determined team

Niger coup: Meet the team advising Tinubu on how to thwart Tiani

By Mathieu Olivier

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Posted on August 8, 2023 14:31

ECOWAS, under Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, remains resolute in preventing the legitimisation of yet another coup d’état.

The measures proposed, including immediate financial sanctions, border closures, and the looming spectre of a military intervention to dislodge the coup organisers and secure the release of the ousted head of state, had a seismic impact.

These announcements have reverberated like a bombshell. General Tiani swiftly rallied support from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, both cautioning that any West African intervention in Niger would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Bamako and Ouagadougou.

Tinubu, bolstered by an alliance, including a majority of regional heads of state, is up against the formidable coalition of coup plotters. A high-stakes standoff is underway.

The overarching question persists: Will the Nigerian president see this through? Is he prepared to launch a war, regardless of its nature, in the pursuit of restoring a democratically elected president? Can he redress the perceived affront suffered by the West African bloc during the tumultuous coups in Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso?

In any case, Tinubu is preparing his arsenal before Thursday’s meeting, guided by a coterie of seasoned military minds and diplomats.

Although Tinubu is still contemplating a potential military intervention by the West African bloc in Niger, his focus remains steadfast on brokering a peaceful resolution.

On 3 August, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto, and Abdulsalami Abubakar, former president of Nigeria, touched down in Niamey with the intent to engage the key players in the coup. They include Mohamed Bazoum, General Tiani, and even former President Mahamadou Issoufou.

Their endeavour, however, took an unexpected turn as they promptly reversed their course, failing to engage with Tiani.

Yet, these envoys are not without their diplomatic acumen. As a general, Abdulsalami Abubakar can navigate dialogue with the coup leaders, who tend to engage more readily with military men.

For his part, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III wields unparalleled religious authority in the border region shared between Niger and Nigeria, which may have sway with General Tiani, who is described as “deeply religious”.

Tinubu skillfully capitalises on this dynamic, leveraging it as a potential lever to get the mutineers of Niamey to back down.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, newly appointed as the national security adviser at the end of June, is the first civilian to occupy this coveted position for nearly a quarter-century.

A seasoned figure at 62, Ribadu has spent his entire career in the police, where his national acclaim sprung from resolute actions against corruption and financial malfeasance.

Notably, his leadership between 2003 and 2007 presided over the commission charged with combating economic and financial crimes. This profile was further enhanced when he vied for the presidency in 2011, aligning with the Action Congress of Nigeria.

Embarking on a political odyssey, Ribadu switched from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress, Tinubu’s political party. During the last presidential campaign, the two men became confidants.

Ribadu’s ascension to the position of national security adviser underscores the incumbent head of state’s drive to forge synergies among disparate security agencies within the nation, often marked by profound differences.

Ribadu’s purview extends not only over domestic security matters, but also encompasses potential military operations.


Christopher Gwabin Musa, 55, has assumed a front-and-centre role. In June, he succeeded Lucky Eluonye Onyenuchea Irabor as the chief of defence staff.

Tinubu’s vote of confidence echoes loudly, as Musa, appointed by the latter, diligently prepares in tandem with counterparts from the West African bloc for a potential military intervention in Niger.

A native of Sokoto State, Musa’s earlier responsibilities entailed combating the jihadist threat in Northern Nigeria. This regional acumen is invaluable, particularly considering his familiarity with the borderlands adjoining Niger.

Previously at the helm of Nigeria’s Army Infantry Corps, Musa was a member of the multinational force against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin.

He is now assisted by pivotal figures: General Taoreed Lagbaja (Army), Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla (Navy), and General Hassan Abubakar (Air Force).

The latter’s role assumes a critical juncture should the West African bloc choose to intervene, as Nigeria’s aerial capabilities could decisively influence the outcome.

At the helm of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Emmanuel Undiandeye emerges as a potent asset within Tinubu’s arsenal.

Proficient both within national borders and beyond, the DIA orchestrates seamless military collaboration with external stakeholders, spanning from allies like the United States and France to neighbours, such as Niger and Benin.

Undiandeye’s leadership background includes commandant of the Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre, and collaborative work with the United Nations. Combined with a wealth of international experience, he is primed to navigate delicate dynamics.

As director of the National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, spearheads intelligence and counterespionage operations on foreign soil. With a tenure extending through Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency, his diplomatic experience as director of political affairs for the United Nations Office for West Africa in Dakar attests to his wide range of regional intricacies.

Yusuf Magaji Bichi, director of the State Security Service, assumes a pivotal role in the president’s circle. Though primarily entrusted with domestic intelligence, his significance amplifies in the context of an external military endeavour.

Bichi’s lifelong immersion in intelligence spans service in the border states of Jigawa and Sokoto, both adjacent to Niger. Appointed by Buhari in 2018, he was confirmed in his post by Tinubu.

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