Give Nigerians Good Governance To Avert Coup — Retired Military Generals Tell President Tinubu

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Some retired military generals have warned the President Bola Tinubu-led Nigerian government that the way to avert a coup in a country is for the democratically elected government to follow the constitution and promote good governance.

The generals in an interview with PUNCH amid a wave of successful coup missions in some other African countries noted that while coups were not desirable, people no longer wanted to be taken for granted.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has downplayed any worries of a coup, claiming that the country has progressed beyond a forcible seizure of leadership.

It emphasised how Nigerians had completely accepted democracy and how the country’s democratic institutions were strengthening.

The Nigerian government stated that the recent coups in certain African nations, particularly nearby Niger Republic, did not inspire dread in Nigeria.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, said this in an interview with PUNCH on Friday, noting, “I can tell you that there is no fear or apprehension at all. We have gone past that, and we have been a democratic country all this while with the institutions of democracy getting stronger.”

On Wednesday, the continent experienced its newest coup, the nation’s second in 2023, when military soldiers in Gabon took control and placed the deposed President, Ali Bongo, and his family members under house arrest. Gabon is located in Central Africa.

A former Chief of Defence Staff, Alexander Ogomudia, said the coups were a mirror of how elected governments controlled their nations.

No one, he says, would have any moral basis for supporting a coup against a government that meets its campaign pledges and upholds the country’s constitution.

He said, “You can’t use what happened in Gabon as a template for what happens everywhere else. For Niger, have you seen the pictures of the country at all? For how many years has France been collecting nuclear materials from that country, and the country is one of the poorest in the world?

“In my place, we have a saying that if you do anyhow, you will see anyhow. So, whoever was ruling Niger, if he was teaming with foreigners to ruin their country; that is doing anyhow. So, if you have a coup now, it is seeing anyhow. I have no advice.

“Every politician knows what is right. Before resuming office, don’t they campaign? If they stick to those promises why would they have a problem? If I say this road to your place is not good, I will fix it for you, and when I get there and I fix the road, will anyone have the moral justification to support a coup against such a person? Those who are planning coups have their reason for planning it, I can’t speak for them.”

Also, Brig.-Gen. Phillip Ashim, said the way to stop coups in Africa was to ensure that the people enjoy good governance. “That is common knowledge, it is good governance. That’s all,” he added.

In a telephone conversation, a former Commander, 1 Division, Brig.-Gen. John Sura (retd.), said that for coups to end in Africa, leaders must respect their constitution and democratic framework.

He said, “There are some basic things African leaders should pay attention to. First, the constitution of every nation must be highly respected. People agitate when they are disenchanted or there is an unacceptable change in the constitution. If the people enjoy good governance, I believe there will be no coup.

“If you look at the developed nations, no matter what happens, they respect their electoral laws and other laws, so people feel at home that their interests are protected. Once countries are well governed and there is respect for the rule of law, we will not be talking of a coup.”

Major General Henry Ayoola (ret.), former Commander of the Special Task Force, Operation Safe Haven, also stated that the coups were indicative enough for politicians to change their governing style. He went on to say that democracy should be practised in conformity with the rule of law and that governance was the best guarantee.

He stated, “Let’s practise true democracy and not just civilian rule. Let it be that it is a democracy where we keep to the rule of law, follow due process and procedures or the tenets of democracy. That is the surest way of keeping soldiers out of governance.

“The answer is for the politicians to play the game according to the rules. I give soldiers no reason and no excuse to tamper with the democratic rule. Let us practise democracy.”

He said further that the style of governance on the continent had entrenched impunity such that people didn’t like processes and procedures. “We want to do what we like when we like it and how we like it; that is what is playing out,” he said.

He continued: “I mean how do you explain the Gabon case where the father spent about 27 years ruling the country and the son came spending another 13 years and he just won a fraudulent third term, tampering with the constitution? The best way is not to give the room for it. I don’t like to discuss the issue of looking up to the international bodies to solve our problems for us. It is a shame that we cannot rule ourselves.”

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