The recent warning by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa, against any suggestion of military takeover of government in Nigeria is timely and commendable. The CDS, who spoke in Port Harcourt, said those calling for anything other than democracy were evil people who didn’t mean well for the country. “We all want democracy and we do better during democracy. And so, we will continue to support democracy,” he said.

Undoubtedly, Nigeria has a very strategic position in Africa. Any coup in the country will have a domino effect on the continent. Already, there is an epidemic of coups in Africa, especially in West Africa. Military governments exist in such countries as Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger Republic, and Gabon. Since August 2020, six sub-Saharan African countries have suffered up to eight coups or attempted coups. In most of these countries, the people trooped out to celebrate the coming of the military. What this indicates is that people are frustrated and not enjoying the dividends of democracy.

Disturbed by the frequency of these coups, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions on countries where the military recently intervened. This unsettled the regional body as three countries – Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger – pulled out of the organization. Although some of the sanctions have been lifted, the three countries are yet to rejoin ECOWAS.   

It is pertinent to note that we have passed the phase of military coups in Nigeria. The first military coup in January 15, 1966 led to the civil war which cost the nation millions of lives. Since that intervention, we have had some other military coups in the country. In 1999, the military decided to leave the stage. The Abdulsalami Abubakar-led military government conducted election that brought in Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Since then, we have had uninterrupted civilian government.

Tinubu’s inauguration as President on May 29, 2023 came with the removal of fuel subsidy. This catapulted the price of fuel from about N185 a litre to more than N600 a litre. This has had a spiral effect on the prices of other commodities in the country. The cost of living has gone so high that millions of Nigerians don’t know where the next meal will come from. The rate of inflation is as high as the rate of unemployment. Food inflation is worse as prices of commodities rise almost on a daily basis. The depreciating value of naira is worrisome.

These are worsened by the spate of insecurity in the country. Terrorists and kidnappers have made life unbearable for Nigerians. No part of the country is safe and no one is free from the menace of kidnapping.

No matter its imperfections, democracy is still better than a military government which is usually authoritarian. The freedom we enjoy today under a civilian government will be lost if a military government comes to power. We urge Nigerians to continue to defend the constitution and ignore the coup mongers.

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We also urge those in power to address the hardship in the country. The panacea to coups is good governance. The three tiers of government must ensure that there is good governance. When you push people to the wall, they are bound to be frustrated. Government should listen to good advice and solve the problems of Nigerians. President Tinubu put it succinctly late last year at the ordinary session of ECOWAS in Abuja when he said that ending coups in Africa required good governance and collective prosperity. 

Ending coups also requires good management of electoral processes. It was the poor handling of the electoral processes that led to the 1983 coup that toppled the civilian government of Shehu Shagari. That was also what partly led to the toppling of the government of Ali Bongo of Gabon in 2023.    

Our democracy must be transparent and make the people happy. Political leaders must avoid living in opulence while the people suffer from penury. While Nigerians were asked to tighten their belts, those in power have continued to waste billions of naira in luxury vehicles, renovation of official residences and needless foreign trips.

The President must tackle corruption which has crippled the progress of the country. He should find solutions to the country’s economic problems with a view to curbing poverty, hunger and unemployment. Cutting wastage and cost of governance is a must. Revamping our education and health sectors is also germane. 

The National Assembly must wake up to its responsibilities. The lawmakers should quickly amend our Electoral Act to make it impossible for anybody to rig or manipulate elections. The key to this is electronic voting and a truly Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The National Assembly and the presidency should also look into restructuring of the country. True federalism and good management of diversity are what Nigeria needs at this point. The beauty of democracy is the freedom people have. Soldiers should limit themselves to their constitutional role of defending the territorial integrity of the country. Above all, they should be subordinate to civilian authorities.