As the coup plot thickens

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By Olatunji Dare

 

Scarcely a week after it was revealed that national security had uncovered a plot by some “disgruntled elements” to stage a conference of sorts for the express purpose of supplanting the existing national order as by law established, it is deeply to be lamented that the plot has thickened.

Those disgruntled elements sef!

Since independence, they have been stirring things up and growing only more disgruntled in the process, and more brazen.  This is what happens when you uncover a sinister coup plot and do not proceed immediately to invoke the full authority of the Nigerian state to contain and smash it.

Now, see how the whole thing has ramified.

Instead of closing shop, the plotters closed ranks and came out in much larger numbers, virtually daring the authorities to come get them.  And far from being the flotsam and jetsam that the security people had profiled, they turn out to number in their ranks many of those we have been conditioned to regard as persons of great consequence.

They comprise, to cite one metric, elected governors of 13 of Nigeria’s 36 states and two deputy governors thereof, accounting for more than one-half of the national population even after due allowance has been made for the  usual jiggery pokery of the Census Office.

This is a far more dangerous group than the disgruntled elements, aforementioned.  They control vast personal fortunes and huge official resources. They preside over sprawling bureaucracies.  The can buy whatever authority the Constitution does not expressly grant them.  They are for the most part no respecters of the rule of law anyway.

From their huge stockpiles, they can dole out essential commodities to sustain a prolonged sit-in or sit-out.  They are backed in varying degrees by political parties that can put boots on the ground and stalwarts in the streets.  Being denizens of the system, they know how it works or does not work.

It must be hoped that the true identity of the plotters has not surfaced too late to give the constituted authorities a tactical and strategic leg-up in the war for the soul of Nigeria.  For, make no mistake about it:  What is at stake is nothing less than the soul of our country and the future of Black humanity.

Time and again, we have failed to produce, enlist and mobilize enough citizens of the gruntled variety to put them out of their nefarious business permanently. Regardless of how it is resolved, the present crisis must come up with a formula that will alter the balance of forces permanently in favors of the gruntled ones.

Enough of the coddling.  It has not worked, and it will not work.

The task is not going to be easy.  Just consider the intimidating calibre of the new, expanded disgruntled elements and for the moment forget their numbers.  Serving and former state governors.  Former and serving Senators and National Assembly representatives. Former and serving members of state assemblies.

Current, recurrent and former Chairmen of Traditional Councils, not forgetting members of local government councils.  Current and former political appointees, from special assistants at large to cabinet-rank officials

Their ranks include senior lawyers and seasoned bureaucrats, former commanding officers in the armed forces.  Barons and captains of industry.  Chieftains of labour.  Leading educators and generations of students under their charge. Artisans, traders, market men and women, clerics of the fire-and-brimstone school of proselytizing.  Former presidents and former presidential candidates again aspiring to the top job.

Imagine the punch a body thus composed will register when acting with a single aim – that goal being the reshaping, the restructuring and the repurposing of Nigeria in the widest sense of those terms even if the body excludes the disgruntled elements aforementioned.   But that is impossible for they constitute nucleus, the base of the larger group that has now surfaced.   Was it not a mere hint of the stirring of that nucleus that threw the Centre off kilter the other week?

The larger group did not just burst upon the scene.  It has been operating under the radar for quite a while.  That is has operated in this mode for so long  but as it were for so long must be accounted a monumental failure of intelligence. But to what do we attribute the fact that they have not been read the Seditious Offences Act and ordered to cease and desist, or face the undiscriminating wrath of the law?

Certainly not to a failure of nerves, I can tell them before they start gloating in the conceit that they now have the momentum on their side.  The authorities are considering a raft of options.

Will it be containment? Co-optation?  Infiltrating the body and neutering it from within? Confrontation? Setting up and equipping rival bodies to keep it so busy defending itself that it has no time to pursue its agenda? By permutations and combinations of the strategies?

No option is foreclosed, I gather.

When the disgruntled elements were content to talk in vague generalities, the authorities could perhaps look on with benign bemusement.  Now that the expanded ranks of the malcontents have come out of hiding and laid out their comprehensive agenda on the national and global platforms, the authorities will have to engage them in concrete terms.

Nothing is to be gained now by admonishing them to take their case, if they have any, to the National Assembly which the Constitution has in its omniscience and omicompetence has made the final arbiter.

Leaving nothing to chance, they have now articulated their case in the clearest terms possible. In the communiqué issued at the end of their conference in Asaba, Delta State, 13 southern state governors and two deputy governors called on the Federal Government to convene a “national dialogue” to address the agitations roiling the polity.

They called for a new revenue allocation formula weighted in favour or the subnational states, and for the creation of other institutions that would undergird a re-commitment to the practice of federalism in its truest sense.

They called attention to the fact that, because of marauding cattle herders who have turned the entire country into one huge grazing reserve, citizens and farmers can no longer live safe and productive lives.  They demanded an end to open-grazing.

They called a review of appointment into federal agencies, including the security services, to reflect the Federal Character principle. They also demanded better federal coordination in dealing with the Covid menace.

Thus did the state governors meeting in Asaba thrust in the national limelight issues that the Federal Government has always dismissed as the talking points of idle agitators.  And they made clear that the initiative belonged with the Federal Government, not a National Assembly concerned more to expand the obscene privileges of its members than to advance the will of the people.

And they urged President Muhammadu Buhari to address the nation on those pressing issues and others.

At this writing, he is away in Paris, France, attending the African Financial Summit.  On the side, he is expected to discuss bilateral security issues with French President Emmanuel Macron and visiting African leaders.

Macron’s most valuable contribution would be to urge Buhari to listen to his people.  These days, Burari rarely does that. He seems distracted, perhaps even resigned. You certainly cannot accuse him of being engaged.

As the ship of state teeters, buffeted by ripples set off by pressing issues, the least he can do is to engage and stay engaged.  The issues will not go away.  If not addressed forthrightly, they can only fester.

 

 

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