Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Coups in Nigeria
|Can a failed coup d'etat, the one that does not lead to a change of government, be called a coup d'etat, nonetheless|
|If a coup d'etat leads to a change of government, but the coupists or their principals do not assume power, can it still be called a coup d'etat nonetheless|
|Is a coup which is still in the planning stage a coup d'etat.
My answer here is a limited and political one, and it is this: Just as attempted murder is not murder, an attempted coup is not a coup; and just as conspiracy to commit murder is different from attempted murder which in turn is different from murder, a conspiracy to stage a coup d'etat is different from attempted coup d'etat and this in turn is different from coup d'etat. There is no sophistry or semantics here: We know what murder is, what attempted murder is, and what conspiracy to commit murder is. The three acts are in decreasing order of seriousness. Same with coup d'etat. We know, however, that in the hand of the state conspiracy to stage a coup d'etat is often faked; and after being faked, it is then equated to attempted coup d'etat, and finally it is transformed to coup d'etat itself.
We can therefore classify the coups and "coup-related" incidents in Nigeria since independence into five types, namely: coups d'etat proper, that is, successful overthrow of government, whether or not the group that initiated the action actually assumed power; coups by the state or government against the basic law or the civil society; attempted coups d'etat where there were overt actions, but the initiators failed in their bid to overthrow the government; conspiracy to stage a coup d'etat, where there were only allegations by the state that certain people were planning a coup d'etat; and political allegation of conspiracy to stage a coup d'etat, where the allegation was made, not by the state, but by individuals whose allegation was however not contradicted by the state. This is a broad and rough classification, but I think it is good enough for the present exercise.
The successful coups, or coups proper, are well known. Identifying each by its year of occurrence and the person who assumed power or office as Head of State after it, we have: January 1966 (General Aguiyi-Ironsi); July 1966 (General Gowon); July 1975 (General Mohammed); December 1983 (General Buhari); August 1985 (General Babangida); and November 1993 (General Abacha). One of the more prominent coups d'etat by the state against the basic law and the civil society was the annulment by General Babangida's military regime of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by Bashorun Moshood Abiola. Identifying each of the attempted coups by year of occurrence and the person known or alleged to have led it, we have: January 1966 (Major Nzeogwu); February 1976 (Lt. Col. Dimka); and April 1990 (Major Orka). Conspiracies to stage a coup as alleged - truthfully or falsely - and prosecuted by the state would include: October 1962 (Chief Awolowo); September 1967 (Colonel Ifeajuna, Biafra); 1982 (Mandara); December 1985 (General Vatsa); March 1995 (no clear leader); and December 1997 (General Diya). Political allegations of coup plans would include: January 1965 (no clear leader); and June 1998, immediately after the death of General Abacha but before the emergence of General Abdulsalami Abubakar (no clear leader).
A philosopher once said that a central question in democracy and the rule of law was how the state was to be constructed so that "bad governments and rulers can be got rid of by a majority vote, without bloodshed, without violence and before they cause much harm". Please, note the pillars of the question: "majority vote", "without violence", "without bloodshed", and "before they (the rulers) cause much harm". I accept the formulation. In relation to our current discussion this is the question of how the two major types of coup d'etat can be eliminated: coups against the state, and coups by the state. A one-sided treatment of this question will be a dishonest exercise. Since France, through the family of Napoleon Bonaparte, has offered the world a classic example of each type of coup, and also how to eliminate them, I would advise Nigerian politicians to consider a study tour of that country. In the alternative, they should support the convening of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC), to discuss the question.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.