Coup scar in Nigeria: The Army and the people

Coup scar in Nigeria: The Army and the people


“Security is mortals’ chiefest enemy” – William Shakespeare 

Engraved portrait of William Shakespeare. High resolution scan. Isolated on white.
William Shakespeare, the renowned English playwright, may have died many years ago, not like cowards who die many times before their death.
 Somehow, his deep understanding of man’s deceptive nature; his relentless contribution to the development of drama and the arts in an evolving world; and his realisation early enough that there is indeed a dagger in men’s smile; continues to resonate to this day.
Through Hecate, the queen of witches, the playwright in Act 3, Scene 5 of the great play, “Macbeth”, was able to draw man’s attention to the fact that “security is mortals’ chiefest enemy.”
It may be that man’s quest to achieve great superiority, most of the time by conquest; his desire to attain set goals in politics, trade and  commerce as well as that undying resolve to control domineering influence and power; may be responsible for the litany of wars, conflicts and crises that have beset mankind.
This quest driven largely by greed, ethnic and religious bigotry, parochialism, hate, nepotism, the establishment of a frightening military industrial complex and the hunger to reach dizzying heights through the show of force, persuasive communication, acts of betrayal, murder, etc., Shakespeare was able to effectively offer a mimick of society through his writings.
A sense of security in a society where “fair is foul” continues to be mortals’ chiefest enemy no matter how we look at it today.
This tendency which has given vent to a struggle for resources and the survival of the fittest has become even worse as men slave under the weight of changing global economic conditions, an environment under threat and an expanding population.
Across Africa, some of those who have trusted in the power of their chariots and the security arrangements put on ground are in trouble.
They have been overthrown by men they kept close; men that they trusted with their protection and the protection of their families; and men who watched them from close quarters as they grappled with challenges of leadership.

Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger have come under the jack boots of the military establishment. Gabon ruled by the Bongo dynasty for 56 years is the latest country in Africa to be taken over by the military.

Also across the continent, there are mixed reactions as most Africans at home and in the diaspora try to make sense of the trend that has become a major talking point.

In Cameroon and Rwanda, the authorities have made changes to postings within the top echelons of their respective military commands. Trust has suddenly given way to suspicion as soldiers consider new options.

What the electoral map which produced the President, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu looks like.
Source: Channels TV


Could it be that some elements within the Nigerian Armed forces are plotting to oust the nation’s democratic institutions?

Why would anybody plot at this time to set aside an administration that is barely 100 days old in office?

But there are strong indications that the country’s military which has remained loyal to civilian democratic rule since 1999 might already be on red alert.

Thus far, the Nigerian Army has issued a stern warning to soldiers within its rank and file who may be dreaming to overthrow the government of President Bola Tinubu to desist from such a plot.

For several years, we fought to return to civil rule in this country. Many Nigerians – politicians, labour leaders, activists and journalists- died resisting the autocratic reign of the military.

As a people, we witnessed the annulment of an election considered the fairest and the freest in the country which was won in 1993 by late MKO Abiola on the platform of the Social Democratic Party.

It is rather shocking that in 2023, after 24 years of uninterrupted civilian rule, there are disturbing and unsubstantiated claims that some military men may be planning to take advantage of the trend in Francophone Africa to seize power in this country.

But for the comments attributed to high ranking military officials regarding the possibility of such an intent, one would have easily dismissed it.

There is no doubt that Nigerians are going through rough times. The cost of essential items in the marketplace has spiralled out of control, all thanks to the removal of subsidy.

Truly, most Nigerian families currently live below the poverty line while the middle class has completely disappeared. Inflation hasn’t been merciful either. It has galloped away.

The naira floated recently by the Tinubu administration is yet to compete favourably against the dollar. It has come very close to N1000 to a dollar.

If not for the intervention of the Federal Government, another increase in the pump price of PMS could have taken effect.

A petrol attendant selling PMS at more than twice the price that Nigerians spent buying the product before the removal of subsidy. 


All of these could most likely motivate any person or group of persons in uniform who wants to be seen as a messiah to embark on a messianic quest to wrest power from the civilian class.

While we agree that there may have been a failure of leadership somewhere along the line under the Buhari administration, we cannot pretend that finding a way out of the economic woods by correcting mistakes of the past would be painful.

We also cannot deny the fact that the army in all the years it was in power could not address Nigeria’s economic woes. The army simply talked its tail between his legs and fled from the seat of power.

Our aim in writing this piece is not to denigrate the Nigerian Army which has shown capacity and transformed into a professional fighting force despite internal contradictions which may exist.

Infact, the General Officer Commanding 81 Division Nigerian Army, Major General Mohammed Takuti Usman who handed down the warning, urged soldiers who are not prepared to subordinate themselves to civilian authority to leave at once.

Usman may not know it, but he spoke the mind of a great majority of Nigerians who may not want to live under autocratic rule. More than that, he made it crystal clear that given the right to choose, the military will choose to strengthen democracy instead of gaining power through the barrel of a gun.

It is not the military from the foregoing which wants a shift of power from the civilian class to the barracks. The real culprits are those members of the civilian class who want to ride on the back of the military to realise their selfish ambitions.

This is why there is a strong desire on our part to support the call by the military in Nigeria urging the people to back its resolve to defend democracy.

Many experts in our midst, including economists,  believe that the Tinubu administration is confronting the economic and security challenge appropriately. They agree that the new policies instituted by the Nigerian government under his watch would need a little time to blossom.

Against this backdtop, Tinubu  deserves our understanding, not our condemnation. He deserves to be applauded for removing the fuel subsidy rather than being demonised

Some say he removed subsidy without a plan. Given the fact that there was no budgetary provision left by his predecessor for funding the subsidy regime beyond the month of June, it means as some Nigerians have argued that by the time he took the oath of office subsidy was technically dead.

In our view, in not removing the subsidy regime,  the Tinubu administration would have succeeded in killing the country’s deregulation plan.

It would equally have made mockery of the Petroleum Industry Act passed by the National Assembly and increased our debt profile as a result of constant borrowing from internal and extetnal sources.

At least, Wale Edun,  Minister of Finance has assured Nigerians that there would be no more borrowing. This means that the mortgage of the future of our children and children’s children would be averted.

We need to make a point and quickly too. We would put a greater burden on the economy if we were to abandon the policy direction for another at this stage. Not only shall we lose time and momentum, we shall lose resources.

We also want to make another point. States and local governments which are earning increased revenue from the removal of subsidy must come more forcefully into the picture.

Dealing with matters of foreign policy, issues of external aggression and the protection of Nigeria’s sovereignty are the primary assignments of the Federal Government.

It can be argued that the Federal Government does not own agricultural land. It does not own land for industrial purposes except by acquisition under the Land Use Act. It may not, where there is a tussle of power, protect national parks and other monuments without the cooperation and understanding of state governments.

Besides, lands are owned by the people who are born in communities, who belong to local government areas under the control of states, and who by law are indigenes of states. This being the case, states must turn into centres of production and economic transformation.

Accordingly, states should take the lead in the fight to enhance the lifestyles of their people through the creative utilisation of resources that are available to them.

If states and local governments which are benefitting from additional revenue dished out from the centre do nothing to meet the obvious needs of the people who are structurally under their direct control, there will be chaos.

Yet, it will make sense if the overall share of revenue accruing to the federating units, especially that belonging to the Federal Government,  is slashed in favour of the States and Local Government authorities. This is something that the current National Assembly ought to consider in the national interest.

Reducing the attraction which the control of the Federal Government has stimulated in the eyes of power mongers due largely to the availability of excessive funds might help reposition our democracy and swiftly encourage economic growth and the generation of wealth.


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