Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu is facing a huge backlash at home over his threat to use military force to reverse the coup in next-door neighbour Niger.
Local media report there was strong opposition to military intervention at a session of the upper chamber of parliament, the Senate, on Saturday, despite the fact that it is controlled by Mr Tinubu’s party.
This was especially the case among lawmakers representing states along the more than 1,500km (930 mile)-long border with Niger, but there has also been countrywide condemnation of the possibility of war.
West African regional bloc Ecowas had set a deadline of Sunday for the junta to give up power – or face possible military action.
The decision was very much seen as Mr Tinubu’s as he is Ecowas’ current chairman, and Nigeria is its most influential member.
Although the junta has defied the ultimatum, Ecowas did not respond by immediately sending troops. This came as a relief to many Nigerians who prefer a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.
Some question whether a seven-day deadline was realistic given that Nigeria and other countries have to get parliamentary approval before deploying the military.
Many people are also appalled that electricity to Niger was cut on President Tinubu’s orders, causing blackouts in Niger’s capital, Niamey, and other cities.
Critics claim that this is in violation of a treaty that had enabled Nigeria to build a dam on the River Niger, though Mr Tinubu’s supporters say the power cuts are aimed at pressuring the junta to hand back power to ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, without military confrontation.
Nigeria and Niger share strong ethnic, economic and cultural ties and any military intervention against Niger would affect northern Nigeria, already facing serious security challenges of its own.
An influential group of Muslim clerics in northern Nigeria said Mr Tinubu must not “rush into an avoidable conflict with a neighbour at the behest of global politicking”.
Mr Bazoum was a key ally of the West, allowing former colonial power France and the US to keep military bases in the country to help in the fight against militant Islamists wreaking havoc across much of West Africa.
The military juntas in Mali and Burkina Faso have vowed to come to the defence of Niger’s coup leaders if Ecowas does use force, raising the prospect of a major regional conflict.
All eyes are now on Mr Tinubu who has been the most vocal in condemning coups in West Africa, and said last month that Ecowas cannot be made up of “toothless bulldogs”.
“We must stand firm on democracy. There is no governance, freedom and rule of law without democracy. We will not accept coup after coup in West Africa again,” Mr Tinubu said, shortly after taking the leadership of the regional body.
Nigeria’s constitution states that the president cannot deploy troops without the approval of the National Assembly – made up of both the upper and lower chambers of parliament.
It is unclear whether Mr Tinubu will get its support, given the opposition he is facing.
“Ecowas goofed, the Nigerian president also goofed,” said Prof Khalifa Dikwa, an academic at the University of Maiduguri and a member of an influential group of elders in northern Nigeria.
In a cautious statement after Saturday’s closed-door session, Senate leader Godswill Akpabio threw the ball into the court of the Ecowas parliament, saying it should provide “solutions to resolve this logjam as soon as possible”.