Nigerian President elected as chairman of West African economic bloc vows to defend democracy as his election victory is contested
President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria has been elected as chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), succeeding Guinea-Bissau’s Umaro Sissoco Embalo, who has held the position since July 2022.
Tinubu was unanimously endorsed on Sunday at the ECOWAS 63rd ordinary session of the authority of Heads of State and Government in Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau.
ECOWAS is a regional political and economic bloc of fifteen countries located in West Africa.During the union’s meeting on Sunday, the leaders of the member states discussed the security and political situation in the region, which has seen a series of five coups since 2020, affecting Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.
Tinubu, the most recently elected head of state among his colleagues, emphasized the urgent need for coordinated action in response to the “alarming proportion” of terrorism and military coups. “We must stand firm on democracy,” he said, explaining that “there is no governance, freedom and rule of law without democracy.” Although a democratic system is “very difficult to manage,” it is the best form of government, according to the Nigerian leader, who additionally warned that West Africa will not “accept coup after coup” again.
Tinubu has pledged to prioritize political stability, peace and security, and regional economic integration in ECOWAS as its chairperson.Mali was suspended from the regional bloc and a range of measures were imposed against it in 2021 in response to its military coups. However, in 2022, ECOWAS lifted economic and financial sanctions imposed on the Sahel state after its junta proposed a 24-month transition to democracy and published a new electoral law.
Omar Alieu Touray, president of the ECOWAS commission, has urged countries under military rule to meet agreed-upon deadlines for handing over power to civilian leaders, threatening major sanctions if they fail to comply.
At a press conference last week in Abuja, the European Union Electoral Observer Mission (EU-EOM)’s chief observer, Barry Andrews, said Nigeria’s February presidential elections in which Tinubu was declared winner was marred by problems that undermined public trust in the electoral process. He proposed reforms that would increase transparency and accountability.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja, where Tinubu’s victory is being challenged by two of his main opponents, admitted in evidence on Monday the final report of the EU-EOM on the conduct of the poll.