By Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa
NIGERIA has experienced a couple of incomplete military coup d’états. An incomplete coup is one in which the intended objectives are not fully accomplished in one fell swoop. In Nigerian history, we have seen all types of coups-attempted, aborted, failed, phantom, incomplete and complete. They are all different, though they all share a common foundation.
Nigeria’s first incomplete coup was the one led by the majors – notably Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Adewale Ademoyega and their co-revolutionaries on January 15, 1966. Their critical objective was to overthrow Balewa’s government, release Awolowo from prison and enthrone him as the Prime Minister. Due to the poor performance of some of the team members and the resistance of some officers like Lt-Col Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu in Kano and the counter moves of General Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi in Lagos, the coup became incomplete. Balewa was overthrown but Awolowo was not installed as Prime Minister then. But following a sequence of events initiated by this incomplete coup, Obafemi Awolowo was subsequently released from prison and made the defacto Premier under Yakubu Gowon’s ‘presidency’
Another example of an incomplete military coup in Nigeria was the one organized by Col. Buka Suka Dimka on February 13, 1976. They planned to overthrow General Murtala Muhammed and instal their own government. But following the intervention of guys like Ibrahim Babangida, the coup became incomplete. Murtala was overthrown but Murtala’s guys led by Olusegun Obasanjo and Theophilus Danjuma remained in power. A classical example of a successfully completed coup was the one carried out by TY Danjuma and his co-conspirators on the July 29, 1966, when they succeeded in dethroning Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi and changing his government, installing Yakubu Gowon as the head of state. This coup instigated a series of events that led to the Nigeria-Biafra War of 1967-1970.
On the other hand, a classical example of a failed coup was that executed by Gideon Okar and his altruistic group on April 22,1990. It failed on the two counts. It could not overthrow IBB and, therefore, could not install a new government. However some commentators have opined that if Orkar’s coup had succeeded, may be the problem that has held and continues to hold Nigeria down would have been long solved. Orkar meant to drastically restructure Nigeria and set new terms for peaceful co-existence among the constituent groups.
Last week on July 24, 2018, something that looked like a civilian equivalent of an incomplete military coup happened in Nigeria. From the scenes of celebration at the National Assembly and in many parts of Nigeria, you would think, Nigeria just won the World Cup. In one single day 14 Senators (15-1) and 36 Federal Representatives decamped from the ruling APC to the opposition parties, mostly PDP. Something similar had happened in 2014 in the run up to the 2015 general elections with the formation of nPDP, a breakaway faction of PDP, but it was not as dramatic. What happened last week was an epic drama full of plots and counter plots. Was it contrived or just an act of retribution-reaping what you sow? The first act was enacted with the formation of rAPC a few weeks ago by essentially the same elements who formed nPDP, except that this time they were more virulent. They knew where they were going but decided to act out the drama script.
What heightened the theatre and suspense was the rather belated attempt by President Muhammadu Buhari, PMB, to abort the ‘coup’, almost similar to President Jonathan’s late effort to rein in the horse which had long left its stable. He held several meetings with leaders of the legislature, especially the Senate President. He should have hired IBB, who has tremendous experience in aborting coups. But that may not have been possible, because those who know how to read signs tell me IBB was part of the ‘coup’plot. But then PMB hired Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who these same fellows with clairvoyant powers tell me is the one assigned the role of finally liquidating the APC.
While PMB was trying to placate and do damage-control, Adams was blaring on all cylinders threatening fire and brimstone. Not only was he abusing, cursing and threatening the ready to decamp, decamping and ‘des-camping’ legislators, he was threatening to help some ministers decamp! APC must find a way to exorcise the spirit of trade unionism activism from Comrade Oshiomhole before the prediction that he is the APC undertaker finds early fulfillment.
The legislative’coup’ of July 24, was incomplete. It is certain that the last minute Gestapo-type effort to abort the ‘coup’ and perhaps stage a pre-emptory ‘coup’ similar to that of the five majors, may have delayed the completion of the original ‘coup ‘. It is alleged that a pre-emptory ‘coup’ was going to happen. Saraki and Ekweremadu were to be prevented from going to the Senate Chambers that morning. They had been invited late evening of July 23 to appear at different police offices to answer some questions and while there, the planned defections would not have held, rather the two would have been removed from office. Thus an event that would have held on Thursday, the last legislative date before the long recess, seemed to have been moved forward to Tuesday with premature adjournment to frustrate the preemptory ‘coup’.
Therefore for now, some of the objectives of the legislative coup have been achieved. In the Senate, for example, the number of senators in opposition exceeds the number still in the ruling party. I suspect, this may be similar to what now obtains in the House of Representatives. This will certainly change the balance of power in both houses. Indeed, more defections and perhaps much weightier ones may happen before or at resumption. The quake and the resultant tremor is already shaking the states. Who knows, this legislative ‘coup’ may then be brought to a full and successful closure and the 2019 political equation would have become much more easily solvable.