The Niger coup, Emefiele and the president’s friend, Asari

 Festus Adedayo,

Africa slumped again last week into the hands of its traditional enemies. The continent has not been the same since midnight of January 13, 1963. On this day, a band of military putschists, led by Etienne Gnasingbe Eyadema and Emmanuel Bodjolle, shot and killed the civilian president of Togo, Sylvanus Olympio and his wife. Togo then became the first of such violent takeover of men in Khaki in the French and British colonies of Africa, thus breaking the symbolic hymen of the innocence of Africa. The wave of democratization in those erstwhile colonies in the 1990s and 2000s had however made many believe that coups d’etat had become unfashionable and otiose. However, Africa’s turbulent Sahel region, since 2020, has been confronted with a rampaging jihadist insurgency that birthed and nurtured coups in Mali and Burkina Faso. Its latest rupture is Niger. Right now, President Mohamed Bazoum is being confined to his residence by his presidential guard, commanded by 10 coup leaders led by Colonel Amadou Abdramane.

A lot has been written about why the Nigerien coupists struck. International organizations and allies, France, Germany and the United States have also condemned the coup. Nigerian president, Bola Tinubu, Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS) convoked an emergency meeting in Abuja on Friday. Earlier on Thursday, ECOWAS had “demanded the immediate release of President Mohamed Bazoum who remains the legitimate and legal President of Niger.” Tinubu also sent the president of neighbouring Benin, Patrice Talon, to Niamey to seek restoration to status quo. Apparently heeding the menacing threat from Colonel Abdramane to any nation not to interfere, Talon has tarried.

From the pattern of coups in Africa, Tinubu and his African leadership can only huff and puff as there is little in form of remedy that can be offered Bazoum. Already, general acceptance of the coup is at a frightening and dizzying point. Youths in Niamey were shown on global television ransacking the headquarters of Bazoum’s PNDS party and setting fire to vehicles kept in it. Youngsters numbering about 1,000 had matched towards the country’s National Assembly, as well as several hundred others who matched out to Dosso town to show solidarity for the coup plotters. The super-power angle to the coup is reflected in Russian flags that were being flung by pro-Abdramane Nigeriens and anti-French, pro-Russian slogans being sung by the protesters.

Aside the probable super-powers angling for the soul of Niger, Bazoum was reported to have run a very fragile government. Several attempts were also made to de-legitimize his government due to contestations over his election outcome. Since taking over power two years ago in what was said to be Niger’s first-ever peaceful transition since independence, Bazoum had been encumbered by legitimacy crises, with some top echelon of the military displeased with him. Niger is also torn apart by dual jihadist onslaughts.

Why African leaders must be bothered about the coup in Niger is the widespread public support it is getting from Nigeriens. While many parts of Africa have realized that coup plotting is evil and the putschists not necessarily as Messianic as they profess, it will be difficult to canvass this in an Africa suffering from the high-handedness of its leadership and the absence of apt mental component in the administration of Africa that can stem descent into hunger by the populace. Rather than flexing muscles in post-coup scenarios, African leaders must run inclusive, people-oriented and developmental governments that will make life livable for their people.

In today’s Nigeria, phenomenal hunger is wracking the bellies of the populace while government keeps on urging the people to salivate an ayangbe aja – grilled dog meat – that they claim awaits the populace at the end of its harrowing economic policies. Meanwhile, principal elements of the government are growing rotund cheeks and wriggling in alleged corruption bazaar in the last two months or so.

In Nigeria last week, for example, the country presented a perfect effigy of Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colours. Colour red however dominated the rainbow picturesque. The treatment given to Godwin Emefiele and Abdulbashir Bawa, erstwhile heads of CBN and EFCC, appears principally vendetta driven. Some say it is indicative of the fact that Nigeria may be going gradually down River Road – apologies to Kenyan writer, Meja Nwangi. At the Federal High Court in Abuja last week, raw brunt of crude power was hoisted for all to see and probably a feel of the governmental engagements to come. Not only was the pronouncement of the court granting Emefiele bail not heeded by a so-called democratic government, but government has also since kept mute as the DSS and the prisons engaged in a show of shame to the chagrin of the whole world. No matter how execrable Emefiele may have behaved as the CBN governor, we owe ourselves the duty of calling for the protection of his human rights. The same man that the DSS, a few months ago, charged for terrorism and terrorism-financing is being charged for possessing a sparrow-hunting dane gun!

The quotation ascribed to the famous Lutherian pastor, Martin Niemollar, should be our national guiding principle. We must not abet high-handed vindictiveness in any guise. After being in Nazi prisons and concentration camp for eight years, Niemolla had made the poetic statement, “first, they came for the socialists and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist… then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew; then they came for me and there was not one left to speak for me.”

Up there in the creeks is an infamous terror-baiting, octopus-statured militant by the name of Asari Dokubo. He has openly wielded AK-47 Assault rifles and has flaunted a rag-tag militia he is training. Right there in Nigeria’s hallowed seat of power, where president of the republic seats, this barrel-chested individual, smarting from an openly advertised visit to the president, insulted Nigeria’s military, claiming that they were not only responsible for stealing the nation’s crude oil, but that he is the one providing security for Nigerians. Our President is still enjoying this raw, dry joke.

Rather than their huff and puff over military hijacks of democracy, African leaders need to be told that the only antidote against coups is good governance. We have had Baby and Papa tyrants in Africa and regimes of massive corruption that have denied the continent of its flourish. We cannot afford to continue on that route. Military adventurers have blighted the vine of Africa. They are responsible for why Nigeria and Africa are this anemic.