Few weeks ago the First Lady of Sierra Leone, Fatima Maada Bio, had caused a controversy in the United States when she declared recklessly during a fund-raising event that her husband, President Julius Maada Bio, held a PhD degree in staging coups, therefore nobody could ever overthrow him! In a video shared on Facebook, she had these to say: “Maada Bio has a PhD in coup d’état, can you remove him?… the man has a PhD in staging coups, how can you remove someone who teaches people how to stage a coup?” Glorifying putsch or just stupid grandstanding? Well, Madam Bio could be said to be very proud of her husband’s professionalism in coup-plotting! In Africa ‘coupists’ had become emergency billionaires by stealing the state.
Mrs Maada Bio was alluding, of course, to the fact that her husband first came to power in April 1992 as part of a group of young military officers who overthrew the civilian government of Joseph Saidu Momoh of the All People’s Congress, the same party he defeated at the polls in 2018 and whom he accused of being behind the last August protests.
The Sierra Leonian First Lady is a regular user of Facebook and TikTok and she has been known to make controversial comments through the social media platforms. She is outspoken basking in the euphoria of executive opulence in Freetown. She shares certain circumstantial similarities with Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari. The husbands of the two glamorous women of power are soldiers (retired or serving). The two are beneficiaries of treasonable felonies against state institutions.
Today, the democracies they sought to ‘kill’ had given them another opportunity to serve without their boots and uniforms. Muhammadu Buhari and Maada Bio are not democrats but their desperation for power at the apex bears eloquent testimony to their dictatorial tendencies and democratic perfidy.
Lately, there is this recrudescence of coups and counter-coups in Francophone West African countries. First it was Mali when a group of young officers led by Colonel Assimi Goita overthrew the then President, the late Ibrahim Boubakar Keita. They struck following protracted street demonstrations against the government’s failure to address insecurity and poor living standards.
The neighbouring Guinea soon caught the bug by toppling the sit-tight President, Alpha Conde. Conde directly called for his ouster after he manipulated the constitution to stay in power beyond the second term limit. When the controversial constitutional amendments were initiated and implemented ex-President Conde killed hundreds of protesters in Conakry and elsewhere, jailing hundreds of others.
Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya took control of the country as a strongman after the success of the bloody putsch. Today, social tensions had boiled over as the Jackboot sought to consolidate power, shrinking the civic space and discouraging dissent. The lanky Colonel had proposed a three-year transition period but the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had called for a 2-year period like what was obtained in Mali.
And Burkina Faso followed suit by successfully organising the anti-constitutional change of government. Early January this year army boys led by the deposed Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba had staged a coup against the then President, Roch Kabore. Col. Damiba lasted for seven months until recently when other group of army boys toppled his government installing themselves in power. Led by Captain Ibrahim Traore they succeeded in forcing Col. Damiba to flee to Togo after days of tension in the barracks and subsequent intervention by the elders and traditional rulers.
Many years ago the Anglophone West African countries — Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone — held the flag as champions of coup-plotting and consequent instability in the sub-region. Nigeria had shown the way as Generals (including the late Murtala Muhammed, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, the late Sani Abacha) seized power in different epochs. Then, it was as if there was a fierce competition for power by corrupt clueless Generals out to underdevelop our country and pauperize our people.
In Sierra Leone in January 1996 Captain Valentine Strasser had led some young military officers (including the then Brigadier-General Maada Bio) to stage a coup against the then President Joseph Saidu Momoh. Strasser became the youngest Head of State in the world at just twenty five years old! After nearly four years in power the dancing Captain was removed from power by Brigadier-General Maada Bio, now President whose ‘virtue’ the wife was extolling in Uncle Sam.
On 15th May 1979 in Ghana, some weeks prior to civilian elections, the late Jerry John Rawlings and six other soldiers staged a coup against the government of General Fred Akuffo, but failed and were arrested by the military. He was sentenced to death following a Court Martial. He had his finger-nails forcefully removed!
While awaiting execution however, Rawlings was sprung from custody on 4th June 1979 by a group of soldiers claiming that the military government was corrupt beyond redemption and that a new leadership was required for Ghana’s development.
The charismatic patriotic Rawlings, the son of a Scottish chemist, James Ramsey John, was ruthless as fate smiled on him. He ordered a swift trial of all the coup-plotting Generals in Ghana executing all of them in one fell swoop! He tried his very best to reposition Ghana as he transmuted from a military dictator to a civilian President.
The season of coup plotting in the Francophone West-African countries is worrisome to say the least. The Goita malady is fast creeping into many countries in the sub-region. They would always claim that they removed the democratically-elected Presidents because insecurity was rife and living conditions of the people abysmal. Yet these societal issues still persist even when they are comfortably calling the shots from presidential mansions.
Soon after tasting power the sweetness becomes too attractive for any swift transition to happen. Col. Goita had organized two successful coup d’etats, the first against the late Keita and the second, months later, against the civilian transition President and Prime Minister.
Now the ECOWAS leaders must wear their thinking caps to nip the recrudescent coup-plotting in the bud. First, they must raise hell against their peers trying to manipulate the constitution to remain in power eternally. Again issues of misgovernance, corruption and terrorism must be given deserved attention.
Unless a reasonable balance is struck the coup-plotting season could go further leading to more instability in the political system. Guinea Bissau seems to have had a strong man as President, Umaro Sissoco Emballo and he currently serves as the ECOWAS leader. Emballo is doing good as President and the desperate attempt by businessmen and politicians of fortune to turn his tiny country into a narco state had failed.
Nigeria has been spared of coup plots since 1999 following the return of democracy to our country. When June 12 (an epochal presidential poll held in 1993 and convincingly won by the late Bashorun MKO Abiola) was annulled criminally by General Babangida and his kleptocratic gang sacrifices (some ultimate) were made for martial pestilence to be defeated for good.
Now, while Gen. Babangida lives in obscene opulence in Minna though patiently awaiting the grim reaper to do justice to his sinful life the maximum thieving Gen. Sani Abacha had gone to the hades to book an appointment with Lucifer! The billions of Naira and millions of Dollars he stole and stashed abroad (remember the infamous Abacha-loot?) could not save him from eating his last apple from a romantic imported whore.
Senegal should serve as a shining example of what is possible with democratic evolution and stability. The Francophone country near Mali and Guinea has never witnessed any military incursion into national leadership since independence from France. And today democracy has paid bountiful dividends, transforming the country infrastructurally and making citizens’s lives better!
Long live democracy in Nigeria! And long may we all live to witness a new capable President post-Buharism next year!!