Coups, Nigerian Military and Pledge to Democratic Rule
By Mahmud Abdulsalam Mahmud
At the moment, Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba is the President of the Republic of Burkina Faso.
He was never elected into the office he presently occupied. But he came to power on January 24, 2022 after he led a group of mutineer soldiers to topple his country’s civilian government, ousting former President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, in the process.
Before then, Col. Mamady Dombouya, had blazed the trail. In the West African city of Guinea, in September 2021, he led a putch that truncated the government of Alpha Conde, a Professor.
The case of Mali is one that is entirely different. Within a spate of seven months, Assimi Goita, am army colonel, twice seized power from the civilian and constitutionally-elected central government of his country.
He first deposed late Malian President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in a popular uprising in 2020. And by March 2021, he repeated the same feat as he overthrew the government he was then serving as Vice President, albeit in a transitional set-up.
According to President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, the new wave of coups “represents a threat to peace, security and stability in West Africa”, while the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres describes the situation as “coup epidemic in Africa.”
Nobody can deny the reality that Africa has long been the world’s leading theatre of coups. According to a recent study by Jonathan Powell and Clayton Thyne, published in the Journal of Peace Research, military coups averaged four per year in Africa between 1960 and 2010, declining to two a year by 2019.
But since then, however, the number of successful coups and attempts on the continent appear to be returning to their record levels.
“Unlike the bloody putsches of the 1960s, 70s and 80s however, the more recent coups tend to involve the arrest and removal of sitting president or prime minister, rather than their summary execution or gun battles as used to be the case on the continent.
“But like some of the cold coups, the more recent coups have also enjoyed widespread civilian support, and even with the active connivance of organized civil society and opposition political leaders following successful or attempted tenure elongation schemes by the leaders ousted from power.
“The situation is explained by an observation by Annadif Khatir Mahamat Saleh, the UN Special Representative for West Africa, who said recently that the resurgence of coups “is often the consequence of political practices that are completely out of step with the aspirations of the populations.
“…It is apparent that democratically-elected leaders in Africa give military dictators the excuse to strike when they continue to fail the people. Indicators of failed political leadership stare everyone in the face through excruciating poverty and lack of employment opportunities for youths in Africa,” one national daily posited, in its editorial.
But unlike its counterpart in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali, the Nigerian military has assured that it remains loyal to the democratically-elected authorities.
In strong terms, it said that it has no plan for coup, even as the leadership of the military has warned politicians against tempting it officers to stage a take-over of government at the centre.
Speaking at a virtual media chat tagged ‘Open Ears Dialogue’, was the Chief of defence staff, CDS, Gen. Leo Irabor, who clearly pointed out that personnel of the Nigerian armed forces are not contemplating undertaking a coup.
He said the armed forces will continue to educate its personnel that coups do “more harm than good”.
“The armed forces of Nigeria have nothing whatsoever to do with anything that has to do with coup. We have learned our lessons over the years and we have come to our conclusion that coups will do us more harm than good,” he said.
“And so this is what the leadership of the armed forces is passing down the chain, and educating everyone under our command that there is no reason whatsoever for anyone to contemplate that.”
He asked politicians to desist from luring armed forces members into political matters, saying the military should be insulated from any political persuasions or inclinations.
“And in the same vein, the leadership of the armed forces is also telling politicians to leave us alone, do not mix us up with issues that have to do with politics and do not use political inclinations and persuasions to want to lure anybody from the armed forces into the idea of having to undertake coups and all,” he said.
“We will not. That’s the reason why perhaps the discussions you may have been having in the media, we have been insulated from such discussions because they already know our viewpoint in this regard.”
It is as clear as daybreak that nepotism, autocracy, and self-serving administration are the bane of many West African leaders that give rise to military resurgence.
On key governance issues, regional organisations such as the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, have generally remained silent, despite the development of an African Governance Architecture (AGA) in 2011.
To squarely deal with the coups pandemic in Africa, there is need for a paradigm shift in the way political leaders conduct their affairs in Africa.
It is not just enough for the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) leaders to impose sanctions, close borders, and threaten to isolate the dictators.
West Africa’s political leaders, indeed, must engage themselves in a reality check to admit how they have failed Africans and created the fertile soil for coups.
While the Nigerian military, under the leadership of Gen. Irabor deserves plaudits for pledging their unbending loyalty to constitutional rule and democratic principles, other African militaries can do well to borrow a leaf.
On one hand, now is the time for West African leaders, in particular, to embrace good and all-inclusive governance, that will help ward off mass resentments to their ‘dictatorial’, corrupt, inept and tyrannical rule, while also ensuring that the ‘guys in military barracks’ do not revolt against them, in the most denigrating and at times, ‘brutal’ manner.
Mahmud Abdulsalam is Assistant Editor PRNigeria
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