Some retired military generals have cautioned the Nigerian government, led by President Bola Tinubu, about the importance of preventing a coup in the country by adhering to the constitution and promoting effective governance.
These generals, speaking to PUNCH in the wake of successful coup attempts in some other African nations, stressed that while coups were undesirable, the people were growing tired of being taken for granted.
In contrast, the Nigerian government has downplayed concerns of a coup, asserting that the country has evolved beyond the possibility of a forcible takeover of leadership. They emphasized the widespread acceptance of democracy among Nigerians and the strengthening of democratic institutions in the country. The Nigerian government also stated that recent coups in neighboring African nations, particularly in Niger Republic, did not instill fear in Nigeria.
The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, said this in an interview with PUNCH on Friday, noting, “I can tell you that there is no fear or apprehension at all. We have gone past that, and we have been a democratic country all this while with the institutions of democracy getting stronger.”
This past Wednesday marked the latest coup in Africa, the second one to occur in 2023. In this instance, military forces in Gabon seized power, placing former President Ali Bongo and his family under house arrest. Gabon is situated in Central Africa.
Alexander Ogomudia, a former Chief of Defence Staff, commented that these coups reflect the performance of elected governments in governing their countries. He emphasized that supporting a coup against a government that fulfills its campaign promises and upholds the nation’s constitution lacks moral justification.
He said, “You can’t use what happened in Gabon as a template for what happens everywhere else. For Niger, have you seen the pictures of the country at all? For how many years has France been collecting nuclear materials from that country, and the country is one of the poorest in the world?
“In my place, we have a saying that if you do anyhow, you will see anyhow. So, whoever was ruling Niger, if he was teaming with foreigners to ruin their country; that is doing anyhow. So, if you have a coup now, it is seeing anyhow. I have no advice.
“Every politician knows what is right. Before resuming office, don’t they campaign? If they stick to those promises why would they have a problem? If I say this road to your place is not good, I will fix it for you, and when I get there and I fix the road, will anyone have the moral justification to support a coup against such a person? Those who are planning coups have their reason for planning it, I can’t speak for them.”
Furthermore, Brigadier-General Phillip Ashim emphasized that the key to preventing coups in Africa is to guarantee that the populace experiences effective governance. He stated, “It’s common knowledge; it’s all about good governance.”
In a phone discussion, retired Brigadier-General John Sura, a former Commander of the 1st Division, reiterated that to put an end to coups in Africa, leaders must show respect for their constitution and the democratic framework.
He said, “There are some basic things African leaders should pay attention to. First, the constitution of every nation must be highly respected. People agitate when they are disenchanted or there is an unacceptable change in the constitution. If the people enjoy good governance, I believe there will be no coup.
“If you look at the developed nations, no matter what happens, they respect their electoral laws and other laws, so people feel at home that their interests are protected. Once countries are well governed and there is respect for the rule of law, we will not be talking of a coup.”
Major General Henry Ayoola (retired), who previously served as the Commander of the Special Task Force, Operation Safe Haven, similarly expressed that the occurrence of coups should serve as a signal for politicians to reconsider their leadership approach. He further emphasized the importance of practicing democracy in accordance with the rule of law and highlighted that effective governance serves as the most reliable safeguard.
He stated, “Let’s practise true democracy and not just civilian rule. Let it be that it is a democracy where we keep to the rule of law, follow due process and procedures or the tenets of democracy. That is the surest way of keeping soldiers out of governance.
“The answer is for the politicians to play the game according to the rules. I give soldiers no reason and no excuse to tamper with the democratic rule. Let us practise democracy.”
He said further that the style of governance on the continent had entrenched impunity such that people didn’t like processes and procedures. “We want to do what we like when we like it and how we like it; that is what is playing out,” he said.
He continued: “I mean how do you explain the Gabon case where the father spent about 27 years ruling the country and the son came spending another 13 years and he just won a fraudulent third term, tampering with the constitution? The best way is not to give the room for it. I don’t like to discuss the issue of looking up to the international bodies to solve our problems for us. It is a shame that we cannot rule ourselves.”
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