It is not just like many choose to denigrate Africa. There is biting poverty across the continent. But that is not all, corruption has also eaten deep into the fabric of our society. It even seems as if the continent is still living in the Stone Age.
Believe it or not, Africa is economically underdeveloped over six decades after most of its countries gained independence and sovereignty.
It is the lack of visionary leadership, or if you like, bad governance. And the lack of leadership is responsible for about 200 coups that have taken place on the continent since 1963.
Though Nigeria returned to democratic rule 24 years ago, its sister countries on the continent are not so lucky. In fact, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger Republic, Sudan, Chad and Gabon are under the clutches of military juntas.
In the last three years, seven coups took place across Africa, leading to the ousting of the aforementioned countries’ civilian presidents.
In a move that manifested its stance against military intervention, the Nigerian armed forces, last month, and in the wake of the ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger Republic, pledged their loyalty to civil authority. They further described as “highly unpatriotic, wicked” the call by some Nigerians for a coup in the country.
In a statement vowing to safeguard democracy in the country, Brig Gen Tukur Gusau, the Director, Defence Information, said: “…We detest any attempt by any individual or group to instigate the law-abiding Armed Forces of Nigeria to embark on any unconstitutional change of government in our country.
“We wish to state unequivocally that the military is happy and better under democracy and will not get involved in any act to sabotage the hard-earned democracy in our country.”
Less than a fortnight ago, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Gwabin Musa, during a visit to the National Secretariat of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), again assured that the military remained committed to protecting Nigeria’s democracy.
The reassurances of the CDS and the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) at a time when the wave of coups is ferociously sweeping across Africa are comforting. Nigeria’s nascent democracy must not be truncated. Only enemies of the Nigerian state will wish for a military takeover of the government.
The country’s experience in the hands of military juntas is still fresh in our memories. Nigerians, under successive junta governments, had near to zero freedom of expression and speech, even as enacted decrees supplanted the country’s constitutional laws.
While it is agreed that coups have never solved the problems of many African nations, the misrule and maladministration of sit-tight democratic leaders on the continent will continue to fuel the tide of military interventions.
Taking into cognizance the fact that democracy has almost become a way of life for Nigeria, Gen Musa’s pledge on behalf of the Nigerian armed forces inspires hope that the Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Gabon, among others’ fates, will not befall us.
However, members of our political class have a lot to do if the promise by the General Musa-led military will remain so. They might have performed below par, but they have a chance to redeem themselves. They should henceforth be concerned about offering service leadership to the masses.
They should also prioritise good governance that will in the long run fast track national development and prosperity for citizens. They should also put in place the necessary mechanisms that will address poverty and unemployment among a large section of Nigerians, especially the youths.
That insecurity is still living with us should worry them. Both the federal and state governments should speedily evolve effective strategies in tackling security threats in the country. The military should step up their game as they continue waging wars against terrorists, bandits and other criminal elements.
Pledging loyalty to the nation’s democratic authorities is truly patriotic on the part of the Nigerian armed forces. But ridding the country of terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, oil theft and herdsmen horrors, among others, is what is more essential. That is what will endear the officers and men of the armed forces to the hearts of teeming Nigerians.
When there is security and reports of killings cease to become a major staple in our media, the nation’s democracy will not be threatened, in any way. And the military, perhaps, won’t be constantly reassuring citizens about the sustainability of our democratic evolution.
Abdulsalam Mahmud is the Deputy Editor of PRNigeria