Military coup allegations poison Nigeria’s election season


People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar fanning tribalism in Nigeria

from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
Nigeria Bureau
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – ALLEGATIONS that some military generals are plotting a coup during the upcoming elections in Nigeria are aggravating tensions in the West African country.

An atmosphere already characterised by violence, vote rigging and buying claims has gotten apprehensive after allegations some top brass of the Armed Forces of Nigeria had met a presidential candidate, said to be former Deputy Prime Minister and now-opposition leader, Atiku Abubakar, to discuss the plans.

Abubakar is the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which seeks to regain power it lost to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015.

This week, the State Security Service (SSS) interrogated former cabinet minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, over online posts alleging the meeting between Abubakar and the military officers.

Formerly of the PDP, Fani-Kayode is now the Director of Special Projects and New Media for the APC Presidential Campaign Council, campaigning for the ruling party’s candidate, Bola Tinubu.

SSS, also known as the Department of State Services (DSS), said the interrogation were allegations and insinuations relating to issues relevant to national security

The service granted him administrative bail and directed that he makes routine returns to its Abuja offices until further notice.

Peter Afunanya, spokesperson of the SSS, said the agency hereby advised political parties and their media managers to apply restraint in their utterances and public communication engagements prior to and after the general elections.

“This is to avoid heating up the polity and evoking tendencies that could lead to violent reactions as well as undermine peace and order,” Afunanya said.

Presidential polls on February 25 will kick off Nigeria’s election period, which ends on March 11 with state governorship elections.

Last weekend, the Armed Forces of Nigeria said it noted with dismay the story being peddled around by some “unscrupulous elements” alleging that some military officers met Abubakar with the aim of disrupting the general elections and “setting the country on fire.”

“The wicked and very malicious propaganda indicated that a so-called (last) Thursday meeting is plotting a coup d’etat to establish unconstitutional order,” said Brigadier General Tukur Gusau, Acting Director: Defence Information.

“The Armed Forces of Nigeria is disheartened that even politically exposed persons can denigrate themselves into joining agents of destabilisation and violence in making false claims just to heighten tension in the polity,” Gusau said.

Afunanya said the uniformed forces were a professional military that is loyal to the constitution of the Federal Republic and will never be part of “any evil plot against our democracy.”

He assured that the military remained apolitical and neutral in the current political process arguing the uniformed forced would not engage in the alleged “shenanigans.”

“The Armed Forces of Nigeria will never be part of any ignoble plot to truncate our hard-earned democracy,” Afunananya stated.

The military is involved in a number of operations to ensure the Islamist insurgent Boko Haram group, bandits and farmer-herdere clashes, which threaten to disrupt polls were contained.

Meanwhile, Fani-Kayode clarified to media that his coup allegations were not made against the Nigerian military but some “rogue” officers.

He remained defiant even amid his interrogation.

“I am used to arrest, interrogation, detention, prosecution and so much more and have suffered these indignities on many occasions over the last 15 years,” Fani-Kayode said.

The Lagos-born politician (62) has previously been arrested on allegations of money laundering. He was cleared.

“I have no fear. Nothing moves me and only death can silence me,” he declared this week.

The world’s largest Black nation by population, estimated at 219,5 million, has a history littered with military coups since full independence from the United Kingdom (UK) in 1960.

The first coup in 1966 overthrew the first president, Nnamdi Azikiwe. It set a precedent, until democracy was retained in 1999 under Olusegun Obasanjo, formerly a military leader from 1976 to 1979.

Current president, Muhammadu Buhari, initially rose to power after leading a military coup in 1983, when the democratically-elected Shehu Shagari was overthrown.

Buhari was democratically elected in 2015, which was 30 years after his ouster in military uprising led by General Ibrahim Babangida.

Buhari is ineligible after serving two terms.

More than 93,5 million Nigerians are registered to cast their votes this year.

– CAJ News


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