An activist lawyer named Maduabuchi Idam has raised alarm over the plight of his country’s people. In this interview with Seun Opejobi, a constitutional lawyer residing in Abuja offered advice to Nigerian President Bola Tinubu on how to head off a military coup. Excerpts!
Many African countries have experienced coups recently; what does this mean for Nigeria?
Preventing military intervention is a top priority for any leader, including President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It is clear that any attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government is punishable by death, so Nigerian leaders should now exercise greater caution. However, we recognize that the provision of our laws makes it impractical impossible for the military to attempt taking over governance.
Curiously, these rules have become so severe that it is now illegal to even think about carrying out such an act, let alone actually do it. With such strict safeguards in place, it is challenging for the military or anyone else to stop and consider the situation.
In the event of a failed coup, military insurrections are considered treasonous; yet, if the coup is successful, the insurgents’ actions are justified. Since 1966, Nigeria has experienced over a dozen coups. These men are still alive today because they were successful under Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Obasanjo, IBB, Sabi Abacha, and Abdulsalam.
These suggest that one should be ready to either succeed in a military takeover or die doing it, or else face the possibility of state retaliation.
However, the inherent corruption in Nigeria’s system has always been the reason the military took control, and now it’s worse than it was before the military had to interfere. Corruption, tribalism, and poor governance were the root causes of previous military takeovers, and they remain persistent problems today. As of right now, we can confidently claim that Nigeria is at its worst.
Every time there is a new president in Nigeria, the first thing they do is replace the Service Chiefs in the hopes of finding someone who will be loyal to them and prevent them from losing power. It’s clear that Mr. President has only appointed loyalists as heads of the military services. Because of this, Mr. President will have a hard time panicking about a possible military takeover.
How likely is it that another military coup would occur in Nigeria in light of current events in other African countries?
Because it has been politicized, the military as it currently stands lacks the will, the power, and the morals to even attempt to take over the government.
How Tinubu can maintain control over the military to prevent another coup in Nigeria.
Mr. President, in my opinion, should do what it takes to quell ethnic unrest and fulfill the aspirations of the people of his country. To do this, he must learn from the events of 1966, 1975, 1983, 1985, 1993, and 1998. As I mentioned previously, they were a series of military administrations; he would do well to review past events in order to learn from their pattern. It’s not about loyalty, and the insurrections might not even come from the Service Chiefs, but rather because of marginalization, which is why he needs to hold talks with the key tribal groups in Nigeria and try to settle their grievances.
Aside from that, consider the state of the economy; when people are disillusioned, they may resort to civil disobedience, an attempt to weaken the state’s authority. If Mr. President is unwilling to make a fair attempt to satisfy whatever it is that the Army yearns for, then the loyalty of the Army may not be enough to save the state.
The African continent has many challenges. Should Nigerians be worried about the current state of affairs?
Nigerians should be worried about the widespread support for this coup in neighboring African countries like Niger. Rebel leaders aren’t fighting because they’re corrupt or bad at running the economy. People in Nigeria will become disillusioned and open to new ideas as long as the country continues to struggle with pervasive and systemic corruption, economic suffering, and plunder of public resources.
The military chief and rebel leaders in Niger justified their actions by claiming that the country’s citizens had lost faith in the legitimacy of the state’s established institutions.
If Tinubu intends to remain president of Nigeria, he must reform the economy and create a more equitable distribution of wealth for the general population. If Tinubu is to remain in power, he should address certain agitations, which is not to say that we are the ones conspiring or even part of those with the will to do so.
Is military intervention the silver bullet for Africa’s dysfunctional government?
Yes, and I have a very strong stance on this: the body language of Nigerians demonstrates that they were not prepared for self-rule and independence. Since 1999, we have been unable to properly manage our resources, and as a result, we have been forced to export our crude oil to be refined elsewhere and then buy it back.
Unless we can rely on the armed forces, we will have to extend an invitation to the white men to return and recolonize us under the guise of a social compact. Our people have failed us, so we need good leadership at whatever cost. We are not asking governors for jobs; all we want is for them to build decent roads and install reliable energy. Since Nigeria’s independence, the country’s government has demanded these rudimentary reforms.
If military intervention fails, then we should open our arms to the white man once more, with the understanding that they can take all our oil and natural resources in exchange for building us nice highways, hospitals, and schools.
Why are Nigerians still suffering from poor leadership although the country is flush with raw materials, ideas, and people?
The high degree of capitalism, the rudimentary accumulation of wealth, is to blame. Those with the power to run the country are more concerned with amassing fortune at the expense of the populace than they are with running the country. How is it that one man in a neighborhood can afford to own everything, while his poor neighbor can’t even afford to eat three times a day?
This is why we are arguing that the military is the only option, or that we welcome the white man back to take over state affairs under a social compact.
The people of Nigeria have been demanding reliable electricity and better transportation for quite some time, but the government has yet to deliver on any of these promises.