Coups, rumours of coups
Dead on arrival. That sums up the story of the rumour of coups that went wild last week and whose reverberation continued into this week. The wild and certainly the most pernicious rumour last week was that some unpatriotic soldiers of the Northern Nigerian extraction would stage a coup to remove this democratically elected government. And the only reason they would do so would be to prevent Professor Yemi Osinbajo, now acting president, from becoming president in case President Muhammadu Buhari, for any reason, can no longer continue to be president. The president is currently in London receiving treatment, the third time he has gone there for the same reason.
In no time, this wild rumour began to gain currency As if to give life to the age old adage that there can be no smoke without fire, General Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff, sounded a note of warning to soldiers to desist from hobnobbing with politicians for sinister purposes. He told those of them who felt strong enough about politics to remove their uniform and join the fray.
That did it. The rumour had morphed into the realm of credibility. Apparently it was true that some politicians were going about enticing soldiers to commit some illegality. But the reaction was instant. The Northern Elders Forum vowed, through its leader, Paul Unongo, to defend the Buhari presidency. In tow came some other weighty voices like those of Balarabe Musa, former governor of Kaduna State, highly regarded and respected for his principled stand on national issues and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. They all uniformly threatened fire and brimstone and told coup plotters to stay away.
A veteran warrior against military dictatorship and a NADECO chieftain to the bargain, Bola Tinubu’s voice was unmistaken. It was loud. And it was clear. Lagos, he bellowed, would not welcome any misguided adventurers. The coup flight, according to his proclamation, would not be allowed to land in Lagos. And for the avoidance of doubt, whatever product they intend to sell in this commercial city has been pronounced a contraband and the marketers persona non grata.
If these rumours, as some people had speculated, were part of the kite flying contraption to test the waters or to gauge the people’s reactions, it bumped, dead on arrival. This country is no longer in the mood to welcome military adventurers. Not for any reason. Certainly not for the most abominable one of preventing Osinbajo from succeeding Buhari as president.
Where, if one may ask, were these mysterious and unconscionable objectors when the constitution that is the nation’s extant law was being put together, the constitution that provides for the vice-president to act for the president and even to succeed the president in the event that the latter is deemed unfit to continue in that capacity? Where were these people when, as candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, in his absolute wisdom, chose Osinbajo as his running mate? Where were these people, if such people there are, when both Buhari and Osinbajo took the oath of office as president and vice president respectively?
Do these people, if such people truly there are, ever think – consumed as they are by a messianic delusion – that an occasion could ever arise when the vice-president would act as president? The rest of the country cannot be amused by the chicanery of these despicable characters. Not even our worst enemies would be amused by this.
And certainly not even the international community. The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, wasted no time in sounding the British disapproval of any unconstitutional means of changing government in Nigeria. Only the people can change their government. That is the way of democracy.
The Army has sent stringent warning to its officers to desist from any unlawful contemplation of change that is not in conformity with the constitution. Any reasonable Nigerian who lives in this country, and not on the moon, ought to realise that coups are no longer in vogue and if left alone, the people – long suffering as they may be in the hands of unscrupulous and corrupt politicians – can be trusted to change their leaders peacefully and democratically at the polls.
Ever vigilant, the people are watching and waiting for the time when they would be given another opportunity to decide the fate of those who govern and misgovern them, those who fritter away their resources and leave them in the lurch, in abject poverty. All over the country, they are mobilising themselves with their voters’ cards. Many of them can tell a good government from a bad one and democracy has given them the opportunity to make the choice between the bad and the good. Certainly they no longer need the military, as a corrective regime, to help them to correct their mistakes. They are waiting. And their time will come. But it will not come through the barrel of the gun.
But it will be particularly shameful for anybody, politician or misguided soldier from any part of the North, to think that it is only through the barrel of the gun, from the man in the shiny armour riding on the horse back, that they can come to office. The Daily Trust, a leading national newspaper from the northern part of the country, must have felt sufficiently peeved, if not scandalised, when it thundered out in its editorial comment last Tuesday.
It writes and I quote: “We reject the notion that any credible political figures in Northern Nigeria would be part of coup plotting. After all, when President Umaru Musa Yar’adua died three years into his presidency in 2010, no one raised a finger to prevent the constitution being applied with the swearing–in of Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan as the president.”
It is not unlikely that the military hierarchy is investigating this rumour of coup. At the appropriate time, the authorities must make their findings public. Without a shred of doubt, it is in the public interest and the interest of our fragile democracy for the security agencies – without any attempt at witch hunting – to expose those spineless politicians, if truly politicians they are, who were moving about shamelessly in the night to seek to reap through the bullet what they failed to achieve through the ballot box.
There is no doubting the fact that, with the possible exception of the January 1966 coup and the revenge coup of July 29 1966, all subsequent coups in this country were aided and abetted by unpatriotic and selfish politicians who were driven by their own overvaulting ambition and aided generously by free access to an obscene and ill-gotten wealth. As attested to by various coup specialists, no coup ever succeeded without the active involvement of these so-called democrats who were adept at running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.
Is it that we have so soon forgotten the political history of this country from 1966 to now? Have we forgotten that it was the misadventure of a few misguided reactionaries that launched Nigeria on the path of military coups and countercoups with the attendant instability, social and political dislocation culminating in a civil war? And have we indeed forgotten that Nigeria has not fully recovered from that war, despite the three famous Rs – Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation and despite General Yakubu Gowon’s patriotic declaration of no victor, no vanquished?
If we forget this history, it would repeat itself and these soulless politicians would have succeeded in taking all of us back, willy-nilly, to the years of great infamy. No country can survive it, if its people choose blindly to tread this path twice.