Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Nigeria political history

Is Ernest Osogbue's analysis, published in The Guardian (Abjua), believable? Why? Why not?

Why did he neglect to mention how many of the elected presidents were military "dictators" before being elected?

Military Hangover And The Nigerian Democracy
This year marked the 19th anniversary of civilian rule, albeit democracy in Nigeria. Never in the history of the country has there been such a long uninterrupted rule by ‘bloody civilians’ without the all-knowing Nigerian military stepping in to stem the negative drift.

First, it was in January 1966, when a group of Majors… ousted the civilian government… Then in July of the same year a counter coup, that ultimately led to the fratricidal Nigerian civil war which ended in 1970, with the then Head of State Yakubu Gowon declaring that there was no victor and no vanquished.

On July 30th 1975, Gowon was overthrown by members of his own government…

December 31st 1983 [another coup] swept away the Shehu Shagari administration and brought in Mohammadu Buhari… senior members of his government overthrew him on August 27th 1985…

Ibrahim Babangida emerged from this coup and remained in office until August 26th 1993…

General Sani Abacha… [took] over as Head of State on November 17th 1993…

A critical look at the above leadership sequence would yield the fact that since independence in 1960, military rule was pervasive in Nigeria until 1999. Nigeria was under colonial rule until 1960; by 1966 there was a coup. Military rule was briefly interrupted between 1979 and 1983. From 1984 to 1999 military rule was the order of the day.

While Nigerians have been screaming at the slow pace of political and economic development of the country, and have been making efforts to find reasons civilian rule or democracy has not yielded the expected results, one factor they have overlooked as being a challenge to democratic development is ‘military mentality’…

Democracy presupposes a civilian government based on procedures, where the constitution as the supreme law of the land holds sway at all times, with nobody being above the law and everyone equal before the law with the law being impartial.

A careful observer would notice that the average Nigerian has a tendency to behave in a military fashion; we are either rushing in a panic or urging those ahead to give way or be crushed. This shows in our everyday life of impatience characterized by such terms as ‘now now’, ‘quick quick’ and ‘sharp sharp’. A walk down a street in Abuja or Lagos, or indeed any major city in the country is a nightmare for anyone who has ever lived in a civilized environment. Driving on the roads is no better, as many drivers act like animals in the jungle jostling each other for space…

The command and obey structure of the military which brooks no arguments or alternative positions has pushed the average Nigerian into unconsciously accepting that following procedures is a sign of weakness and that might is right. In our daily lives it is manifest when citizens wantonly disobey traffic rules, disrespect each other, jump the queue, drive against traffic and blatantly offer and accept bribes in order to circumvent official procedures…

Other subtle manifestations of our military hangover include our attitudes in public places, when we shout at each other, leave our phones ringing at its loudest and shout while answering the call without caring about our neighbors. We shout at our children at home, shout at our husbands and shout at our wives. Our car horns are left blaring at the slightest opportunity with total disregard of the law against noise pollution.

Police arrest and detain citizens without bringing them to trial and they are left languishing in detention for months incommunicado. Even the military and all other mushroom organizations can now arrest and detain citizens without recourse to the laws of the land. How can democracy be deepened, how can the dividends of democracy reach the people when the people themselves are daily involved in the raping of democracy?

While leaders at various levels may be culpable in the institutionalization of military mentality in our democracy, it is pertinent to point out that the average citizen must take his own share of the blame…

As a matter of urgency, citizens must begin to imbibe decorum in their public activities, showing respect for one another and obeying the simple rules of society. On the part of our leaders, they must understand that it is in their best interest and the interest of our democracy to jettison all attitudes of governance carried over from military rule.

We must consciously make effort to wean ourselves of these attitudes. Democracy is a process that requires procedures to succeed, expecting immediate results is not a democratic norm, we must all therefore acquire the virtue of patience. Our democracy can only be deepened and the dividends accrue to all citizens, when attitudes and behaviors that tend to undermine democracy are done away with and condemned by all Nigerians.

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