There is no riddle in the “undisclosed reasons.” We know it as a coup plot to put an end to the civilian regime and send us all the way back to the dark and suffocating winter of military rule.
Nigerians usually do not speak with one voice. This time, they do. The condemnations came fast and furious. A strong warning to any military adventurers and their civilian collaborators and sponsors to pull back from their diabolical plan to tip the nation over the edge of abyss. I find it encouraging.
More than a week ago as of this writing, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Tukur Buratai, shocked all of us when he found it necessary “…to inform the public that (he) has received information that some individuals have been approaching some officers and soldiers for undisclosed political reasons.”
There is no riddle in the “undisclosed reasons.” We know it as a coup plot to put an end to the civilian regime and send us all the way back to the dark and suffocating winter of military rule. Forbid it, Lord. The thought of our return to military rule for any reasons must most certainly be horrendous and pretty unsettling for most of us. Those who want to truncate our democracy may wish to listen to this: collectively, we say clearly and unambiguously: our country is loath to such adventurers. Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the APC chieftain, has made it clear that we, the people, will resist any such attempts. And we sure will. I just hope it does not come to that.
The disclosure by the general throws up three inescapable but disturbing facts about our national situation. Firstly, the Buhari administration does not lack enemies – powerful and wealthy enemies. The men and women who never thought they would one day spend a day in detention in their lives just cannot be happy about what is happening to them. Cushioned against such a remote possibility by their wealth, influence and their public standing, they had expected to luxuriate in their salubrious gardens of pleasure for the rest of their lives. Then their heaven came crashing down, destroying their pride and reducing their self-importance to a kobo worth.
They forgot that no condition is permanent. The anti-corruption war has shown them for what they are: common greedy thieves; or to borrow from Newswatch magazine, executhieves.
It should not be difficult for us to imagine the thoughts that go through the minds of these once-powerful haves now sunk low into the gutter among the depraved have-nots. It is naïve, foolish even, for anyone to think that corruption would not fight back. It is not the way the wind blows. Now, thanks to the general, we have to face the unsettling indication that the disrobed corrupt are not gasping for breath. They are busy oiling their guns for revenge.
At the inception of civil rule in 1999, President Obasanjo and his defence minister, General T.Y. Danjuma, came to the wise decision that all those officers in the three arms of the armed forces who held political appointments should go home. They took the decision to protect the fledgling civilian rule from those who had tasted the perks of political office from muscling their way back into political office via the barrel of the gun. Their decision saved our democracy,
I think. It is now apparent that it did not put an end to the ambition of those officers and men who believe that the rule of the gun is the shortest path to personal wealth.
Secondly, General Buratai did not name names; perhaps it is not the right time to do so. However, I suspect the public would involuntarily see its fingers pointing in the direction of some of the big losers in the current determined anti-corruption war prosecuted by the Buhari administration. Some of them were top brass in the armed forces. Their public disgrace through their own fault must be galling to the entire armed forces. They did not steal for the services but from the services.
Thirdly, we need not pretend about this. Coups are master-minded by rich civilians and are planned and executed by officers and men of the armed forces. Their civilian sponsors exploit their burning ambition for political power. That there are still civilians willing to sponsor a coup to put an end to our democracy after all that this country went through in the long years of military rule during which the gate of our democracy was padlocked, is not a matter for lament; it is a national challenge. I know it is disturbing, to put it mildly, to be thus reminded that we have put only a little distance between our today and the dark tunnel we passed through only yesterday.
Coup plotters never lack good reasons, from their own point of view, with which to clothe their naked ambition. Our present economic difficulties would be easily cited by such people, as indeed, was the case with the Second Republic. But the recession did not result from poor economic management by the current civilian administration. It was a creeping blight from the years of military rule or misrule. The country has to pay because it is pay-back time for its past profligacy. No one should be hanged for it. The managers are doing their best to pull us out of the recession so the good times can roll again in our dear country. A change of government through undemocratic means is not the answer to our economic difficulties and other challenges, such as the burgeoning security wahala.
Those who contemplate drawing or bribing the military back to the political stage might do well to remember the following:
One, there is no evidence in our experience with military rule to show that Nigerians in uniform are better economic managers than Nigerians in agbada. A Nigerian is a Nigerian, no matter the colour or the cut of his clothes.
Two, this country is coup weary. No one should try to pile it on any more. Let us make our mistakes and learn from them as other countries have done and still do. It would be dishonest of anyone to claim that our democracy is perfect. It is not. It is too early to impose any form of perfection on it. The older democracies are still grappling with the intricacies of making democracy truly a government of the people by the people and for the people.
In the last 18 years, our politicians have learnt some important lessons from their childish assertion of self-importance and authority in the early years of our return to civil rule. Speakers of the state houses of assembly are no longer thrown out of the chambers like a rag every week or month. Our feet are getting firmer on the grounds of democracy. All right, I would not deny that some of our governors and other politicians are still acting foolishly and doing foolish things but our laws do not recognise wisdom as a qualification for elective offices in the executive and the legislative branches of government.
Three, the myth of military competence and incorruptibility was shattered long, long ago. Even without the current anti-graft war which has exposed the military top brass, we knew long before now that some of our military men became stupendously wealthy through corrupt practices while in office. It helps to remind those who are trying to recruit the officers and men of our armed forces into their evil plans against the country and its people that the military overdrew their good will in the bank of public good will long ago. That account is now fully in the red. Any attempts to change its colour would be in vain.
It would be nice for the military authorities to expose these men, and perhaps women too, when it is safe from the point of view of security, to do so. Meanwhile, it is incumbent on all of us to recognise the dangers in letting in some military adventurers and their civilian sponsors and collaborators once more. We keep out the military and keep in cherished democracy, warts and all.
By Dan Agbese