It is interesting to note that most post colonial African countries have ever had a coup before. It is only until recently that it has come out that the west was responsible for some of the coups, using the military as a staging ground. The CIA was responsible for the removal of Ghana’s first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Revelations made by Harold Smith, a British Colonial Officer who in the 60s was in Nigeria, blamed Britain for the rigging of Nigeria’s first elections leading to coups and counter coups by different ethnic groups leading to the Nigerian civil war.
In some time ago, it was the military that toppled governments and leaders. Most military coups in Africa were always welcomed by a majority of people in the country who feel the blood must be shed. Once in power, the military will begin to taste the sweet nectar of power and begin to promise to return the country into democracy. Some do materialize, others never see the light of the day and they will remain in power for some time.
However, the military in most African countries, as a way of building a positive image and gaining respect from the people and also witnessing destructions during peace keeping missions, have mostly withdrawn back to their barracks, rearing their heads when there is chaos, but always lying low and on hibernation. Although some now do find their way into politics, they do so when on retirement. Thus, the military is now respected and considered the last bastion of sanity after sometimes the unprofessional behavior of the police has worsened matters.
However, a new trend and wave is emerging. Now it is not the military taking over, it is the people telling their governments and leaders to pack and leave. This interesting development started when a young Tunisian, harassed financially by the state, burnt himself in front of the Municipal office and later died. Coupled with revelations of a rich aristocratic and autocratic leadership and their rich family members who spend lavishly when this young man (and millions others) were suffering on the streets trying to eke a living and support his family, he was fined an amount of money he could not pay, so he burnt himself as a protest.
This courage sparked widespread condemnation and anger which quickly translated into a nationwide protest leading not only to the overthrow of the country’s leadership (who have been in power for 23 years) but culminating in the removal of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak who had been in power for 30 years.
Egypt surely will not be the end of this new wave of power that people all over the world are just realizing was there but never well utilized. Simply, create a facebook page, open a twitter account and other social media to raise consciousness, protest on the streets day and night, boycott all government’s directions, let the international media pick it up, pick scuffles with the police as a way of smearing them, cry out for international support and you are on your way to toppling your government. The Arab world is presently enjoying this new wave of power and though some are facing fierce resistance from their governments, what has started will not end mid-way, things will not be the same again.
However, before any meaningful protest, there must already be a revolutionary consciousness. That is to say, you cannot protest against a government that has done virtually nothing against the people. People must be made to know what the government has done wrong, people must be vexed with the government, they must have suffered government’s actions or inactions, and they must feel that their plight is genuine and that the government is riding roughshod over them.
Governments by their actions always easily create enmity with the people. This is because when in opposition, parties promise the electorates heaven on earth and end up delivering them into hell. People have been disappointed; their hopes dashed away, unpaid salaries, underpaid workers, unstable educational system, and extravagant arrogant and pompous leaders who parade the streets with blaring horns and posh cars and flood our screens with their comfy lifestyles when the masses are suffering and sweating on the streets. These suffering masses will have to provide for the comfort of their leaders akin to the saying that monkey dey work, bamboo dey chop. All these are conditions for a possible takeover by the people when they can no longer take it.
Governments will now have to listen to the people and do as they want or face serious reprisals from the masses. Governments will now have to be more sensitive to the plight of their people; they would have to negotiate with opposing groups instead of trying to nub them in the bud. The wise ones would have to guard against actions that seem to portray opulence, arrogance, insensitivity, victimization, and a general lack of concern for the people who put them there.
Now, governments will know that they might not enjoy their fruits even if they rig elections because once people are convinced of any foul play, they will not sit down, they will rise up and “resist oppressors rule”. People are now getting more conscious and watching governments very carefully and pointing out to them their fault lines. If they ignore the wish of the people, they will face a collective backlash.
So now, added to the ballot power is the streets’ power, the power of people to peacefully demand for their leaders to pack if they suspect that their aspirations and those of the leadership are different and at variance. This is a big challenge to governments all across Africa. You can not and must not take the people for granted.