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EDITORIAL: Of Coups And Democracy



Rumours of military coups d’état have been making the rounds lately suggesting a likelihood of restiveness within the Armed Forces. Real or imagined, it is reassuring that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Yusuf Buratai, has come out to warn those thinking along those lines to perish the thought. His comment is directed at soldiers who may fall prey to the segment of a conniving political class intent on thwarting efforts to consolidate on the gains of democracy.

It will not be the first time such evil plots have been hatched and Nigeria is the worse for it as hers has remained a fledgling democratic experiment 57 years after independence. But doing so now is decidedly suicidal because military intervention in politics has become rightly old-fashioned and unattractive. Turkey has not quite recovered from that costly exercise. Home in Africa, Nigeria herself have helped to discourage such bad behaviour in other countries.

Furthermore, the experience of Nigerians with military administrations in the past is not particularly impressive enough, even with the modest achievements they recorded while in office. They hold the military responsible for most of the anti-social behaviour that are so rampant in the society today. Therefore, it is incomprehensible that they may have began to develop a feeling of nostalgia to the extent that anyone would, in all honesty, wish for them to stage a comeback. In the past, the Military, buoyed by a section of disgruntled political class, had the penchant for exploiting the perceived discontent on the part of the civilian population to try to bring down elected state officials. We agree that there is recession in the land and other socio-economic dislocations attendant to it. It is also true that there is palpable hardship in the land, few jobs to go round and all of that. What cannot be denied is that even with these perceptibly ugly scenario, democracy with all its shortcomings, is still the way to go and remains a preferred option. A coup is abhorrent at this time. It is not what the nation should be reminded of as they strive to get a hang on the intricacies of a democratic culture. Actually, what is needed is a retooling of the political and democratic processes as well as a change in the mind-set of the average member of the political class who think that handing over power to the opposing camp is akin to suicide or, for that matter, that life outside public office and the sweets it contains, are too good to let go. The former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan proved all those hypothesis to be baseless.

However, we are of the opinion that it will be advisable for the Military high command to investigate the root cause of such rumours to find out if there is a possible collusion of the rank and file with some disgruntled civilians to wreak mayhem. Should that be considered, then it must be for that purpose only, that is, to establish or otherwise disavow the veracity of such ill-thoughts. It must not provide an opportunity for any form of witchhunt targeted at officers and soldiers rightly or wrongly seen as anti-establishment.

While that is going on, it is our considered view that comments on what is said to be rumour only helps to ingrain it deeper in the people’s mind. If it is a rumour, so why talk about it, why spread it? Another aspect of the coup rumour is that it has exposed the lack of skill in managing such sensitive information by the Army media apparatus before putting them in the public sphere. Instead of addressing a press conference, what the Army ought to have done would have been to handle it departmentally without letting the public into it. Now, it is being speculated that the last postings in the Military were in response to that rumour. Maybe, maybe not. If, indeed, there was such a plan, what is going to happen with this hasty exposition is that it will be driven underground where it is more potent and deadly.

It is also pertinent to warn the political class to give the rumour the deserved serious attention. One of the ways of doing so is to rein in the pervading incompetence in governance. The bickering, the persistence of corrupt acts, nepotism and other such malfeasance cannot serve as prescriptions for a Military takeover no matter how unpleasant such a prospect may appear to be. Much as we frown at a probable military incursion into politics, we are compelled by the perfidy of the political class to warn them to behave themselves.