A repeat of what we can now refer to as “norms” in Africa occurred on July 26, 2023. The Republic of Niger has now joined the expanding list of African countries where tyrants have brutally seized power, joining others like Mali, Chad, and Sudan. President Mohammed Bazoum was detained by Niger’s presidential guard, and Abdourahamane Tchiani, the commander general of the guard, proclaimed himself the head of a new military junta.
As usual, the United States, France, the former colonial power in Niger, and ECOWAS member states except Mali disapproved of the new development in Niger. Along with halting aid from the United States and France, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) under the leadership of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Nigeria’s democratically elected president, also imposed some strict restrictions and gave the head of the military junta seven (7) days to turn over power to President Mohammed Bazoum.
When I learned about the military takeover in the Niger Republic, I thought back to the conversation I had with a friend following the coup in Sudan. The Niger coup shouldn’t come as a surprise to her if she remembers our chat, I hope. I’m from Nigeria. People who lived through Nigeria’s democratic growth from 1966 to 1999 as citizens would never seek for military dictatorship to resume. It was a compilation of horrible memories, whether a bloody coup was involved or not, from Aguiyi Ironsi through Sani Abacha. The call for civil rule resulted from the poor and unsettling rate of growth and development. Military leaders and accomplices made every attempt to thwart the return of civil government, but it eventually materialized in 1999.
Sadly, after the restoration of civil authority, little has changed in the nation. The issues ignored by the military juntas are still present and have gotten worse. Illegal incarceration, press repression, intimidation of demonstrators and political rivals, among other things, are still prevalent. To make matters worse, over the years, important problems have persisted and gone unsolved, including inconsistent electricity, poor roads, an increase in the poverty rate, insecurity, food insecurity, and others.
Democracy supporters should be extremely concerned if people celebrate and cheer whenever the military takes power. The same people who are lamenting democracy’s loss are demonstrating its failure or doom. It hasn’t helped the situation at all because Democrats are unable to bring about meaningful reform in the system or grant the people the benefits of democracy. Nobody understands democracy or any other form of government. All they want is to be able to eat, drink, and live in harmony. Simply said, the ideal kind of government for the people is one that offers that. How can we claim that democracy is the best if it fails to provide sons and daughters with a quality education and makes life miserable for parents? How will we communicate to them the risks and excesses of military juntas?
Africa as a continent is in greater danger due to the rising number of coup d’états. Given that our leaders are men with an insatiable thirst for power, there is a great likelihood that similar coups will continue to occur until we address the underlying issue of public approval. Except for Sudan, where some people protested, celebrations after coups in Mali, Sudan, and Niger should raise red flags.
Have you ever viewed online footage of people celebrating coups? You should have seen the video in which a military officer and a Nigerien discussed the coup, highlighting huge corruption, lack of development, and rising poverty among other causes as coup-related concerns. We may vehemently oppose coup d’états from daylight until night, but it would be a wonderful comfort for the populace if this same fervor were directed into developing one’s nation and boosting the economy to improve people’s lives. People should not be treated unfairly if they opt for a different form of government if democracy does not provide them with a better quality of life.
In a nutshell, Africans are tired of bad leadership. They are aware that terrible leaders foster bad government. They are aware that by having elections that can be won through dishonest means like intimidating rivals or purchasing votes, democracy in this region promotes unstable leaders. Of course, coups d’état will never be a better option than democracy. But if African leaders don’t endeavor to improve democracy and the ways in which people may enjoy it more, Africa will continue to have coups, which the African people will gladly embrace.
Africa was not failed by democracy. Every democratically elected official who has ever held a position of authority through voting is to blame for the mockery of democracy.
Tinubu and other African leaders should remember to learn lessons even as they condemn the coup. The declaration of war against the Niger Republic is not wholly necessary because, except from Nigeria, no other West African nation is capable of successfully launching or maintaining a war against the Niger Republic. Sadly, the same Nigeria has been dealing with insecurity for years; it has only gotten harder to deal with as it has fragmented into smaller groups. I genuinely believe that it would be unwise for a nation fighting to stabilize or regain control over long-term invaders who had drained it of resources to launch a war in another nation that would be heavily supported or provided for.
I explained to a close friend that the incident in the Niger Republic was a political transition rather than a terrorist strike. From 1966 to 1999, Nigerians resisted military authority. It represented a selfless act of sacrifice. No country from West Africa aided us in our struggle against the Khaki soldiers. Why should Nigerians be held accountable for sacrifices that the people of Niger are unwilling to undertake as a result of a change in government? Did President Tinubu take into account some of the states that are closest to the Niger Republic and the chance that some Nigerians might become casualties of this pointless conflict?
President Bola Tinubu should care more about Nigerians than Nigeriens because if he is not elected as president of Nigeria, he cannot serve as the chairman of the Economic Community of West African States. For him to understand that he has more issues to handle here than the leadership crisis in the Niger Republic, I believe the former governor of Lagos should reorder his priorities. On a daily basis, millions of Nigerians voice their dissatisfaction with the withdrawal of fuel subsidies and his administration’s inability to come up with a sane and well-thought-out strategy to offer workable palliatives to mitigate the consequences of the removal of fuel subsidies.
In addition to the challenges in the South East, the administration lead by Tinubu should view the banditry attacks in the North West and the ongoing ISWAP or Boko Haram attacks in the North East as major issues. How does Tinubu intend to handle the more than 300,000 Nigerians who are Boko Haram refugees in the Niger Republic? Nigeria Labour Congress will lead a national demonstration against the elimination of fuel subsidies. Why do we still face these issues after gasoline subsidies were eliminated? We have these issues as a result of Tinubu’s administration’s disregard for the circumstances that first caused the subsidy and how to address them prior to their removal.
Like other Nigerians, I believe that President Bola Tinubu has to take note of what happened in the Niger Republic and the joy that the people felt when the military deposed their democratically elected leader. Tinubu ought to pay greater attention to issues that concern Nigerians and exercise caution to avoid experiencing the same fate as President Mohammed Bazoum, who refrained from starting a war in the Niger Republic because we obviously lack the means to support such a battle.