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President Muhammad Buhari comes up often as a man whose legend looms larger than it actually is; one often judged for his days as a military dictator and for his infamous role in the Abacha junta inaccurately positioned in the context of the modern demands of a democracy. The momentum the 2015 elections gained altered this misjudgment a little but general skepticism of the citizenry as regards the reformation of the ex-General seems to be climbing once again. It has since then been a case of The more things change the more they remain the same.


It was on the heels of these mixed reactions and evaluation that President Buhari was elected on July 31st as the chair of the ECOWAS Heads of Government. It was hinted by sources that the July 31st election of President Buhari as the ECOWAS chair was more of a crafty imposition than he wished for. The sycophancy being displayed by African presidents consequent upon such dodgy installations is now getting to an alarming state. It is no accident that serving Nigerian presidents get elected to either head the ECOWAS or the AU. However, there are dire and direct implications of occupying such an exalted stool. Such roles are much divorced from the fancy of appearing as peacemaker whenever the threat of a coup or insurgence rears its ugly head. It is even more devoid of just mere beautiful speeches on how a common currency ‘Eco’ would benefit the region. Trade is a more strategically important constituent of whatever these leaders ‘selected’ Buhari for. Regional unions are well known for their thirst of cropping good trade deals to their side. But in the wake of the recent bluff of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) by the Buhari administration, should the West African region be very expectant of a smaller but more beneficial trade pact for Nigeria and the remainder of the West African bloc? It would be a show of shame if at the end of his term as ECOWAS chief he has nothing cogent to show for the enhancement of regional security, economics, cohesion and liberation of the citizens of the Anglophone and Francophone member countries, as his acceptance speech implied.

Too Optimistic?

As there seems to be no regard for the rule of law both locally and abroad by the president and his team, one cannot be too optimistic about an exponential growth of the region. A manageable economic prosperity could be expected with the slow paced pattern of leadership Buhari evidently follows. The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice on October 4th 2016 declared the indefinite incarceration of former Nigerian National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki as illegal. One can only expect that a president, who is a champion of anything anti-impunity, would normally respond to such judgment even if not in obeisance of local court pronouncements but at least in deference to the institutions of the region. There were hints that the last minute move by West African leaders to discard the candidates on the ballot was geared towards arm-twisting President Buhari into speeding up the EU-ECOWAS pact which is somewhat at odds with the ACFTA. It is not too early to therefore warn ECOWAS heads of states not to be too relaxed as they also could be disappointed in the last minute as all most of them want is the flashy trade deal Buhari would help them forge with the European Union. Suspicion is rife that such incompetence and impunity as displayed in the extant disregard for the rule of law as well as non-pragmatism in the instance of ACFTA saga will be transmitted to the West African bloc.


While some have ascribed the urgency with which President Buhari jets out to dabble into solving security problems arising in some of these troubled African nations as unpatriotic, others deem Buhari’s love of the foreign as Pan-Africanist and also a valiant effort aimed at restoring peace to these troubled parts of West Africa. He is even known to controversially prefer an outspoken bluntness when having a rapport with the international press as against communicating with Nigerians. So perhaps, this international assignment, which doesn’t necessarily demand President Buhari globe-trotting at the slightest opportunity, came upon the right candidate at the right time. We can thus only keep hoping that the spirit to discern what is best for the citizens of the 15-member West African bloc be imprinted on the heart of our leaders.

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This article was first published on 17th August 2018


Macaddy is mostly a farmer in the day who also dabbles into technology at night, in search of other cutting edge intersections. He's on Twitter @i_fix_you

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