INTERVIEW: Fear of coup should awaken Nigerian leaders – Idam

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An activist lawyer, Maduabuchi Idam says the hardship confronting Nigerians should raise concern. In this interview with Seun Opejobi, the Abuja-based constitutional lawyer advised President Bola Tinubu on measures that would prevent the military from attempting a coup like in other African countries. Excerpts!

In the last few weeks, many African countries have witnessed a coup; what does it portend for Nigeria?

Anybody in the shoes of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should ordinarily provide whatever it takes to prevent military intervention. However, Nigerian leaders should be more cautious now, even though we understand that the provision of our laws makes it impracticable impossible for the military to attempt taking over governance because the law in the Penal and Criminal Codes make it clear that any such attempt to take over a democratically elected government is punishable with death.

Interestingly, these laws have made it so stringent that even the plan and idea to carry out that act is as punishable as the act itself. So, with these stringent measures, it becomes very difficult for the military or anybody to sit and think about it.

Military insurrections become treasonable when coups fail, so while it succeeds, it is justified; so by implication, you either succeed or attempt and be ready for the state to come after you. It’s not new in Nigeria; we have witnessed over eight coups from 1966 to 1999. From the time of Gowon to Murtala Mohammed to Obasanjo to IBB to Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami – these guys are alive because they succeeded; those who did not succeed were executed.

The implication of these is that if you must attempt a military takeover, you should be prepared to either succeed or kill yourself or be ready for the state to come after you.

That said, the systemic corruption in Nigeria, which has always been the reason the military took over, has become so endemic that the Nigerian system is in itself failing more than when the military had to intervene. The reason for past military takeovers was corruption, tribalism, and poor governance, which is what we have today. Today we can say that Nigeria is worse than it has ever been before.

You notice that whenever there is a new president in Nigeria, the first thing is to change the Service Chiefs, and they believe that’s the only measure to retain power from failing by having somebody who is loyal to them. You can see that almost all the Service Chiefs are those loyal to Mr President. This is why it will be difficult for Mr President to panic on whether there will be a military takeover or not.

What are the possibilities of Nigerians experiencing a military coup again, considering what is happening in some African countries?

The military, as presently constituted, lacks the will, the power, and the morals to even attempt to take over power, and the reason is because it has been politicised.

How Tinubu can have a firm grip on the military to avoid Nigeria witnessing another coup

My advice to Mr President is to make sure he settles tribal agitations and ensure he meets their yearnings; whatever the need is, he should meet it. He has to take a cue from what happened in 1966, 1975, 1983, 1985, 1993, and 1998. Like I said before, these were successive military regimes, he should go back and study history so that he can take a cue from that. It was because of agitations from the major tribal groups in Nigeria due to marginalisation; it’s not about loyalty; as far as there are human beings, even the insurrections might not come from the Service Chiefs, so what he needs to do is settle agitations, hold meetings on their issues.

Apart from that, look at the economy, when people are disenchanted, there would be civil disobedience which is an attempt to undermine the authority of the state. Loyalty of the Army might not save the state if Mr President is unable to make a reasonable effort to meet whatever their yearnings are.

Hardship is one major factor among African countries. Should Nigerians be afraid considering the country’s current situation?

If you must consider the huge force of this coup in these other African states like Niger, then Nigerians should be. It’s not the rebel leaders that are fighting but corruption, poor governance, and economic crisis. In Nigeria, we are battling with endemic and systemic corruption, hardship, mismanagement of our economy, looting of our commonwealth, and these are the reasons people will be disenchanted and consider any option.

It’s when the people of a state are disenchanted that they begin to consider how to take over power and displace constituted authority; this is what the military leader and rebel leaders in Niger cited as their reasons.

So, if Tinubu must continue to remain president of Nigeria, the only thing is to ensure he revamps the economy, even distribution of wealth for the common masses; if not, coup might be the ultimate. We are not saying we are the ones plotting, neither are we the ones part of those with the will to do that, but we are saying if Tinubu must continue to reign, it’s advisable that he responds to certain agitations.

Is military intervention the panacea to bad leadership in Africa?

Yes, and I have an extreme view to this: Nigerians’ body language shows they were not ready for self-rule and independence. From 1999 till date, we do not have a refinery because we can’t manage our resources; we have to export our crude oil to be refined, and then we buy it back.

If the military is not an option, then it means we have to invite the white men to come back and recolonize us on social contract bases. Take whatever you can and give us good governance because our people have failed. What are we asking for- give us good roads, and provide electricity for people; we are not asking governors for employment. These are the basic things the Nigerian state has been asking for since independence till date and it’s difficult.

So, if military incursion can’t handle it, then it means we should invite the white man to come back, take all the oil, natural resources but give us good roads, good healthcare system, good schools because we have not been able to do that.

With the abundance of natural resources, intellectual resources, human resources, why are Nigerians still experiencing bad leadership?

The reason is the extreme level of capitalism, the primitive accumulation of wealth. Those who are privileged to be at the helm of government only think about themselves and not the state, how to amass more wealth at the detriment of the people. Why is it that in a neighbourhood, a wealthy man is rich enough to own the entire environment, yet his next neighbour is struggling to afford one square meal a day?

This is why we are saying it’s either the military is the only solution or we invite the white man to come back and take over the affairs of the state on a social contract basis because the same problem still persists.

The Nigerian people have been asking for power, good roads, yet the government has failed to provide a solution despite several promises.

INTERVIEW: Fear of coup should awaken Nigerian leaders – Idam

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