A Legal luminary, Professor Mike Ozekhome (SAN), has expressed worries over the wave of military coups that have hit the African continent in the recent time.
In a statement in Abuja, the human rights activist examines the causative factors and proffers solutions through recommendations with a view to checkmating the trend and guaranteeing stability of governance on the continent.
He expressed worries that coups which were gradually becoming a trend, had put Africa on ugly global headlines.
While insisting that Africa is supposed to have outgrown military coup, following its democracy maturity, Ozekhome expressed disgust that the malady was worryingly assuming a perennial dimension so much that the pendulum of coup hangs loosely on any country that falls short of true democracy.
“This signifies a decline in the achievements of the neoliberal democratic programme that was established in Africa after the cold war. The essence of the programme was to purge the continent of authoritarian and military dictatorship through seizures of power, in favour of political pluralism and the rule of law. It was therefore expected that coups are supposed to be things of the past, and dictatorship – totally forgotten. However, the reverse has been the case,” Ozekhome said.”
The constitutional lawyer stated this against the backdrop of the recent successive military coups in Niger and Gabon in a spate of three weeks, a development that has drawn the anger of ECOWAS.
He lamented that the recent coups in Africa had been mind-blowing. “The trend seems to be that people are becoming more comfortable with military juntas than civilian leaders, because of misgovernance,” he noted.
While emphasizing that military coup had been a trend in Africa and an albatross to the continent’s democracy, Ozekhome went down memory lane:
“Out of at least 242 successful military coups that have occurred globally since 1950, Africa accounts for the largest number at 106. The by-product of these coups points directly to the failure of democracy,” Ozekhome said.
According to him, the recent Gabon coup finally broke the camel’s back; and had revealed many anomalies in African governance system.
Ozekhome noted that African leaders liveraged democracy to perpetuate bad governance but risked the wrath of the populace as well as revolution, especially military take over as is the recent case in Gabon.
He lamented that democracy had assumed a serious decline in Africa because of its bad practitioners and capable of sending a strong signal to African leaders “that it could no longer be business as usual,” following military coups.
Ozekhome said the spate of military coups in Africa lately were due to gross abuse of democracy by African leaders.
“There has been the disturbing trend of African leaders exploiting the concept of democracy to entrench themselves in power. It is no longer merely oligarchic, it has become primogeniture – father-to-son rulership,” he said.
“Bad governance is therefore the reason for the Gabon coup; and not democracy. That is why, “when democracy becomes demon – crazy, the people react,” he noted.
According to him, the spate of coups in Africa was because African countries and leaders had cultivated fertile soil for the malady -poverty, poor economic performance, insecurity, corruption, leaders’ sit-tight mentality.
Ozekhome said the current coup trend in Africa was capable of becoming a harbinger for more in other countries.
“Indeed, from the trends so far, a coup by a country is a harbinger for yet a coup by another country. I would not be surprised if more coups occur. It is like a sore whitlow generating a blistering headache,” he stressed.
The professor of Law, while stressing that Africa had suffered a plethora of military coups, highlighted African countries that have had the highest records of the crisis.
According to him, they include Sudan which has had the most coups and attempted takeovers adding up to 17, with 6 of them successful. The long-serving leader, Omar al-Bashir, was removed from power following months of protests in 2019.
Others include Burkina Faso in West Africa, which has had the most successful coups, with nine takeovers and one failure; Nigeria which once had a reputation for military coups, following her 1960 flag independence, with eight between January 15, 1966, and the takeover by Gen Sani Abacha in 1993; Burundi which had 11 separate coups, mostly driven by the tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi communities; Sierra Leone which experienced three coups between 1967 and 1968, and another one in 1971; Ghana which also had eight coups in two decades. The first was in 1966, when Kwame Nkrumah was forcibly removed from power.
Ozekhome said that Africa had experienced more coups than any other continent in the world.
“Of the 18 coups recorded globally since 2017, all but one – Myanmar in 2021 – have been in Africa,” he noted.
Ozekhome said that the latest coup in Gabon, which marks the latest in a long line of recent military takeovers across the African continent and had been attributed to irregularities in the country’s general election on August 30, which brought Ali Bongo Odimba as president, had jeopardized regional stability and security.
He attributed the spate of military coup to leadership delusion and democracy failure which he termed ‘demoncrazy.’
“When democracy becomes demon – crazy, the people are bound to react. This factor is intrinsic within the countries themselves.
“The people in several African countries feel disenchanted and cheated. The long promises of democratic dividends by political leaders always remain a dream and sham. They are illusory mirages.
“This has forced the people to revolt due to their leaders’ corruption and extravagant lifestyles. The people suddenly find their voices through protests; demonstrations and insurrections.
“The lack of transparency and accountability in governance have made the people lose confidence in governments. The style of government they deploy has made democracy a huge joke and very artificial and superficial.”
Ozekhome said that while it might be inferred that coups might be the only solution to the issue of governance in Africa, they were not the best options because of their terrible aftermaths.
He, however, pointed out that
military rule was never a good system of government, noting that this piece should never be construed as endorsing it because “nothing good is ever guaranteed; nor is certainty during military rule as the military rules by Decrees and Edicts which further compound the already existing political instability on the continent.”
It also comes with erosion of trust, citizens may become disillusioned and disengaged from politics, brain drain, economic instability such as high unemployment rate, inflation, and income inequality, human rights abuses.
He tasked government leaders on the need to lead well to guide against military coup.
“In the wake of the reality sweeping coups before our very eyes, the need for good governance and democracy dividends cannot be over empasized. If there is good governance, the people would not agitate demonstrate or protest. If governments deliver on their mandate, the confidence of the people would be restored,” Ozekhome noted.
“African leaders must heed to this advice, if attempted coups or coups, must be a thing of the past,” he stressed.
As a part of efforts to checkmate military coup trend, Ozekhome recommended a free and independent media to hold leaders accountable and provide citizens with unbiased information.
He also urged redirection of governance, noting that government of various countries must strive to redirect their style of governance by fulfilling and delivering the dividends of democracy to the citizenry in order to restore their confidence.
Ozekhome also urged various countries’ government to make security, economic, health and infrastructural development the mainstay and focus of government.
“If this is achieved, democracy would no longer be viewed as demon-crazy and the people would not react negatively,” he noted.