On Monday 19th of April. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on his first day of work after just returning from a medical trip, which was largely opposed by many of his citizens at home and the United Kingdom, created enough time to host the new President of Niger Republic, Mohamed Bazoum, in the State House Abuja.
There is nothing wrong with an African President hosting a brother and this was emphatically stated as the roll call of VIP’s who joined Buhari to welcome the Nigerien President was enough to rive home a message.
Governors Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi); Babagana Zulum (Borno); Abdulahi Ganduje (Kano); Mai Mala Buni (Yobe); Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto); and Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) did not miss the welcome party. Just as the Minister of Defense, Major-General Bashir Salihi Magashi (Rtd); Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva; the National Security Adviser NSA Major-General Babagana Monguno (Rtd); Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, were with the President to receive the guest.
It is not unusual for presidents world over, to throw such gestures but what has become worrisome is Buhari’s constant hugging of Niger Republic.
Although it came with the explanation that: “This is a major step forward. Niger Republic has some excess products which needs to be evacuated. Nigeria has the market for these products. Therefore, this is going to be a win-win relation for both countries.”; there were still many questions raised.
Industry experts raised concern over what they described as strategic interest between the president and his outgoing Niger counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou, going by some key infrastructure project being linked from Nigeria to Niger while the oil trade agreement will further hinder Nigeria’s drive to rehabilitate its refineries.
Buhari Names Abuja Expressway After President of Niger Republic
As if there were no more heroes deserving yet left without such honours in Nigeria, President Buhari auspiciously named a road in the federal capital territory (FCT) after new President Issoufou Mahamadou of Niger Republic.
At a ceremony in Abuja on 16 March, Mohammed Bello, FCT minister, said the expressway was named after the Nigerien president for his “significant role in the promotion of peace in Africa”.
In a tweet, Mahamadou said the gesture shows that his relationship with Buhari and that of both countries is “excellent”.
“My brother and friend, @MBuhari, did me the honor to call an Abuja expressway ‘Mahamadou Issoufou expressway’,” he tweeted.
This came as a shock to many Nigerians who felt the country had a lot of citizens deserving of the honour instead of the new Nigerien President.
Buhari Gets Niger Republic’s Highest National Honour
One good turn they say deservers another; and that turned out to be the case when after the naming of an Abuja express way after him, the Nigerien president reciprocated by honouring President Buhari with Niger Republic’s highest national award, Grand Croix Des Ordre National Du Niger.
As expected, this move immediately caused a stir with many Nigerians on social media wondering if the ties between both President goes deeper than being just diplomatic.
Construction Of Rail Line To Niger Republic
Till date, the Buhari led Federal government of Nigeria is still finding it difficult to make many Nigerians understand the economic benefits of construction a rail line from Kano-Katsina-Jibia to Maradi in Niger Republic.
The project which will cost the FG a total of about $2 Billion has been criticised by many experts and stakeholders considering that fact that many states and commercial cities in Nigeria are not linked with rail lines.
The Trade Union Congress in a statement by its President, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, and the Secretary-General, Comrade Musa-Lawal Ozigi, in Abuja, described the construction of a rail line to Niger Republic was an insult to Nigerians and a waste of scarce resources.
But Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, has on several occasions appealed to Nigerians to stop politicising the project as it would create more employment opportunities and enhance imports and exports that would open up Nigeria through neighbouring countries.
Amaechi explained that poor road network, security challenges and harassment from various government security and paramilitary agencies which discourages individuals and businesses from other West African countries from exporting through Nigeria, are some of the reasons why the government is embarking on that railway project.
These explanations has not in any way convinced Nigerians that the project was not for political gains as the ranting on social media and other avenues have not stopped.
Nigeria To Import Petroleum Products From Niger
One news that did not immediately sit well with Nigerians is the announcement by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources via its Twitter handle in November, that the FG had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Niger Republic on the transportation and storage of petroleum products.
Buhari From Niger Republic?
On July 1, 2020, Buhari appointed Mr Ali Mohammed Magashi as an ambassadorial candidate for consideration by the Senate. It was later alleged that this Magashi is actually a citizen of Niger Republic, and that his own brother, from the same mother and father, Ahamadou Harouna, is an elected Parliamentarian in Niger Republic’s Parliament.
President Buhari claims to be from Daura, in Katsina state. Daura is a town very close to the border with Niger Republic and it is an open secret that many people from Daura have dual citizenship and residency with Niger Republic.
And with that realization, it is obvious that Buhari’s love affair with Niger Republic may not be ending anytime soon.
By Seun Awosika
Journalist, Media Consultant and Strategist