Home » Cliff I. Edogun, PhD, Columnists, NNP Columnists » An Urgent Letter to Nigerian Military by Dr. Cliff Edogun

An Urgent Letter to Nigerian Military by Dr. Cliff Edogun

By Cliff I. Edogun, PhD, NNP – Feb 28, 2001 – I thought we should commence this long overdue conversation now as we look forward hopelessly to the general elections holding in April. As you are now fully aware, the Egyptian military just introduced a credibly new paradigm for emergency military intervention in the politics of countries with woeful democratic and constitutional experiments. The past twelve years of plan-less and incredibly corrupt politics in Nigeria proudly puts that country heads above these woeful democratic and constitutional examples. The Egyptian military intervention was unique and should be replicated in Nigeria. The generals in Egypt stood in absolute solidarity with the Egyptian people’s insurrection against a corrupt and autocratic state, pledged their undivided loyalty to the state and, in classic military discipline, held their fire while urging on the vision of the youth revolution. This same interventionist posture will be required of you when this unstoppable revolutionary fervor inevitably visits Nigeria at the appointed time.  

Before I get to the reasons for this letter, I want to be clear that this conversation is directed only at the progressive nationalists in the military: those professionals whose loyalty, first and foremost, is to the Nigerian state and not to any sectional traditional rulers, political elites, region, tribe or religion. This conversation is for the trained and enlightened soldiers in flesh and blood who are related to, and know of, fellow citizens who have been rendered economically and socially bankrupt by the long-running corrupt Nigerian political regime; this conversation is for those military educated who share the current widening pain and torture of underdevelopment among their fellow citizens; it is for those who are daily witnesses to the debilitating policies of the current political ruling class who brought upon our country and its people injurious poverty, broken infrastructure, collapsed educational system, intractable youth unemployment, reckless and untrained police force, huge contract awards in the billions with nothing to show for it, mediocre appointments to responsible government positions and a brazen lawlessness that triggers unending murders, kidnappings and ransoms. And, in the midst of such socio-economic inferno, Nigerian parliamentarians and government officials take home paychecks that dwarf those earned by their American and British counterparts. These stupendous salaries are further complemented by mindless series of allowances that other Nigerians ordinarily labor intensely to acquire. To top these outlandish show of vice by the Nigerian political class is their perfection for rigging elections to perpetuate themselves in power. In April, we will all be expecting another field day for politicians now in power, whether it is the ruling PDP party or the opposition, to rig themselves back to power even when voters may have decided otherwise. Then comes the flourishing new frontier now taking hold, where old or discredited retired politicians continue to lurk in the shadows of power by sponsoring their wives, sons, nephews and daughters to carry on their heritage of greed and oppression in elective office. It is now clear that the hullabaloo accompanying the various military interventions in Nigeria during the 1960s and the 1970s were never directed at systemic change.  

The first of the reasons for inviting this conversation is to debunk the widespread notion, nationally and internationally, that military intervention in domestic politics in the current global democratic dispensation is a sure losing gamble. The threat of economic, trade, financial, and diplomatic isolation by the international community has tended to refrain the military in failed states from intervening in domestic politics. Even more serious is the threat to drag military generals who mastermind coups in these countries to the international court of justice for suspected war crimes. These and other global coalitions against military interventions have definitely encouraged woe-be-gotten politicians in countries like Nigeria to plunder and embezzle the nation’s wealth with impunity, murder opponents without facing any consequences in our seriously compromised justice system, sponsor sectarian wars to justify their enlarged egos and devise enabling strategies to rig all elections in their favor, all in the name of democracy. However, this global policy against military intervention in politics has taken on a new meaning since Obama became president of the United States. His government particularly loathes repressive African governments that have perfected election rigging to remain in power and that continually take their citizens for granted. His foreign policy has thus successfully mobilized all western industrial nations to modify the intent and purpose of military interventions in the politics of failed states. This policy began evolving in the ongoing popular uprisings in the Middle East.

In this evolving global policy towards military intervention, two major strands have emerged. The first is the old and outmoded intervention in which the military, for very flimsy and personal excuses, draws its weapons and rolls out its tanks to intervene, promising milk and honey to all and predisposing its prophetic arsenal to play God. It suspends the constitution in the process, closes the doors to parliaments and names its ranks as governors and administrators while relying on the civil service and appointed civilian stooges to do the brainwork. Meanwhile, they soon learn the ropes of corrupt governing, quickly building up fortunes for themselves, their mistresses and their wives. Not to be outdone by officers in power, bloody and bloodless countercoups by other jealous officers soon follow, with the same lure to replicate but refine the overthrown process with little or no fundamental changes. In the case of Nigeria, the various military coups, from Gowon in 1966 to Abubakar in 1998, were never nationalist in scope, form or precept but rather were fragmentary in management and style. Loyalty to the Nigerian state per se was minimal at best while loyalty to section, tribe, tradition, religion, and region was the preferred vision. Indeed, military interventions in Nigerian politics in this era openly favored the north for whatever reason as southerners invariably felt the weight of northern domination reinforced by such interventions. Any such interventions in Nigerian politics today or in the future will not survive a day with the current international scrutiny and rejection.

The military intervention that the world will glorify and applaud today is that which will support legitimate popular uprisings against morally bankrupt governments where politicians deliberately or routinely embezzle and mismanage the nation’s treasures without consequences and where the so-called people’s representatives care less about enacting laws to spur economic growth and development to employ the troves of unemployed young people. Their choice policy is to leave the critical decisions and strategies for economic development in the hands of foreign gamblers who willfully manipulate outcomes to include shadow front companies for siphoning out profits on behalf of their Nigerian official sponsors. These indicators have always reflected the Nigerian experience. In Nigeria, the trauma from an entrenched official corruption, a highly compromised judicial system, the failed and un-funded public infrastructure, non-existent health care for millions of Nigerian citizens, an untrained and reckless police force, a sorrowful educational decay, the constant threat to life and property and a severely flawed electoral process makes Nigeria a prime candidate for such intervention. In fact, it is long overdue.

The second reason for this conversation is to assure you that the contagion of democracy protests against corrupt and out-of-touch third world governments will definitely come to Nigeria where the young, the dispossessed, the economically oppressed and all sections of the nation’s demographic will troop out peacefully in their hundreds of thousands to demand the overthrow of the long-running evil political class. When this happens, the discredited ruling class will surely evoke the spurious and meaningless Nigerian Constitution in their defense and call upon you to violently stem this wild fire. It will resort to the usual targeted bribing of popular individuals and groups and deploy the violent prone mobile police to intimidate and brutalize many. It will even request you to shoot at sight. THAT MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN. You must not fire on your own people who are only exercising their legitimate rights to demand for an honest and transparent government that they deserve. Their peaceful protests and demands must be seen and recognized as core parts and parcel of democratic practice. Therefore, the rules of engagement in this instance will require the best of the Nigerian military to align forcefully with the people’s vision and not with the morally bankrupt, corrupt state; not to any particular ruling class individual, section, region, tradition, or religion. Nor should the military express any bias in favor of the ruling party simply because it also shares in the political spoils. 

The greatest service you will do for all history and to your God-given country is to team up with Nigeria’s best and the brightest to establish a time-sensitive agenda for re-configuring the system best workable for a plural Nigeria. The focus must be systemic change and the starting point is to convene a national constitutional conference to re-draw a Constitution that recognizes the fundamental principles of pluralism (true federalism), citizenship, democracy, freedom and justice. Representation at this national constitutional conference must not be composed or dominated by the usual Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Ibo nationalities. These may be superior in numbers but they are not superior in wisdom, neither do they have a monopoly of vision. This national constitutional convention must comprise of the nearly 40 major ethnic groupings that make up the plural Nigeria: the Urhobos, the Igala, the Annang, the Kanuri, the Jukun, the Nupe, the Ekoi, the Ebira, the Berom, the Tiv, the Gwari, the Edo, etc, etc. The business of this conference is to define who we are as a people, what is required of us as citizens, what individual freedoms are protected and under which constitutional rights citizens must thrive and prosper as a people. It must define the proper powers granted to the federal and state governments so that the constituent parts do not encroach upon one another and get away with it. The powers of the presidency and the legislative branch must be enumerated to ensure that constitutionally derived checks and balances are preserved.  Federal powers cannot control all the resources as this has encouraged and promoted built-in corruption in high places over the years. The current practice in which the federal government plays Father Christmas is simply no longer sustainable. Such practice demonizes Nigeria’s pluralism and leaves the constituent parts with very low capacity to develop.

This new constitution will be voted upon in a national referendum and if accepted, the attention must then shift to devising a decentralized method for holding national elections. A national electoral commission that sits in Abuja and hopes to oversee elections thousands of miles away should not expect a free and fair contest. Over-centralization remains Nigeria’s worst enemy and the political class is still not capable or still unwilling to learn from the lessons of past failed experiments. How do we conduct national or state elections in Nigeria that are not subject to logistic rigging? That should be the overriding question that the military and its team of civilian technocrats will settle and I can assure you that we will be capable of settling it with distinction.

While I am not attempting to pre-empt any solutions to national issues that remain unresolved since 1960, my contention here is that a professional, nationalist and disciplined Nigerian military must seize the historical moment, at the appointed time, to intervene on behalf of a sure-to-come popular uprising against the failed state in Nigeria by setting a national agenda to re-define the landscape for national political renewal through a new federal constitution that enshrines the fundamental principles of pluralism, democracy, freedom and justice for all Nigerians. This historical moment calls for the replication of the Egyptian and Tunisian examples by the professional Nigerian military since it can no longer afford to remain a liability by continuing to protect a decadent, out-of-touch and injuriously corrupt Nigerian state. History now demands that you turn into an asset of the people, become their trustees and be recognized worldwide as the formidable frontier for democracy, transparent governance, justice, freedom and pluralism. Your patriotism will be judged favorably along with the current Middle Eastern examples and those that occurred in South Korea in the 1980s and Indonesia in the 1990s.

Cliff I. Edogun, PhD

Adjunct Professor of Government &

North America Director, NIGERIA RALLY MOVEMENT (www.nigeriarally.org)


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