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The military and Abuja’s coup rumours

By Rotimi Fasan
I DON’T know if it was somebody’s idea of a sick joke or an attempt to test the waters to know Nigerians’ disposition to such an idea but the reported rumour of a coup some days ago could only have come from a diseased imagination. Quite frankly it was not a report that the Nigerian press appeared to know anything about.

And if they did, they rightly ignored it. It was more like a red herring or something only the military, personified by the Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, seemed privy to. The press didn’t appear to know of it. Perhaps not until the CDS found it necessary to debunk it.

It was like a bolt out of the blues, and it made no meaning at all except when read in the context of the recent but growing militarisation of the polity. Which is the more reason Nigerians need to be wary of such report that looks like another clear attempt at mischief-making.

From left: Chief of  Air Staff Air  Marshall, Alex Badeh; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice  Admiral Dele Ezeoba; and Inspector-General of  Police, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, after a security meeting with President  Goodluck Jonathan  at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Friday.
From left: Chief of Air Staff Air Marshall, Alex Badeh; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba; and Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, after a security meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Friday.

What could or would be the justification for a coup at this time? Who could be contemplating a thing like that at this time? Such a person couldn’t have been in Nigeria in the last one and half decades. Anyone hallucinating along such line must be a recent returnee from outer space. No right thinking person could be contemplating a thing like that.

No Nigerians should even allow themselves to think in terms of such misadventure. But in case there is anyone entertaining such infernal thoughts, just perhaps there are some groups or individuals allowing their imagination to run amok in such direction, let them be quickly warned that they are coming nearly 20 years behind time.

Their case would be worse than that of a pariah. Compared to such a person, Sani Abacha would look like an American president that came into office by a ‘landslide’ victory.

What am I saying? That anyone thinking of a coup right now would fail woefully because should they, God forbid, succeed in taking over the reins of government they would have to decide over whom they would exercise their stolen ‘mandate’.

Certainly not Nigerians whose support they wouldn’t have. And that is where their problem would start from. If they couldn’t count on Nigerians welcoming them, what can they expect from the rest of the world? Abacha didn’t fail because the world just didn’t want him.

His problem began and ended with the fact that Nigerians simply wouldn’t have him. That was why the world didn’t and wouldn’t have anything to do with him.

That was why he ran his regime holed up in his so-called villa that was more like a prison. It was also why he literally went berserk making enemies of Nigerians from all walks of life whose respect he couldn’t earn, to say nothing of earning their support.

A coupist in the Nigeria of today must be dangerously deluded. Such would need to have their head examined. They would look like a mental case gone terribly bad. These warning words should suffice for anyone better than a suicidal fool.

So then what could have given wings to such an unfounded rumour as that of a coup? What could have given rise to talks like these which only the military deemed fit to react to?

The words of Alex Badeh sounded not just like that of a military pledging its allegiance to its Commander-in-Chief. It sounded also like the words of the head of a military aware of its lack of subordination to civil power. Badeh sounded like a soldier aware that its conduct might be unsettling to a civil populace in need of reassurance. He was condescending even if he didn’t mean to be. Which brings me to why rumours of a coup could be flying at a time like this.

Any observer of the Nigerian polity couldn’t be blind to the growing militarisation of the country. There have been clear breaches of democratic norms in the last two weeks or thereabout. These breaches have been attributed to the military.

The attempt at attributing these breach of civil norms to a military didn’t look convincing. It looks like an attempt by a civil power afraid to own up to a growing despotic tendency. It all became obvious with the attack on the press by the military.

In what was a throwback to our military years, newspaper vans were hijacked by military personnel. Several newspapers were affected by this rape of press freedom. In addition to this hijack of vehicles conveying newspapers, drivers of these vehicles and even news vendors were detained. This went on for days in a row.

There was no sense of outrage from Abuja. Rather than condemning this breach of press freedom and the right of Nigerians to access information, all the Presidency did was to attribute the seizures of newspapers to the military. The military spokesperson claimed security measures made the raids necessary.

The military claimed these vehicles or vehicles that looked like them are used to convey lethal weapons by insurgents. It is curious that the waylaid vehicles were stopped not in the well known theatres of insurgency like Maiduguri or anywhere close to Chibok or indeed the entire North East. No, press vehicles were being waylaid in Port Harcourt, Abuja and Ibadan, etc.

If the military went on like this on its own one would think there was need to address the fears of Nigerians about their growing presence by the Presidency. But what Nigerians saw was a Presidency that looked acquiescent and ready to align behind the military. The Presidency appeared to wash its hands off the whole issue.

And so the military continued with its rape on democracy. Abuja made it all looked like the military was independent of the elected civil power and couldn’t be called to order. It was therefore no surprise when two governors in the opposition APC, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Adams Oshiomhole, had their aircraft grounded in Akure on their way to campaign for their counterpart in Ekiti State. Again the military, Nigerians were told, was responsible for this.

In the light of this growing power of the military should it surprise anyone if there are rumours of a coup and it is the military that is left to respond to it?



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