By Hugo Odiogor,Foreign Affairs Editor
Prof. Abubakar Momoh is a political scientist, human rights activist and author. He teaches at Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos, where he is the Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences. He is a prolific writer and commentator on international affairs. In this interview, Momoh provides an insight into the unfolding political development in Egypt.
What is your reaction to the turmoil in Egypt?
The development in Egypt is a huge setback for those who wish to deepen democracy in that country. What took place was a coup and the US and European leaders must admit that simple fact no matter what their wider interest is.
The prospects for civil war are high in the country generally regarded as the power house of Arab politics. What is your take on this?
The country risks a civil war because the issue at stake is whether a coup is the rightful way to resolve issues of disagreement. It’s sad that some Arab countries who disagreed with Mohammed Morsi
see this as an opportunity to support the coupists and their allies with funds and political affirmation.
Opponents of Morsi argue that he was eroding the secular status of Egypt and trying to become another dictator by attempting to oust the powers of the courts to question his actions and proclamations?
Morsi may have made mistakes, and, indeed, he admitted to having made mistakes. But there are many fractured things in Egypt:the constitution is fractured, the parliament is fractured, the press is
fractured, the party system is fractured and the new opposition is constructed on a fractured political template.
Do you think the way Morsi handled the military after he took office, the Sharia, the Coptic Christian crisis and referendum on the constitution paved the way for way he was ousted?
The military wanted to cage Morsi, hence they gave him a constitution that stripped him the powers of an Executive. They dissolved the parliament and strategically made the Constitutional Court the
kingmaker and ombudsman. The Coptic Christian community and other interest groups needed to find
wider political space, genuine parliament to play oversight role and ensure accountability. In focusing on Morsi as an individual rather than the fractured political structures and processes of Egypt, the new opposition missed out on the fundamental issues.
With the experiences in Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, etc, can democracy thrive in the Arab world?
Democracy will come to the Arab world but not in one fell swoop or as bandwagon. The capacity of the “Arab Spring” to transform the political landscape of the Arab world was over-exaggerated and
it did not take into account the historical specificities and balance of social forces in each country. The new social movements in many of these countries are not ideologically on the same template. Also, the over-reliance on the youth as the fulcrum or lever was dangerous. The youth idealised and romanticized change.
Many of them did not consciously connect the issues in the context of wider ideological and political meaning. Material crisis was the main trigger, organizational and ideological cohesiveness was taken out of the “Arab Spring” rebellion. Where successes were recorded, the question of power was posed in a decisive and concrete manner, not in a romantic manner.
With hindsight of the Algerian crisis in the 1990s, do you envisage a backlash from the Muslim Brotherhood?
The Muslim Brotherhood has learnt from the Algeria crisis. But the forces against them both internally and externally are overwhelming; hence they will be forced to fall back to their tradition opposition role. They will be more unity and determined this time and fringe members of other parties such as Al Noury Party, who see the deposed Morsi’s predicament as an assault on Islam will align with the brotherhood. There will be influx of sympathizers of Morsi from other Arab countries. That will make matters far complex.
Since 1973, political developments in the Maghreb and the Middle East have always infiltrated into Nigeria to exert influence on our domestic affairs. Do you envisage a possible domino effect for Nigeria and sub Sahara-Africa?
There will be no domino effect of these happenings on sub-saharan Africa. Maybe, Somalia and Kenya and Mali. Not even in Niger and Chad will such domino effect impact because the political leadership in those countries know the consequences.
Given the role of the social media and youth discontent with governments in the Arab world, can our political class ignore the lessons from Egypt?
If our political elite ignore the happenings or gloss over them, it will be unfortunate. The youth of Nigeria feel let down and disappointed. Let us not give them the opportunity to undermine the system,because if we do, it’s anarchy that will reign, not revolution.
How do you respond to the reaction of the US and major powers to the political situation in Egypt?
I expected the US and Europe an countries to unreservedly condemn the coup and impose sanctions. Unfortunately most of them find it hard to admit that there was a coup neither are they willing to impose sanctions. That is morally reprehensible and condemnable.
African leaders didn’t raise their voices when Morsi seemed to be going astray, but when he was kicked out, Nigeria and AU were up in arms, a replay of what happened in Mali. Is this ostrich diplomacy of any use to Africa’s democratic development?
Nigeria and AU have no business pointing to day to day programme s and contradictions in the way Morsi ran his government; weak institutions and a self-serving constitution caused it. AU has a standing policy coming out of the Togo Agreement, that coups have been criminalised in Africa. The AU and Nigerian governments were merely being faithful to that resolution.