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Coups: A Recurrent Phenomena in 21st Century Africa

•Late Gen Sani Abacha and Gen Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida

BY Bidemi Williams

The history of coups are as old as mankind and as the development comes to a people both technologically, politically and economically, there’s always that issue bordering on change of government and political authority at some point or the other in man’s historiography.
Egypt laid the foundation for coup plotting in Africa when the Free Officers among whom are Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat, Muhammed Naguib and other officers in Egpyts military toppled King Farouk a descendant of the Ottoman political dynasty in the North African country in 1952.


The resulting effect was the momentum with which black African states militaries took to planning coups after it was first witnessed in West Africa, in the 1960s as Togo followed by a succession of coups in Africa Sub-Saharan side of Africa. One thing according to Martin Meredith in his book; ‘The First Dance of Freedom: Black Africa in the Postwar Era’ explains that many coup leaders of the era point at massive corruption by the political class, economic mismanagement, ethnic and tribal consideration before merit including many other factors. Nigeria had her taste of coups from 1966-1979 and from 1983-1999 and the experience is something that the nation and citizenry would not forget in a hurry especially from ousting Muhammadu Buhari and General Tunde Idiagbon’s by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and the late General Sani Abacha’s regimes.

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In1983 General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) was the Chief of Army Staff to Major General Muhammadu Buhari, who he overthrew through a coup d’état. Buhari was then detained in Benin City until 1988. Babangida justified the coup by saying that Buhari failed to deal with the country’s economic problems by implementing Buharism, and promised “to rejuvenate the economy ravaged by decades of government mismanagement and corruption”. Babangida then replaced the ruling Supreme Military Council (SMC) with a new Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC), which lasted until 1993. IBB regime survived a coup attempt by the late Major Gideon Okar in 1990.
IBB in an interview with Vanguard, was asked,
‘Gideon Okar coup where people thought death had finally gotten you. How did you escape?’


He said; I can remember very well that I had some loyal officers who were supposed to be my protectors and my body guard. Initially they told me to leave but I told them no, I am not leaving anywhere but they remained steadfast and later I took my family outside Dodan Barracks and I joined my guards. So we went out of Dodan Barracks and we went to a safe house where we got in contact with loyal troops.


May God bless Sani Abacha, Abacha was the chief of army staff. He got in touch with me, and we sat down and talked on what we were going to do. Abacha and I rallied the loyal troops and then I left my safe house and joined Abacha in his house. That was how I escaped.


The late Major Gideon Orkar was executed by firing squad for the failure of his audacious coup.
The year 2000 saw a marked change in political structures of many third-world states to which Nigeria belongs. The military government in power was no longer fashionable and many of these states in the realm of the western notion of what democracy entails even though they made a mess of it in the long. The various cases of sit-tight leaders and economic underdevelopment have led to an upsurge of military intervention after the dawn of the new millennium despite the general the accepted notion that “Military rule” is an aberration.

The political structure of many African states especially in recent times shows a fault line in the superstructure of the states’ existence and the extant realities reveal deep seethed and structural.

•Late Major Gideon Orkar