When did it become the tradition of the Nigerian Army to warn coup plotters rather than arrest and prosecute them?
Nigeria’s chief of army staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, has set tongues wagging since a statement issued in his name warned those who “have been approaching some officers and soldiers for undisclosed political reasons”.
Rumours of coups, which have been rife in drinking joints and the social media, have spread wider.
The statement issued by army public relations, Brigadier-General Sani Usman, quotes Buratai as saying he had received the information: “On the basis of that, he has warned such persons to desist from these acts. He also reminded them that Nigerian Army is a thorough professional, disciplined, loyal and apolitical institution that has clear constitutional roles and responsibilities.
“Therefore, he seriously warned and advised all officers and soldiers interested in politics, to resign their commission or apply for voluntary discharge forthwith.
“Any officer or soldier of Nigerian Army found to be hobnobbing with such elements or engaged in unprofessional conducts such as politicking would have himself or herself to blame.
“The COAS further reiterated that the Nigerian Army will remain apolitical and respect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
In 1985, Gen. Mamman Vatsa and several other army officers were executed for having “an intention” to stage a coup. Again in 1995, several prominent Nigerians including Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Yar’Adua were jailed over an alleged phantom coup plot. The number of officers who have been dismissed, retired, tried or killed for alleged intention to carry out a coup is unknowable.
Gen. Buratai may have heated the polity unnecessarily. If, indeed, he knows the individuals that have been approaching army officers “for undisclosed political reasons, he has no reason to just warn them. He should have rounded them up, no matter how highly placed they are.
Nigeria is fast turning a banana republic, it seems.