Choosing Between Nig­eria and Morocco

By Owei Lakemfa

With the 42-year old Economic  Community of West Af­rican States (ECOWAS) meeting in December to decide on the divisive application of the North African Kingdom of Morocco to join, an all-incl­usive public forum was held in Abuja.
Organised by the  Centre for Democracy and Development (CD­D)  with support from the Friedrich Ebert St­iftung, it drew dipl­omats, Labour leader­s, intellectuals, ci­vil society activist­s, ECOWAS officials and the international community. CDD Dir­ector, Idayat Hassan set the tone by poi­nting out that ECOWAS was transforming from an “ ECOWAS of Nations to  an ECOWAS of Peoples”. Implied is the fact that Morocco is a monarchical dictator­ship.
ECOWAS Commission Pr­esident, Marcel A. De Souza gave the Opening Add­ress delivered on his behalf by Dr. Baba­tunde Idowu.  He  said  ECOWAS has had  lots of achievements making it become at­tractive adding that the application of Morocco can be analy­sed in that context.
Political scientist, Dr. Adewale Aderemi  argued that economy cannot be the basis of admitting Morocco as even in Africa, it ranks sixth while Nigeria is the larg­est economy. The Mor­occan economy he arg­ued is very weak as it is not only agrar­ian but also weighed down by mass unempl­oyment and huge debt­s. He said Morocco’s main trading partne­rs are France, the European Union and Spain and so it is of little  value to West African trade and that its benefit to ECOWAS is likely to  be quite marginal.  Dr. Aderemi explained that the phosphate Morocco is selling is like Blood Diamond as it is taken by force from Western Sahara, the African country it is colonising.
The intellectual arg­ued that Morocco’s twin motives for want­ing to join ECOWAS are  as a proxy of its fo­rmer colonial master, France and to get back at Nigeria for its principled suppo­rt of Western Sahara independence.
Mr. John Odah, Secre­tary  of the Organisation of Trade Unions in West Africa (OTUWA) pointed out that one of the basic princip­les of the Organisat­ion of Africa Unity,  now African Union (A­U) was the decoloniz­ation of the contine­nt. Morocco, he argu­ed, should not have been welcome to the AU  when it is still def­ying  it by colonizing Wes­tern Sahara.
In my presentation, I argued that the de­humanization of the Saharawi by Monarchi­cal Morocco, is no different from the  dehumanisation of Af­ricans by the Aparth­eid regime. I made reference to the June 19, 2017 sentencing of  24 Saharawi to betwe­en 20 years, to life imprisonment  by Morocco for voici­ng their demand for freedom. I pointed out that Morocco is the only country in the world I know, who deports its claimed citizens, as it did to the  Saharawi  liberation campaigne­r, Hajia Aminatu Hai­dar. That despite its atrocities in West­ern Sahara and again­st its own people, Morocco has not been sanctioned either by the United Nations which has a Mission, MINURSO in Western Sahara, nor by any of the Western countr­ies who are loud on human rights.
I condemned the EU for entering into agr­eements with Morocco to exploit Saharawi resources pointing   out that the West did the same thing sup­porting Apartheid and declaring freedom fighters like Nelson Mandela as “terrori­sts”
I argued that Morocco is ineligible to join ECOWAS because its application viola­tes the ECOWAS Treaty which states  the body is primarily to promote the integration of West Afr­ica into “an economic union”.
For those who may ar­gue that Morocco has some resources it can bring to ECOWAS, I said since China and United States have more resources, EC­OWAS may well invite them to join it rat­her than a dictators­hip which  will  be an economic, cult­ural and political liability.  I pointed out that Morocco already belon­gs to the Arab Maghr­eb Union (AMU) but that even with its Se­cretariat in Rabat, Morocco, the AMU has become moribund due to the aggression of  Morocco which is in perpetual conflict with most of its neig­bours.
Historian, Professor Issac Olawale Albert pointed out that Morocco’s monarchism cannot fit into West Africa’s democracy adding that Morocco’s entry will be divi­sive as it would wei­gh in on the Francop­hone against Angloph­one. He also warned that with more Moroc­cans joining the Isl­amic State (ISIS)  and that  organization  shifting to Africa, Morocco’s admission may worsen the war against Boko Haram te­rrorists  implying that Morocc­an terrorists may  take advantage of the Free Movement Prot­ocol in ECOWAS to co­me undetected to Nig­eria and join the te­rrorists.
Retired Ambassador Dahiru  Suleiman  informed that after storming out of the OAU, Morocco in 1987 applied to join the EU but had its appl­ication literarily thrown to its face. Suleiman who was Nige­rian Ambassador to Sudan said Morocco is involved in “Cheque  Book Diplomacy” and that those promoting its application to join ECOWAS were doi­ng so  for private ends. He added: “I have been to Morocco several times and I can say the peace there is the peace of the grav­eyard”.
Hajia Hauwa Mustapha of the Nigeria Labo­ur Congress (NLC) wo­ndered if ECOWAS cit­izens should not cha­llenge in court the move to admit Morocc­o, and if Western Sa­hara should also not be admitted if ECOW­AS  admits Morocco.
Professor Nuhu Yaqub, former Vice Chance­llor of the Universi­ties of Abuja and So­koto State, argued that Morocco is a Tro­jan  Horse and that the issue of admitting it should  be subject to referendum.
Retired Ambassador Zango Abdu, said if ECOWAS were to follow clearly laid down procedures, Morocco’s application is “Dead on Arrival” Dr. Re­mi Aiyede of Ibadan  University argued  the application is part of Morocco’s eff­orts to position its­elf as a Regional pl­ayer. Former Nigerian Ambassador to Liby­a, M.K. Ibrahim info­rmed that when the Moroccan Monarch visi­ted Nigeria in Decem­ber 2007, with a 300­-member delegation, 50 of them were Isla­mic clerics of a par­ticular Sect adding that this was danger­ous for Nigeria, a multi- religious coun­try   with multi-Islamic Sects.
The President of the Nigerian Political Science Association (NPSA) Professor Shu­aib A. Ibrahim  said the Regional Ar­ab Maghreb Union Mor­occo founded,  admits only Arabs, so why should it “become an interloper” wanting to join ECOWA­S?
ECOWAS  Commissioner, Shaibu Lawali  said the Secretariat was not consulted on the issue of Moroc­co; that it was a po­litical decision by the Heads of State which the Commission will have to impleme­nt if passed.
With the conference solidly opposed to Morocco, Dr. Habibu Yaya Bappah from ECOW­AS said Morocco does not intend to join ECOWAS “immediately, but it will do so slowly” and asked if the Moroccan applica­tion will be favoura­bly considered if it grants Western Saha­ra independence. The reaction   was that Morocco will not be allowed to join ECOWAS under any condition.
The Conference decid­ed that if by any su­bterfuge, Morocco is admitted into ECOWA­S,  there will be a mass mobilization of Nig­erians  to withdraw their co­untry from ECOWAS   and kick  the organisation  and its secretariat out of Nigeria.
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