Under the headline “We won’t accept coup in Nigeria,” the Nigerian Guardian (12/05/06) reported the US ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. John Campbell, as saying the United States of America “would not tolerate any truncation of Nigeria’s democracy under any guise.” After reading the entire report, I couldn’t help but chuckle and wonder: (1) is what we have in Nigeria a democracy; (2) how would the US prevent the sacking of this corrupt and thoroughly incompetent regime; (3) if there is a vacuum in our national politics or if the civilians continue to behave as they do now, what stops the military from stepping in; and (4) when did the United States started caring for Nigeria and her national interest?
Military Coups D’Etat — a “speedily executed extralegal takeover of government by a conspiratorial group, usually consisting of military officers and some civilians who use force or the threat of force to remove government and assume power for itself” — may happen anytime in Nigeria. How and when it happens does not rest on the wishes of the United States or other western nations. Coups, as scholars have observed happens over a mix of political, economic, ethnic, cultural, social, military and personal factors. And should there be a coup in Nigeria today or at any time in the future, America won’t do a damn thing. Nothing! Sure, they will whine and suck their thumb, but that’s about it. They cannot do a damn thing. They have Iran, North Korea and Iraq to worry about.
Professor Julius Ihonvbere, writing in the Journal of Modern African Studies December 1991, posited that “military intervention in Nigeria has been part of the on-going class struggle…virtually all the successful and attempted counter-coups have taken place during periods of mass disaffection and action against the state, characterized by alienation and intense competition for power.” Well then, has there ever been a time in the history of modern Nigeria when the vast majority of the citizens are as alienated, deprived, lacking, and hateful of their government as this period? And as we come closer to the 2007 electoral season, has there ever been a time when the competition for power has been as intense, and odious and assassination-inducing as this moment?
Honest, visionary and well-meaning men and women have been cut off from the political process. By this I mean the political dance floor is so constricted and polluted that those who readily would have joined the fray are either discouraged from doing so or are threatened when they attempt to join. Adding to the discouraging atmosphere is the chokehold the president and his party (the PDP) have on the country’s political life. Other parties have either been asphyxiated or their leaders enticed to abandon or dismantle their parties. Today, one can barely speak of a credible and viable opposition in the country.
And even within the PDP, men and women of goodwill — i.e. Dr. Pat Utomi — have a very slim chance at their party’s nomination. What President Obasanjo and his party want is a man or woman who will assure the thieving oligarchy a safe haven in 2007 and beyond. The party and the kingmakers within the party are shopping for someone they can control or dictate to from behind the scenes. In effect, the ruling class is not yet ready for a transformation; they are not ready for a new day as far as the nation’s economic and social-political life is concern. What is preferred is the decadence of the status quo.
The problem with military coups (in Nigeria) is that, excerpt for the Buhari/Idiagbon, and may be the Murtala takeover, military coups have generally not served Nigeria well. Overall, it is has been one failure after another. A Jerry Rawlings type of coup, on the other hand, would have serve Nigeria very well. In very rare cases some state-killings are necessary and justified if it would help change the course of history for good. There is one or two generation of military and civilian leaders that should have been locked away forever or gotten rid of that survived and is now part of our national problem.
The result of these incomplete coups has been that these men and women — national albatross that they are — continue to be cankerous and cancerous to our national aspiration. No matter how we try, they will continue to hold us back: participating in and encouraging corruption and fraudulent practices, fanning ethnic and religious politics, debasing our national morals and national culture, and encouraging laziness. At this rate, and considering what is going on in Nigeria, the country is not likely to reap democratic dividends. The race to steal and ruin the nation will be so intense that the road to common sense and good governance will be littered with the blood and soul of genuine patriots.
And in fact, I am projecting that if an honest, visionary and committed leader is not elected to manage the affairs of the nation within the next two elections, Nigeria may enter the path of “no return.” In spite of the current political stench, we still have time to make corrections; we have the time to correct the most significant structural and institutional imbalances therein. Otherwise, I cannot rule out the possibility of military coups d’etat that will violently shake the nation and sweep away a lot of the rotten roots.
In spite of ones wish and support for democratization and political liberalization, I do not see a situation where there would be a vacuum or continued bastardization of the country and the military will, in good conscience, stay away because of America’s disapproval.
As far as I am concerned, the USA and Britain and other western democracies can huff and puff and play to the gallery and say all they want, Nigeria is our country. They should mind their own affairs and stop meddling in our business. They act in their nation’s best interest. We too must act in our nation’s best interest. If a coup is in order, well, so be it. And a coup is in order if there is the chance for national regeneration and a new commitment to a democratic Nigeria where institutions and the rule of law are respected. At the rate we are going, the military cannot do worse than Obasanjo and his PDP. A Jerry Rawlings like coup may just be in order. I won’t shed a tear when the tanks roll in.
But there is an unknown factor in this: it is risky calling for a coup because, what and who comes onboard may be deadlier than who and what we have now. That is to say that the worst military dictator with the most savage and cruel of all intentions and tendencies — surpassing that of Abacha, Mobutu and Amin — may descend on us if care is not taken. And of course some have argued that we should be patient with the current dispensation, and that with time, things will turn around for the better in Nigeria.
Somehow, I am a pessimist in this regard. We are digging deeper and deeper and deeper and running faster and faster and faster towards damnation and perdition. I am of the view that unless the current situation is arrested, it may take 3-5 generations for things to turn around for the better in Nigeria. If you’ve been to Nigeria recently, or if you reside in Nigeria, you cannot miss the fact that a select group of people are apportioning the nation’s resources to themselves and their proxies. You carry and you go…you go and you carry.