Niger coup: Citizens against fruitless democracy
The West African nation of Niger has been on the news for the past couple of days over the unfortunate military coup staged by the Presidential guards – “the enemy within”.
The event has attracted international attention with condemnation from world leaders, calls for coup leaders to return power to the deposed civilian President Bazoum, imposition of sanctions, evacuation of foreign citizens, suspension of aid and threats of military intervention by the regional body ECOWAS. Pressure is indeed mounting from all angles against the military junta.
Beyond Niger, there have been military incursions in the governance of a number of countries in the West African region in recent years. The region is commonly struggling with poor governance, economic decadence, insecurity, mass poverty, corruption and resource exploitation by foreign powers among other crippling problems.
The military usually gives instances of administrative, socioeconomic and political failures as reasons to justify their coup actions. They then present themselves as the saviour to rescue the nation from further degenerations. Military coup is not new to West African countries.
It is fascinating that while international pressure keeps mounting on the new military junta in Niger to hand over power to the duly elected president, majority of the citizens of Niger themselves are celebrating and protesting in favour of the military regime. Interesting! So, what’s happening in Niger? Outsiders want the military regime to handover power in the interest of democracy but the citizens want the military to hold on to power in the interest of good governance!
During the era of General Sani Abacha in Nigeria and the fight for democratic governance, it was said that the worst democratic government is better than the best military government. Thankfully Nigeria now enjoys a semblance of democratic governance but whether it is the government of the people and for the people is a question for another day.
President Tinubu of Nigeria and head of ECOWAS is threatening military intervention to restore democracy in the neighbouring Niger Republic. In the heat of the pressures from across the world against the military regime, let us pay some attention to what the citizens of Niger themselves are saying.
The citizens of Niger know very well that the collective impacts of sanctions against Niger by the international community will leave them with no good time at all. They know that the withdrawal of foreign aid will adversely affect sectors of their lives as it will deny the military regime access to needed resources. In spite of these damning consequences however, the people of Niger seem to prefer to carry the cross of the military rather than continue to suffer under a democratic governance that does not serve their needs.
Democracy is defined as the government of the people, by the people and for the people… When a democratic government fails to serve the needs of the people, they may turn against democracy to support a military regime in their quest for a better governance but whether the military will indeed do better than the deposed democratic government is another topic for discussion.
When the citizens of a nation chose to support the dreaded devil (military governance) against the darling angel (democratic governance), then the world must not only cry out against the military but must also seek to uncover the devil in democracy and help those occupying elective positions to act right as angels. This, in my view, is what the citizens of Niger are communicating to the world.
The citizens need security; they need food and jobs. They want their natural resources used to develop their communities. They need education and a growing economy. They need water, good roads and electricity. The citizens want leaders who are in touch with their basic needs. Whether the leadership is democracy or military, the citizens of Niger do not care! All they want is a government that works and serves their needs.
Furthermore, the citizens of Niger are calling out the selfish activities and influence of foreign powers in African countries. African countries got independence from their colonial masters decades ago but economically, foreign colonial masters are still in charge of African countries. Pan Africanist Professor PLO Lumumba of Kenya has spoken out against the continued economic colonization of African countries by forces outside the continent.
While Professor Lumumba speaks against it, the citizens of Niger Republic acts against it. African countries must rise against the international division of labour that has forever made African countries raw material producers sold at prices set by foreign industrialized nations.
In the interest of justice and in the spirit of the democracy that western powers want to instill in Niger, western powers should stop the economic rape of African countries and allow African countries to take their pride of place in the world.
The unfolding scenario in Niger Republic is a clarion call for sober reflection on the quality of democratic governance in Africa as well as the influence of foreign powers on the domestic economic and political affairs of African countries.
Such sober reflection, in my considered view, will entrench democratic principles and values in West Africa more than the mobilization of ECOWAS military against the junta or the imposition of sanctions against the people of Niger who are only blindly yearning for good governance.
God bless Africa!
Rev. Onogwu sps, Catholic Priest serving in Kenya.
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