Violent power change: Is Nigeria consciously walking into Guinean, Malian episode?
It is sad that the drums of coup d’état are beating once again in the West African region.
From Mali in August 2020, another in May 2021 and most recently, Guinea last week, the military juntas have given the same rhetoric for ousting the democratically elected presidents in their respective countries.
As expected, in its usual stereotype, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the umbrella body of the region, has suspended the two countries from the community, while condemning the military takeover.
But critics of ECOWAS are hard on the body for its seeming look warm and double standards in handling the region’s affairs.
They blamed the coup d’état on ECOWAS’ silence on the successful third-term bids of Alpha Conde, president of Guinea and Alassane Ouattara, president of Ivory Coast.
Conde, the 83-year-old became the first democratically elected president in 2010 and was re-elected in 2015. But last year, he pushed through a constitutional change to allow himself to run for a third term; a move his opponents said was illegal. Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara also won a third term last year after changing his country’s constitution.
Some African countries are not well run. Leadership has been the major problem with struggling economy and high level poverty. This level of incompetence breeds agitation for violent power change.
The question many are finding difficult to ask is what if Nigeria goes the way of Mali and Guinea?
Again, what will stop that as the country has been fighting low grade war in the past decade, which may likely prompt a certain section of the military to strike, as they have done before?
Most observers of Nigerian politics think that a coup will not be in the interest of anybody in Nigeria, even the coup plotters, as the military regime is no longer fashionable worldwide.
“Any coup in Nigeria will kill democracy for at least 10 years, though our brand of democracy is not working. A coup d’état will drag the economy back to recession and insecurity to an unimaginable height because there are lots of illegal arms out there and many idle hands to use them,” Oliver Aniebonam, a senior Political Science lecturer, said.
But Sam Onikoyi, a Nigerian historian and Commonwealth researcher based in Brussels, noted that Nigeria will not go the ‘coup d’état’ way now because that would offer regional agitators a platform to soar.
While coup d’état may not be in the interest of Nigeria now, he regretted that some West African countries, especially where foreign powers and ECOWAS have been supportive of oppressive governments are likely going to toe the Malian and Guinea way as the only option to change oppressive governments.
“Everybody in the region, even in Africa, fears the high rate of insecurity in Nigeria. So, coup d’état plotters will continue because Nigeria that used to lead ECOMOG wars to restore peace in the region is battling a huge internal crisis, with some of her soldiers dead, many wounded and more demoralised in the Boko Haram insurgency fight,” he explained.
He thinks that the military regimes in Mali and Guinea will continue in power unchallenged by ECOWAS because the will power, funds, moral backing, and unity of purpose are all lacking.
In the same vein, Ifewodor Ogala, a retired Navy officer, thinks that the ‘military boys’ are not in right frame of mind for such engagement and will not think of coup d’état because it will not pay anybody now
“Unlike before when there used to be unchallenged coup d’état, this time, it may result in counter and counter coups, and even more deadly consequences considering the high level of insecurity in the country,” he said.
The retired Navy officer also argued that the next presidential election is near and power is surely going to change hands, hence there is no need for such thought in the military circle.
But Onikoyi thinks otherwise. “What if power refuses to change hands or changes to elements most people will consider cheating or injustice, there may likely be revolt, but I don’t see military taking advantage of such to take over power, Nigeria is bigger than that now,” he said.
Ethan Yakubu, a Plateau State-born lawyer, noted that the president has done enough to keep the ‘boys’ in the barracks at least until his tenure is over.
“I don’t see any coup d’état happening again in Nigeria, especially under the present government because Mr. President has learnt from the past and must have done everything to keep the military happy and in the barracks,” Yakubu, who runs a private security outfit in Abuja, said.
To avoid the Guinea episode, Onikoyi advised that the Nigerian government should allow democracy to flow freely, allow true federalism and also dialogue with agitators across the country.
He thinks that the ‘military boys’ are not as happy as civilians think; hence the government should see to their plights in order to avoid bad ideas snowballing into a national disgrace.
“There have been many cases of abscondments from the insurgence battle areas, families of dead soldiers are suffering and some soldiers are taking too. The government and military should change strategy for the fight against the insurgency and bandits, so that the soldiers will be able to defeat the hoodlums and regain their respect,” he said.
To avoid the Mali and Guinea episodes from happening in Nigeria, Ogala insisted that welfare of the military should be given priority by the government, while the fight against insecurity should be intensified to avoid proliferation of arms in the hands of wrong people across the country, which for him is a bigger threat to national security.