The term, coup, evokes military forceful takeover of the reins of power. Palace coup and failed coup, nonetheless also is reminiscent of the Nigerian experience, where coup plots had failed. According to NowaOmoigui, MD, MPH, FACC, “A palace coup is one in which the sudden and decisive change of government illegally or by force is carried out by individuals in positions of authority who are themselves part and parcel of the ruling regime.In other words, one group of members of the palace court seizes control from another group while the people look on.”
It should be noted that palace coups are not new to man. At different points in our life we experience some kind of coup. We experience some kind of coup in the family, politics, business, church, school, office, etc. Sometimes wives and husbands had plotted coups against another. In reference to political coups, they date back to antiquity. In marriage also, coups date back to antiquity, to the biblical days. The Legendary Samson experienced coup plotted against him by his wife, Delilah. In family coup,take note that Elizabeth Petrovna gained the throne of Russia by overthrowing her mother Catherine I (second wife of Emperor Peter I) through a palace coup in November 1741, with the support of the Preobrazhensky regiment.
Also, the Dhofar rebellion in Oman led to a palace coup on July 23, 1970, when Sultan Said was overthrown by his son, Qabusibn Said. Recall that the Sultan was even said to have been shot and injured.On Feb 22, 1972,KhalifabniHamadith-Thani who acted for many years as Deputy Ruler and Prime Minister of Qatar overthrew Emir Ahmed.Then on June 25, 1995,Emir Khalifa was himself dethroned by his own son and heir, acting Defence Minister ShaykhHamadubniKhalifatith-Thani, while Khalifa was on a visit abroad. In 1979 ObiangNguema removed his uncle as the President in a palace coup in Equatorial Guinea.
In politics, history shows that in Ancient Egypt, Pharaoh Amen-em-het Sehetep-ib-re was killed in a palace coup in 1962 B.C.In Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar was overthrown in a palace coup and replaced by Nabonidus – a reclusive scholar who ate grass thinking he was a goat, in 555 BC. In AD 96, Titus Flavius Domitianus (brother of Titus Flavius Vespasianus)was killed during a palace coupin Rome led by Marcus CocceiusNerva.Under pressure from the Praetorian guard – to whom he owed his emergence – Nerva subsequently adopted Marcus UlpiusTraianius, (a.k.a. Trajan) as his successor.Having engineered the coup against Egyptian King Farouk as leader of the Free Officers Movement in July 1952,Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser later pushed General Mohammed Neguib aside as Premier in a Palace coup on April 17th, 1954, relegating Neguib to the role of ceremonial President.On June 23, 1956, Nasser finally assumed full powers as President.
Some people all over the world have described the assassination of US President Kennedy in November 1963 as a palace coup. In 1977, then Major Mengistu Haile Mariam, 1st Vice Chairman of the Ruling Ethiopian Dergkilled the Chairman and Head of State, Brigadier TeferiBenti, and assumed full powers.On July 5, 1978, junior officers on the Ghanaian Military Advisory Committee pressuredLieutenant General Frederick W.K. Akuffo, then Chief of Staff and Vice Chair, to force General Ignatius K. Acheampong to resign as Head of State.Afghan President Taraki was killed in a palace coup in September 1979 and succeeded by Hafizullah Amin.A few years later, onDecember 12, 1984, Col. MaaouyaOuldSid`AhmedTaya, already an insider, seized power in Mauritania.
In Nigeria, our political journey is replete with tales of palace coups. The case of how the third ranking member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC), then Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim BadamasiBabangida (IBB) overthrew the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief, Major General MuhammaduBuhari in August 1985, is one example of palace coups in the annals of Nigeria. And time and space will not allow me to continue to reel out the history of coups in the country, as we are already very familiar with them.
What is worth mention, however, is that in the caseof what is currently going in Imo State Newspapers Publishers Association (INPA), the best way to describe it is failed palace coup. According to English dictionary, a palace coup is “a situation in which a leader is removed by the people who have worked with him or her.”This fits very well the failed coup of some INPA members against the elected executives of INPA led by Elder Lambert Ojukwu. A group of formerly loyal members of INPA had in a rather shameful display of lust for power and apparent display of lack of decorum and integrity, chose, on their volition, to overthrow the executive they all jointly elected to pilot the affairs of the association.
Last year, some people who are now romancing with the state government and claiming that they have removed the elected executive of INPA had initiated a process to remove the then incumbent Executive Chairman of INPA, who incidentally is in the new fold, unknown perhaps to him, that he is in the midst of seemingly foes, except if the statement that there is no permanent enemy in politics holds true here. In routing to oust Ojukwu’s predecessor, the plotters who are chiefly in the new fold, catalogued a lot of offences he had allegedly committed. It is not in my position to say what is true in the allegations or not, after all, I did not buy the allegations then, haven seen it as mere political game.
Like in the move to oust the last Chairman, the splinter group has also manufactured reasons to justify their actions, hinging their actions on financial inducement and involvement in the murky waters of politics. Recall that the Publishers had after their meeting recently called on Governor RochasOkorocha to account for the Paris Club Refund, Bailout Fund, LGA allocations, etc, The Publishers said that their resolution arose because of the “obvious negligence on the side of the Imo state government under OwelleRochasOkorocha in rendering account or rather explaining how he has been managing the affairs of the state holistically.” This resolution was widely published by the state-based newspapers, though a few refused to do so.
It was expected that the resolution would shock the government, especially the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, who is also a Publisher and a member of INPA. Therefore, it was rattling that his colleagues and constituents would turn around and demanded that the Governor renders public account of the finances of the state to the people of the state. It was normal for the CPS to think that his job might be on the line. It was also normal that the CPS would do a damage control, at least to try to save his job. But he misfired, because his coup failed.
The first takeaway for me on this matter is that the CPS had lost grip of his colleagues who had complained that he had not been carrying them along. The Publishers are apparently fed up with the claim that the state government had reduced the advert rates for the state-based newspapers to a miserable N20,000 or N30,000. The Publishers complain that the CPS always cornered all the government adverts to his newspaper. Whether INPA had taken these issues up with the Governor or the CPS is still unknown. But whether the claims are true or not, my takeaway is that if the CPS had not failed he had traded the confidence of his colleagues, because this kind of “revolt” would be impossible in the atmosphere of goodwill and confidence.
The splinter INPA group, most of who are no longer publishers, as their newspapers no longer hit the stands, found a fresh opportunity in the CPS, alongside those who still hungered and thirsted for power. Both the CPS and the splinter group became united by interest, one, to do a damage control by dividing INPA and discrediting the leadership that had shown temerity to question the Governor and called for accountability; second, to grab the opportunity to be in the good book of the government and to ride through to power in INPA.
The report that the CPS called for a meeting of the pliable INPA members in his office where they resolved to dissolve the legally constituted INPA executive makes it obvious that the CPS was out to save his job. It is normal for people to do all they can to keep their jobs, but they CPS just didn’t get the job done at all. It was like he just woke up and found himself sinking and decided to hold on to any available straw, no matter how sinking or floating the straw was.
Rising from their meeting with the CPS, the splinter INPA group announced they have dissolved the leadership of INPA and constituted a caretaker committee. In a statement signed by the factional Secretary, Mr. ChidiEmeagi, the splinter INPA group said they have dissolved the Lambert Ojukwu led exco of the association “after assessing and analyzing the way and manner the Leadership was officially dragging the Association into the murky waters of politics and the inherent dangers ahead”.
The claim that INPA was been dragged into politics is an innuendo, suggesting that the INPA resolution was politically induced by Senator IfeanyiAraraume, who was alleged to have given INPA N2m and two bags of rice each. On the surface, this allegation might appear true. But it is not. What I have been told by those who can still hold their necks high was that a visit to the Senator was arranged by one of the members of the splinter group, where the Senator gave each member of INPA N50,000 and two bags of 25kg rice. I was told that the CPS, as a member of INPA also benefitted from the largesse. I was told that no N2m was given to them to share, and that if the claim was correct, it stands true to question the person who arranged the meeting in the first instance, for the money.
My concern, nevertheless, is not whether INPA visited the Senator or not, but with the manner the splinter group went about doing their things and dissolving the exco, as if we were a banana republic. Any exco can be dissolved, but you must behave like gentlemen and follow the processes. It is true that he who goes to equity must do so with clean hands; again, two wrongs can never make a right. These are time tested statements that have formed our ideals. The splinter INPA group also soiled their hands and became guilty of the same offence they accused the Ojukwu led exco of committing and on which basis they hinged their action, when they were also accused of collecting N40,000 from the state government in their meeting at the office of the CPS, with a promise of retainership fee. They also soiled their hands when they met with the CPS, during which they dissolved the exco and set up a caretaker committee.
I don’t want to be involved in the argument whether Dr. VitalisDiala is capable of leading INPA or not. But I think that they soiled their hands and can no longer sustain their claim that the resolution of INPA calling on the Governor to render stewardship account was politically motivated, because it is clearer to the people that their own action was politically motivated, since the allegation that they met with the CPS in his office has been proved by one of them who was also at the meeting, Mrs. Shirley Munonye, who wrote to distance herself from the failed palace coup. It stands then to reason that the splinter group is not fighting a just course but rather playing to the gallery and acting a script.
The CPS didn’t think cool. He was frightened out of his shelf. There was no justifiable reason holding the meeting in the office of the CPS, except if he wanted to intimidate his cronies. But he did not have to do so at all. He could still have held the meeting elsewhere and appointed a trusted stooge to spearhead it and remotely monitor progress. The splinter group was already in a hurry to please the government and grab power, otherwise they could have held their meeting elsewhere and refused to dissolve the exco in that meeting. They would have planned to co-opt a reasonable number, either by inducement or otherwise, so that when they hold an emergency INPA meeting, they would raise the issue and pass a vote of no confidence on the exco, and perhaps, dissolve it and constitute a caretaker committed. Doing so would have gained them applause in several quarters, instead of the kangaroo approach. They would have also tested the popularity of the action and of those plotting to oust the executive.
The action of the splinter group is a booboo trap for the Governor, and he should not fall prey to it. INPA as a body is not barred by law or convention from visiting anybody they deem fit. Insinuating that such visit was aimed at destabilizing the Okorocha government is at least mischievous. If INPA members have a case against the Elder Lambert Ojukwu led exco, they should handle it following due process and orderliness. The Publishers cannot be allowed to behave like touts or miscreants. That is the least we can tolerate. And if we are true lovers of democracy and free press, this is the time to ensure that INPA is intact. After all, no other Governor had enjoyed the level of support (did you say complicity?) from the Publishers.
In the midst of several woes in the state the Publishers or the newspapers, had taken positions suggesting to be on the side of the Governor. A case in point is the protest organized by pensioners. While the protesters some of the protesters collapsed during the protest, the state government made out a story that many of them were young and as such not genuine pensioners. This was clearly an effort to discredit the protesters. But it was the major stories in most of the newspapers. And the integrity of the protesters was called to question. This integrity question, instead of the plight of the pensioners, dominated the discourse.