Home » Armed Forces, Articles, Columnists, NNP Columnists, Philip Ikomi » The Military is NOT Welcome Here – By Dr. Philip A. Ikomi

The Military is NOT Welcome Here – By Dr. Philip A. Ikomi

By Dr. Philip A. Ikomi | NNP | May 27, 2014 – I do not claim to have lived in the country throughout the length of time that most Nigerians lived in the country to have witnessed the entire military rule of the country. However, I lived in Nigeria for the greater part of the rule to be sick, tired and utterly disgusted with any thought of the military participating in any guise in the governance of Nigeria. I know that very many well meaning people are of the same mind as my humble self in this matter but at the same time I guess that there are lots of others who feel differently. I am going to try to argue for the non-return of the military to governance in Nigeria now or ever.

In the most pedantic statement, the military are not trained for governance, they are trained rather in the opposite direction, namely, that of subordinating themselves to those who govern. The military is hierarchical, and carry out orders as needed to defend the country against all enemies, domestic and foreign. You may think that the leaders of the military would be good leaders simply because they lead large numbers of men and women, but their leadership is for a specific purpose, defeating an enemy made up of armed and dangerous men and women who are members of an opposing military formation. All military are taught to KILL human beings and not flinch or be remorseful after killing.

Whether they are officers of the highest ranks or non-commissioned officers of the lowest rank, their main business is killing humans as a profession. That there have been good military leaders who later ruled as civilians, only came about because of aberrations in such societies where such were the case. In fact, military leaders who later became leaders of their societies came about being such because of a war and after the war with civilian structures destroyed, and a vacuum being abhorrent, the military usually filled up the void and by chance some become successful. Thus we cannot call the military in advance to come and take over the reigns of governance, s some people are now doing. You cannot plan on a military government to deliver your country from the democratic civilian government in power.
Besides the military not being trained to govern, there is the special case of Nigeria where the military has actually had decades of experience in power as the ruling body. Throughout those years, the military left a lot to be desired as it was still not clear to them how to be effective rulers. They failed miserably and it is this failure that they have transferred to the civil government that Nigeria has today and yet, we are surprised that we are not producing the kind of government that the country deserves.

Let’s start with the first misadventure of the military into politics in Nigeria in January, 1966. A faction of the military was dissatisfied with rankings in the military where some felt that top positions went to people who were not as educated as themselves and the country was basically being ruled by highly unenlightened leadership. The first thing they did was to KILL those leaders they felt were not really as educated as they thought they should have been without any thoughts being given to the toll such killings will have on the relations, sympathizers, supporters, and well wishers of those people all over the country. This lack of empathy comes from the military training which I mentioned earlier, so there is no surprise here. However, the result was chaos in the country and the repercussion included the subsequent coup that brought the next military leadership into power barely seven months after the first coup namely, the July, 1966 counter coup.

Furthermore, in those seven months the nation was adrift with the leader who came into power after the January coup, Major General Aguiyi Ironsi, not settling down to the business of building up the country, but rather engaging on tours of the North to pacify our aggrieved brethren there. Thus seven precious months of development were wasted. Barely a year and a month after General Yakubu Gowon took over, he was faced with secession of a portion of the country in August, 1967. But secession did not just happen. It came at the height of the massive killings of civilians in northern cities in many cases, with the connivance and or actual participation of some indigenous members of the military. These killings were a direct consequence of the insensitive killings of sectional leaders in the earlier coup. In order to prevent secession, Gowon embarked on a war to bring back Eastern Nigeria into the Nigerian family.

That war lasted over two years and ended in January 1970 with the the military government establishing the three “Rs” of Reconciliation, Reconstruction, Rehabilitation” and the slogan, “no victor, no vanquished.” During the period following the war from 1970 to 1975 when the third coup took place, Nigeria saw a very rapid development as we now had twelve fledgling states from the ashes of the old four regions prior to that. States had to have the paraphernalia of statehood, including state headquarters, various departments, new schools and roads being built all over the country. In fact, the federal government under General Gowon built so much irrigation that Time magazine had a caption that Nigeria was turning its oil into water in the form of irrigation schemes. It was during this time also that Nigeria saw its first sky ways or fly overs in Lagos built by Julius Berger. But not being trained to lead a country, the military government under Yakubu Gowon soon became overwhelmed.

The ports were congested with vessels carrying cement to build the military barracks that Gowon was so anxious to return the enlarged military to after the war. However, civilian needs for food and other imported materials were grossly ignored leading to widespread disaffection among the civilian population and the military rank and file. Thus when the Gowon administration was overthrown there was a general sigh of relief among the people. The joy was short-lived however, because soon followed another coup that was very bloody and resulted in the Obasanjo administration just a mere six months after Gowon was overthrown. The point is that if the people had a voice, that is, if rather than the military after the first coup that ended the reign of General Aguiyi Ironsi, even if we had a civil war and it ended, in all likelihood, Nigerians would have better handled the many problems faced by the country in a legislative assembly rather than in the hands of a thirty something year old lieutenant colonel who became a general in less than a few years after attaining that rank.

It should be noted that the Gowon misadventure lasted no less than nine years before it was overthrown in July, 1975 and after four more years of military dictatorship Nigeria finally landed in a civil administration that lasted only four years before being toppled by another military misadventure. Again this military was overthrown in less than two years in office by the Babangida self appointed presidency. The Shagari civil administration was doomed to fail because Nigerians were too used to the speedy legislative process engaged by the military. Nigerians had not had enough time using the civil approach to governance to understand that rulership is a give and take process and it is this lack of understanding that has apparently led at least one writer (Cliff Edogun, Http://www.newnigerianpolitics.com ) to ask that the military take over again in case of a revolution in Nigeria. Development cannot thrive in an environment of dictatorship where the majority of the people cannot give vent to their voices under the muzzle of a gun. There is no need to think that any crop of military officers are going to be ‘”better” or more “sane,” “ethical,” or “patriotic” than those we have had over the previous thirty years. All of those military officers came promising their best, only to waste the Nigerian blood, sweat, and Naira while pursuing their own individual aggrandizement. There is a saying that suggests that if a confidence trickster cons you once, and tries to con you again unsuccessfully, it is shame on him but if he succeeds a second time, then it is a shame on you. Let’s not have the military have anything to do with a Nigerian revolution whenever it comes because the military has successfully conned us several times already and no amount of sugar coating of their intentions should sway us to their side in the future. It should be a purely Nigerian civil affair, not one that is hijacked by the military as the one in Egypt which is, in fact a hijack by the military of a civilian revolution.
At least some of the people in Nigeria think that some military administrations have actually been the right type of leadership for Nigeria. The most touted is the General Murtala administration which was just a flash in the pan before he was unfortunately killed by a rival aspirant to the military leadership. His administration was the most beloved because he did quite a number of things to try to get the Nigerian economy moving. Notably he cleared the port congestion as well as the grid lock in Lagos and set up the plan for a movement to a new capital city. However because of his aggressive firings of civilian administrators, the Nigerian civil service is no longer the same as before he came to power. He infused uncertainty in the minds of federal civil servants about their careers in the service. They no longer saw themselves as having a career, but a job in which they had to prepare for the day when they would no longer be serving. That meant that they paid less attention to performing satisfactorily, but more to securing their future by corrupt practices which now became more widespread. The Buhari administration went further in destroying any respectability left for civil servants when they introduced the war on indiscipline and asked all Nigerians to come out to the streets to clean regardless of discipline. That is, it did not matter whether you were a university professor teaching sociology or a medical doctor in a hospital, you had to come out and do menial jobs like cleaning the gutters and mowing the grass. You were all considered lacking in discipline. Nigerians were treated like they were all in a military barracks under the command of a Sargent Major. This was ridiculous, but Nigerians seemed to like it and they have shown this likeness for the man in subsequent elections by voting massively for him. Buhari must have known of the existence of the Department of Public Works (PWD) which Nigeria inherited from the British and if he felt that the country needed to be cleaned then he should have gotten those in those departments to do their work rather than pin the tag of indiscipline on all Nigerians and punish them with working on gutters. Nigerians were publicly flogged by military personnel during the Buhari administration as if that was the best way to deal with infractions of civil rules. One would have thought that the civil liberties of Nigerians would have been respected under a corrective regime. If any of the measures undertaken under the military, especially those under Murtala and Buhari, had been a success, Nigerians should have been more punctual to their offices and less aggressive and riotous at bus stops or airline queues today. But on the contrary, they are less punctual and more aggressive because people do not change when they are forced to do so. Once the force is removed, they revert to their old ways. Someone should tell Buhari to stop presenting himself for election to be president of the country because he has nothing to contribute to the progress of the nation today. He had his chance and the time that accepted the human rights violations under his regime is long gone.

Buhari was the one who came with a messianic charge to get Nigerians to be disciplined. I would imagine that a war on corruption was an integral part of his WAI , but he led the country in allowing his uncle to come into the country with Nigerian currency when same was confiscated from other Nigerians. Nigerians would recall too that it was this holier than thou military dictator who introduced the decree number 4 which prohibited journalists from criticizing members of government. That meant of course that our liberty to free speech was being curtailed. That meant that Nigerians were to assume that the government would correct itself if anything went wrong, including if members of the administration were caught red handed in corrupt practices, like stealing money and laundering it abroad. We were to assume that members of the federal government headed by Buhari could do no evil, they were all saints and so could be allowed to ride roughshod on us.

One legacy of the Buhari administration is the weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly environmental sanitation (depending on one’s location in the country) which shuts down the whole country, state, or local government a number of days a year on the assumption that the people will devote the time to cleaning their environments. This greatly diminishes our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at a time when Nigeria should be doing all she can to be more productive. People are forced to remain at home instead of going to work, markets, flying to a business rendezvous, or otherwise being productive, in the name of cleaning the environment. So far, no government has seen the need to do away with this albatross on the neck of Nigerians who want to raise their living standards by working longer. No health benefits accrue from this exercise as Nigerians like people from other countries in Africa and beyond, cleaned their environments before the advent of WAI and still maintained their health. If it were a good strategy, many other nations would have joined. The odd/even driving days introduced by governor Mobolaji Johnson in Lagos to deal with the traffic during the Festac in 1977 has been copied by several countries over the years. France is the latest to adopt it in Paris this year. Not so this environmental sanitation days, and as such we should know that it does not benefit the nation regardless of what the EU, US, World Bank and other neocolonial masters have told us.

But the administration of self appointed president Babangida was the most deviant of them all, because he promoted the demise of the Nigerian economy allowing all manner of goods to be imported into the country and therefore made our country a dumping ground for sub-standard manufactured goods, and Nigerians no longer willing to risk manufacturing anything. It was his administration that most disrespected the Nigerian by creating political parties for Nigerians, appointing leaders for those parties, and canceling elections organized by the parties to choose their standard bearers and then canceling the presidential election that was on record as being the most transparent in the country’s history as of that point. He not only canceled elections, he also told Nigerians that he was not going to take foreign loans only to turn around and take the loans. In view of the litany of poor performance indexes that were clearly visible during the military reign in the country one wonders why somebody would want to trust the leadership and handling of a future Nigerian revolution with the military. Buhari and Abacha thrived in our largely unenlightened population to stay in office happily. One of the reasons for this is that many of our compatriots think that the military and the police have a right to beat up citizens as soon as they commit offenses in an effort to correct those ills on the spot.

They believe that those in power have a right to help themselves to the contents of the national treasury and use the funds as they see fit including using such funds for the benefit of their loved ones and well wishers. In fact, Nigerians holding such beliefs have reported on the generosity of Babangida as they have reported how he gave them money when they went to him for help. Any government we have will have to make a considerable effort to let Nigerians know their rights and responsibilities in our form of government if the endemic “corruption” in Nigeria has any chance of being abated. So far, no government has done anything about enlightening the public on their rights and responsibilities on the required scale. Besides massive publicity, the education should start from our elementary schools and run through our universities. The knowledge of their rights and responsibilities will stop people having the need to bribe government officers doing their job, begging the police when arrested, police flogging citizens on the highways, inflation of contract amounts to include margins for kickbacks perceived needed by the government officers who will approve the contracts, and others.

Urgently needed is a tribunal to try all the former military governments that we have had so as to determine the guilt or otherwise of individual officers who participated in such governments. In addition there ought to be a truth and reconciliation commission of the type set up by the South African government to deal with the fall out of the Biafran war. Nigerians have not yet settled the many problems created by that war but have only swept it under the carpet. The war was a creation of the military and if the creation of that war is not sufficient justification for the military to apologize to Nigerians for butting into our governance and displacing legitimately elected politicians from their positions, with many of the latter losing their lives, then I don’t see a reason for them to apologize. Indeed, retired General Akinrinade was reported as saying that the military would not apologize. He was able to say that because no one has called on the military to give account of her stewardship for running the country for over thirty years under the authority of the gun.

Again, it is largely the unenlightened masses of the county who are unable to make the required demand on the military and instead, have invited the military into our government by creating a so called Council of State for former military rulers to sit and deliberate on current affairs and make decisions for the country, even though they are unelected. It is the absence of a request for accountability from them that led to their being paid handsome retirement benefits befitting former heads of state. These are people who had no business being in government in the first place. Today, many of them are in the Nigerian legislative assembly based on the loot they acquired from their role in past military governments and many of them have been or are presently governors of our states. They have no superior training to be civil leaders as their training is to enable them shoot and kill humans. Thus they should not be looked up to as leaders of a future Nigerian revolution.
Capt. Philip A. Ikomi, Ph.D.
Retired Airline Captain and I/O Psychologist

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Posted by on May 27 2014. Filed under Armed Forces, Articles, Columnists, NNP Columnists, Philip Ikomi. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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