The recent disclosure by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. T.Y. Buratai, that some individuals are hobnobbing with some soldiers for political reasons came as a shock and surprise. It came at a time when many Nigerians believe that democracy has come to stay in the country.
The Army chief, who spoke through a statement issued by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen. Sani Usman, warned the soldiers involved in the act to desist from it. He advised ambitious officers who are interested in politics to either resign their commission or seek a voluntary discharge, so that they can seek election into any political office.
It is, indeed, worrisome that Nigeria is again having rumours of a coup plot. Any forcible, extra-constitutional change of government at this time can only set the nation many years backwards. The idea of any attempt to return Nigeria to military tyranny is abominable and condemnable. It is not just that military rule is outdated, it is oppressive and totalitarian. It is also contrary to the Nigerian 1999 Constitution which, in Section 1 (2), provides that “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.”
We, therefore, urge the Chief of Army Staff to go beyond the alarm he raised, and the warning he issued. He should investigate all those involved in this clandestine act and bring them to justice. Although the military authorities have assured Nigerians that there is no cause for panic, they should get to the root of the matter. Since there is no smoke without fire, this matter must be thoroughly probed and those found guilty severely punished.
The civilians hobnobbing with the military and, possibly, trying to instigate a military coup, must realise the danger that they are exposing the country to. The idea of another attempt to return Nigeria to military rule is unthinkable. We say this because military rule is always oppressive as it suspends the nation’s constitution and robs the people of their basic freedoms. Our experience with military rule in Africa has shown that the worst civilian government is better than the most benevolent military regime.
We recall that Nigeria won her independence on October 1,1960. Six years later, darkness descended on the nation when military rule was forced on the country. The experience led to the loss of some of our moral values and jeopardized the peace of the country. No doubt, military rule ruined the nation’s economy, distorted our priorities and reduced Nigeria from a middle-income nation to the seventh poorest country in the world. It damaged our educational system by its anti-intellectual posture and priorities. It destroyed our federal political structure and led the country into a catastrophic civil war which claimed two and a half million lives. It turned the country into a non-functional military state. It crippled development and put the nation on the boil with all manners of dissensions and fissiparous tendencies.
The widespread condemnation of the idea of a possible coup plot shows that no sane Nigerian will support any military intervention in the nation’s democracy again. The warning by the United Kingdom’s High Commissioner, Paul Arkwright, is indicative of the international support for our democracy. We believe that the best way to change a government is through the ballot box and not the barrel of a gun.