that elite club of rising economic powers and giants just a few days ago.
They seek to set themselves free and shatter the shackles of economic dominance and fiscal tyranny of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the European Union and all the other Western powers and their allies.
Again we have seen this happen in Mali, Guinea, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Sudan where the quest for freedom from the bondage of former colonial masters like the French and corrupt puppet African leaders and governments led to military coups.
Regardless of the legitimate concerns of ECOWAS, I expect the same to happen in Togo, Ivory Coast, Cameroons, and possibly one or two other Franco-phone countries in the not-too-distant future simply because each is bedeviled with sit-tight, vicious, undemocratic, unelected rulers and tyrants, because the resentment against the French in those countries is palpable and overwhelming and because the desire for Russian support and friendship is astounding.
Not in danger
Nations like Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Senegal, and Liberia may thankfully not be in danger of military intervention because they have a measure of legitimacy and because they came to power through an ostensibly credible democratic process but their governments and leaders MUST be very wary of the level of suspicion, hatred, disdain and contempt that ordinary people have for the western neo-colonialists and imperialists that appear to bring so much power and influence to bear over their nations’ affairs and for those that are seen as weak, corrupt puppet-leaders who are prepared to put western interests before that of their own country.
These leaders and governments cannot and must not make the mistake of being seen or regarded as the Chief Poodle, Chief Enforcer, Chief Slave, Chief Slave-Driver, or the groveling and sniveling “yes bwana”, “yes massa” Chief House nagger of the western powers in the West African sub-region.
ECOWAS MUST be perceived as a body that brings Africans together and settles their differences in a diplomatic and civilized manner and not a body that can be used by the French, Americans, British, EU or anyone else to exploit us, to further and protect western interests and to fight proxy wars on their behalf. Frankly, the only ones that I can vouch for in this respect are Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo who I do not believe would ever consciously and willingly sell their people down the river.
Whatever the case, we must not allow any country in the West African sub-region to be turned into a Zaire under Mobutu Sese Seko or to a Central African Republic under Jeane Bedie Bokassa. That is the French formula and it must never take root here. May God guide our leaders!
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, the Sadaukin Shinkafi, is a former Minister of Aviation and former Minister of Culture and Tourism