We have heard of Anglophone West Africa and in the same region, we know of Francophone and Lusophone countries. You have head of “Russiophone” West African Countries before? Its birth might be just around the corner.
The Anglophone (English Speaking) countries are former West African British colonies namely Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia then Liberia with its American connection. The Portuguese also colonised Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau so they are called Lusophone countries.
The Francophone countries were those colonised and assimilated by France as such speak French language officially viz Benin, Burkina faso, Guinea Conakry, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger and Senegal, and Togo.
Now there are somethings that are new to Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso; they trio have military regimes, they have been suspended from the regional body, the Economic Community of West African States, they have severed diplomatic ties with France and maintain frosty relationship with ECOWAS. Their new found love is Russia hence the new phraseology which I call “Russiophone west African countries”.
Will everyone inhale hot pepper? Let’s go deeper to explain the situation. Once the coup d’etat were announced, ECOWAS suspended them from the association, because these regional leaders want democracy in the region. Nigeria went further to cut electricity supply to Niger, throwing the country into darkness. Recall River Niger runs through Niger Republic down into the Federal Republic of Nigeria pouring its contents to the Atlantic Ocean via the Niger Delta. There has been and existing agreement between the two countries that Niger will not construct a dam in order to generate light for its country. Rather, Nigeria constructed the dam in Kainji, as far back as 1961/62 in Nigeria’s Niger State. In return, Nigeria will ceaselessly supply light to Niger Republic.
See the hot pepper: Niger now wants to spill what the Yoruba people call “ata wewe”, the small but very hot pepper on the face of Nigeria. That country wants to construct a dam and deny Nigeria water to generate electricity for its domestic use.
Recall the water war when it comes to Lagdo Dam in Cameroon? Year in year out, that country releases excess water from that dam in River Benue that causes untold hardship on Nigerians in states of Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Kogi and pouring its contents into the Atlantic Ocean via the Niger Delta of Nigeria. Imagine Niger releasing the volume of water as Cameroon! In other words, this water war could be fought without gunfire. The pictures of the devastation of Lagdo Dam are indelible in our minds. Russia can fight a proxy war this way because Russia and Nigeria for now are strange bed fellows in diplomatic circles.
The border closure has crippled economic activities along border communities of Nigeria’s border states with Niger Republic and they are Sokoto, Kebbi, Yobe, Katsina and Jigawa. In fact, both side are suffering and Nigerian senators from these states are pressuring President Bola Tinubu, to ease these sanctions which to them, affect the masses on each side of the divide.
In another angle, these Russiophone countries have been at the forefront in the fight against Boko haram, al Qaeda and the Islamic State for West African Province, might provide save and right of passage to these terrorists and their destination could be Nigeria.
To put salt to injury, two of the three Russiophone countries, Niger and Burkina Faso are considering leaving the West African Monetary Union which these Francophone countries all belong. Mali appears definite that it will not leave the monetary zone.
The monetary policy the French bequeathed its former colonies are complicated probably that is why Mali appears to be doing foot dragging having visualised the future and the consequences. Will the Russiophone nations simply adopt the Russian currency, the Ruble, as their common currency which some BRICS nations comprising of Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa etc want to adopt as alternative to the American dollars which has dominated the global means of transactions?
These Russiophone countries have totally expelled France and severed diplomatic ties with that colonial master and in its place, Russia is the new found friend; an ally which now supplies arms and military training to the trio aside from promises of economic investments the three countries will get even as Russia is carrying excess luggage as it fights the war in Ukraine against NATO nations and America.
France might have been expelled from these Russiophone counties, but France is still having a firm grasp on their jugular veins. See why. Even when France no longer uses French franc as it now uses Euros, its former colonies still use CFA, the French Franc.
It is even complicated being divided into two; first, the West African CFA franc XOF used by eight Francophone countries with its Headquarters in Senegal with future plans to adopt the ECOWAS Common Currency, ECU in 2027. Secondly, there is also the XAF which is the currency six countries in the Central African regions and all these currencies are backed by the Euro.
Initially, ECOWAS was a 16 member regional body but Mauritania, the only Arab speaking country in the coastline economic bloc, pulled out only to reapply for observer status which the bloc again accepted and granted.
Will the Mauritanian move be the fate of the Russiophone countries? Will this sub regional bloc of three survive in the midst of a larger ECOWAS, more so, being landlocked? Should ECOWAS ease the sanctions in view of the fact that the masses bear the brunt? Will the military junta also succumb and give democracy a chance or to them the country should evolve around one strongman military man or power should belong to the people via the ballot not bullet? Will these three countries print and mint their own currencies? The rough road is full of stumbling blocks for all and only reason will prevail to avoid this hot pepper being inhaled by all.
Ben Adam Shemang was Director News Voice of Nigeria and now with DW Germany.
Ben Adam Shemang
Deputy Director, News
Voice of Nigeria
Radio House, Abuja
+234 708985 191