In my younger days as a footballer, I remember we had a tyrant of a captain. Well, he was selected as captain because he owned the ball we played and not because he was any skilled. He treated all other people as though they did not matter. Even though we complained bitterly in our closet, no one could spit it into his face.
Out of frustration, one of us bought a football out of his savings. Our day of liberation came. We sacked our captain and selected the new football owner to lead the team. All was well until he started denying anyone he was not happy with the opportunity to play. As if that was not enough, he took away his football in the middle of a match on a whim.
One sunny afternoon, in the dying minutes of a match we were on the verge of winning, our captain caught his ball after a slide tackle from an opponent. Home he went. That was the day we regretted ever sacking our former captain. At least, he made us win our matches in peace.
Reminiscing the experience with our two captains brings to mind a current trend on our beloved continent ─ coups. Within the last three (3) years, six (6) African governments have been overthrown: Niger, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Guinea, Mali and, recently, Gabon. It doesn’t look like Gabon is the last yet. The jubilation that welcomes these coups points to how relieved the citizenry is. The multimillion-dollar question one needs to ask is, “How long does such jubilation last?”
Coups have never been a solution. Especially on the African continent, they have always left a bad country worse. In the countable instances where they have restored sanity to a nation, one cannot overlook their excesses. Some at the helm of affairs have used such as a tool of revenge to get back at their opponents.
In the wake of Gabon’s coup, many Africans have wished their governments were toppled over, too. When people cry for coups, however, I wonder if they know what they are asking for. Many coups reset a nation. They take a nation back to its starting line. When a government is overthrown, the nation is often thrown into a state of anarchy. No one is in control because everyone is in control.
There are price hikes. A few people take advantage of the anarchy to cause more harm to others. There is a wave of injustice because there is no time to find out who was wrongly accused and who wasn’t. If you are asking for a coup, first take a cue from others who have endured it.
If a corrupt democratic government is such a burden on its citizenry, imagine a military takeover led by corrupt people. It will be a jamboree of brutality. No mercy for the cripple!
A coup is a problem that looks like a solution. Indeed, it provides a temporary solution to a permanent problem. If an economy takes a nosedive, a band of people without a strategy will do that economy no good. All they have is emotion. However, no country was ever run successfully on emotions. Having the passion to end wrong is not enough if there is no strategic plan.
In the beginning, coup plotters emerge as saviors of an economy. They are heralded. They receive a standing ovation. However, they only end up worsening an already bad situation.
The jubilant crowd is high on emotions. It will take a few months for them to know that emotions are not enough to maximize a nation’s fortunes… when reality hits them in the face.
Eradicating greed is the solution to any country’s woes. If those who overthrow a government are as corrupt as those they are overthrowing, what really is the essence of a coup? If a coup ends up bringing in another band of greedy people, it is only a cycle of greed. Unfortunately, that is the sad case of Africa’s coups.
If you are a politician today, you should take a cue from all that is happening in the world of coups. You cannot take the people for a ride all the time. One day, the scales will fall off their eyes. One day, they will no longer sell themselves cheap. One day, they will demand accountability. Unfortunately, you may not have enough time to render that account.
If you are a politician, you should be worried about the pockets of coups happening across the continent. When the masses are frustrated, they support any solution that will bring relief to them… even if it is for a moment. They don’t mind giving the devil a chance as long as he promises them what they have been denied.
A nation is bound by systems. When these systems work, it is for the nation’s own benefit. When there is no faith in a nation’s systems, it is the nation that suffers. Mob injustice, for example, becomes a norm because people have lost faith in the system of justice. Cheating in exams becomes the way to go because there is no faith in the integrity of the education system. The lifeline of every nation is the faith its people have in it.
Coups begin as thoughts. These thoughts eventually become a reality when the citizens have been given enough reason to put themselves first. It is the role of every leader(ship) to convince their people that they are their priority. A nation that puts its people first will always come first in the hearts of the people. Patriotism is not forced. It is earned.
Staging a coup may not be the best option but not for a people who have nothing to lose. If we give them a reason not to trust in our systems, we give them a reason to give in to any opportunity that will harm our nation. Even though it may be a road that leads nowhere, a coup may be the only water that may quench their thirst.
The citizens deserve better. Having a job should not be a privilege. Living in a decent accommodation should not be a miracle they should pray to God for. The one who is fooled every day will come to their senses one day. When that day comes, may it not be too late for us to learn our lessons.
The writer is a playwright and Chief Scribe of Scribe Communications, an Accra-based writing company ( www.scribecommltd.com ). Kindly grab copies of his illustration books, Animuonyam The Bully Stopper and Animuonyam and The Queer Man, via 0243752793.