MILITARISM AND POLITICAL INSTABILITY IN NIGERIA
Athanasius Umunakwe Ohaya B.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 1990
A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Political Science
This thesis for the Master of Arts
Athanasius Umunakwe Ohaya has been approved by
Ohaya, Athanasius umunakwe (M.A., Political Science) Militarism and Political Instability in Nigeria Thesis directed by Dr. Sakah Mahmud
This study reviewed and analyzed the causes and effects of militarism and political instability in Nigeria. The issue of whether the military is part of the problem or whether it is the solution to the problems in Nigeria was also investigated.
I employed established theories of military intervention and my own hypothetical statements and questions. I applied conventional military intervention theories to the political problems in Nigeria while examining the impact of military rule on Nigeria's political establishment. I came to the conclusion that the military is the prime cause of political instability in Nigeria.
The theory of level of political culture explains why the Nigerian military has found it easy to intervene without minding the society's reaction to its political impositions. The military rulers are rarely trained to govern civilian political institutions. The military in Nigeria has hidden itself under the cloak of constant threat to national interest, sectional interest, and the corporate interest of the military to subjugate the Nigerian masses to autocracy.
The crushing experience created by a military whose agenda includes passivity to national problems such as ethnic strife, political instability, economic ills, and endemic corruption in the government, has left most Nigerians politically alienated and uncertain of their future.
As a result of military experience in Nigeria, I further concluded that in order to have a stable political atmosphere in Nigeria, the military must realize the havoc it has inflicted on the society, and then it must accept its duties, which include: (a) respecting civilian
supremacy by serving civilian institutions; (b) unequivocally avoiding political blackmailing of civilian
institutions; and (c) performing its proper duty of acting as advisers to the civilian authority.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication.
MY WIFE, NKEIRUKA; MY DAUGHTERS: CHINAZOR & UCHENNA AND TO MY MENTOR: DR. KILLIAN IKWUAKOR
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. Statement of the Problem.....................8
B. Brief Historical Background of Nigeria......11
C. Significance of the Topic...................17
D. Definition Concepts and Terms...............19
E. Plan of the Study/Methodology...............22
F. Chapters and Summary of Their
II. THEORIES OF MILITARY INTERVENTION
A. Review of Literature........................25
B. General Theory of Military Intervention.....29
1. The Excuse of Motivation to Intervene Due to a Threat to National
2. Sectional Interest of the Military
3. Corporate Self-Interest of the
D. Factors That May Lead to Military
1. External Challenges....................44
2. Internal Challenges....................46
III. MILITARY RULE IN NIGERIA
A. History of Military Rule in
B. Brief Review of the Military
in Nigerian Politics...................... 54
1. Figure. 1..............................55
C. The Application of Theories of Political Disposition or Supplantation
D. Nature of Military Rule in
Nigeria---Testing the Theories.........65
F. Factors Responsible for Perpetuating
Military Rule in Nigeria...............70
2. Official Corruption....................74
3. The Type of Political Culture in Nigeria as a Sustaining Force for the Military
4. Economic Disorder as a Sustaining
Force for Military Rule................78
G. Impact of Military Rule on
H. Findings of Study Compared to
IV. PROSPECTS FOR RETURN TO CIVILIAN RULE
A. Implications of Factors in Chapter 3 for Prospects of Return to Civilian
Rule in Nigeria.............................87
B. Civil-Military Relations in Nigeria
and Implications for Stability..............90
A. Findings of the Study.....................97
B. Theoretical Implications of the
C. Prospects and Problems for Political
Militarism and Political Instability in Nigeria Statement of the Problem
Nigeria has not been able to sustain any stable political system since becoming an independent nation in 1960. It has had many opportunities to be a stable political power, but it has drifted from one political problem to another. In this thesis I will address some of the factors contributing to the political instability in Nigeria.
The military is the prime factor influencing political instability in Nigeria, and consequently, the main point of this study is to assess the role of the military in destabilizing political order in that country. This thesis will address the prospects for returning the reign of government to the civilians. I will apply various military intervention theories to show that the military has been more of a problem than a solution to Nigeria's chaotic political situation. The military has created the atmosphere that has brought about political instability in the country, either by accident or by an act of ignorance.
When Nigeria won its political independence from Britain on October 1, 1960, the government was democratically elected. But on January 15, 1966, the civilian government was terminated through military intervention in one of the bloodiest military coups in the history of the country. The January 15, 1966, coup in Nigeria suspended the country's constitution and replaced it with military decrees, and never since then has the political situation in Nigeria returned to normalcy. The suspension of democracy in that country has caused great damage to the political morale of the people of Nigeria. In addition, the military in the past ten years has intensified repression and oppression of the masses and against political opponents. The repressive attitude of the military in Nigeria has created fear in the minds of the masses and in so doing has increased political instability in the country and made the political future of Nigeria very uncertain.
The people in Nigeria have gone from hope and anticipation to apprehension. The political turbulence in Nigeria from June through December, 1993, caused serious strain in civil-military relationships in Nigeria and
further increased the people's mistrust of the military's capability to effectively lead the country. The ongoing political uncertainty in Nigeria makes the political future of the country so bleak that Nigeria may be degenerating into chaos.
The political situation in Nigeria worsened in June, 1994, when Abiola (a Nigerian billionaire, the apparent winner of the Nigerian Presidential election in June 12, 1993) declared himself the president of the country.1 Abiola's move got the military irritated, and he was arrested for treason. His arrest triggered rioting and killing of innocent people, which resulted in a mass exodus of people from Lagos, the commercial center of the country.
1 Banks, Arthur S. et al., Political Handbook of the World:1994-1995. CSA Publications, Binghamton, New York, p.649.
Brief Historical Background of Nigeria
Nigeria has twice experimented with a democratic system of government in its 35 years of existence. And each time, the elected government has been overthrown in a coup by zealous military groups in the name of "national security." Nigeria has had a total of twenty-six years of military domination; however, the civilians have been allowed limited rule in what turned out to be fragile and corruption-ridden civilian governments.
There are about two hundred and fifty ethnic groups in Nigeria. In January 1990, Nigeria's population was estimated at 118.8 million people and as rapidly growing at a rate of 3% annually.2 The largest groups account for 66% of the population: the Hausas and Fulanis in the North account for 29% of the population; the Yorubas in the Southwest make up 20% of the population; while the Ibos (Igbo is the language spoken by Ibo people) in the Southeast represent 17% of the total population of
Banks, Arthur S, Political Handbook of the World: 1990, p.473.
Nigeria.3 Each ethnic group in Nigeria has its own distinct culture and language. As a result of British colonization, the English language is the official language in Nigeria. The Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo languages are, however, widely spoken.
The information I gathered in this research shows that Nigeria's current tumultuous political problems, are a consequence of the seeds of contention and discontent sowed by the country's early political leaders. Those early political leaders were in the government that came to power following Nigeria's political independence and the departure of Britain. Most of the Nigerian political pioneers can best be described as a self-centered bunch of men who got themselves intoxicated with power and greed. They placed personal and sectional interests above the national interests.4
The negative policies of those erstwhile leaders are
Odetola, Theophilus Olatunde, Military Politics In Nigeria. 1978, pp.165-166.
Hatch, John, Nigeria: The Seeds Of Disaster. July, 1970, PP.237-297.
still being felt in Nigeria, and arguably these problems are being perpetuated by present-day Nigerian leaders. I would argue that the first Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar, and the first President, Dr. Azikiwe (1960-1965) attempted to work for the unity of the country, while the other Federal and some Provincial leaders advocated sectional interests above national interests.
Moreover, both past and present military regimes in Nigeria have encouraged tribal politics by restricting free political participation of individual citizens in the country. Indirectly, the military regimes have encouraged tribalism or ethnicity by treating some sections of the country with utter neglect, while some sections of the country have enjoyed better treatment by the same military government. The Ogoni people of River State have become an example of the victims of military atrocities in Nigeria. This is the most productive section of the country, where 70 80 percent of the nation's oil comes from, yet the Ogoni people are the poorest in the country.5 These
Chaos in Ogoni-Land, African News Weekly. May 16, 1995, pp.2 & 3.
people have lost their livelihood because of oil pillages and soil, water, and environmental contamination.
Military interventions in Nigeria's politics in the 1960s caused major political upheaval, which eventually sank the country into a civil war. The resulting civil war, which lasted three years, claimed more than 1.5 million lives.6 At the conclusion of the civil war in 1970, Nigerian citizens hoped that the military would restore normal political life and then return to the barracks. But after several years of military coups and counter-coups, the Nigerian military appears to have directly institutionalized authoritarianism as the form of political governance in the country.
The military has refused to relinquish power to the civilians since 1983, when Shagari's civilian government was toppled in a military coup because of uncontrollable official corruption which was rampant in that
6 Banks, Arthur S. et al., Political Handbook of the World: 1990, (Nigeria), "Governments and Intergovernmental Organizations as of July, 1990." (Binghamton, New York, CSA Publications), 1990, p. 474.
administration. One might argue that if the civilian administrations in Nigeria were as corrupt as the military regimes, then the military is not the problem. However, the argument can be viewed in a different light, that the civilian administrations in Nigeria have not had the same amount of opportunity to rule the country as much as the military had. I believe that if the civilians had had much time to govern the country, they probably could have cleaned up most of the national ills facing the country.
The above point is true because, evidently, all countries in the world with stable political system and strong economies, practise democracy. With a democratic system of government in Nigeria, the legislative houses, the judicial system; with a strong and reliable police force to back them up, corruption at all levels could be controlled, ethnic bias or intimidation could be prosecuted, and other social problems facing the country could be squarely faced. In addition, a legislative government would be able to monitor the economic well being of the country, and take some economic measures to control
any economic changes. A free press and freedom of
association will help educate the masses about the
performance of their government. It is not by accident or act of luck that democratic capitalist economies such as those of the United States, Canada, Japan, and most European countries are flourishing. These economies have been built by the people through the application of useful economic and sensible political policies. Therefore, given the chance, a country such as Nigeria, with its highly educated and talented work force, can clean up the political and economic mess created by many years of colonialism, including those created by many years of military autocracy. Following the downfall of Shagari's government, the military had proclaimed itself as saviors who had come to rescue the country from further disintegration. However, because of inconsistencies in the military's policies, Nigerian nationhood and political order suffered, while some military thugs ravaged the country's economy and set the future of the nation adrift. Worse still, the military has insisted on holding the people's right to choose their leaders hostage, thereby undermining the political integrity of the country.
Significance of the Topic
Understanding the causes and consequences of military-intervention in Nigeria will help us comprehend both the attractions and the dangers of military intervention in general. The following problems have emerged as the main contributing factors to political instability in Nigeria: (1) intermittent military intervention, (2) ethnicity, (3) official corruption, and (4) underdeveloped economy.
Among the four factors listed above, intermittent military intervention, along with uncertain military rule, remain of serious concern, as they have retarded any possible progress the nation could muster had it remained stable and politically organized.
It is worthwhile to study the political situation in Nigeria, because of the ways in which the Nigerian political style has been influenced by tribalism. Nigeria claims to be the "giant" of Africa, while at the same time, it cannot solve its own internal problems. This contradiction is a critical point in studying the politics in that country. Besides, the military government in Nigeria has violated its legitimate purpose: the military in theory is supposed to act as a stabilizing factor in the
developing countries. The military in coming to power was supposed to fix the ailing national government and then leave. Instead, in Nigeria "the military is exploiting divisions among the ethnic groups to perpetuate its rule."7
In 1993 the world witnessed the human tragedy in Rwanda, increasing the fear that unless drastic political measures were taken to avert the imminent political danger created by the military in Nigeria, the situation there could also be catastrophic. The sweeping political emergency and the fear of another political bloodbath whereby Nigerians would be killing fellow citizens have motivated me to research the origins of the dangerous political situation in my country.
Ironically, the political uncertainty in Nigeria tends to contradict what Nigeria, as one of the first independent black African nations, stands for in Africa ... a peace maker and the champion of an African course. It boggles my mind to observe a great country like Nigeria, which its
Akinnagbe, Bayo, "Independence Anniversary," African News Weekly. Vol.5, No. 40, November 18, 1994, p. 18.
citizens boisterously brag about as being "the most populous black country and 'the leader' in Africa while military gangsters cajole, serenade and then dupe it, absconding with billions of their oil money."8 Nigeria has been ridiculed by foreign intellectuals who see the country in total chaos, not being able to handle its own domestic problems, even after 35 years of self rule, yet proclaiming itself the leader of Africa.9 Something must be wrong somewhere in Nigeria's political order, and for these reasons, I want to investigate its problems and prospects.
Definition of Concepts and Terms As the goal of this research is to study the effect of militarism and its impact on the political instability in Nigeria, I think defining the proceeding terms will help. Militarism is defined by Random House Webster's College
Ayittey, George B.N.(Ph.D), "Nigeria's Crisis: The Intellectuals", African News Weekly. Vol.5, No.40, November 18, 1994, p.6.
Dictionary as: "a strong military spirit or policy, the principle or policy of maintaining a large military establishment, the tendency to regard military efficiency as the supreme ideal of the state, with other interests subordinate."10 But here, I will define militarism in Nigeria as a process of the armed forces ruling by force or decree, a process of military suppression of civilian institutions. Militarism in Nigeria is a process of intermittent military coups and military usurpation of power in the country. Political stability is defined as the maintenance of political order and public order. Public order is defined as a stable situation in which the security of individuals or groups is generally not threatened and in which disputes are typically settled without resort to violence. Political order is the process of institution building, the creation of a stable pattern of political development.11 I define political instability
10 Random House Webster College Dictionary. 1992, "Militarism."
11 Odetola, Olatunde, Military Politics in Nigeria; Economic Development and Political
as a lack of political order and the existence of unstable government in a country. Therefore, political instability is the reverse of political stability.
Political scientists have pointed out several factors that can contribute to political instability and de-stabilization of government. These factors may include,
but are not limited to, the following: (1) Riots---
incidents of political protest involving groups of people and marked by violence, as evidenced by the destruction of property, casualties, or the presence of police; (2)
protest demonstrations---organized nonviolent gatherings to
protest against a regime, cabinet, officer-politicians, policy, intended policy, lack of policy, previous action, intended action, or ideological position; (3) assassinations: the number of reported murders or attempted murders of national governmental leaders, governors of states or provinces, members of the cabinet, chairmen of city councils, and editors of newspapers, etc; (4) governmental repression: actions taken by the government to
Stability. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Inc., 1978.
suppress or inhibit perceived threats to the security of the regime.12 The recent political confusion in Nigeria has created upheaval and threatened the sitting government, which has in effect intensified its repressive action.
Plan of the Study/Methodology
The following is the method I have employed in conducting this research. Using established theories of military intervention and my own formulated hypothetical statements and questions, I have assembled evidence that the military is the prime cause of political instability in Nigeria. I have applied conventional military intervention theories to the political problems in Nigeria while examining the impact of military rule on Nigeria's political establishment.
The method of collecting the data for this thesis has been primarily library research. I have reviewed previous work on this subject by using published materials on military intervention. These materials include: books, magazine articles, newspapers and general television and
Odetola, Olatunde, Ibid, p. 172.
radio news articles, as well as personal interviews with some people in Nigeria. The library search has been conducted at the Auraria campus library and other public libraries.
Chanters and Brief Summary of Their Contents
The five chapters of this thesis contain the introduction, the theories of military intervention, military rule in Nigeria, prospects for returning to civilian rule in Nigeria, and the conclusion.
The first chapter will deal with the statement of the problem; the significance of the study; brief historical background information on Nigeria; and a methodological explanation of the guidelines for this research, including the way data were gathered and analyzed.
In chapter two, I will write a brief overview of the literature on military intervention. This summary will be focused on four previous works on aspects and theories of military intervention. I will introduce some general theories of intervention, and apply them to Nigeria's situation. This application will be followed by a brief
analysis of the advent of military government in Nigerian politics.
Chapter three will feature an analysis of military rule in Nigeria from 1966 to the present time. There will be an assessment of the nature of military rule in Nigeria, the way the military has performed, and the way it has failed in its policies. I will determine the relevance of those generally accepted military theories and apply them to the situation in Nigeria. I will show how the Nigerian military has failed to respond to the political needs of the society. Then, a brief section will summarize the findings of the study.
Chapter four will discuss the factors that affect military withdrawal from politics. In this same chapter I will discuss and show how civil-military relations in Nigeria have been strained. The concluding chapter will summarize the findings and suggest the theoretical implications of this study.
THEORIES OF MILITARY INTERVENTION A. Review of the Literature In this chapter, I will extensively use the book by S.E. Finer called Man on Horseback. which is a book on theories of military intervention. Another book of this kind is on military theories, The Soldier and the State. written by Samuel P. Huntington. There are other books written by other theorists on military intervention that I will use to assess and analyze the theories surrounding the motivation and the disposition of the military to intervene.
I will begin here by reviewing Professor Huntington's assertions concerning civil-military relations, which are a very important issue as it affects politics in Nigeria. In his book, Huntington discusses the issues relating to national security and civil-military relations; military institutions and the state; the military mind, power, professionalism, and ideology; and the departmental
structure of civil-military relations. He sees all these variables as being significant in civil-military relations, because any deviation or alteration in these relations
breeds suspicion and an unstable political atmosphere. He states:
The military man must recognize that a wide number of conceivably purely military decisions, such as the selection of theater of war, also involve politics, and he must be guided accordingly The top military leaders of the state inevitably operate in an intermingled world of strategy and policy. They must always be alert to the political implications of their military attitudes and be willing to accept the final decisions of the statesmen .... To render the highest possible service the entire profession and the military force which it leads must be constituted as an effective instrument of state policy.13
However, such has not been the case with the Nigerian military, as top military leaders in that country are known to have little regard for the statesmen.
Finer, in his theory of military intervention, talks about the role of the military in politics. He assesses issues involved in military intervention and states that to understand the role of the military in politics today, we must consider its political strengths and weaknesses, motives, mood, and opportunity to intervene. He also illustrates how past military interventions have succeeded,
13 Huntington, Samuel P., The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 1964, p. 73.
while he demonstrates that future military interventions are possible because a series of events facilitate military intervention in politics.
Eric A. Nordlinger, another theorist, in his book Soldiers in Politics: Military Coups and Government, discusses specific military coups that have taken place in mostly African countries. Nordlinger analyses the reasons why it is imperative to study military regimes. He also discusses the political sociology of the military establishment. He reviews the various meanings of coups d'etat that have taken place in several African countries, but pays particular attention to coups d'etat occurring in Ghana and in Nigeria.
Nordlinger's book assesses three types of military regimes he considers very important, especially for someone who wants to understand the operations of military regimes. He calls military leaders "officers made governors." He gives three categories of military orders of governance. The first order is the predominantly military executives. This is the category in which at least 90 percent of the cabinet positions are held by officers. The second is the mixed military-civilian executives: the governors and leaders in this group, according to Nordlinger, are
comprised roughly equally of military personnel and civilian appointees. The third group is made up exclusively of members of the military council along with a mixed cabinet. In this group, the ruling council is all military officers, and all state governors are all military personnel; while the cabinet is mixed with military officers and civilian appointees.
"The first pattern is found in approximately 15 percent of military regimes, and the second and third patterns each occur in about 40 percent of military regimes,"14 says Nordlinger. He devotes a great deal of the book to the analysis of issues affecting national integration and economic change. He also assesses the role of military personnel as guardians of the state and the events leading to their becoming leaders of the states.
The impact of coups and the motivation behind them, the performance of military governments, and the inheritance that military regimes bequeath to their civilian successors are a more or less beneficial legacy of military governments, Nordlinger says. But by my own estimate, as we shall see below, these three factors can
14 Nordlinger, Eric A., Soldiers in Politics: Military Coups and Government. 1977, P.109.
have harmful as well as beneficial effects on civilian
successors. Nordlinger also discusses "the authoritarian structure of military regimes," which is the "distribution of political power between the military governors and the governed--the degree to which the latter can influence the selection and decisions of the governors, and the extent to which the governors control the behavior of the governed."15
General Theory of Military Intervention
There are three distinct responsibilities that military personnel must uphold for the state, says Huntington. These responsibilities include: (1) The military man has to represent the claims of security within the state machinery, which means that the military person must keep the civilian authorities of the state informed as to what he considers necessary for the minimum military security of the state in the light of the capabilities of other powers. Generally, Huntington argues, the military man has the right and the duty to present his views to the public bodies, be they executive or legislative, which are
15 Ibid, p.110.
charged with the allocation of resources between the military and other claims.
(2) The military officer has an advisory function to analyze and report on the implications of alternative courses of state action from the military point of view. For instance, if the state is weighing several possible military policies, the military officer should not judge which policy is best or worst. However, he can inform the state of the risks involved in each policy, based on the military strength currently available to them.
(3) The military officer has an executive function to implement a State decision with respect to military security, even if it is a decision which runs violently counter to his military judgement.16
The basic civil-military relation has remained unchanged in the major industrialized nations, but within the developing countries, the functions of the military have been substantially altered. The developing countries' military establishments have often changed from being the protector of the state to becoming the body that governs
16 Huntington, Samuel P., The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Militarv Relations.1964. p.72.
the state. Most developing countries have had in one way or the other an abortive coup d'etat, or a complete military takeover, as the case may be.
The above situation is explained by the fact that military establishments in the developing countries have succeeded in justifying the overthrow of civilian governments based on the latter's "responsibility for economic downturns or inflationary spirals, and an inability to handle political opposition and discontent without their erupting into disorderly and violent actions."17 However, the irony of the military charges against the civilian governments, is that the same problems have also been the military's downfall.
Professor S.E.Finer theorizes in his book, The Man on Horseback, that for military intervention in a state to occur, two things must be present: motive and mood. Under motives, he states that certain aspects such as national interest (a threat to national security), sectional interest, regional interest, as well as manifest destiny of the soldiers, corporate self-interest of the armed forces, and mixed motives of the military are usually present.
17 Nordlinger, Eric A., Soldiers in Politics: Military Coups and Government. 1977, p.85.
Finer's theory on the mood of the armed forces shows that the mood of the military personnel is dependent on the military's desire to have an identity that is separate from that of the civilians and politicians. The military personnel may sometimes consider themselves the heirs to the state throne. For instance, the Japanese Army in the 1930s considered itself the heir of the Samurai, "the traditional 'Lords of the four classes', and adopted Bushido, its code of honor. The fact that officers were being drawn largely from middle- and lower-class families did not affect this Samurai tradition which was wholeheartedly adopted by the newcomers. "18
The military mood is also affected by the sense of its overwhelming power and the kind of grievances or grudges it has against politicians or regarding political issues. In other words, the military mood to intervene in politics is affected by many factors, especially if the armed forces have high self-esteem.19
Finer, S.E., Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in politics. 1988, p.68
Finer S.E., Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics. 1988, pp. 63 & 67.
The Excuse of Motivation to Intervene
Due to a Threat to National Interest
Every announcer of military change of government in Nigeria has always claimed and made excuses pertaining to the need to protect national interests. But once the armed forces succeed in toppling the sitting government, they themselves start assaulting the same national interests they proclaim to have come in to protect. They usually begin by putting their personal interests above everything else. Nigerian soldiers always get their salaries, while teachers and many civil servants go for months without a paycheck. Succeeding Nigerian military regimes start by taking care of their own group and sectional interests. Following a coup d'etat in Nigeria, all participating soldiers get promoted or commissioned with immediate effect. Another case in point was as charged by the
leaders of the January 15, 1966, coup, "that it is
impossible to vote a Nigerian Minister out of office,"20 but every military regime in Nigeria wants to be in office forever.
20 Luckham, Robin, The Nigerian Military: A Sociological Analysis of Authority and Revolt 1960-67. 1971, p.282.
Sectional Interest of the Military in Nigeria
The theory of sectional interest describes accurately the kind of politics the Nigerian military plays. My definition of policy based on sectional interest is: An action taken by a military group because of a possible threat to the values of the group to which it belongs. It should be noted that elite military peronnel are not necessarily, or even typically constituted of a single ethnic group. Any military government in Nigeria that elevated only a single ethnic group to high positions would be acting foolishly from that point of view of its own self-preservation. In Nigeria, however, whenever the interests of elite military personnel have seemed threatened, as was the case in the mid-1960s, the military never wastes time in overthrowing the government threatening their interests. The majors who carried out the first military revolt in Nigeria, did so out of fear that the implementation of "proportional quotas" adopted by the civilian government would favor the promotion of recruits from Hausa/Fulani ethnic groups in the country.
Writes Robin Luckham in his book The Nigerian Military. The Ibo majors who carried out the first Nigerian coup in 1966 did so partly in the belief that they had
suffered or would suffer promotional discriminations, along with the fear that they would eventually be forced out of the army to make room for Hausa-Fulani who had recently been recruited according to the proportional principle.21
Corporate Self-Interest of the Military
Like sectional interest, corporate self-interest of the military has played a significant role in two unpopular military coups in Nigeria. For instance, the theory of corporate self-interest of the military, which states that the military will intervene whenever its interests are challenged, applies to the military coup of February 13, 1976, that killed General Murtala Mohammed, and the August 27, 1985, military coup that toppled General Buhari's
regime, both of which were largely precipitated by corporate self-interest of the armed forces. Apparently, these two regimes were campaigning to wipe out widespread government corruption via the institution of a military tribunal to investigate all former and present government officials. These moves were killed by quick military overthrows.
The irony of the nature of the military regimes coming
21 Luckham, Robin, The Nigerian Military. 1971, p.39
to power in Nigeria, is that it is usually a group of corrupt military officers who seem to plot and execute military coups, and these not quite patriotic individuals work very hard to perpetuate the looting mentality of the military. Again, the fate of the above two military regimes under Generals Mohammed and Buhari were good lessons in what happens when Nigerian military self-interest is questioned. In 1976 General Murtala Mohammed and his cohorts came to power in Nigeria via a bloodless coup that toppled General Yakubu Gowon's regime, and immediately instituted a decree of zero tolerance for abuse of office, severe penalty for nepotism, immediate termination for official laziness, and serious consequences for anyone caught in corrupt practices. But this regime did not last, as it was toppled in another military coup.
General Mohammed was assassinated six months later in an attempted military coup led by some disgruntled officers in the Army, because of his no-nonsense attitude toward duty. The reality of the aborted coup was that it took place before General Mohammed's tough policies could really affect the interest of the corrupt military personnel who assassinated him. Some corrupt civilian citizens implicated in scandal and fraud were suspects, too.
Although the coup that killed General Mohammed failed, his successor, General Olusegun Obasanjo, pursued different policies.22
Yet, in another already highlighted event, in August 27, 1985, a coup led by General Ibrahim Babangida was a
pre-emptive measure aimed to wipe out a supposedly impending public probe of suspected corrupt government officials. Subsequently, General Babangida and his henchmen felt that a very radical Buhari regime could affect their interests, and they attacked and overthrew the government, thereby eliminating any attempt in that direction. However, General Babangida attempted to
legitimize his regime by resorting to certain good-faith gestures aimed at appeasing the public. He released political detainees and adopted more open public policies, like the solicitation of public opinion on the future political development in the country. Nevertheless, all this pretence by General Babangida's regime lasted just a few months, and a change in approach was adopted.23
22 Banks, Arthur S., et al, Political Handbook of the World 1990. p.500
23 Nordlinger, Eric A., Soldiers In Politics: Military Coups and Government. 1977. p.41
Months later, General Babangida was implicated in a suspected government cover-up in the death of one of the most respected Nigerian journalists, Mr. Dele Giwa, who was killed by a letter bomb. Rumor circulated that Giwa had uncovered government officials' involvement in cocaine dealings, and that the government had supposedly eliminated him via the letter bomb. General Babangida would attempt later in his nine-year regime to salvage his reputation by promising and engineering a return to civilian rule in Nigeria, but he bungled the whole process. He erred by nullifying the result of a concluded presidential election conducted on June 12, 1993. The nullification of that election ended up costing General Babangida his regime, even though he managed to establish an interim civilian administration before his dishonorable resignation in September of 1993.
Factors That Mav Lead to Military Withdrawal
Recent studies on the conditions necessary for democratization, which were published in the Winter 1993, issue of In Depth, and edited by Richards L. Rubenstein, et al, have shown that a growing number of other studies on political culture have actually focused on the process of
democratization at the national level.
examine macro-level political and economic conditions that can lead to the transition from an authoritarian regime to a civil democratic regime.
These studies are relevant to my study because, if stable political order can be achieved through grassroots undertakings based on nationality, then Nigeria might be saved further military domination by organizing itself at various levels in the country. For democracy to replace an authoritarian regime, Nigeria needs to develop a strong unifying force.
These studies pay particular attention to the internal and international factors involved in micro-forces wrestling power away from the military. One of the studies found that the experience of the military as rulers in Africa, has left scholars of the Third World with an ambiguous image of military rule: The conflicting images derived largely from the experience of the Latin American military, which was one of corruption, and incompetent and reactionary military regimes committed to the socioeconomic status quo. At present, most of the Latin military regimes have withdrawn from politics. What I mean by conflicting images here is that although Latin American military
requires were corrupt, reactionary, and incompetent, they were able to know when to quit public politics. So, with this type of move on the part of such military organizations to leave politics, African scholars have wondered whether African militaries would eventually abdicate politics as did their Latin American counterparts. Perhaps the African militaries will learn their lesson from their Latin American counterparts, and withdraw from politics.
Of more recent choices, says Decalo, the author of Coups and Army Rule in Africa, were the ideas of benevolent and progressive military regimes dedicated to rapid transformation of their societies and the purge of corrupt civilian autocracies. The Nigerian military led by Major Nzogwu pursued these two goals in the January, 1966, coup. And the Ghanaian military led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rowlins succeeded in cleaning his country of most corrupt officials in 1979. These are two examples of the sweeping global phenomenon of political democratization.24
In essence, the prospects for return to civilian rule involves several political and personal decisions of the
24 Decalo, Samuel, Coups and Army Rule in Africa.
military leaders in power. According to Finer, there are several factors that can necessitate the military withdrawal from open politics, and/or cause a military restoration of democracy in a state.
The analysis of this theory shows that for the military to withdraw, there must be both personal and societal conditions, including other necessary preconditions to effect the withdrawal. Under the military disposition to withdraw from civilian politics, the theory suggests that factors such as military belief in civilian supremacy, lack of self-confidence within the military, and the adequate protection of corporate interest of the military, play a significant role in this situation. Internal challenges, external factors, and the availability of a civilian organization make up some of the important societal conditions needed to effect military withdrawal from power.
The theory of disposition to military withdrawal from politics has been shown to be accurate when it is analyzed in relation to the several issues involving the militaries in several countries in the Central and Latin American and in some African countries. Examples include the attitude of the Ghanaian military in 1966-69, as well as the
attitude of the more senior of the Turkish officers, although the latter had to overcome opposition from younger extremist officers such as Alparslan Turks. A case in point is the occasion involving senior Turkish Army officers who subscribed to the doctrine of civilian supremacy and the younger officers who wanted to stay in power, and there was a clash which lasted through 1960-63, before the senior officers prevailed and restored civilian rule.25 Unfortunately, Nigerian military officers do not accept the doctrine of civilian supremacy; hence the only two civilian governments Nigeria has had were both toppled in military coups. The fact is that the Nigerian military believes, despite its bad record, that it can provide the only stable and coherent government in the country.
Finer assesses the important threats to the military's ability to stay in power, which involves the military's ability to control or negate politics, especially when the military organization's cohesiveness, rule, and very existence are threatened. He illustrates this theory by explaining what happened with the fighting capability of the military machine in Peru in 1975, when the military split into bitterly opposing factions, with
25 Finer, S.E., The Man on Horseback, 1988, p.300
the Navy being particularly critical of the left-wing policies of Army President Alvorado, while a number of generals and an admiral publicly supported the Revolutionary Socialist Party, and a possible overthrow of the civilian administration was avoided. Any impending threat to the cohesiveness of the Nigerian military is rapidly met with reshuffling of sensitive cabinet posts, coupled with internal pacification of the disgruntled officers in the way of re-assignment to a new post.26
Another related motivation for military withdrawal from politics is the draining of self-confidence which has resulted when governing turned out badly, because it was much more demanding and disheartening than was ever imagined. When this happens, the military tends to withdraw from power. For instance, General Acheampong of Ghana was showing clear signs of panic between March, 1975, when he rejected any timetable for return to civilian rule, and October, 1976, when he announced a return to civilian rule without party politics. By late 1978, after arrests, strikes, boycotts, mounting economic difficulties,
26 Banks, Arthur S. et al., Political Handbook Of
The World 1994-1995. Binghamton, N.Y., CSA Publications, 1995, p.648.
and the unavailing effort to buy off trouble by having deposed Acheampong, the officers had enough, and preparations for elections were begun in November 1978.27
Finer has theorized that external factors can force the military to withdraw from power. He contends that rare but real cases of external challenges were exemplified by the deliberate destruction of Idi Amin's Uganda military by the Tanzanian army; the collapse of the Argentine military regime following the Falkland/Melvinas war; the collapse of the "Colonels" regime in Greece after it had provoked the Turkish invasion of Cyprus; and the collapse of the Yahya Khan government of Pakistan after the country's defeat by the Indian army in 1977.
Other additional forms of external challenges that could cause a military regime to abdicate, include external economic sanctions on the military regime in the form of frozen assets, economic blockade, and severance of finance and international trade. However, international sanctions imposed against military regimes in Nigeria by such world powers as the United States of America and Britain have not
27 Ibid, p.301
forced the military out of power. The fall of the Somoza government in Nicaragua became certain the moment the US withheld its military, financial, and diplomatic support; likewise, the fall of the South Vietnamese government; and similarly, with the fate of Emperor Bokassa in the Central African Empire after France turned against him.28
Luckily for the Nigerian military, the only war it has ever faced was the Nigerian civil war, which lasted from 1967 to 1970. The Nigerian military remains very powerful compared to its neighboring militaries. None of the previous seven military leaders in Nigeria have made the mistake of provoking any of the world powers into an armed confrontation. Note, for example, the recent political impasse in Nigeria which angered the British and U.S governments, following the June 12, 1993, election cancellation in the country by the former military leader General Babangida. During this impasse, the Nigerian military steadfastly held onto the seat of government, and to date, it has continued to do so.
In reviewing Finer's theory on the disposition for military withdrawal from politics, I concluded that the issues involving internal challenges to military abdication, especially when this theory is applied to the situation in Nigeria, remain a matter of educating the masses about their political rights. Finer has stated that the societal conditions that can force the military to relinquish its participation in national politics are classified under internal challenges and exemplified by societal challenges to the military regime, or the challenges from another military faction of the same armed forces.
Finer also stated that it was not until recently, that it became conventional wisdom that military juntas could be removed against their will only by another military coup. But recent events have shown that armed civilian forces can take on and beat regular armies: this happened, after all, in Cuba in 1958, and has been repeated in Nicaragua, and is currently taking place in El Salvador ... it was persistent opposition that wore down the military in Peru from 1972-9.29 So far, however, the theory of internal challenges
29 Finer, S.E., The Man on Horseback, 1988, p.301
as a factor that can help a military withdrawal from politics, has not yet worked in Nigeria. The Nigerian army has always moved in swiftly and decisively against any attempt on the part of the society to challenge its authority.30
A Denver Post article of July 15, 1995, reported a
concluded secret trial of 50 Nigerian dignitaries, whom
General Sani Abacha's government claimed to be planning to
overthrow his regime. The Denver Post reported that 40 of
the accused people had already been convicted of treason.
The Post also reported that,
The trials were condemned as unfair by governments and human right organizations worldwide. There have been many unconfirmed reports that some of the suspects already had been sentenced and executed, as has been the case in some past coup trials. The government alleged it had foiled a plot planned for March 1995 to overthrow military rule of General Sani Abacha, who took power in a bloodless coup in November 1993.
Michael, Marguerite, "The power of Silence: A general strike empties the streets of Lagos, sending a defiant demand for democracy to the military regime", Time Magazine. August 23, 1993, P.23
Critics have said there was no coup plot and that Abacha simply wanted an excuse to round up opponents to silence them...Abacha's government has little tolerance for opposing views and dozens of journalists and anti-government activists have been arrested, as well as newspapers shut down, since he came to power.31
I have already documented in this study the civil right abuses and military atrocities in Nigeria, and the Post report goes on to support my early assessment of how the Nigerian military leaders are ruthless and repressive.
"40 guilty at trials in Nigeria", Denver Post Newspaper. July 15, 1995, p.2
MILITARY RULE IN NIGERIA
History of Military Rule in Niaeria-1966 to 1995
Military rule in Nigeria has always remained a bad experience for Nigerians. Although the military has managed to hold the sovereignty of the state together via emergency rule, I do not believe that the military has done enough to deserve any praise. There is building evidence of military insensitivity to the plight of the Nigerian masses. Obviously, the advent of the military in the Nigerian political arena has remained tragic. Time and again, the Nigerian military leaders have shown that they cannot be trusted. Each and every one of them has taken advantage of the lack of checks and balances, prevalent in every dictatorship, to loot the public coffers. In
addition, the continued military domination of Nigerian politics has left civilian-regime-minded citizens in the country scrambling for an answer. Could there be
solutions to the ever-present military regime in Nigeria?
The history of Nigeria is one marred by frequent military takeover and political confusion. Nigeria remains
military-coup-prone, and the society lacks any political focus. Even the military leaders themselves are not spared; hence they spend most of their time in office worrying and consolidating their power, and still end up being overthrown by one of their own. But one thing all Nigerian military leaders do very well is to siphon public funds into their own personal foreign bank accounts. There is overwhelming evidence pointing to the notion that the richest Nigerians are past and present military leaders.32 The history of the military in Nigeria has been a tale of disaster. There are the constant fears and worries of a deteriorating national economy and political values. Since 1966, various Nigerian leaders have languished in internal problems created by both civilian and military regimes alike.
The inconsistencies associated with military rule in Nigeria have contributed to the inability of the military
32 Editorial, "Corruption can Never be Controlled without Checks and Balances system of Government," African Business: Magazine.
September/October 1992, p.2
regimes to eradicate domestic problems in the country. For instance, the government of General Babangida in its nine years of rule implemented many suspect policies that are not favorable to the southerners. In the 1980s General Babangida, a northerner, succeeded in moving the Nigerian federal capital from Lagos in the southwestern part of the country to Abuja in the north central. He also attempted to move the service divisions or army headquarters (as it is called in Nigeria) to the city of Minna in the North, and the air force headquarters to the city of Kano, also in the North.33 The attempt to move up government quarters to the North failed because of public outcry against those policies, even though this move was later explained to be a measure aimed at decentralizing the military to avoid future coups. It was even widely speculated that General Babangida canceled the June 12, 1993, presidential election because it had become obvious that a southerner was going to win.34
33 Olusegun, Obasanjo, (General Rtd.), "Our
Desperate Ways," Newswatch. November 23, 1992, p3S
34 Nkurumah, Jermaine, "Babangida Faces a Dead End Sign" African Business Source. August 1993, p.19
Furthermore, there is an obvious problem of military-bigotry, selfishness, and hypocritical patriotism being implemented by the military rulers in Nigeria. I am puzzled that the military leaders of a country which is one of the few naturally endowed countries in Africa cannot figure out how to utilize this abundant mineral wealth to offset the political and economic depression confronting the country. My eyewitness experience in December, 1994, showed that the infrastructure in Nigeria has deteriorated badly and needs immediate attention. Many roads and bridges in Lagos were crumbling for lack of maintenance; the Lagos-Onitsha road was almost impassable, etc. Telephone service in Nigeria was almost non-existent. Electricity and amenities were lacking or inadequate. The chaotic situation I witnessed in Nigeria, where the citizens live in daily fear for their lives, where the citizens are wary of the police and military brutality, has made me question, why the military government is there, when it cannot provide for the safety and security of the citizens.
In addition, civilian repression and the suppression of the mass media by the military are some of the issues of utmost concern to many Nigerians. The society is both
repressed and politically disorganized. The military is always ready to clamp down on any possible civilian uprising. As stated earlier, the news media in Nigeria are not even spared. Highly documented is the fact that any criticism of the military leaders or their performance is dealt with immediately by the military thugs in Nigeria; sometimes editors and news people have been eliminated by military or police death squads.35 The newspapers, radio stations, and television stations are often closed down if they dare criticize the military or its policies. Editors are often locked up for months, even years, without trial. The 1993 political turmoil in Nigeria has revealed the vulnerability of Nigeria to sink into political disintegration in a matter of time.36
Furthermore, the Nigerian military, like its counterparts in many other African countries such as Ghana, Zaire, and Liberia, seems to breed too many "powermongers", and power-drunk leaders. Never in Nigeria's military history, except during General Obasanjo's regime in 1979,
35 Aluko, Mobolaji E., "Wole Soyinka Writes to The Net" Howard Education. May 13, 1995, p.3
36 Gahia, Chukwuemeka, "The Politics of June 12" Newswatch. January 9, 1995, p.12
did any military leader step down from power to allow civilian rule. I would have compared General Obasanjo's regime with other military regimes in Nigeria, but a comparison in that direction is beyond the scope of this study. Notable Nigerian leaders who have shown power intoxication include former General Yakubu Gowon, former secessionist leader Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, Retired General Ibrahim Babangida, and the present president of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha, just to name a few. These military leaders have always hung onto power indefinitely.
Brief Review of the Military in Nigerian Politics
Nigeria, which is one of the most powerful countries in Africa, ranks high in the number of military coups d'etat it has experienced. It has had seven different military regimes and numerous abortive coups d'etat since January, 1960 (see figure 1.).
Chronology of Military Rule In Nigeria
Type of Govt. Leaders Period of Rule Comments
Democrac y Prime Minister Alhaj i Abubakar Tafawa Belewa October 1, 1960-January 15, 1966. Belewa's Government was elected in an election marred by anomaly. This government became disorganized, corrupt, and unable to govern. Belewa was assassinated in the first military coup.
Military Autocrac y Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi January 15, 1966-July 29, 1966 Ironsi was brought into power in a failed coup by Army majors. He was killed in a "revenge" coup plotted by Northern soldiers.
Military Autocrac y Gen. Yakubu Gowon July 29, 1966-July 29, 1975 General Gowon came to power in a "revenge" coup. His regime created the 12 states. He led Nigeria through civil war. He started Nigeria on the road to becoming a debtor nation.
Military Autocrac y Gen. Murtala Mohammed July 29, 1975-February 13, 1976 A reformer, General Mohammed was determined to fight corruption in government, but he was assassinated in a bloody and attempted coup.
Military Autocrac y Gen. Olusegun Obasanj o February 13, 1976-October 1, 1979 General Obasanjo handed over power to a duly elected civilian government. He did not fight corrupt ion. He initiated Operation Feed the Nation (Green Revolution).
Democrac y President Alhaj i Shehu Shagari October 1, 1966-January 3, 1984 The Shagari government inherited an already worsening economy. This government became corrupt and inept. It was overthrown in a bloodless coup.
Military Autocrac y Gen. Muhammad Buhari January 3, 1984-August 27, 1985 General Buhari attempted to clean up official corruption but became too repressive. He was overthrown in a palace coup.
Military Autocrac y Gen. Ibrahim Babangida August 27, 1985-August 26, 1993 This regime intensified public repression. General Babangida survived two coups. He was hated most for nullifying the June 12, 1993, presidential election. He devalued Nigerian currency, instituted austerity measures. He was shamed & forced to resign.
Interim Civilian Govt. Chief Ernest Shonekan August 26, 1993-November 17, 1993 Shonekan become a military scapegoat. He was used by the military to calm domestic unrest. He was replaced by another military ruler, three months later.
Military Autocrac y Gen. Sani Abacha November 27, 1993- present Abacha took over from the interim government, and promised to do what
six previous military leaders could not do --make Nigeria a unified nation.
The Nigerian military has intervened in mutinous ways against the civilian authorities as well as against other military leaders; using secrecy and conspiracy, they have
executed their plots through coups d'etat.
Frequent coups have made a mockery of government in Nigeria and have left politicians and citizens confused. The military has left many key questions concerning national goals unanswered. Nigerians' trust of one another, especially in politics, seems to have gone out the window. It is obvious that as long as the Nigerian military mind still focuses on power and fame, no government is immune from military overthrow.
The levels to which the military presses its political usurpation, have been shown generally to result from a low level of civic culture in the country.37 Countries with low levels of political awareness make military intervention less hazardous for the military because the country lacks resistance to military overthrow. Paradoxically, though, the type of political culture prevalent in a society cannot be unitarily responsible for military intervention, because one "might find one country in which the public was weak and ill-organized but reasonably united, while in another it was disunited but
Finer, S.E., The Man on Horseback: The Role of
the Military in Politics. 1988, p.88.
very strongly organized.1,38 Therefore, the way in which low-level political culture affects the outcome of military intervention is complex. It is also based on the political objectives of the military in the affected country.
Obviously, all societies are not the same; it is difficult to arrange them in a continuous rank-order of political culture, and even more difficult to find one society that satisfies everyone in it. The Nigerian society has been subjected to thirty years of political instability due to frequent military interventions. The unstable nature of the political atmosphere in the country renders Nigeria a society with a low level of political culture. The relationship between the military intervention and low-level political culture in Nigeria is reciprocal: Military intervention breeds political instability in Nigeria, and political instability breeds low-level political culture, which in turn breeds military intervention, and this type of circular relationship persists.
Finer, S.E., The Man on Horseback: The Role of
the Military in Politics, 1988, p.88
Nigeria fits the classification of a country with low political culture, because there exist in the society the following political characteristics: The society
understands and attaches importance to the legitimacy of civilian government, but the society still remains politically disorganized; also, the military can displace a civilian government in Nigeria at will. In societies with low political culture, there is evidence that:
(1) The levels of military intervention are much extended. As in states of developed culture, intervention by pressure and blackmail often occurs; but, in addition, the military are just as likely to come out into the open, overtly overturning government and installing others (displacement) or even supplanting the civilian regime for good, installing itself in its place.39
(2) In such societies, military displacement of the government meets a far different reception from that meted out in the societies of the higher orders.40
(3) The publics's attachment to its political institutions is so shallow that the military's deposition of the government by force or the
Finer, S.E., The Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics. 1988, p.110.
threat of force is at least not resisted and more often than not is initially very popular indeed.41
In all of these countries the military's deposition of the government was hailed with a delirium of delight.42
(5) In all these cases, the public's attachment to their political institutions was so fragile that it not only offered neither protest nor opposition to the military's violent deposition of the rulers, but it danced with delight. Where expediency is suffered to triumph over principle, it is always and only because the principle is not strong enough. So it is in these states, and it is here that they offer their sharpest contrast to the states of the 'mature' or 'developed' political culture.43
(6) ...the political formula is feeble enough to allow
the military to displace the civilian government by violence or the threat of it, i.e. to permit of the military replacing one government by another. But this does not necessarily mean that it is so feeble as to permit of the military supplanting civilian government altogether, and ruling in its own name.44
(7) In countries with a low political culture, where civilian organization is feeble, however (and this is true of most), this paradox operates in
41 Ibid., p.115.
42 Ibid., p.117.
43 Finer. S.E., The Man on Horseback: The Role of
the Militarv in Politics. 1988, p.118.
a kind of reverse sense. The sheer absence of civilian counter pressures encourages the military to set up a full-blooded military oligarchy; on the other hand, the sheer invulnerability of the military leaves this as a matter of choice, not of necessity.45
The fact remains that "all the countries with a 'low' political culture present to outer appearance similar features, irrespective of how high or low they are in the scale of this category;1,46 that is, they exhibit either displacement or complete supplantation although the reasons for this difference vary from country to country. The Nigerian society exhibits most of the characteristics of low political culture, obviously by the rate at which the military intervenes in the country's politics. The Nigerian society, from every indication, shows the signs of feebleness even in the face of continued military intimidation, and military onslaught on the news media.
The Nigerian military has become fond of imposing itself on the society against the will of the people, but the civilian governments in Nigeria always mess up their opportunity. The military usurpers have denied the people
Finer, S.E., The Man on Horseback: The Role of
the Military in Politics. 1988, p.119.
the freedom to choose their leaders. The military has also worked very hard to keep the society politically disfranchised; hence the country lacks the ability to challenge the oppression exhibited by continuous military regimes. The remainder of this chapter is devoted to the application of the theories of military intervention to Nigeria's situation.
The Application of Theories of Political Disposition or Supplantation in Nigeria
The rationale for military intervention that is based on the manifest destiny of the soldiers, has been invoked by the armed forces in Nigeria in all the completed overthrows of governments, and in all aborted coups. Even so, has the military been legitimized to intervene based on those occasions? Probably not. However, when the question is, have Nigerian soldiers ever been called upon by the society to "save" the nation from further political and economic destruction being caused by a sitting regime, be it a military or civilian regime, the apparent answer is, yes. In January, 1966, the first coup occurred due to a nearly anarchic situation in the country, and serious unchecked political events, including public outcry. On
another occasion, in July, 1975, General Gowon's regime was toppled following public outcry for a change in government policies. And on January 3, 1984, President Shagari's government was overthrown following public charges of corruption and ineptness, and the list goes on.47
One thing all military regimes in Nigeria have had in common is that they always start by claiming to have come in to give the country a new lease on life and with a plan for a better direction and purpose than the previous regime ... they come to "save" the country from further political disintegration. But, has any of the several regimes succeeded in achieving this objective? No.
They always end up making the same mistake the previous administration was accused of, and eventually they fall victim to another military replacement.
Banks, Arthur S. et al., Political Handbook of the World: 1990,(Nigeria). July 1, 1990, P.475.
The Nature of Military Rule in Nigeria ... Testing the Theories.
Finer's theory on the classification of military regimes suggests that it is not easy to classify any military government because, sometimes, the military regime is simply regarded as a set of techniques applied by the military to carry out its policies, rather than a political or constitutional structure. The three broadly
distinguished types of military regimes are listed thus:
(1) the military regime under indirect rule. This type of regime is said to rule through civilian government, which takes constitutional responsibilities, but the military determines the policies by blackmailing the civilian government from the corner.48
(2) The second type of military regime is under a dual rule. In a dual-rule type of regime, the military rule is one part and the civilian organization is another, yet the ruling Oligarchy or Autocrat is at the head of both.49
(3) And third, a direct-rule military regime. In this
48 Odetola, Theophilus Olatunde, Military Politics In Nigeria: Economic Development and Political Stability. 1978, P.2.
49 Ibid, p. 2 .
case, the military itself assumes total responsibility, although it may well appoint a civilian cabinet to carry out its policies at various levels.50
Nigeria has maintained a direct type of military regime. The composition of Nigerian military regimes has always been headed by an Army General and Military Ruling Council (whatever name the ruling armed force chooses to call itself), military governors, and cabinet ministers comprising civilians and military personnel. The Military Ruling Council in Nigeria usually allots strategic positions such as the ministry of defense, intelligence and security posts to military personnel. Such posts as
ministers of education, finance, mines and power, agriculture, and sports are most often given to civilians. Therefore, Nigerian military regimes with this cabinet composition are definitely practicing a type of Direct Military Rule.51
According to Theopilus 0. Odetola, the author of Military Politics in Nigeria, many schools of thought have
50 Odetola, Theophilus Olatunde, Military Politics In Nigeria: Economic Development and Political Stability. 1978, p.2.
51 Ibid p. 20
long debated the possibility of a country under a military regime developing a stable political order.52 Most political sociologists appear to be negative about the ability of military rulers to build political institutions that would foster political development. And one of these schools of thought holds that the military is often hostile or indifferent to fostering political development and very cautious about allowing civilians the privilege of organizing and building political institutions. Huntington states that military officers, like those in Nigeria, are frequently indifferent or hostile to the needs of political institutions. He acknowledges that even the present militaries in various nations' governments are generally ill-prepared to make fundamental changes in political processes and in political institutions.53
Nordlinger, argues that the military is incapable of governing a country because of the nature of the military profession and its negative views of politics. The military, he says, views politics as regulated conflict,
52 Odetola, Theophilus 0., Military Politics In Nigeria. Transaction, Inc., New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1978, p.2.
53 Ibid p. 2
"in which competition and compromise is transformed into the apolitical politics of consensus, acquiescence and government by fiat." 54
And Feld, another theorist, also argues that the goal of political stability sought by the military "is the stability of a vacuum, a state undisturbed by the erratic movement of partisan bodies."55 Below are the assessments, analyses, and applications of the theories of the above named scholars to the political situation in Nigeria.
Huntington's theory, which states that the military is ill-prepared to make fundamental changes in political process and institutions, is reflected in what is happening with Nigerian political institutions. Nigerian soldiers have proven to specialize in manufacturing conflicts within the country's political arena because the military believes that conflict can be managed only by confrontation. Soldiers are seldom prepared or trained in the running of public institutions. Huntington's theory shows well the
54 Ibid p.2
popular belief in Nigeria that the military cannot and will never get the political atmosphere in the state under a stable control.
From another point of view, expressed by Nordlinger, the military's ineptitude for rule is also a testimony to the problems confronting the military leaders in Nigeria. The military in Nigeria thinks that it can solve the complex national problems it has helped to create with so many years of autocracy and neglected priorities, by applying military decrees and a state of emergency. However, the military rulers in Nigeria have proven themselves wrong. Even as much as the military in the country should have realized that it cannot solve Nigeria's problems, the Nigerian military has persisted in overthrowing sitting governments, just for the sake of ruling the country. It applies force where diplomacy could reign and meets conflict with conflict, and the consequence is further chaotic situation.
In addition to what has been said of the political situation in Nigeria, Feld's opinion on civil-military relations is true to the nature of what several Nigerian leaders have attempted to do, that is, create stability in a vacuum. They have sought to abolish political parties so
that the military can rule forever. The military would not want to be bothered or pressured to return the country to civilian rule in Nigeria.
Factors Responsible for Perpetuating Military Rule in Nigeria: Ethnicity. Official Corruption, Bad Politics, and Poor Economy The factors influencing the perpetual military rule in Nigeria are listed in Chapter 1 of this study, in the order of their seriousness. The military in Nigeria has been able to commit atrocities in the country because of the fact that it has maintained complete control of weapons of war from the start. As a result, the military has steadfastly subdued the society. And with the oil wealth at its disposal, every military regime has lavishly sustained itself for the duration of its stay in office, by taking advantage of the people's political disfranchisement.
Ironically, one of the reasons for the first military coup in Nigeria was that it was intended to be a correcting measure aimed at removing those politicians who remained in office perpetually and politically polluted the
country by advocating tribalism. However, it seemed that following the second coup, in July, 1966, the military leaders learned that for them to be reckoned in the political history of the country, they would have to hang on to the leadership of the country. The military has done so by conducting frequent palace coups in which the reign of government only passes from one military general to the next. It has appeared as if the military has found it hard to stay in its barracks after it learned that the Nigerian political arena was a good avenue to unexpected riches for the military leaders in question.
Starting from General Gowon's regime down to General Babangida's government, every regime in the country has been displaced by another military junta, and all military regimes have had the same trademark, which has remained to blame others for national problems, including those they did not help to create. Each regime blamed its predecessor by using the ever popular slogans of corruption, brutality, or cruelty--as if the regime itself were not guilty of these very offenses. Evidently all these charges remain true, but each regime has condoned the same atrocities and has fallen because of the same problems it proclaims it has come to power to fix. The military always has a bundle of
reasons or excuses for usurping power, just to justify its own selfish reasons for overthrowing its opponents.
Ethnic problems have remained a very sensitive and very volatile issue in Nigerian politics, and the military never wants to address them. But instead the military takes advantage of this problem to further its interests. The way ethnicity has contributed to keeping the military in office can be seen if we review all the roles ethnic problems have created in the political confusion in that country. When we look at the ethnic politics being played by the military in Nigeria, we realize that the continuation of ethnic strife in Nigeria benefits the military in staying in power.
Military leaders in Nigeria have played and encouraged politics based on ethnic interests. The military has found it easy in manipulating ethnic strife in the country by invoking military decrees each time there is ethnic confrontation, without accomplishing anything. The military acts by threatening the use of force just to scare the warring factions, yet the military does not work to
find solutions to the ethnic problems.
The Nigerian military has been dominated by certain ethnic groups, especially the Hausa/Fulani from Northern Nigeria, as far back as the late 1960s. The size of the ethnic composition of the military and the method of changing the leadership of the military seem to have been passed along between the senior officers originating from this dominant ethnic group in the country. For instance, out of the seven military regimes to rule Nigeria, only two have come from the southern part of the country. The majority of the Nigerian military force currently is made up of Northerners, and every major policy in Nigeria is affected by this ethnic affiliation. Some examples of ethnically biased policies can be seen in the fact that even after the federal scholarships program was stopped in the South, Northern Nigerians were still receiving scholarships in the name of balancing educational inequality in the North. Most of the agricultural products consumed in the south, originate from the North, while the South has very good, fertile soil in the Delta region of the country that can produce much needed food crops. The facts remain that climate and vegetation play significant roles in the type of food crops that can grow from one
region of the country to the next. But yam tubbers, corn, millet, and several other crops do very well, too, in the south. Goats, cows, and chickens all breed well in the south, yet, all these farm products are produced mainly in the North and are brought down to the South for sale. I am yet to be convinced about the validity of this sectional economic policy.
Another way ethnicity has encouraged military rule in Nigeria is the coup plotters' ability to connive with fellow tribesmen in order to carry out the coup's operation. Because of the sensitivity and secrecy prevalent in planning a coup, one has to rely on confidentiality among colleagues to be able to pull it off. The Hausas have the largest representation in the military and, as a result, have produced most of the military leaders and coups in the country.
Highly documented are charges of official corruption in the Nigerian military. Past and present military rulers in Nigeria have, one way or the other, been accused of corruption in office, even by some of their own. For
instance, recently the "ever fearless and outspoken" former Nigerian military leader, retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, accused the military leadership in his country of looting and embezzling of public funds. Ironically, General Obasanjo did not tell us whether he himself was included among the corrupt military leaders because he was among the past military leaders in the country who got very rich after leaving office. In his March 30, 1995, statement to the Western press, General Obasanjo urged Western nations to seize money pillaged by African dictators, Nigeria included. He argued that "Dictators understand only one language and that is hitting their pockets ... This (money) is the jugular of the dictator and until he is mortally wounded in this place, there is and will be no respite".56
It is quite obvious that a military officer's salary cannot make one a billionaire, but most ex-military officers in Nigeria become millionaires and billionaires once they leave office. There has been uncovered in several overseas bank accounts hidden wealth of ex-
African News Weekly. April 21, 1994, Vol.6 No.14, P-1
officials, who have pocketed public funds.57 military personnel tend to become corrupt while in office, to avoid being probed they have learned to stay in power indefinitely in order to protect themselves and avoid being probed.
The Type of Political Culture in Nigeria as a Sustaining Force for the Military in Nigeria
The political culture in Nigeria has helped to keep the military in power. Apparently, every ethnic group in Nigeria wants the next president of the country to come from its own tribe. This is so, because every military ruler has been known to make domestic policies and decrees favorable to his tribe. General Babangida, for instance,
57 "Where The Money Is: About 1000 Nigerians Display US$35Bn In Bulging Bank Accounts and Villas Abroad," Africa Today. Vol.l, No.9, June 15,1994, pp.1, 5 & 12.
favored the Hausa people, General Gowon helped the Tivs, and General Obansanjo aided the Yorubas.58
Significantly, too, one reason for people wishing that military leader(s) would come from their tribe, is the fact that military rulers are not mandated by the constitution to consider the country as whole, as opposed to their own ethnic constituency. Helped by the vulnerability of the Nigerian masses to fall victims to military political ploys because they lack a common unifying force to challenge the military, the military has often seized the opportunity to stay in power, and only to step down from power via palace coups. There has never been a successful coup in Nigeria resulting from a hostile or bloody coup. All bloody coups in Nigeria have failed. Meanwhile, military coups in Nigeria appear to occur only when the military leaders feel they have accumulated abundant wealth. Then they step aside to allow their friends to step in, and so allow the process to continue.59
58 Inikori, Joseph E., "The Current Nigerian Political Crisis in Historical Perspective,"
African News Weekly. August 12, 1994, pp. 6 & 16
59 Anigboro, Monday 0., "Has. Nigeria Fared Better Under Military Regimes?, African Business Source
Economic Disorder as a Sustaining Force for Military Rule The Nigerian economy has within the past five years gone from being bad by African standards to being one of the worst economies in the world. There are many indicators pointing to the role of military mismanagement in the ever deteriorating Nigerian economy. While economic policy has drifted, the literacy rate in Nigeria remains at 45%, and the unemployment rate stood at 7.9 to 9.9 percent between 1992 and 1994. Inflation in Nigeria was at a rate of over 220 annual percent in 1994.60 The Nigerian military may need to be told that a capitalist economy does not prosper in a hostile political environment. The Nigerian military leaders need to be educated on the fact that Nigeria has lost and is still losing a tremendous amount of revenue because business investors are afraid to invest in a dangerous and volatile atmosphere as currently exists in Nigeria. Nigeria needs foreign investors to revive its ailing economy.
Magazine. June/July, 1992, pp.26-27
60 Rogoiyo, Joe, "Bitter Economic Medicine Required
For Nigeria" African Business Source Magazine.
Dec/Jan, 1994, p.9
In addition, the standard of living in Nigeria has been deteriorating very rapidly without any apparent action on the part of the ruling military government to check this economic disaster. The situation has gotten so bad that Nigerians home and abroad have begun to wonder whether the military is actually promoting unpopular economic policies in the country, just to have an excuse to stay in power. Redundant military policies in Nigeria have earned the country the unpopular name as one of the HICs (Highly Indebted Countries) in the world, next to Brazil and Argentina in Latin America.61
Many of the factors that have contributed to the 27 years of military dominance of government in Nigeria have devastated and hindered economic progress in the country. Among these factors, special interest groups and wealthy individuals who have amassed great wealth through the military governments have played significant roles in creating political mayhem in Nigeria because these groups have been known to support military rule in the country. Evidently, one special group remains very active and seriously involved in day-to-day political affairs in
61 Todaro, Michael P., Economic Development In The Third world. 1989, pp.415-417.
Nigeria. This special group is comprised of former members of the Nigerian military.
The Impact of Military Rule on Nigerian Society
The impact of military rule on Nigerian society has been negative and enormous. The military rules by decree and uses force to influence civil-military relations in Nigeria. The primary victims of the long military rule in the country remain the standard of education, the economy, the political institutions, and ordinary citizens.
The standard of education has suffered immensely because of intermittent school closures by the military regime as a result of frequent student protests against the military regimes. And each time the students criticize or show their frustration and their unwillingness to accept the way the military is handling the affairs of the country, their schools end up being shut down. Sometimes students riot because Nigerian teachers are not paid for months, creating a work stoppage by teachers, and the students more often than not take the law into their own hands. Many Nigerian children of school age and those already enrolled in school spend very little time each year at school. Because there is no one to teach them, their
interest in education is affected and their morale has suffered. The standard of education has been lowered because the military keeps clamping down on secondary and university students, who persistently demand better treatment for themselves and for their society at large.
The cost of living has been skyrocketing, and the military is more concerned with economic propaganda than with playing an active role to improve people's living conditions. There are no military government initiatives to improve food and redress essential commodity shortages in Nigeria. Every year the military government in Nigeria comes up with an attractive budget that is supposed to improve conditions for the masses, but these economic policies are never implemented. The 1995 budget released by General Abacha's government shows cosmetic improvements in various sectors of the economy. In real economic assessment, Nigeria is doing worse than the government has led us to believe; for example, a U.S Chamber of Commerce economic analysis of Nigeria for 1994 shows agricultural output increased by 1.6 percent,...adverse fiscal and political developments fuelled domestic inflation to 61.2 percent, and the large government deficit (about 9.5 percent of GDP) was financed primarily by borrowing from
the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) that is, through the printing of currency.62 I wonder how the military government would explain the fact that the economy is operating at a 45-220 percent inflation rate, and the fact that the government is recording 80 percent deficit interest on foreign debt every day. Workers and contractors are not paid for several months, if not years. Worse still for Nigerian society is the fact that any attempt by the masses to challenge the military, has always been met with expeditious and sweeping military action.
Findings of Study Compared to Theories In Chapter 2, and in this chapter I both theorized and showed that the military is the problem and not the solution to the problems facing Nigeria. After all, few if any societies today enjoy or claim to enjoy living under dictatorship. The people under the military government might be passive to military autocracy, but their silence must never be translated as a concord with military rule. Military rule in Nigeria is an example of dictatorship in
62 General Economic Overview: Macroeconomic Indicators11. U.S Chamber of Commerce, 1995, pp.1-4.
action, and the passivity of the society does not mean that the people enjoy that type of governance. As such, every policy in the country is militarily dictated, and under constant state of emergency. I have analyzed the terrible damage the military has inflicted on the country in the name of protecting national interests.
S.E. Finer, in his theory concerning the impact of change in levels of political cultures, has shown how effectively a shift in the level of political culture can alter military intervention. The low level of political culture in Nigeria explains why the Nigerian military has found it easy to intervene without minding the society's reaction to its political impositions. The theory also substantiates the notion that the Nigerian military will continue to have it easy to intervene unless the society moves itself from being an underdeveloped political culture to a developed political culture. The Nigerian society can achieve this goal by standing up against the military. A maximum civil disobedience in a non-violent action should be launched against the military. I favor a constitutional resolution banning military intervention in the government, and imposing serious penalties for any attempted military coups, including death by firing squad. Hypothetically,
Nigeria can become a developed culture, its poor economy and political immaturity notwithstanding, by doing what some other developing countries in South America have done, and some of these South American countries such as Argentina and Brazil in the 1980s have been able to get rid of the military; Nigeria, take note.
However, I think one of the ways civilian confrontation with the military will help to promote cultural development in Nigeria is, that a victory by the civilians will give them leverage to gain political freedom from tyranny. This last point reflects optimism; however, I think that the civilians in Nigeria can achieve political freedom, especially if they are ready to pay the price. A victory by the civilians will propel them to work towards a viable political goal; and if successful, they can change their political culture, by changing their political awareness and by implementing a constitution by democratic means.
Furthermore, S.E. Finer suggests that "a society's level of political culture is not necessarily static, but indeed, it can change very quickly.63 Using the theory of
63 Decalo, Samuel, Coups and Army Rule in Africa.
1976, pp.14 & 15
level of political culture, Finer postulates that level of political culture is not identical with certain quantifiable objective factors such as the measure of industrialization or literacy, but it is substantially affected by them and to some level correlated with them.
The theory states that change in level of political culture depends on opinion, and the extent to which this opinion is effectively mobilized. The change can be very fast in countries with "low" or "minimal" political cultures, for very often the reasons for the absence of a public politics lies, as in Nigeria, in the military's prohibition of free associations and free discussion of politics. Once these freedoms are permitted, organized viewpoints can become a significant political force.
Besides, one fact remains clear, that no military regime regularly allows or tolerates unauthorized political gathering or political discussion. Rather, the military views an unauthorized political gathering as a threat to its very existence, and the military rarely tolerates illegal political gatherings. Nevertheless, if a dictatorship allows freedom of expression and free political gatherings, the regime will not last; not in Nigeria, anyway. This fact explains why the Nigerian
military has been ruthless in its dealings with the society as far as citizens' forming political parties or alliances is concerned.
PROSPECTS FOR RETURN TO CIVILIAN RULE
The Implications of Factors In Chapter Three For The Prospects of Return To Civil Rule in Nigeria In chapter three I analyzed such factors as ethnicity, government corruption, and low level of political culture as sustaining military rule in Nigeria. Therefore, to assess the implications of these factors and their prospects for effecting the return to civilian rule in Nigeria, I here address how these factors might promote or hinder future attempts to return the country to civil rule. For Nigeria to have a stable democratic government, a drastic change in societal behavior must occur. That requirement means the problems associated with ethnicity must change.
The present military regime in Nigeria must start by addressing the problem of ethnicity as it affects Nigeria's national unity, if the military wishes to return the country to a viable civilian rule. The ideas of the Ibo political party, the Hausa/Fulani political party, and the Yoruba political party must be compromised.
The only way Nigeria's future leaders can abolish tribal politics at the national level is by instituting laws in their constitution allowing every eligible citizen of the country to contest and run for any office in any State he or she resides in, no matter what state in the union he or she hails from. This assertion, if implemented, will help to strengthen public solidarity and create stronger bonds among various ethnic groups in the country, thereby preventing future military interventions.
The problem of official corruption must be checked. It is true that no society is perfectly free from official corruption, but official corruption has become endemic in Nigeria. Everyday politics in Nigeria is affected by corruption, which is almost a way of life in the country. But there are ways to check and control official corruption, and at least to get it to a minimum level. Future civilian government in Nigeria must review its options and pay serious attention to the problem of corruption at all levels of its life. A future government might achieve great results, if it avoids hypocrisy, and severely penalizes anyone found guilty of corrupt practices. The police and the judicial system can be
utilized in this respect without creating a police state in the country.
Another important factor relevant to the prospects for a return to civil rule in Nigeria is a change in the way politics is played in that country. The Nigerian society must wake up from its deep slumber and make known to the military that it is ready for a return to civil rule. I think the Nigerian populace can stop any future military intervention in this country if given the time to experiment with a constitutional system of government. But if Nigerians want to pursue a tougher route to establishing and improving their political culture than waiting for the military to leave office, they can start by building a forum from the nation's high institutions of learning. However, even this change might take a revolution. In addition, one factor which concerns every Nigerian is the nation's ailing economy. In addition to the above factors, a tougher and fearless approach, and personal sacrifices, are needed to uproot military tyranny in Nigeria.
Having lived and interacted with the Nigerian people, I am quite convinced that if the government wants to make the nation self-sufficient in food, the people can help it do so. The government can revitalize the economy by
investing in the people. And if the military chooses to return the country to civilian rule, it can strengthen the economy by offering some incentives in the form of improved salary structures and benefits to able workers to produce. The implications of those issues analyzed above must be addressed before the country is returned to a civilian administration. The military is known to implement its policies with immediate effect, no questions asked, but a democratic system needs understanding and the idea of working for a common national goal.
Civil-Military Relations in Nigeria and Implications for Stability In a precise and concise language, the former Army General and military leader of Nigeria for five years, Olusegun Obasanjo, highlighted the daily plight and fears of every Nigerian in recent times in his speech to the former Military Ruling Council. General Olusegun Obasanjo was convicted and given a life sentence on July 14, 1995, probably because of his inceasant criticism of the ruling military government. However, General Sani Abacha's government stated that General Obasanjo was imprisoned
because of his role in March 1995 attempted coup.64 use excerpts from General Obasanjo's 1992 prepared speech, in which he addressed the Military Ruling Council of Nigeria, to summarize the prevailing civil-military relations and their implications for political instability in Nigeria. In the speech, General Obasanjo pleaded with then General Babangida's government to adopt a more humane policy toward the people of Nigeria. This speech was entitled "Our Desperate Ways." 65 The title suggests the desperate nature of the relationship between the military and the civilian society in Nigeria. It also refers to the military's extreme and severe ways of dealing with the people. He complained that the country was in a grip of a grave national crisis:
There are very many dimensions to this crisis. The aspect that has been the talking point lately is the crisis of secession that has arisen from the botched presidential primaries and lack-luster effort by the military to manage it. Then there is the economic crisis, which has received little or no attention in recent times and has been growing steadily worse. In the social sphere the story is the same: social services and infrastructures are crumbling and the
"New rights activist arrested in Nigeria,"
Denver Post. July 29,1995.
Olusegun Obasanjo, General (Rtd.), "Our Desperate
Ways," Newswatch. November 23, 1992, pp.36 & 37.
human conditions, the quality of life is deteriorating. Nigeria is on the verge of total paralysis.66
Nigeria has not fared better in any aspects, not even after this "prophetic speech." Most of General Obasanjo's predictions have come to pass. Nigeria was plunged into political chaos following the June 12, 1993, botched
presidential election, and the infamous General Babangida dishonorably exited from the military. General Obasanjo was the only military leader in Nigeria to hand over power to a duly elected civilian regime, in 1979. His regime was the only regime to introduce a green revolution, called "Operation Feed the Nation," during his reign in the 1970s.
On the oppression and intimidation of the public by the military, the retired General observed and made known to the military ruling government in Nigeria that it had become a common-place in the country that "those who can with some respect and credibility speak out against the ills of the present, have become victims of the practice known as 'settlement'".67 This is a term used to describe
66 Obasanjo, Olusegun, General (Rtd.), "Our
Desperate Ways," Newswatch. November 23, 1992, p35
the military way of eliminating its political opponents by
death. General Obasanjo further appealed to the Military
Ruling Council, by revealing to them some of their
repressive actions, as he says:
Choosing a moment when these people are most vulnerable, the military government steps in with generous assistance, to fly them or their dependents abroad for life-saving medical treatment, or favors of lifting oil or supplying fertilizer patrimonial governance. From that point their silence is assured...With the nation's health care delivery system on the brink of collapse, only very few would not yield to such blandishments. But can such blandishments be offered to the retired school teacher, the retired railway worker, the retired postal worker? Or to the farmer, the peasants of the Nigerian market, women who constitute the majority of the people? Are they too not citizens, entitled as of right to all good things that their nation can provide? Won't the high and the low be better off, if the military regime improves the national care delivery system?68
Furthermore, in assessing the civil-military relations and
their implications, General Obasanjo warned the military
the silence and acquiescence of those who have been co-opted into the military system is thus assured. Many of them have acquired wealth beyond their wildest dreams, and will not now threaten it by principled dissent. For all who have challenged military authority, engagement with power has been a kiss of intellectual death, and abandonment of
Political issues were on the General's mind, too. He lamented that all the values Nigerians hold dear are constantly under military assault. The nation is racked by tension and despair. Hope has become a scarce commodity, and fear a constant companion. He charges that the Nigerian National Ruling Council itself is of dubious constitutional validity, since under the nation's constitution, the council should be presided over by an elected president of the Federal Republic, and should include the president of the Senate and the Speaker of the National Assembly. This statement was an outright condemnation of continued military rule in Nigeria by one of the former top military leaders in the country.
General Obasanjo further discussed several inconsistencies in the military policies in Nigeria. He stated that the military in Nigeria threatens the political freedom of the people. The primary elections for presidents were, in retrospect, meant to fail. He emphasized the bad faith in which the military in Nigeria manipulated the transition program by manipulating the law
69 Obasanjo, Olusegun, General (Rtd.) "Our Desperate
Ways", Newswatch. November 23, 1992, pp. 36 & 37
and the process.
In the name of political engineering, the country has been converted to a political laboratory for trying out all kinds of silly experiments and gimmicks, charged president Obasanjo. Principle has been abandoned by the military for expediency. All kinds of booby-traps were instituted in every transition process. The maneuvers the Nigerian people have witnessed these past years under the military are all the more disturbing because they do not even touch the heart of the matter, which is to institute an enduring democratic order in Nigeria. The concern has been with the rules and methods of selection, not with the building and sustenance of democratic institutions and traditions, General Obasanjo went on. Lastly, the retired Army general warned the Nigerian military that prolongation of military rule cannot be the answer under the present circumstances. And protecting the honor and the integrity of the armed forces in whose name the military have governed the country for several years is at great risk. He then went on to challenge the military to hand over power to an elected civilian government. Finally, he appealed to the military not to destroy the honor of the military,
A prolongation of military rule in the form of diarchy
or any other arrangement will not only bring the armed
forces into utter disrepute, it would amount to a declaration of war against the sovereign rights of the people of Nigeria to choose their own leaders and conduct their affairs in accordance with constitution.70
The analysis of General Obasanjo's speech confirms everything I have learned and stated in this research. The General's assessment of the military performance in Nigeria is a true testimony to civil-military relations in Nigeria. The implication of this point is that civil-military relations in Nigeria have been strained to the breaking point.
70 Obasanjo, Olusegun, General (Rtd.), "Our
Desperate Ways", Newswatch. November 23, 1992, p37
CONCLUSION Findings of Study
In this research I have investigated the reasons surrounding militarism and political instability in Nigeria. The inquiry has revealed and buttressed the thesis of this study that the military is the problem and not the solution to the political instability in Nigeria. To analyze the main dependent variables that I have chosen in examining militarism in Nigeria, I employed some existing theories of military intervention to test the hypothese I developed in this research. I started by laying out the problems chronologically and briefly reviewed how the military created has the political mayhem in Nigeria.
In chapters two, three, and four, I utilized theories of political intervention from such renowned political analysts as Professor Samuel Huntington, S.E. Finer, Eric Nordlinger, and Robin Luckham. Applying these theories to Nigeria, I was able to show that the military in Nigeria has created more problems in the country than it has solved. These theories also support the popular notion
among scholars that the military rulers are rarely trained to govern civilian political institutions. My research revealed that the military in Nigeria has hidden itself under the cloak of constant threat to national interest, sectional interests, and the corporate interest of the military to perpetually subjugate the Nigerian masses to autocracy.
Additional findings divulged the crushing experience created by a military whose agenda includes passivity to such national problems as ethnic strife, political instability, the ever ailing national economy, and endemic corruption in the government. This study also showed the way Nigerian society can influence the chances the military might have in the future to intervene in that country.
Important, too, is the finding that many Nigerians are longing to see their country returned to civilian rule, but these people are afraid to speak up against the vicious military tyranny in the country, because such action may be a death sentence to the individuals or groups involved, as the case may be. Says Kola Animashaun, a Nigerian writer in the Sunday Vanguard Newspaper. "Those who love this country should tell the military that they cannot help this country and should leave us severely alone before they bury
all of us alive Nothing on the horizon shows that we
are beginning to get on top of our political trouble."71
This last point has been evidenced particularly by the
daily events taking place in Nigeria. For example, in the
personal interview I had with a high school friend, who now
works with a pharmaceutical company in Ikeja, Lagos on
January 2, 1995, he said, "The military has ruined this
country. They have led us astray. Can you imagine what
this country would look like with all our natural
resources, if our leaders had considered our overall
national interests above sectional or individual ethnic
make up?" And in another interview with an uncle, a
retired Nigerian army major, concerning the political
situation in Nigeria, this is what he had to say:
Nigeria really needs a change what is happening in the country has shown me that Nigerians do not know what they actually need as a nation. Take for example what happened recently; I don't understand why it should take us eight years to put together a transition programme, yet we cannot elect a president. With all that we have known about the entire world, we cannot still transplant them to this country ... If you look at the main problems we are having in this country, you will see that it is the fact that we feel that somebody from another state is not our brother or that we don't belong to every part of the country equally that we are having them. That is the source
Kola, Animashoun, The Voice of Reason, Sunday Vanguard, January 1, 1995, p.7.