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By Bala Ibrahim.

According to history, the 1963 Togolese coup d’état was the first military incursion that occurred in West Africa, and by extension, the first coup of the continent. Since then, to paraphrase the saying of late Professor Ali Mazrui, the records of coup across the continent, read like the telephone directory of the Organization of African Union, OAU. And those countries that lie to the west of the equator, are the most afflicted by the calamity of the coup cancer.

The western part of the African continent is occupied by the countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Nigeria, the richest and most populous of them all, had it’s first coup on the 15th of January 1966, when mutinous soldiers, led by Nzeogwu Kaduna, killed many people, including the Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, senior politicians and many senior Army officers, thereby rewriting the political and social history of Nigeria as a country.

The Togolese and Nigerian coups, that came about the same time with the arrival of independence to the continent, seem to coincide with the coming of the coup calamity, that kept reverberating across the continent like a cancer. The excuse given by the military then, was that they were coming to correct the mis-governance, occasioned by the misconduct of politicians, whom they accused of engaging in consumptive corruption. Though the military mostly help to midwife a transition to democratically elected governments, in almost all cases, they only succeed in changing the nomenclature of the problem, from corruption by men and women in civilian clothes, to corruption perpetuated by men and women in uniform. And they sow the seed for new agitations after their departure, especially as in the case of Nigeria, the agitation for the creation of more states, which is almost an impossibility under democracy.

Since 1999, Nigeria has been enjoying stability in democratic governance, with no reported coup attempts or visible threats from the military, but looking at the trend of events in recent times across the continent, no concerned person can claim to be comfortable with what is happening. The continent is facing the rise in the wind of the misfortune of coups, and the breeze is blowing faster in West Africa. For the third time in less than six months, violence is compelling the transfer of power in some countries of West Africa, starting with Guinea, Mali, Chad and Burkino Faso, seeing the arrival of new leaders, almost all of them from their respective militaries.


Pursuant to the democratic stability enjoyed by Nigeria, and by virtue of its position as the regional powerhouse of the continent, there was a strong feeling that the days of military coups in Africa were over, because Nigeria has been extremely active diplomatically against coups, supported by the West African regional bloc, the ECOWAS, which is always quick in imposing sanctions until the cowboys reverse their unpopular stance.But things are changing, and changing rapidly. And the military is engaging a new strategy for ousting democracy- doubtful legitimacy. In Guinea, Mali, and Chad, heads of state removed from office were accused of enjoying dubious legitimacy. In Guinea for instance, President Alpha Condé had been elected to a third term in elections that were not accepted as credible. In Chad, Idriss Derby had been virtually sitting as a president for life. He was killed by rebels, and replaced by his son in an extra-constitutional process.

In Mali, the problem dates back to the 2012 coup against Amadou Touré, the long-time political strongman of the country. In June, the present Malian President, Assimi Goïta, removed the country’s interim head of state, less than a year after Goïta initiated a coup against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and installed himself as interim vice president. About a week ago, precisely on the 23rd of January, 2022, gunfire erupted in front of the presidential residence in the Burkinabé capital, Ouagadougou, as well as several military barracks around the city. Shortly after, it was confirmed that soldiers have seized control of the military base in the capital and taken in the president as hostage. A coup had taken place.

The immediate reason given by the military for the coup was the alleged “inability of President Roch Kabore’s government to stem an Islamic militant insurgency”, which has been ravaging the country for some years now. According to the military, they were not given enough resources to combat the insurgents. So by taking over power, they are simply saying, they would take the money they want directly from the treasury to do whatever they want. Poor Africa, what obscenity is being committed against you, by way of coup in the name of correction. Although the chief of Defense Staff, Gen.Lucky Irabor, has recently reassured Nigeria and Nigerians that, the military would continue to subject itself to democratic rule, the government must take note of the new lexicon introduced by the military in Burkino Faso, i.e. “INABILITY OF THE GOVERNMENT TO STEM AN ISLAMIC MILITANT INSURGENCY” and act proactively, considering the fact that Nigeria had been in such insurgency for decades, and spent an unaccountable amount of money fighting same.

The curse and calamity of the coup cancer must be curtailed quickly, and not allowed to continue creeping the continent, under the guise of any claim of correction.


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