Military rule in nigeria started in the early hours of January 15, 1966 Nigeria witnessed the first military coupe led by major Chukwuma Nzeogwu and other majors in the army.
it was a bloody military intervention in the political haistory of Nigeria. Some key political leaders e.g. the prime minister sir Abubakar tafawa balewa, SL akintola, premier of western region, the minister of finance, Chief Okotie Eboh , sir Ahmadu Bello, premier of the northern region and many other top ranking officers in the armed Forces were killed.
Later , Major – General Aguiyi Ironsi , came into the scene to take the mantle of leadership of the country.
his tenure was however, short-lived. a counter group was stage on July 29, 1966 and Aguiyi Ironsi was toppled and killed and LT Colonel Yakubu Gowon took over the political leadership of the country.
General Yakubu Gowon spent nine years in office and was removed by Brigadier Murtala Mohammed.
Also, after spending 200 days in office, Murtala Mohammed was assassinated in an abortive coup led by LT Colonel Dimka on February 13, 1976.
General Olusegun Obasanjo, the next in command to Murtala Mohammed, became the Head of State.
It was at this time that the military kept to its promise of handing over power to a democratically elected civilian government (19782 1983 second Republic).
However the civilian was going for the second term in office ( 1979 – 83 ) , when Major – General Mohammed Buhari through a Military coup sacked the democratically elected government.
Major – General ibrahim Babangida removed Buhari on August 27, 1985 , through what was described as ” Palace Coup ” and subsequently made himself the president of Nigeria, abandoning the tittle of Head of State.
An unsuccessful coup attempt was staged against Babangida by Gideon Orkar led Military coup on april 22,1990.
There was also the vasta coup attempts in December ,1985. Babangida retired from the army after steeping aside in 1993, He had earlier set up interim government with with Chief Ernest Sonekan as the Head of State.
Lt. General Abacha sacked the interim government and assumed the new military Head of State of Nigeria . Abacha died on 8th of June , 1998 and was succeeded by General Abdulsalami Abubakar.
However nigeria was not the first west african country to experience a military coup , as Togo experienced it’s first in 1963 which brought General Eyadema to the seat of power after removing president Olympio in a bloody coup.
Also, in 1966, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was removed from power.
Characteristics of Military Rule
The armed forces have characteristics which distinguish them from other groups in all political systems : These characteristics are :
* Hierarchical and Centralised :The structure of Military is hierarchical and Centralised.
* Discipline and obedience to higher commands : These are considered of fundamental Importance.
* Dictatorship : Any form of government in a military set up is dictatorial.
* Opposition : The military do not tolerate opposition.
* Suspension of the Constitution : they do not operate with a constitution. Whenever they are drawn into the realm of politics, they suspend the constitution.
* Seperation from civilian society : This is done through separate barracks , distinctive uniform etc.
* Values : values held by members of the Armed Forces, especially, the officers, may distinguish them from the rest of society, in a way that is not true of other comparable groups such as the police force.
* Absence of the rule of law : The supremacy of law is out of place in a military rule. Suspension of the constitution supports the claim.
* Decree : Law are made through issuing of decrees.
* Instrument of violence : The military anywhere in the world monopolises the chief instruments of violence in the political system.
* Involvement of civilans : Civilians are always made use of in the administration.
* Fusion of legislative and executive arms : The highest body in a military rule issues decrees ae well as policy making.
Reasons for military intervention in nigeria
The Constitutional role of the military in Nigeria is purely to defend the country against any external attack.
However, since 1966, the military have added the administration of the country to it’s defensive role.
From 1966 to date, Nigeria had experienced about ten successful and unsuccessful coups, that usher in the era of the military in Nigerian politics.
The following are some of the reasons for military intervention in Nigerian politics.
* Tribal loyalty : This a problem facing Nigeria as a nation . Tribal loyalty takes precedence over loyalty to the central government.
* Regional differences : Differences among the regions were so acute as to precipitate crises leading to direct assumption of power.
* Regional / state based political parties : political parties in the first republic were all regional political parties. In fact , no one of them commanded a nation – wide support. NPC was for the North, NCNC was for East and A.G was for the West.
This polarisation of political parties can cause friction among them and of course does not make for unity.
* Politicization of the army : the army or military of the first republic maintain her status quo and thereafter became politicised.
Appointment and promotions were based on tribal and political sentiment not on seniority or merit.
* Dispute over the census result : Another reason for military involvement in politics in Nigeria was because of the 1962 and 1963 census results .
The first in 1962 was rejected as many people claimed the result was falsified and that the figures were inflated
Also, the 1963 census result was also rejected on the same ground.
* General election crisis of 1964 : the election was held in 1964 but the result was seriously disputed.
The election witness party alliances major and minor political parties merging to contest for seat in the House of Representative.
* Western Nigeria election crisis of 1965 : this was another election crisis that drew the attention of the military into the political process.
It was the election into the Western Nigeria house of assembly where two party rivals were contesting.
* Allegation of corruption, nepotism , sectionalism etc : this led to the military intervention in Nigeria.
Many were involved in spending the nation’s wealth with reckless abandon. Politicians were so rich that they were making a public display of their wealth.
nepotism and sectionalism played major roles in the appointments, promotions etc, especially, in the civil and public service.
*Low level of economic development : this was one of the reasons for military intervention in Nigeria.
Some individuals were so rich and have succeeded in developing their towns and villages at the expense of the development of the country.
* Absence of honest and reliable leadership : this has eluded the country even since independence many of the rulers were dishonest are not reliable they have actually refused to move the country forward.
Achievements of military rule in nigeria
Military rule in nigeria is credited with some of the major achievement Nigeria is enjoying as at present. These achievements includes :-
* Infrastructural development : such like construction of roads , air-ports , bridges , establishment of higher institutions, etc.
* Breaking into units : The military prevented the country from breaking into units e.g. the Nigeria Civil War .
* State Creation : The military succeeded in the creation of states and local government councils.
* Encouragement of regional cooperation : General Yakubu Gowon for example , was one of the founding fathers of Economic Community of west african states ( ECOWAS ).
* Nigerian foreign policy : The military brought about a positive change in the nigerian foreign policy e.g. leading the struggle against apartheid and colonialism thereby making Nigeria a frontline state.
* Local government reforms : This they did in 1976 and 1990 , making it a one tier local government structure.
* New Constitution : This promulgated based on presidential system of government in 1979. It was the constitution that ushered in the second republic in nigeria.
* Mass oriented programmes : The military initiated mass – oriented programmes like DEFRI , NDE OFN .
* New capital territory : The military administration of Murtala / Obasanjo created a new capital territory for the country . Abuja took over from lagos as the new federal capital territory.
* Education : Education took a giant stride during the military rule in nigeria. Many federal and state Universities, polytechnics etc were set up. They also took funding of primary education in the country.
Military rule in nigeria with it’s characteristics, reasons and achievements of military are some vital fact when talking about the military rule in nigeria.