Wednesday, September 8, 2021 1:10 pm
By Soyombo Opeyemi
When the first military coup in West Africa took place in Togo in January 1963, we believed it could never happen in Nigeria. But it spread like a wildfire in a scorching sun across West Africa. Nigeria became the worst hit by the destructive tsunami. Another wildfire of coups set off in Mali in August 2020 by some misguided officers has now consumed Guinea and if it is not put out, it is bound to consume more countries in the sub-region.
In virtually all the cases, whether in Nigeria, Mali or Guinea, no military officers seize power on behalf of the people. The military usually cashes in on the frustration of the public to stage a coup in order to satisfy the lust of its officers for power. Hence one military coup usually leads to another.
When Col. Assimi Goita first seized power in Mali and was pressured by ECOWAS not to head the transition government, this writer predicted he would still overthrow the Bah Ndaw-led interim government in order to satisfy the coupists’ lust for power. And when that came to pass, this writer urged President Buhari to lead a coalition to force the Goita-led coupists out of power with deliberate speed. He also cast a reflection on the Nigerian government hosting the new military ruler from Chad – “Beamed live to the world, it underscores the exaggeration of the role of the military in any political community!”
We face an existential threat from Guinea. The cancer of coups demands an immediate surgery in order to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the West-African body
Military officers do not grab power on behalf of the masses. When Lt. Moussa Traore seized power by force of arms from the civilian President Modibo Keita in 1968, the Malian citizens welcomed the ‘saviour’ from the barracks! Traore had cashed in on the economic hardship of the masses. But what did the Malians get in return for their embrace of the unelected ‘saviour’? Brutal dictatorship that lasted for 22 (twenty-two) years until another military putsch swept Traore from power! It was the same story in Nigeria, Guinea and other West African countries.
A former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Alfa Belgore, once lamented how military rule stifled Nigerian development. He recalled the many development agreements with the German government in critical sectors of the country’s economy in the early 60s, which had to be abandoned because of army rule. The strong economic foundation laid by our founding founders began a gradual plunge from the period of military take-over in January 15, 1966, notwithstanding the oil money that came later, which was largely mismanaged. Martial rule signalled the premature death or decimation of hundreds of flourishing industries, many of them multi-nationals. Even those established during the heyday of the army rule did not survive the depredations of the subsequent military governments, as one coup succeeded another. The then flourishing private/ mission schools were taken over by force, progressively decayed and destroyed. Today, the carcasses of these schools are being returned to their original owners! The public corporations too collapsed under the mismanagement of military regimes – Nigerian Railway, Nigeria Airways, Nigerian National Shipping Line, etc., etc. Indeed, things became so bad for the country that national aircraft and ships were seized in foreign countries on account of unpaid debts!
Military plans coups to satisfy the lust of its officers for power. Doumbouya must be produced in Nigeria, dead or alive. He must not be allowed to form any government.
No government could match military regimes in the art of corruption. Indeed, it can be argued that the civil governments accused of corruption by coup-makers could actually pass for saints. General Abacha alone is credited to have looted about $5 billion (five billion dollars)!
Consequently, my snorts of contempt could be heard on the streets of Bamako when on the 18th day of August, 2020, news filtered to the world that many Malian civilians had welcomed the military putsch against the embattled President Ibrahim BoubacarKeïta. The same uninformed masses have trooped out to welcome another junta in Guinea. Coups after coups, the African populations have failed to learn from history!
What does our latest saviour from the barracks, Col. MamadyDoumbouya of Guinea, have to say? They want people“to live in an environment where basic human needs can be met!” Sounds interesting! They want to end“the trampling of citizens’ rights, the disrespect for democratic principles, the outrageous politicisation of public administration, financial mismanagement, poverty and endemic corruption.” Sound familiar! Vacuous platitudes. This is the refrain of every coup maker in West Africa since the 60s!
As for the excesses of President Alpha Conde, the medicine for headache is not to cut off the head. Martial rule destroyed Nigeria’s federalism and its progress
The concept of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of independent nations has never stood the test of practice. Sooner or later, a restive state erupts into crisis or full-scale war. Timely intervention in the domestic affairs of other nations could help save the world from the horrors of this age and make it a better place to live.The more reason why we must deal with the coup cancer before it spreads to destroy the entire West-African body. Under the doctrine of self-defence and prevention of crime Nigeria has a duty to deal with the coup Malady in Guinea and prevent its spread to its territory.
Without further ado, President Muhammadu Buhari should order the immed iate arrest of the Guinean coup leader, Lt. Col. MamadyDoumbouya. He must not be allowed to form the so-called government. The Nigerian armed forces should be asked to produce Doumbouya in Nigeria, dead or alive. The military has no excuse in this matter. They have not been given orders by the President to fight insurgency, asymmetrical or guerrilla warfare in which there might be extenuating circumstances. Arresting the head of the Guinean army’s Special Forces, who has seized political power at gunpoint, is purely a conventional warfare. The order of President Buhari should not just be to disperse the bandits that have seized political power in Guinea but to bring to Nigeria, dead or alive, the very leader of the criminal gang that purportedly suspended the constitution of Guinea and dissolved all institutions of governance. (As for the excesses of President Alpha Conde, the medicine for headache is not to cut off the head. It was the same error in January 1966 that brought Nigeria to its knees – martial rule destroyed the nation’s federalism and its progress.)
President Buhari has no excuse in this matter. He is a retired army general. We recall his display of uncommon patriotism and courage with single-minded commitment in April 1983 when he knocked common sense into the head of the Chadian army. We face an existential threat from Conakry. The cancer of coups or military rule demands an immediate surgery in order to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the West-African body, nay Nigeria. Cancer kills. It kills.
The coup in Guinea is a slap in the face for Africa, ECOWAS, Nigeria – the most populous and powerfulnation in the sub regional bloc and President Buhari – the leader of the largest democracy in West Africa. The President must not allow it to stand. We must all support any action taken by the President to crush the unconstitutional takeover in Guinea and destroy the coup cancer once and for all. We reject any recrudescence of military rule in West Africa.