When there are murmurs and whispers of a putsch, someone somewhere may be fiddling with the sticks. Where there is smoke, there is fire. Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the hawks and vultures circle seeking supper from anarchy and insecurity in the land. But may it never be said that Nigeria experienced a coup d’état after 22 years of democratic experiment.
In political science, coups are often governed by the zeitgeist – the prevailing mood of the time. In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s coups were fashionable in Africa, and particularly in West Africa. But with the turning of the 21st century, democracy stabilised in the region. However in 2019, there was a divergence from the assumed norm. The military struck in Sudan, deposing President Omar al-Bashir after weeks of popular protests.
The protests over prices of bread and petrol and violent crackdowns on citizens by security agents created the tenor for the usurpation of power by the ‘’barracks boys’’.
In 2020, there was army mutiny in Mali. The rebellion thickened and degenerated into a coup which sacked the democratically elected government of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Mali had been in the throes of a deadly insurgency and soldiers were being killed in quotas. This quandary was compounded by an alleged fraudulent election conducted by the government — effectuating citizens’ revulsion which climaxed in the unsolicited intervention of the military. There is always a ‘’mood to the madness’’.
In April, Idris Deby of Chad was murdered by rebels but the speculation that the killing of the Chadian strongman was an insider plot remains dense. His killing happened on the heels of protests over his unending commandeership of the country. For keen political watchers, it is clear that the wraith of coup is hovering over West Africa again. Really, some Africans have become disillusioned with the democratic system of government over the years owing to intractable corruption, insecurity and state repression.
Democracy may not be perfect. We cannot pretend it is. But it is still the best form of government among all other forms.
We cannot obviate the fact that Nigeria is at a perilous intersection – insecurity is defying effort, the economy is prostrate and unemployment rate is on the stratosphere. The mood of the nation is ominous; it portends danger. Political tradesmen are on hand seeking to extract a toll and make merchandise out of the general malaise and discontent.
It is regrettable that at a time of great tribulation when Nigeria needs statesmen, there are merchants and pallbearers seeking gain from anarchy. But if Nigeria burns, we all burn. This is a time we all have to cast aside whatever personal interest we hold and put our hands on the wheel to roll Nigeria out of the doldrums.
Political leaders should know their unpalliated public statements are capable of making the cauldron boil over. Keeping Nigeria as one and preserving our democracy is no longer a choice, but a bounden duty. This is not about President Muhammadu Buhari. It is about our country and everything we hold dear. We should not give relief to crisis entrepreneurs and pirates.
Again, keeping Nigeria as one is no longer a choice but a duty – a patriotic duty. We should not give in to anarchists, ethnic flag-wavers, and political despoilers. Nigeria is the home we know and all that most of us have. It is not without obstacles but the challenges are not insurmountable.
A military coup is never an option. It is never a solution to any problem. We cannot traipse helplessly into a dark past of state terror. We cannot come this far in our political evolution only to slither back into the abyss of coups and military interregnums.
The countries in Africa where there have been recent military interventions are still steeped in crisis. Mali is still devastated by insurgency. Chad is still in a jeopardous state, and Sudan has not recovered from the chaos of 2019.
Every insinuation and suggestion of coup should be repudiated and dispelled by all-well meaning Nigerians. The only way to effect a regime change remains the ballot not the gun barrel.
May Nigeria not return to a past of jackboots.
•Nwabufo tweets @FredrickNwabufo