In a thought-provoking session on public service and governance held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, former President Olusegun Obasanjo highlighted the underlying factors contributing to the recent surge of coup d’états across several African nations. Emphasizing the role of bad governance and the absence of integrity, Obasanjo expressed concern over the prevalence of nepotism, favoritism, and the perpetuation of sit-tight syndrome among African leaders.
Over the past two months, military takeovers have occurred in Gabon and Niger Republic, with the military citing poor leadership and mismanagement of national resources as the primary reasons for their intervention. Despite his personal aversion to military rule, shaped by his own harrowing experiences under the late military despot General Sani Abacha during the 1995 phantom coup, Obasanjo acknowledged that citizens, disillusioned by the maladministration of their leaders, are increasingly seeking alternative liberators beyond the existing government, leading to this wave of military coups.
Engaging with members of the Africa for Africa Youth Initiative, hailing from various African nations including Botswana, Benin, Ghana, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, Obasanjo delved into strategies to curtail the frequency of coups and foster political stability on the continent. He raised thought-provoking questions about the nature of independence and democracy in former French colonial countries and questioned whether these nations truly enjoyed full autonomy. Additionally, he pondered the effectiveness of democracy in delivering tangible benefits to the people it is meant to serve.
Obasanjo shared a poignant incident involving a group of young individuals who attempted the perilous journey across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean in search of a better life. Touched by their stories of desperation and hardship, he expressed his deep concern for the plight of Africa’s youth. While he expressed his personal affinity for democracy, shaped by his own struggles under Abacha’s dictatorship, he contemplated the potential circumstances that might lead to a situation where military rule becomes an option.
At the heart of the matter, Obasanjo urged a critical examination of the conditions that breed coups on the African continent. He emphasized that unless these conditions are addressed, the likelihood of such upheavals occurring will persist, though he was quick to clarify that this should not be interpreted as an endorsement of military coups.
One disconcerting aspect highlighted by Obasanjo was the fact that youth support for coups is growing. He raised an important question, asking why the younger generation is increasingly seeking alternative avenues for liberation beyond the existing government. Drawing from his own experience, he reflected on a time when he completed secondary school and was presented with multiple job opportunities. In stark contrast, he lamented the current reality where university graduates are fortunate to secure even one or two job prospects. Obasanjo stressed the importance of job creation, employment opportunities, and wealth generation, highlighting the disillusionment that arises when promises of such progress go unfulfilled.