Regional bodies, the Peoples Democratic Party, civil rights groups and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria among others, on Wednesday, urged military officers and other individuals toying with the idea of a coup in Nigeria to perish the thought.
Among those that condemned the alleged plot of a military intervention are the United Kingdom Government; the umbrella body for the North, the Arewa Consultative Forum; the Igbo socio-political organization, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo; and a prominent lawyer, Alhaji Yusuf Ali (SAN).
Also, two Civil-Society Organizations – Committee for the Defence of Human Rights and the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders – condemned the alleged romance between some Nigerians and a soldiers for political reasons.
In separate interviews with The PUNCH on Wednesday, they declared that coups were no longer fashionable.
The Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere, however, warned Buratai not to turn himself to a whistle-blower.
They spoke against the backdrop of a warning by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, who alleged, on Tuesday, that some people were approaching soldiers for political reasons, warning the soldiers, who might heed such overtures of serious consequences.
A statement by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman, on Tuesday, stated, “This is to inform the public that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. T. Y. Buratai, has received information that some individuals have been approaching some officers and soldiers for undisclosed political reasons. On the basis of that, he has warned such persons to desist from these acts.”
Although Buratai did not elaborate on the political reasons, there had been fears by some Nigerians that such hobnobbing is a bad omen and may lead to a military intervention.
Curiously also, the COAS warning came a week after a major shakeup in the top echelons of the Army.
Don’t turn the clock backward, says ACF
The ACF applauded the Chief of Army Staff for warning officers and men of the Nigerian Army to steer clear of politics.
The National Publicity Secretary of the group, Muhammad Ibrahim, told one of our correspondents in Kaduna that the warming was timely.
The forum’s spokesman urged Nigerians to expose those who wanted to turn the clock back.
ACF added, “Nigeria, at this time of our democratic experience, cannot afford any distractions by some unpatriotic individuals who want to use the military or other security agencies to disrupt our hard-earned democracy.
“The ACF therefore commends the Chief of Army Staff for his proactive action and appeals to Nigerians to expose those who wish to turn the hand of the clock backwards.”
Expose those approaching soldiers, Makarfi-led PDP, Ohanaeze tell Buratai
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo aligned with the position of the PDP factional group, asking Buratai to expose those that had approached soldiers for political reasons.
The group, however, warned against attempt, by anybody or group, to take advantage of President Muhammadu Buhari’s sickness “to take power through the back door.”
The Deputy Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mr. Chuks Ibegbu, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said the nation deserved to know the individuals concerned.
“He (Buratai) should name those people, so that Nigerians will know who they are, and their motives.
“People should not take advantage of Mr. President’s health condition to take power through the back door.
“Whoever they are, they should know that any attempt to scuttle democracy in this country will be resisted by Nigerians. Military rule is no longer welcome in this country.
“But Buratai should start by naming these people; Nigerians need to know who they are so as to stop them.”
The Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee of the PDP, however, urged Buratai to expose politicians who were approaching soldiers for political reasons.
The National Publicity Secretary of the committee, Dayo Adeyeye, said this in a telephone interview with The PUNCH, in Abuja, on Wednesday.
Adeyeye stated, “He should come out more openly and tell Nigerians what is actually happening. What exactly is the nature of the contact politicians are making with the soldiers? We would like to know the nature of the contact and who and who are making the contact.
“It is only reasonable that he exposes those involved. What are those politicians making these contacts asking for? The truth is that as a nation, we cannot go back to Egypt, because democracy is our Promised Land.”
Attempts to get official comments from the ruling All Progressives Congress were unsuccessful. Calls to the mobile telephone of the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, indicated that it was switched off.
A response to a text message sent to him on the subject was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report.
Those seeking change must follow democratic process – UK
In its reaction to Buratai’s warning, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Arkwright, said the United Kingdom would continue to support democracy as the only system of government in Nigeria.
Arkwright further stated that anyone, who was seeking for change, must follow the democratic process which is election.
The British High Commissioner said this in Abuja on Wednesday while fielding questions from journalists after the presentation of a Chatham House Report, titled, ‘Collective Action on Corruption in Nigeria: A Social Norms Approach to Connecting Society and Institutions’.
Arkwrtight said, “The British Government believes that democracy is absolutely critical in Nigeria. There is a democratic process here; there are elections. If you are not happy with your leaders, then you should change your leadership process through your leaders and through elections.
“That is exactly what happened in 2015 and it is what the British Government will expect to happen in Nigeria. So, our position is very clear; we stand for democracy, we stand for the democratic process and we stand for change, if that is what the people of Nigeria want.
“It has to be a choice that the people make and not a choice that is imposed upon them.”
Don’t turn yourself to a whistle-blower, Afenifere tells COAS
But Afenifere condemned the comment by Buratai on an alleged romance between the military and some soldiers, saying the comment had created fear in minds of Nigeria that coup might occur at anytime.
The Publicity Secretary of the group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, stated that the COAS should not have made that statement but should have dealt with his men, who were found guilty of hobnobbing with politicians.
Odumakin stated, “The Chief of Army Staff should not have turned himself to a whistle-blower over the matter. He has a directorate of military intelligence, it should have found out those soldiers contacted and who are contacting them, not to be blowing whistle like the EFCC.
“It is very unfortunate that such a statement is coming out from the Chief of Army Staff. The statement has not only created fear but has also indicated that something can happen at any time.”
Buratai’s warning commendable, says Sheriff’s PDP
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, loyal to Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff, Bernard Miko, commended the Army chief for reminding his officers and men of their professional ethics.
“The Chief of Army Staff is not a politician, but issuing routine administrative orders to his field commanders on professional ethics which is very commendable,” he said.
Military should deal early with politicking soldiers, say CDHR, CACOL
In their reactions, the CDHR and CACOL said the military should urgently deal with soldiers who are fraternising with some politicians and douse the tension of a military incursion.
The CDHR President, Malachy Ugwumadu, said in an interview with one of our correspondents that Nigeria could not afford the rumours of a military infraction, let alone the action itself.
He called on the Army authorities to deal internally with such perceived indiscipline.
Ugwumadu stated, “The military incursion into politics is an era we have nullified once and for all. We all knew the struggles we had before winning this democracy.
“Our country cannot stand the rumours of a military incursion, let alone the action itself.
“I commend the Chief of Army Staff for being so intelligence-driven and he should immediately fish out the soldiers behind such acts and deal decisively with them.”
CACOL chairman, Debo Adeniran, said, “Nigeria, despite the economic recession, cannot tolerate any military intervention in power. The intelligence arm of the Army should identify soldiers fraternising with rebellious politicians and court-martial them immediately.
“The military should remember that it derives its authority from civil rule, and soldiers fraternising with politics should remember that military rule is no longer fashionable. We do not want a military that is not subject to democracy.”
SAN, ex-DSS boss, former minister condemn politicians - soldiers romance
Yusuf Ali described the warning by the Chief of Army Staff as timely.
He added that more than 50 per cent of the problems bedevilling the nation were caused by military intervention in governance.
The senior advocate added, “It is no more fashionable for the Armed Forces to take over government anywhere in the world.
“We saw what happened in The Gambia and what is even happening in Cote d’Ivoire now.
“I think we should all remember that almost 50 per cent of our problems today were caused by military rule, in the first place.
“Mention any problem we have – corruption, deficit in infrastructure and even militancy and others – was caused by the intervention of the military in governance.
“I think the call by the Chief of Army Staff is quite timely and I pray that reason will prevail.
“The problem we have here is not as much as what they have in India, and the Army never took over for more than 40 years. So we should be allowed to make our mistakes and correct ourselves.”
Also, a former Minister of State for Defence, Chief Demola Seriki, advised Buratai to report his suspicions to the Department of State Services, the military intelligence units and the National Intelligence Agency.
Seriki stated, “Buratai should have reported such a suspicion to the DSS and the NIA instead of lamenting or amplifying such a matter in the media. This kind of thing is not good for national security.
“He should report the matter to military and army intelligence units. By extension, the Nigerian counter-intelligence, which is the NIA, should have been informed if he had such a suspicion rather than informing the public because this is not good for national security and prestige and honour of the military.”
Seriki, who held four different ministerial portfolios under the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, said a military coup in Nigeria in 2017 was highly unlikely.
“Today, military officers are more enlightened and educated; so, they are more professional. The military that I supervised were gentlemen. So, there is no cause for alarm,” he added.
Also speaking with one of our correspondents, a former Director of the DSS, Mike Ejiofor, ruled out the possibility of a military coup d’etat.
He added that Nigerians would not accept military dictatorship again.
Speaking with The PUNCH on Wednesday, Ejiofor, who is the President, Institute of Security Studies, Abuja, said the alarm raised by Buratai might have nothing to do with a possible coup.
The ex-DSS chief said, “The warning by the Chief of Army Staff is a step in the right direction, but thinking of a possible involvement of soldiers in a coup is completely ruled out because Nigerians and the world at large no longer accept such. So, I don’t want to believe that the Chief of Army Staff had a coup in mind when he made that statement.
“The Army is being accused of taking sides in certain conflicts, failing to take necessary actions to quell crisis in some areas. So, I think he (Buratai) was talking of that because military coups are old-fashioned and no Nigerians will welcome that, and I believe that our politicians will never encourage soldiers to overthrow anybody.
“There is no cause for alarm. In fact, I can assure you that if the military comes in or if there is any attempt to come in, Nigerians will drive them away with their bare hands.”