Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Coup indicators (part 1)

Between the lines (Only for those who can see)

With the number of coup d'etats in Africa, an African politician of average intelligence should be able to forecast a coup d'etat with reasonable accuracy. Maybe every country on that continent of political volcanoes has its own specific indicators which, like the weather-man's barometric charts, provide one with a guide as to whether or not to expect a coup, whether it would be bloody bloodless. In fact one should be able to guess if it would be successful or abortive.

In the West African sub-region, Nigeria and Ghana are running neck and neck. This is not to say however, that their coup indicators are identical. Different though the indicators may be, one phenomenon is always observ- able. Whenever there is a change of Government in Nigeria so long as it is through a military coup, a similar change will follow in Ghana. Curiously enough the converse is also true. Yet Ghana and Nigeria are not even next door neighbours for between the two you have Benin Republic and the Republic of Togo. A research to see what is between the lines between Nigeria and Ghana to explain this rather interesting relation is certainly worthwhile. For the moment let us confine our thought to Nigeria and examine those signs that tell you when- ever a coup d'etat is imminent in that country. In a future issue we shall subject Ghana to a similar examination, and provide you with a real guide.

The first military coup in Nigeria was in 1966. It was very bloody! However, as there had not been one prior to that, the signs could not have been possibly observed conclusions reached. The trouble spot was the then Western Nigeria - the Yoruba West of the country. Elections in the previous years led to victories that made some joyous and others obviously sad. As usual, the defeated accused the victors. The alliance between NPC, dominant in the North, and NCNC dominant in the East, resulted in a coalition Government at the Centre, leaving Yoruba Action Group in the cold as far as central authority was concerned.

Through a technique that was employed over and over again, in the destabilisation of ruling parties and governments, the alliance between the NPC and the NCNC by the Action Group. Using the sectional press and ultimately employing thuggery and violence on the highways and inside towns and villages in the then Western Region, they made it appear that law and order had broken down. This situation was then given maximum publicity to draw the attention of the rest of the world to the failures of the then Zik-Balewa administration. Suffice it to say that the stage was set for whatever. The indicators then therefore would appear to be: 1) Violence in the wild West of Nigeria, 2) orchestrated anti-government campaign by an organised tribally biased media, 3) the quiet departure of some important politicians from Nigeria to overseas for various "health" reasons.

The reasons behind the Ironsi out, Gowon in, military coup were quite clear - the desire to revenge an injustice and the indicators were therefore so few - a spontaneous civilian uprising in the North which forced the Northern officers into inevitable action!

Coming to the coup that overthrew General Gowon in 1975, what could one observe as its signals? By changing his mind about handing over power to civilians in 1976 as previously promised, General Gowon committed an unpardonable crime in the eyes of those politicians who had used the opportunity he, ironically, offered them to consolidate both politically and financially. So again in Lagos and around the same West troubles began to brew. 1) Burning of public buildings, 2) orchestrated anti-government campaign in the Press - the usual condemnation - General Gowon's leadership as being corrupt, 3) organised armed robbery in and around Lagos. This was highlighted by the Press according to plan. The aim was to show the world that Nigeria was corrupt and that law and order had broken down. General Gowon was shown as having failed. The country was said to be drifting and so the Armed Forces moved in having been sufficiently excited!

General Murtala Mohammed came in but did not last. He was succeeded by his Chief of Staff General Obasanjo who was the only Head of State of Nigeria that the "Nigerian" Press gave some peace.

Then came in President Shagari through election. He also had a baptism of fire from the "Nigerian" press. He, like his predecessors who were murdered or exiled, Shehu Shagari had the "wrong" name and wore the "wrong" cap in Lagos. So the indicators were made to show. 1) Burning of public buildings in Lagos 2) armed robbery and the usual thuggery and violence in the same Wild West, 3) orchestrated anti-government campaign by the Press - the same cries of corrupt Nigeria! Then the Military/Politicians, that is, the millionaire Retired Generals simply picked their briefcases and flew out of the country. Their boys were ready! They would associate themselves if the coup succeeded otherwise no one could associate them with it as they were out of the country anyway. The signs were clear and the coup obviously came.

We have thus examined a few of Nigeria's coups. The signs appear the same and predictable. It was always thunder followed by rain. Some time in July/August this year, one could read between the lines, the same "Nigerian" Press. But a more important observation was the simultaneous presence in London of many Retired Generals, the coup indicators. One heard that Rtd Lt General Danjuma was around, so was Rtd Major-General Yar'Adua. Then came the news that Rtd Lt General Olusegun Obasanjo had also arrived. To top it all, it was learnt that Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was also in London for maybe medical treatment. From these indications the trend was clear.

Well it happened. And irony of ironies the cruel tyrant is now a prisoner, and sitting by his side is his Gestapo Chief, Muhammadu Lawal Rafindadi. It was said that Rafindadi was picked up dead drunk. No wonder the pot-belly-beer barrel! When he was brought into the same room where Buhari was being detained, the latter looked disgustingly at his drunken ex- chief of NSO. To imagine that today Buhari and Rafindadi are under lock and key the jailers are themselves today in jail is wonderful. Tunde Idiagbon today is a fugitive.

talking drums 1985-09-09 Rafindadi's N.S.O. Empire exposed