Shortly before the official swearing-in of Nigeria’s incumbent president on the 29th of May, 2023, there were strong speculations, particularly from the opposing political sect, that there shall be a military takeover of the government. They believed this would serve as the long-awaited antidote to the recently concluded presidential election, which was believed to be deeply marred with blatant rigging, a myriad of gross electoral malpractice, with no form of redress whatsoever, to the glaring view of the comity of nations.
Humorously, anyone who closely followed the swearing-in ceremony, where it was anticipated the Coup d’état would occur, would observe, just as I did, that the military men who were thought to take over the office actually escorted the president right into the presidential villa with march parades, salutes and other military ceremonial courtesies.
The apparent questions then arise-
Is Nigeria standing on thin ice, on the verge of breaking her citizens into the regressive, cold hollows of a military regime? Are we ready for the unfamiliar harsh blows that accompany a military government?
A Military Takeover, a Coup or Coup d’état pretty much mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. It simply means the sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government by members of the armed forces.
Here are a few factors that are instrumental to the emergence of a Coup-
a. Faulted electoral processes, contradictory election results, and redundancy of front-liner governmental institutions invariably lead to instability of the system of government being run, thereby creating a vacuum for the emergence of a military government.
b. Distasteful economic conditions- This expresses itself as widespread unemployment among the youths, and high and prolonged inflation, which consequently leads to a rise in the cost of commodities, high foreign exchange rates, a chasm in the standard of living between the rich and the poor, etc. These are bound to cause a rebellious outcry among citizens, creating a plausible justification for a coup.
c. Grudges within the military- There are instances where a sect within the armed forces has deep-seated aversions for the current mode of civilian control, and this orchestrates a coup d’état to ensure the military becomes the rightful authority to address their various aversions.
d. Tribal and Religious Clashes- The beauty in diversity is no longer revealed when a tribal or religious sect attempts to impose its norms on another sect. This attempt would cause resistance and can escalate into religious or tribal wars, which may be beyond the control of the incumbent government, thus setting the stage for a military takeover.
e. Dysfunctional Political Structures and Cosmetic Democratic Institutions- Where political structures, as well as democratic institutions, are merely channels for public office holders to drain off public funds for their personal gratification, at the expense of the development of her citizens and the nation at large, members of the armed forces may present themselves as the only remedy to halt such vices and other similar acts of corruption.
One might be tempted to believe that if these factors are present in a democratic system of government, a military intervention would be a perfect correctional mechanism to serve as an unbiased umpire, seeking to protect all sects and bring order, but before there is a longing to return to “Egypt”, here are a few typical characteristics of a military regime-
a. Abuse of the Rule of Law- The starting point of a military takeover is usually the suspension of the Country’s constitution and, consequentially, a suspension of all other governmental infrastructures established to protect the interest of her citizens and place proper checks on the leadership.
b. A lack of accountability and transparency- As so much power is vested in the military head, no one can question the apportioning of income, expenditure, budget and other similar financial activities, except another coup is staged to overthrow the incumbent government.
c. Abuse and suppression of human rights- Due to the suspension of governmental systems, such as the judiciary, the constitution, and the legislative arm of government, which serve as channels where citizens can express their grievances and seek redress and protection. The military’s alleged goal to maintain control often leads to the suspension of broadcast outlets, indiscriminate killings, sudden curfews and other unpalatable decrees, which cannot be questioned.
d. International Isolation- The absence of adhering to the rule of law causes so much collateral damage, so much so that the comity of nations on the international sphere would be better off, disassociating themselves from any form of alliance as a result of the atrocities birthed by the emergence of a military government.
Nigeria might currently be experiencing some of the situations that lead to a coup, but they (the problems) are not anywhere close to the tragic occurrences attached to a coup. There are more constructive ways to deal with national issues- servant leadership, accountability, integrity, and upholding the rule of law, to mention a few. So, choose wisely.