Coup calls are treasonable


THE recent public disclosure by the military of pressure from unnamed quarters to stage a coup is alarming and calls for a decisive response. Though the Defence Headquarters rightly rejected the invitation to overthrow the barely three-month-old administration of President Bola Tinubu, and pledged loyalty to the Commander-in-Chief, it should go further to unmask the subversives and prosecute them under the relevant laws.

Coup calls are treasonous. The only acceptable route to changing or replacing a Nigerian government is spelt out in the 1999 Constitution; any other is a call to anarchy, bloodshed, and state fracture.

Throughout last weekend, the social and mainstream media posted stories hinting of a coup in the offing because of the alleged poor treatment of troops on the frontline fighting insurgents and bandits. For a fragile state, where democracy has struggled to take root these past 24 years, these developments are haunting. They should not be dismissed. The recent coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger add to the concern.

This is compelling, given the country’s disastrous experience of military rule and coups. In Nigeria’s 63 years of independence, the military has ruled cumulatively for 29 years (1966-79, 1984-1999) after its first blood-soaked overthrow of the First Republic. Soldiers also toppled the Second Republic (1979-83), and aborted the Third Republic midway into full berthing by the criminal annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. The 1979 and 1999 constitutions are creations of the military, and the last, with its centralising provisions, continues to constrain the productive capacity of the federation by disempowering the component states.

Democracy is an expression of popular sovereignty as captured in the popular exposition of Abraham Lincoln as “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The military as an institution is a servant of the people, created, funded and equipped for national defence. Subordination of the military to elected civilian authority is a major axiom of democratic rule.

The DHQ has been asserting its commitment to democracy. DHQ spokesman Tukur Gusau, said, “We want to use this opportunity to reiterate that the Armed Forces of Nigeria never received nor made such a declaration at any time to anyone or any group.”

The military and the intelligence agencies should painstakingly investigate and hunt down all those linked to the calls and prosecute them. The arrest and trial of 1,000 supporters of former American president, Donald Trump, over the January 6, 2021 insurrection demonstrates how democracies deplore attempted unconstitutional change of government.

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Instructively, the US military, through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, repeatedly publicly rebuffed attempts by then sitting president, Trump, to nudge it into interfering with the democratic process.

Nigeria has witnessed at least eight military coups or attempted coups, including two alleged by many to be phantom. During its illegal power grabs, the military destroyed the cherished values of Nigerians, repressed their rights and freedoms and brazenly looted state assets with little human development.

Unfortunately, the politicians of the Fourth Republic have been incompetent, corrupt and unaccountable. Currently, Nigerians are in the throes of hardship because of poor governance. The country owes N49.85 trillion, electricity supply is inadequate and 133 million Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor, with 7.1 million more on track to join them, says the World Bank.

While the military goes after the coup promoters, the government should stop pretending that all is well. It is not. Nigerians are angry because democracy in the hands of their unconscionable politicians has failed to enhance their lives – no functional hospitals and schools for their children, and insecurity everywhere. They are hungry.

Moreover, elections further divide Nigerians because they are often marred by irregularities. Through endless litigation, the judiciary has supplanted the electorate in emplacing politicians in office, sometimes some that never even contested in the party primaries.

Therefore, the Tinubu government should act fast, reduce the cost of governance, stamp out corruption, enhance infrastructure and social services, revive the economy and initiate political restructuring. In all ways, it should rekindle faith in democracy.


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