There is the likelihood that a military coup d’etat can still happen in Nigeria given our egregious variant of democratic culture, the compromised nature of our judiciary, and the Nigerian people’s disenchantment with the prevailing socio-political cum economic situation of Nigeria.
But military rule is abhorred in today’s world. It is considered an aberration and anathema for this chief reason: when the military rulers take over power in a country, they will put the country’s constitution into abeyance. Thereafter, they will start ruling the people with iron-fist, abridging their fundamental human rights.
In today’s world, we have these types of government, viz democracy, aristocracy, mobocracy or ochlocracy, kakistocracy, plutocracy, gerontocracy, and others. Of all these types of government, democracy is the best type of government. It is the most acceptable type of government.
Democracy, as a type of government, protects our fundamental human rights and guarantees mass participation of the people in the leadership of their country. That is why Abraham Lincoln defines democracy as the government of the people by the people and for the people.
Before the white people brought democracy to the peoples of Africa, the many different kingdoms in Africa had their unique pre-colonial governments. We had the emirate system of government in the north while the obaship type of government throve in Yoruba land or the west. And the Igbo who are republican in nature had communal or village type of leadership, which was partly based on gerontocracy.
Later, the British, French, Portuguese, Italian, and German people(s), who had partitioned Africa for colonial rule, introduced democracy to their colonial subjects. So the African people(s) suffered and chafed under colonial government for a long while.
However, later, the African people who received education in America and Europe fought for the political emancipation of African countries, which were under the bondage of western imperialism. The African freedom fighters and nationalists, who fought for the decolonization of African countries, include, but not limited to, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyerere, and Agostinho Neto.
Their battle for the political liberation of African countries started yielding positive results in the late 1950s with Ghana becoming a politically independent country in 1957. Nigeria achieved self-rule in 1960, too. Zimbabwe was granted political independence in 1980. And many African countries banded together to fight for the dismantling of the Apartheid government in South Africa.
However, the transfer of the batons of political leadership to African political leaders by the white colonialists failed to yield the desired and expected results. Those political leaders, who were freedom fighters, could not take their countries to the acme of economic and technological development; neither could they deepen nor strengthen the democratic structures and institutions on the African continent.
Instead, then, those political leaders trampled on the fundamental human rights of the citizens of their countries. And they pillaged the financial treasuries of their countries and tinkered their countries’ constitutions to elongate their stay in office. Those political despots who misused and abused the political power entrusted in their care include Kamuzu Banda, Gnassingbe Eyadema, Robert Mugabe, Paul Biya, and others.
Consequently, then, the wave of military coup d’etat swept through the African continent, leading to the overthrow of some African civilian governments. In Nigeria, for example, the soldiers held sway over our affairs between 1966 and 1978; and between 1983 and 1999 save the brief period when Chief Ernest Shonekan piloted the affairs of Nigeria under a contraption called the Interim National Government. The successive military governments we had in Nigeria wound back our development by fifty years.
Thankfully, now, Nigeria has had twenty-four years of uninterrupted democratic rule, with one civilian government handing over political power to another civilian government, peacefully and seamlessly. It is an iconic and landmark achievement given the fact that Nigeria is divided along ethnic and religious lines. Here, in Nigeria, ethnic animosity as well as hatred exists. People who hail from an ethnic group view people from other ethnic groups with utter distrust and hatred.
In addition to our problem of disunity, Nigeria’s economy is distressed with millions of Nigerians reduced to sub-humans by biting and grinding poverty. The desperately poor and dispossessed Nigerians are disenchanted with our political leaders. And murmurings among Nigerians about the legitimacy of the President Bola Tinubu’s led government have arisen to crescendo.
So against this background of our distressed economy, the disunity of Nigeria, and the February 25, 2023 presidential election litigation, Nigeria is sitting on a tinderbox. So any missteps taken by the judiciary or President Bola Tinubu can spark off masses’ revolt in Nigeria. The occurrence of violent protests in Nigeria, which can lead to an anarchic situation in our country, will be an invitation to the military to stage a coup in Nigeria.
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So President Tinubu, who is leading the ECOWAS offensive to restore democratic rule in Niger republic, should bear in mind the fact that Nigeria is not immune from experiencing another coup d’etat. The conditions that precipitated military takeovers in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Niger exist in Nigeria, too.
So I urge President Tinubu to concern himself with providing purposeful political leadership to us, strengthening of our democratic institutions, and the execution of diverse economic measures to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty.
And lastly, his non-interference in the judiciary’s handling of the presidential electoral case preferred against him will reassure millions of Nigerians that the judiciary is still the bulwark against the collapse of our democracy. And it will help to keep the military at bay. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.