Amid the diplomatic row, Daily Trust Saturday reports that former Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar and Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Saad Abubakar, were denied entry into Niamey on arrival on Thursday after President Tinubu mandated them to have a discussion with the Nigerien coup plotters.
Diplomatic sources said they were restricted to the airport only, where they had a discussion with low-ranking members of the military junta.
Those familiar with the matter described the development as “embarrassing and an affront” to Nigeria, considering the personalities dispatched by President Tinubu.
Both Abdulsalami and the Sultan are highly regarded at home and abroad. While the former is seen as the architect of Nigeria’s new found democracy when he handed over power to former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, the latter is unarguably the leader of the Muslims in Nigeria and highly regarded in Niger, which also has Muslims as the majority.
It was learnt that there was no serious commitment from the coup plotters during the meeting.
One of our diplomatic source said, “The ECOWAS delegation of Abdulsalami Abubakar and the Sultan of Sokoto were not allowed to leave the airport in Niamey when they arrived there yesterday (Thursday). Up to about 11pm they were limited to the airport. The picture in the social media was at the airport where they met in a small room with some representatives of the coup leaders.”
Another source said the emissaries had to return to Nigeria overnight without any tangible commitment as the coup plotters few hours later cut diplomatic ties with Nigeria and others.
“If it is true that Tinubu/ECOWAS special delegation to Niger was restricted to the airport and was received by low-rank officers, that amounts to a well aimed, deliberate and monumental humiliation of Nigeria,” said Dr Kari of the University of Abuja.
“It also means that the mission itself may well have been a diplomatic fiasco. It seems the Niger putschists seized the moment to send a message: that they could not be intimidated; that they would not let go the reins of power easily; and that they are ready for a showdown,” he said.