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Entrenched Militarism and the Politics of Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria
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Entrenched Militarism and the Politics of Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria Entrenched Militarism and the Politics of Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria Document Transcript

  • Entrenched Militarism and the Politics of Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria J ’Kayode Fayemi Abstract This paper traces the entrenched nature of military involvement in Nigeria’s chequered nation- building project and interrogates the prospects for demilitarisation and democratic consolidation in the country. This is done with theoretical and empirical illustrations of the making of the military, the nature and structure of the military institution and its involvement in the body politic, the implications of its involvement and the challenges to overcome if the transition to democracy is to be sustained. By injecting a historical perspective to a structural analysis of the institution – its organisation, military strategy, military spending and military politics, the paper seeks an understanding of the agent-structure triggers of a political army and the impact of this on the fledgling democratisation project. While the paper recognises the historico-structural dimensions of militarisation as well as the behavioural obstacles to demilitarisation, it captures the challenges in terms of the complexity of the State-civil society relations and predicts the presence of the military in politics in one form or another for some time to come. To address the entrenched pathology of militarism in the body politic, the paper suggests a wider definition of security which promotes an inclusive institutional framework for the demilitarisation and development agenda whilst de-emphasising force in the nation-building project.IntroductionThe conventional wisdom today is that the Nigerian military is in retreat after close to four decades at the centrestage of politics. The decisive, albeit disputed victory of the dominant People’s Democratic Party in the 1999presidential polls which produced an ex-military leader, General Obasanjo as elected president and the subsequentactions undertaken by the government since assuming power in May 1999, is seen as concrete evidence that this isso. Without a doubt, President Obasanjo has surprised many people by the boldness of the steps he has taken tobreak the grip of the erstwhile military elite, to attack corruption and to espouse an agenda for transparency andaccountability in the polity.Nevertheless, a contrary wisdom would contend that there is as yet little evidence of the politicalinstitutionalisation of several of these bold steps and it may be misleading to overemphasise the scale and intensityof the military retreat. Indeed, in light of the numerous false starts that Nigeria has witnessed in her past attempts at 1
  • democratic experiments, there ought to be a growing realisation of the need to think less teleological aboutdemocratic transitions brought about by a combination of military fracturing and incoherent civil society agitation.After all, if the experience of post-cold war Africa is anything to go by, it seems clear enough that whiledemocratic transitions may lead to democratic development in stages or “in parts”i, pacted transitions have notnecessarily led to consolidated democracies nor stemmed the tide of democratic reversals, especially in placeswhere militarism has eaten deep into the fabric, ethos, language and character of public discourse and action.The above underscores the need to temper euphoric and triumphal outbursts with a cautious optimism thatencourages an investigation of the prospects for democratic control over the military and security establishments.This paper therefore focuses on the role of the military in Nigeria’s democratisation project. Its departure point isthat without an in-depth look at the locus of military control (or lack of it thereof) – and how it has developed andcoursed through the system, we run the risk of either underestimating the rather convoluted network of militaryinfluence or inflating the importance of an “democratic moment” in the quest to deconstruct the military ‘problem’in fluid and pluri-form societies.Any attempt to accurately assess the role of Nigeria’s military in the democratisation process and its impact on thefuture of the fledgling democratic dispensation, therefore, would benefit more from a nuanced assessment that doesnot treat the institution as a monolith. Neither should it be defined simply by the excesses of its aberrant officercorps nor seen through the prism of the distinction often made in the literature between reformers and hard-liners,moderates and radicals. Consequently, it is important to trace the sociological and institutional underpinnings ofthe military’s role in the Nigeria’s chequered history of democratic transition, to enable us assess: (a) theconditions, ingredients and consequences of military projects for nation-building (political institutionalisation andeconomic development through democratic transition); (b) the impact of the post-civil-war ‘democratic pressure’on the political role of the military and their nation-building agenda, the impact of the post cold war pressure on themilitary and the State and, (c) the likely impact of the manifold legacies of Nigeria’s authoritarian past on theconsolidation of civil politics and democratic governance. Approached this way, it should be possible to review thepolitical role of the military and project into the future about the emerging realities of post-military politics inNigeria.Background to Military Involvement in PoliticsUnderstanding the colonial character of the military is a crucial factor in explaining the rise ofthe praetorian instincts in post-colonial militaries in Africa. As William Gutteridge observed,“the armies of Africa…are the direct descendants of the colonial forces raised in the territoriesof the imperial rulers to sustain the old order”ii. What emerged as the Nigerian Armed Forces in1963 had a long history as a product of British colonialism. Established as a small constabularyforce at the beginning of the century, it became part of the Royal West African Frontier Force 2
  • just before the Second World War, comprising of soldiers from all the satellite states of Nigeria,Ghana (formerly Gold Coast), Sierra Leone and the Gambia.In its recruitment policy into the colonial army, the British promoted the concept of “martial and non-martialtribes” in West Africa. To achieve these objectives, some ethnic groups were found more loyal and co-operativethan others and they also happened to be less literate in western education than their southern counterparts andtherefore more amenable to orders. Given the long history of interaction with the metropolitan force and the crucialrole of the dependent territories in the victory of the allied powers in World War II, Africans in the colonial armiesdeveloped a more confident political and social outlook that did not exclude direct involvement in political affairs.As Michael Crowder argued: "Africans had fought alongside white men, killed white men, seen brave Africans and white cowards… met white soldiers who treated them as equals, or who were like themselves, hardly educated… Above all, having fought in the defence of freedom, they considered it their right that they should share in the government of the land " (my emphasis)iiiThe new political leadership at independence was unanimous in their ambivalence andprolonged indifference to the growth of the military institution - since they saw the military asan extension of the colonial authority. This unanimous ambivalence was coloured by theconcern over the constitution of the military and its likely impact on the regional politics of theperiod. The concern and ambivalence of the post independence political leaders about thearmed forces was understandable but somewhat exaggerated given their own close connectionto the metropolitan power. Whereas they distrusted the local military institution put together atthe instance of the metropolitan power, the ruling elite still had tremendous confidence in thecolonial power to accede to an Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact at independence. Even after theabrogation of the Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact, the dependence on the colonial power by theruling government was still ingrained in the leadership, hence the absence of any locallycodified or articulated defence policy broadly outlining military objectives as well as identifyinginternal and external threats based on emergent developments, and not as a proxy in the superpower rivalry of the period.In this context, the relationship between the military and the political leadership of the countrywas understandably fraught and this multi-layered colonial hangover was to define thedevelopment (or lack of it) of the military political doctrine – especially as this related to‘development’ and security. Indeed, since the post-colonial State inherited, and in most casesexpanded the hegemonic tendencies of the colonial period, the post-independence army 3
  • remained essentially colonial in character, and the nationalist leaders thought the most logicalway out of this dependence was an accelerated Nigerianisation policy. Whilst this showedevidence of direction and purpose on the part of the leadership, the political coloration of theNigerianisation policy undermined the professionalism of the military as loyalty among thefighting men became divided along regional and political lines. According to Billy Dudley, the1962 law that sanctioned a quota system in the army recruitment process created the impressionthat: "Whereas before the system was introduced, recruitment and mobility were thought to be dependent on the individual’s ability, with the [new] system the suspicion grew that this mattered less than who were one’s patrons. The ‘unintended consequence’ of the political decision to introduce a quota system was the politicisation of the military."ivYet, in spite of the notion that the military had become an extension of the dominant politicalelite as Dudley suggested, it is equally arguable that the Nigerianisation agenda merelyreproduced and expanded the colonial armed forces’ recruitment pattern. Representativenesswas never an issue for the colonial army and the bulk of the recruits came from the northernethnic groups, but in the recruitment of the officer material where the forces needed fairly welleducated men, the bulk of the educated men came from the southern ethnic groups.v This earlypattern of recruitment was replicated in the post-independence armed forces. Clearly, thepolitical elite of the immediate post-independence era was very sensitive to the fact that two-thirds of the officers by 1962 were from the South (and mainly Ibo), hence the 1962 quotapolicy was aimed at redressing the imbalance already dominant in the officer ranks.viDoctrineIf the decision to adopt a quota system for recruitment into the armed forces was seen as aninnovative mechanism in dealing with diversity and a genuine effort to ensurerepresentativeness in an important national institution, the political-military doctrine of the timedenied the very existence of that diversity. The leadership, in a very significant way, upheld theold order bequeathed by the British as national security assumed a military and externalcharacter. Indeed, the leadership’s description of the nation-state as co-extension of the ethnicand individual boundaries followed closely in the tradition of classical realists. To legitimisethis view, the constitution that regulated the affairs of the State at independence institutionalised 4
  • Table 1 A profile of Nigeria’s governments since independence Dates Type Main Protagonists Control of the MilitaryOct 60 – Jan. 66 Elected, civilian Prime Minister Bale- Small military (10,000) Colonial in with strong regional wa, Alhaji Ahmadu orientation, but professional in bias Bello (Premier of the character, increasingly drawn into North), Chief Awolo- internal security by rising political wo (Premier of the tension West), Dr Okpara ((Premier of the East), President AzikiweJan – July ’66 Military junta after Major K. C. Nzeogwu, Assassination of prominent political first coup General A. Ironsi leaders – especially in the north destroyed military espirit de corps and threatened professionalism.Jul ’66 – Jul 75 Collegial Military General Gowon and Broad-based support of all armed junta, weak at members of the forces for military junta inspite of inception, but Supreme Military earlier problems, partly due to lack of strengthened by civil Council commitment to a political timetable. warJuly 75 – Sept Military junta Generals Mohammed, As above, but with more credibility79 Obasanjao, YarAdua, and more emphasis on professionalism Danjuma, and middle- and political change. level officers who overthrew previous juntaOct ’79 – Dec 83 Elected civil rule President Shagari of the Limited control of the military; under 1979 National Party of creation of alternative base in police constitution Nigeria; multiparty force as well as patronage to ensure political structure, loyalty to government. 5
  • presidential style of governmentDec ’83 – Aug Popular military Generals Buhari, Professional-political prerogative;85 junta Idiagbon, Babangida, increasing authoritarian tendency in a and Abacha largely internally oriented policy agenda.Aug ’85 – Aug Transition from General Babangida was Co-optation of the military in the93 junta to personalised the main player with bit rulers personal project via patronage dictatorship in a parts to close civilians and deft political manoeuvrings. palace coup and military politiciansAug ’93 – Nov Interim government Chief E. Shonekan, Clear military control of a government93 representing Head of Interim that lacked legitimacy and popular interregnum after the Government, and support in a period of high political annulled elections General Abacha, tension. and exit of Defence Minister BabangidaNov ’93 – June Full-blown military General Abacha Undermined military professionalism,98 dictatorship increased use of intelligence and security outfits, especially death squads, against political and military opponents.June 98 – May Military dictatorship General Abubakar Focus on political transition and99 with a human face - Abdulsalami preparation for withdrawal from under pressure to government. reform politically and exit gracefullyMay 99 - ? Elected civilian General Obasanjo, Increasing presidential, rather than government civilian government democratic, control of military; with a non-ideological, commitment to military centrist notion but weak professionalism and diminished 6
  • party structure and likelihood of full-blown military coup. militarily imposed constitution.the towering of the “idealised” State over the “real” society. Just as it happened during thecolonial era, the military soon became the most visible face of this forced notion of unity.Additionally, given the historical circumstances within which African countries emerged which guaranteed theprimacy of the State and the monopoly of coercive instruments by the anointed ruler, threats to national securitywere not seen in comprehensive enough terms to include domestic threats to national stability. Instead, domesticthreats were seen as “little local difficulties” among competing political interest groups for state control. Inconsequence, the pre-1966 political violence in the country hardly provided any lessons for innovative conflictmanagement in the interest of the nation-building project. Indeed, it soon became a political-military doctrine thatresonated in the decision-making process of successive regimes in that any challenge to the “idealised nationalcommunity” was often interpreted as a direct challenge to the legitimacy of the government in power. Inconsequence, internal dimensions of threat often needed to assume the cloak of regime security, to receive theattention of political leaders and it was in this context that the existing military force was seen to have a politicalrole. For example, the near total dependence of the first republic government in Nigeria on the army to quell thepolitical turmoil in Western Nigeria and the Middle Belt region has been cited as a major factor in the eventualoverthrow of the regime given the manner in which the military was encouraged to become a pliant instrument ofthe ruling elite in dealing with opponents.As a result of the growing influence of the military, those who felt excluded from the competition for politicalpower also courted the institution. Having discovered its own indispensability to the political elite, the place of themilitary was enhanced and at the same time undermined by the politicisation of its post-independence recruitmentand many who entered via the political route owed allegiance to political forces external to the military institution.Additionally, the politically minded officers, some genuinely frustrated by the venality of the political leadership,began to see the institution as a genuine alternative power centre for ‘social change’. The consolidation of thearmy’s place in society was in large part facilitated by the fact that it controlled all the instruments of violence andcoercion and radiated order amid disorder and chaos.These local conditions were reinforced by the intensity of the super power rivalry that characterised Cold Warpolitics and the impact this had on the growth and development of the post-colonial state in Africa. Violentoverthrow of elected governments had started receiving political and intellectual justification, from the action ofthe Free officers in Egypt to the coup against President Olympio in neighbouring Togo. For example, there wasthe ideological and intellectual arguments that military rule correlated to nationalism, and therefore modernitythroughout the Cold war era. Leading intellectuals of the era promoted praetorianism on the basis of the alleged 7
  • modernising characteristics of the military. Imbued with this intellectual justification of ‘nationalism’ and‘modernity’, it was no surprise then that Major Nzeogwu, the leader of Nigeria’s first coup could make such agrandiose claim that ‘the men and officers who carried out the 1966 operation in Kaduna was a truly Nigeriangathering, and only in the army do you get true Nigerianism.viiThe above notwithstanding, it would be wrong to contend that there were no structuralproblems that encouraged the involvement of the armed forces in politics. Indeed, militaryinvolvement in politics has often been seen as the result of chronic societal dis-equilibriumexemplified by the corruption of politicians.viii In effect, it has always been consistent withmilitary organisations involved in ‘role expansion’ from its "satrapic"ix orientation to activepraetorianism in Africa to explain its intervention in politics as resulting from the "corruption" ofthe political elite. For example, Nzeogwu coup speech of January 1966 has very much provideda template for subsequent military coups in Nigeria. According to him: "Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as Ministers or VIPs at least; the tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country big for nothing before international circles; those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian calendar back by their words and deeds."xQuite correctly, praetorianism grows faster in situations of structural disorientation and unsettled nationalityquestions. It is also true that coups have a greater chance of success in moments of overwhelming national frustrationwith irresponsible political leadership. The Nigerian experience confirms that insufficient weight is placed on thepersonal motives of ambitious, discontented officers that find legitimate cover in periods of structural fragility andprebendal politics.xiPlaced within the above context, the next section examines the role of the military in the country’s transition andnation-building project. It seeks to elaborate on the thesis advanced in the last section on how the military becamecompliant in the consolidation of the old order, be it colonialism or patrimonialism, even when the rhetoric was oneof reform. We argue that the political military doctrine that became the referent point of successive militaryregimes, was one in which internal threats were relegated to the status of a dependent variable whilst primarilyfocusing on external threats in the pursuit of the “idealised nation” which ensured a “permanent transition”.It is the contention of this paper that all military regimes allowed this to happen deliberately by exaggeratingforeign threats as a way of diverting attention away from seemingly unresolvable domestic problems. In effect, thesearch for grandeur and institutional aggrandisement tended to under emphasise the unsettled nationality questionsin the country, the damaging effects of military involvement in politics and the personalised nature of rule. This, inturn under emphasised the extent to which the Nigerian public disapproved of military rule, and obviated the extent 8
  • to which the nationality question, which led, in the first instance to civil war had been unresolved. So consistent didthis become, as we will show below, that the few military regimes that deviated from this political-military doctrinefailed to last.Transition to Militarismxii: Military Politics and the Nation Building ProjectWhen the Nigerian military first intervened in politics in January 1966, their action wasacclaimed as a nation-building project aimed at eradicating corruption and reordering the State.Six months after, the Nigerian army had become the catalyst for national disintegration as itbroke up into ethnic and regional factions and exacerbated the pre-existing primordial cleavageswhich had earlier undermined its professionalism, eventually leading to the three year civil war.To those who had proclaimed the attributes of the military in terms of its espirit de corps,cohesiveness, and unified outlook, this sudden turn of events became difficult to explain. Truly,as an authoritarian structure of control preoccupied with regime security, it was only within themilitary that the colonial authorities encouraged and fostered the interaction of Nigeria’ssegmented elite in any common fora, a feature which seemed logical given their role as agentsof imperial power for the limitation of militant political activity by nationalist politicians. Inthis manner, the tradition of cross sectional consociational elitism seemed better developedwithin the military than in any other professional group and their training and orientation inforeign and local institution may have been crucial in their socialisation process.Although, its training and orientation promoted a socialisation process that fostered the meetingand inter-ethnic interaction of the country’s elite, the fact that the ethnicised nature of politicsand personalised form of rule consumed the military elite and made it possible for it to serve asthe vanguard for interests that are neither institutional nor majoritarian underscores the failureof a nation-building project that was not derived from a significant level of consensus. Whilethe inter-ethnic interaction showed that military officers might have been predisposed to thenationalist project as a result of this socialisation process, the enemy was no longer as clear-cutas it was under colonialism due to other cross-cutting links that went beyond institutional links.As Robin Luckham explained in his authoritative work on the Nigerian military, outside ofcreating an organisation with a unified outlook, 9
  • "... such an organisation… requires a higher degree of goal consensus than those in which relationships are more segmentary. Brotherhood only creates genuine integration of officers and men only if they show self-discipline and if the system of command and control is itself adequately institutionalised. Otherwise it may be disruptive."xiiiIn Nigeria it was disruptive in the early days and has continuously been disruptive as officers carved up their ownniches and groomed protégés using the same authoritarian structures of control that allowed for the layering offraternities prevalent in satrapic military organisations. Consequently, the military could no longer lay claim tobeing cohesive, a condition often attributed to their sound training and collective military honour. Equally, theNigerian military could also not stretch the collegial links that had served the military in good stead – especiallyLatin America. Not even the supposedly collegial ruling councils served this purpose beyond the interim periods ofevery military administration. It was for this reason that Luckham observed that the disruption of the professionalcohesion "... goes to suggest that we need to seek for other factors than common training which might generate solidarity among military equals; that the officer corps was held together by something more than the mere agglomeration of different brotherhoods and course mates ..."xivWhat became even clearer since Luckhams work on the Nigerian military is the degree of sectional loyalties thatexisted within the military hierarchy and the way this has been used to advance the ruling elites prebendalproclivities. Although the military caste consistently maintained the professional and accommodational strategythat kept it in power for three decades, the nature of the strategy would appear to have assumed a far moresegmental edge after Nigeria’s second republic. At this stage, professional camaraderie and institutional cohesion,seemed relatively less important in the alliance used in sustaining the military in power. On the one hand, it waspossible for successive military regimes to retain power with some measure of authority in areas where thepersonal projects of the military ruling elite coincided with group or corporate interests. On the other hand, inareas where the rulers made no attempt to respect institutional interest or restraint, they hung on to power on thestrength of their coercive capabilities and co-optation strategies which depended on alternative power centresoutside the military – in the civilian bureaucracy, business sector and intellectual circles. To varying degrees,successive military regimes adopted this strategy – from General Yakubu Gowon to the recently departed GeneralAbdulsalami Abubakar, however the regimes of Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha represented twoextremes in the continuum. The Gowon Years (1966 – 1975)Strengthened by the favourable aftermath of the Nigerian civil war, General Yakubu Gowon utilised the legitimacyprovided by the successful ‘resolution’ of the civil war to project the military into the vanguard of the nation-building project. Consequently, the civil war which albeit fragmented the military as an institution now provided itwith an opportunity to redeem its image, yet this was not necessarily on account of its professionalism in theprosecution of the war. Although the civil war per se is not the focus of this paper, it is important to highlight the 10
  • degree to which it influenced the actions of the military regime, especially its claim to a pride of place in a nationbuilding project.The post civil war agenda of reconstruction which was to culminate in political disengagement in 1976 elicited ahigh level of consensus from within the military and the political society, yet it meant more of continuity of the oldorder than change. Indeed, Gowon personified the legitimacy of the era and his name soon became an acronym for“one Nigeria” in popular culture. The support his agenda gained from civil and political society derived from theunderlying acceptance that power belonged to the people and this was demonstrated by Gowon’s specificannouncement of a timetable for military disengagement from politics. Although it was evident that the militaryhad now become politicised, Gowon was able to involve credible politicians in the work of the administration bykeeping within their purview a political order to be controlled by them. Even those who had concerns about thegrowing concentration of power at the centre saw the benefits possible from wielding power at the centre. Whatdestroyed this overwhelming support from both the military and political constituencies was the gross inability ofthe Gowon administration to consolidate the nation building project, in the aftermath of the civil war.First, while State power was enhanced by the civil war, the improvement in the countryseconomy through oil wealth sharpened the predatory instincts of the military ruling elite andtheir consosciational allies in the civil service and business sector and this greatly underminedthe institutional capacity for independent action and, in turn the nation-building project. Eventhough corruption was rampant during the civil war, it was the rapacity of the regimefunctionaries in the aftermath of the war that focused attention on General Gowon’s weakleadership qualities in a situation where state governors behaved as though they were‘provincial chiefs in a decentralised patrimonial order’ charged with the plundering of the newlyfound oil resources.Second, while state military power was potentially enhanced by the post civil war "no victor, no vanquished"reconciliation policy, (especially given the fact that the federal forces merely muddled through), the Gowonadministration failed to concentrate on reorganising the internal workings of the military institution. Althoughmilitary planners sought to improve service co-ordination and came up with suggestions for demobilising andmechanising a military which was now spending 90% of its budget on salaries for the 250,000 strong force (from apre-war strength of 10,000), there was no doctrinal principles that guided defence management. Indeed, as hisofficial biographer noted, ‘as Gowon settled to issues of state governance after the war, his contacts with themilitary gradually decreased as his relationship with the civilian bureaucracy grew.xv It was the failure to seize theopportunity provided at the end of the civil war to re-organise the institution that laid the basis for the contest fordominance between praetorians and professionals which eventually led the military on its slippery slope.The above situation was exacerbated by the growing dependence on the civilian bureaucracy,some of whose personnel had become so powerful and indispensable to General Gowon. This 11
  • long-term dependence on the civilian bureaucracy manifested itself in various ways in the post-war years. The political involvement inevitably acquired economic imperatives after theNigerian civil war with Nigeria’s new-found wealth in the oil sector. The origins of Nigeria’s‘bureaucratic-economic militariat’ could indeed be traced back to the central role played by themilitary in the control and management of this new found wealth, especially after itspromulgation of the Nigerian Enterprises Decrees of 1972 and 1977. What became apparent atthis stage however was the personalised pattern of private capital accumulation, whichprevailed, even if this was sometime held in proxy by the military officers’ fronts. The abovegenerated a crisis of confidence within the military. As an authoritarian structure preoccupiedwith its own institutional survival, there was a growing perception that Gowon was isolatinghimself from the institution – a situation his colleagues in the military found disconcerting – asituation which eventually led to his overthrow. As his successor, General Murtala Mohammednoted in his maiden speech: "After the civil war, the affairs of the state, hitherto a collective responsibility, became characterised by a lack of consultation. Things got to a stage when the Head of the Administration became inaccessible even to official advisers"xviNotwithstanding the failed national development agenda and the evident lack of the military’s much acclaimedmodernising characteristics, General Gowon might still have survived if he had not reneged on the transition time-table. As aptly captured by the late social critic, Tai Solarin, the regime’s tattered credibility came crashing downand it was the ‘beginning of the end’ for the Gowon administration. The refusal to keep the transition agenda inview provided a unity of purpose for all his opponents both within the military and in civil society. The Mohammed-Obasanjo Years, (1975 – 79)Based on the experience of the Gowon administration, it would appear that one of the firstlessons of the new administration (Mohammed-Obasanjo regime, 1975-79) was the need todiffuse the power concentration in the Head of State. Indeed, it was thought at first that theoriginal intention was to constitute the three most senior members of the military junta into aruling triumvirate with a rotational leadership – a style common to Latin American military junta.When the junta finally settled for what was essentially the mode of rulership under GeneralGowon, with the Supreme Military Council intact, power was to be shared between the Head ofState, Brigadier [later General] Murtala Mohammed and the Chief of Staff, SupremeHeadquarters, Brigadier [later General] Olusegun Obasanjo. 12
  • In spite of this attempt at power diffusion, the strong leadership exhibited by General MurtalaMohammed not only demanded but received a variety of alternative options from hisintellectual circle and the military itself, but it also precluded the structure from working in adelegatory manner. As the regimes Chief of Staff, General Obasanjo later revealed in hismemoirs, the relative ease with which service chiefs and corps commanders established a linkwith the Head of State and the Chief of Staff created an impression as though the regime hadno need for a Defence Minister. This perceived neglect was raised repeatedly by the DefenceMinister, Brigadier Iliya Bisalla, especially after the military promotion exercise which sawthe Army Chief higher in rank and this was adduced as a reason for his involvement in theabortive coup that resulted in the assassination of the Head of State, General Mohammed.xviiUndoubtedly, Brigadier Mohammed also assumed a creative role in the defence planning process himself,xviii and as aresult the first steps towards the systematic realignment of the ends of security policy to the means of achieving policygoals began under the regime. However, the regime still failed to resolve the problem of co-ordination of structure, thebane of the armed forces since the civil war days and it probably complicated its resolution more when GeneralObasanjo assumed office as Head of State, Commander-in-Chief and Minister of Defence. Although this was informedmore by the development leading to the assassination of the former Head of State, the combination of the defenceportfolio with his primary duty as Head of State heralded once again the issue of overly concentrated powers.First came the renewed ascendancy of the civilian bureaucracy in the defence policy making and implementation, afeature the regime leaders had relentlessly criticised under the Gowon administration. For a government thatdemanded more discipline from the civilian bureaucracy by sacking over 11,000 public officials all over thecountry, the fact that the government resorted to the same bureaucracy exposed the superficiality of that populistmove. It also meant that nothing was done to resolve the structural problems that plagued previous administrations interms of ensuring an effective synergy amongst different aspects of governance.To its credit, the regime made a determined effort to address substantively issues relating to the reorganisation ofthe armed forces and the renewal of the political transition programme. However, the implication of this was thehuge capital outlay that accompanied these efforts, and this further deepened the centralisation of authority andincreased the dependence on the civilian bureaucracy. This has yet its own implications for the eradication ofcorruption in spite of their best effort. As Richard Joseph correctly argued, "…the transitional military regime of Mohammed and Obasanjo, …by dint of enhancing the state’s omnipresence and omnicompetence in the devising and implementing of national projects, added even more fuel to prebendal politics in Nigeria…"xix 13
  • Although clearly more reformist in character and orientation than the previous military leadership, the regime’sonslaught on corruption was largely superficial and unsustained. Unsurprisingly, many of the military officers whoruled the country between 1975 and 1979 soon found themselves in business and politics courtesy of their contactswith the civilian bureaucracy and the business sector. Indeed, if one traced the personal, political and financiallinks of a number of individuals associated with the military prior to their exit from government and in theimmediate aftermath to civilian politics in 1979, there is a clear trend of a network including the military, thecivilian bureaucracy (the ex-Super-Permanent Secretaries) and business moguls.xx At this stage though, it wouldappear that the acquisition was largely in pursuit of personal wealth, rather than a conscious institutionalprogramme of neo-militarism.The proclivity of the ex-military generals to wield financial control was however not limited to their top-mostbrass. Others who retired before them and several who did so after them entered the boardroom game too. As oneobserver of the retired military phenomenon noted, “an increasing number of retired senior military officers…combine chairmanships/directorships of their own private businesses, with part-time appointments to keygovernmental posts and parastatals relating to agriculture, commerce, and industry, in addition to interlockingdirectorships of many foreign companies incorporated in Nigeria.”xxiYet in spite of the growing tendency towards personal accumulation that had become noticeable in the post 1979transition phase, and which was certainly continued under the post-1983 Buhari-Idiagbon junta, a distinguishingfeature of these pre-Babangida military regimes was that they were less directly subservient to foreign capital andless inclined to flaunt political influence, although an insignificant number of military officers went into politics inthe second republic. While there were officers committed fully to the market orthodoxy of privatising the State onthe economic front, those who advocated economic nationalism and greater State control won these internalstruggles – and several government institutions in the oil, energy, water and telecommunications sector remainedunder government control.On threat analysis, the Mohammed/Obasanjo regime acknowledged that Nigeria confronted both external andinternal threats, although their own preference too was for prominent forays into the foreign arena. However,unlike the Gowon era before them, the regime shifted from a whimsical determination of defence, foreign andsecurity policies to a more rationally ordered identification and prioritisation of the objectives guiding foreign anddefence policies. The ideas underlying these objectives had a significant impact on policy formulation andfashioning of doctrine. The Adedeji panel set up to review the state objectives broadened the foreign policyobjectives to include continental security, making Africa the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign and defence policies.Simultaneous with the new regime’s pursuit of Gowon’s nine-point domestic programme, its declaratory stance onthe continental scene depicted an offensive doctrine and an expansion of the previous regime’s concentration onregional integration efforts especially on questions of de-colonisation on the continent, but this was not done to thedetriment of domestic issues. Indeed, the external agenda dovetailed nicely with the regime’s internal agenda inmany areas. For example, demobilisation was identified in the immediate aftermath of the civil war as an issue thatrequired urgent attention. Equally, the military leadership was aware that the battle readiness of the armed forceswas inextricably linked to the uncertainty surrounding the demobilisation programme, especially given the neglect 14
  • of this issue by the previous regime. By the time it was leaving government, the regime had reduced the size of themilitary by 100, 000 by far the most ambitious reduction ever conducted by any government in Nigeria to date.xxiiOther issues given priority by the Mohammed/Obasanjo regime in the pursuit of foreign and defence policiesincluded barracks reconstruction weapons procurement, training, defence production and cohesion – all aimed atthe institutionalisation of military professionalism.xxiii The perspicacity of its actions not only provided a clearpolicy guideline to implementing agents about the country’s military mission, but also gave decision makers alogical sequence to the employment, deployment and acquisition policies for the military organisation.In spite of their unflinching commitment to the transition project, the regime left an inherently inoperable politicalsystem, which made it impossible for the new government to transform itself into a truly democratic dispensation.So influential was the military even after formal disengagement that the civilian president conceded that there wereonly two parties in the country – the ruling National Party and the Nigerian Army. The Civilian era – 1979 – 1983After thirteen years of military administration, a civilian democracy returned to power in Nigeria on 1 October 1979and the civilians were in government till December 31, 1983. The period witnessed a different defence structure that,for the first time, placed all services under a single Chief of Defence Staff who also doubled as the Principal Adviser tothe President on defence through the Defence Minister. Two key advantages of this development were thought to bethe better co-ordination of political and military ends of policy and the standardisation it would bring to employment,deployment and acquisition policies in the entire armed forces. The lesson of the previous years had been that servicesembarked on different, often conflicting, and sometimes duplicating programmes which exacerbated rather than healnational contradictions. Inter-service co-ordination was also thought to be the key to enhancing the doctrinal positionof defence in line with governmental objectives and national interests.As a result the civilian administration continued with the continental programme of the erstwhile regime with little orno modification, although the rhetoric had become less fiercely anti-west. On the doctrinal question, the governmentessentially reverted to the days of reactive doctrinal postures. While most security problems the regime experiencedwere within predictable range and manageable limit, when they occurred the administration reactions were neitherplanned nor within the ambits of any articulated doctrinal principles. The relatively high incidence of threats to thecountrys territorial integrity and the eventual (mis)management of the threats during the period pointed to agovernment in which the military still had a great deal of influence, outside the normal channels opened to theinstitutions. The effect was the low level of complementarity between foreign and defence policies, the consequence ofwhich was a doctrinal standpoint dictated by occasional exigencies and prestige considerations rather than requirementsof long term survival in the countrys strategic environment.xxiv In the end, military officers closest to the civilianadministration were the leading figures in the coup that engineered its overthrow, and there are many who still hold theview that the coup leaders had acted in concert with some politicians to save the country from a bloodier resolution ofthe crisis that had plagued the country. However, there were also members of the ruling party who felt the coup plottershad acted for themselves. 15
  • The Buhari-Idiagbon regime – 1984-85What distinguished the Buhari-Idiagbon military junta from all the military regimes examined in this paper was itsrefusal to even pretend that it had a transition programme for the country. Although it came into office on agroundswell of support from a public fed up with the venality of the politicians, even the refusal to adopt an agendafor civilian transformation was seen by various interest groups both within and outside the military as a carefullyarticulated political agenda. Indeed, their authoritarian administration was largely resented by Nigerians, and somehave traced their ouster in a palace coup, after twenty months in government, to their single minded pursuit of anisolationist foreign and defence policy and their intransigent political stand that gave no indication of a political plan forthe return of the country to civilian rule.The Buhari regime, for instance, acknowledged Nigerias security problems as mainly internaland it reduced the overtly rhetorical continental agenda hitherto pursued by previous regimes andlooked inwards.xxv While this earned the regime widespread criticism as well as pressures fromexternal powers and neighbouring countries that saw their interests in sharp conflict with thecountrys international policy, local opprobrium was minimal.xxviIn terms of transition politics and military doctrine, a fair conclusion will be that their period in office was too short forany clear direction to have emerged; they operated a more collegial rule but suffered seriously from the court of publicopinion as nasty and brutish. Also, the fact that they ruled at a time of wide ranging economic problems may haveprecluded effective monitoring of defence spending in terms of direction and agreed goals of policy.Suffice it to say that their relatively short stay in office saw a reversal in the military’s “usual way” although it carriedon the traditional service preference than an integrated national security package and funds allocated were notnecessarily used in enhancing the non-military dimensions of security as the regime, like others before it still perceivedsecurity through the narrow power-prestige prism, even in its pragmatic handling of erstwhile conglomerate themes. The Babangida Years (1985-1993)With the arrival of General Babangida at the helm of affairs in 1985, for the first time, Nigerians had a militaryruler opt for an all-encompassing title of “President”, thought to be restricted to democratically elected rulers, andnot the low profile “Head of State” that had become the norm for military rulers. Indeed, the situation began tomore closely resemble the institutional and personalist agenda of control pioneered in countries like Thailand andChile. As the country became mired in an economic crunch, which resulted in the structural adjustment programmeunder General Babangida, the elevation of speculative finance over industrial capital became the definingcharacteristic of economic policy. Short term monetarist policies of exchange rate devaluation, removal ofsubsidies, sale of state enterprises, freeing of prices and generalised deflationary policies took precedence overstructural reform of that debilitating economy which was the favoured national consensus for addressing theproblem at the time. The deregulation of the financial market ensured that the financial sector became the only 16
  • growth sector with interest rates determined by speculators as agriculture, manufacturing and industry floundereddue to low capacity utilisation.Not even the mini-boom engendered by the Persian Gulf Oil crisis in 1990/91 - the latter years of the Babangidaregime brought any respite to the generality of the population. Instead, the extra funds gained were regarded asdiscretionary income which went on a massive spending binge that diverted revenues into corruption fundedpatronage, sharply expanded extra-budgetary expenditure and bloated an already inflation ridden economy. Indeed,according to Dr Pius Okigbo’s official inquiry into the finances of the Central Bank of Nigeria, "betweenSeptember 1988 and 30 June 1994, US$12.2 billion of the $12.4billion (in the dedicated and special accounts) wasliquidated in less than six years... spent on what could neither be adjudged genuine high priority nor trulyregenerative investment; neither the President nor the Central Bank Governor accounted to anyone for thesemassive extra-budgetary expenditures...that these disbursements were clandestinely undertaken while the countrywas openly reeling with a crushing external debt overhang.xxviiLittle wonder then that the economic reform programme started by the military regime in 1986(under General Babangida) finally collapsed under the weight of the 1993 annulled election andthe massive capital flight that followed. By 1993, Nigeria, according to the World Bank, wasamong the 20 poorest countries in the world. The situation worsened under the Abacha regime;GNP grew only 2.8 percent in 1994, inflation ran at over 60 percent just as the countryexperienced exponential unemployment growth rate and the Nigerian naira virtually collapsed.But it was not just the economy that suffered in this State retrenchment exercise. The prospectsfor democratisation and meaningful politics also dimmed. Given the diffused level ofautonomy exercised by the military institution that resulted from the parcelling out of the stateto private military interests, the class and group project engendered by previous military rulewas exchanged with the personal rule of the ‘benevolent dictator’. Through his benefaction,many, including his superiors, had become beholden to Babangida as direct beneficiaries of hisgenerosity. While it may be stretching credulity to assume that all of those involved were awareof their role in class terms – especially given the linkage of finance capital to the stateapparatus, they were in no doubt that the conjuncture of a shared out State and personal rule hadbeen responsible for their financial success. They also realised that support for GeneralBabangida’s continued rule in one form or another represented the least line of resistance andthe price to pay for their financial benefits if it was to continue.In the larger society, privatisation exacerbated the prebendal politics with its attendant pressureon ethnic relations as many who lost out in the scheme of things concluded that theoverwhelming power of the centre was responsible for their fate. But if these tendencies were 17
  • simply limited to the government, it would be less disturbing. By institutionalising favouritismand bribery as legitimate instruments of governance, the military regime headed by Babangidasucceeded in breeding a myriad of anti-democratic practices reproduced regularly in the worldview of the ordinary Nigerian, either in the form of the common belief that everyone had aprice, or in the disappearance of loyalty to the State as militarism became embedded in thepsyche of the average individual.The restructuring of the economy along monetarist lines could be said to have represented an ambitious attempt bythe ‘techno-military’ authoritarian state under General Babangida to generate a new hegemonic bloc and this wascarried out on two broad levels – economic and political.xxviii First, as a result of the government’s privatisationagenda, several of the state-owned industrial and commercial ventures were sold directly to ex-military generals orto conglomerates linked to them. In addition, the new merchant banks that emerged to take advantage of theliberalisation of the financial sector featured several retired military officers on their boards. In fact, it was commonknowledge in the late 1980s and early 1990s that no matter how solid one’s capital base was the likelihood of onegaining a bank licence was dependent on having at least one ex-military personnel listed on your board. The factthat many of these banks eventually collapsed under the weight of bad management was not unconnected to theexcesses of bank executives who concluded that military presence on their boards was a licence to steal as long asthe military board members were kept happy. Indeed, many military generals were prominent beneficiaries of thebad loans allocated by these failed banks.xxixSecond, General Babangida went beyond the personal pecuniary motives of erstwhile military rulers by ensuringthat the stratification of the military from the rest of society did not just exist at the level of retired officers, but alsoat an institutional level. Hence, by adopting a practice common to Latin American and some South East Asianmilitary institutions, he announced the formation of an Army Bank (which never took off!), an industrial armamentcity – (which also did not see the light of day) and the Nigerian Army Welfare Insurance Scheme (NAWIS). Toensure that every military officer saw the stratification project as an institutional agenda, the government spentN550 million ($60 million in 1992) advertised to a hapless public as loans to purchase cars for serving militaryofficers of and above the rank of Captains. This was later extended to the non-commissioned officers in the form ofmotorcycles and the rank and file got bicycles.By now, a paradigmatic shift had already occurred in the mindset of the military cabal intent on remaining inpower. Unlike before when it was an anathema for serving officers to flaunt their involvement in the economicsector and to stake a claim to permanent political control, many became closely identified with oil, financial, andshipping interests whilst also justifying their new role as political players. Serving officers declared in severalpublic fora that they were best placed to take Nigeria into political and economic heights because of their militarytraining and the advantage of liberal university education. This became more pronounced under General Abachawhen military officers began to threaten Nigerians that even if they were removed from direct political role, theywould return by hook or crook.xxx Indeed, the idea of a military party took firm root and some of the officers andcivilian intellectuals involved in that project on behalf of General Babangida were assigned the task of studying the 18
  • Nasserist/Baathist models in Egypt, Syria and Iraq as well as the foundational regimes in Latin America and SouthEast Asia.xxxi In the end, he had to vacate the seat of power unceremoniously on account of his failure to deliver onthe transition project. The Abacha and Abubakar Years (1993-1999)Knowing how considerably weakened the military had become on assuming power, the militaryreturn under General Abacha was widely portrayed as a reluctant comeback and the ‘onlyalternative’ to save the nation from disintegration. On the political front, General Abacha wontentative respect by his deft assemblage of a broad-based civilian ‘diarchical’ coalition ofprominent politicians. As with the political militaries before him, Abacha’s promise of a ‘brieftenure’ and the announcement of a National Constitutional Conference with “full constituentpowers” were presented to their constituents as their main reason for service by politicians. Thefact that General Abacha adopted the characteristic rhetoric of his predecessors - promises to‘clean house’, free the nation’s economy from corruption and ruin, reduce dependence on thefluctuating international market and return the economy to ordinary Nigerians wasunconvincing. Not lost on them was the fact that this ‘cleaner’ of the stable was not untainted,having been in the corridors of power for the last decade, announced three coups d’etat,rumoured as the most corrupt General, leaving aside his role in the annulment of the 1993presidential election. Yet the crucial point here was that General Abacha succeeded in gainingthe benefit of the doubt that he needed for initial legitimation.Within the military, this was also a favoured strategy. On coming to office, the ‘professionals’wing were left in charge as they controlled the army in the dying days of the Babangida regime,especially after the purge of the so called “IBB Boys” - hence Major General Chris Ali, a ‘pro-democracy’ officer was put in charge of the army, Rear Admiral Alison Madueke, in charge ofthe Navy and Air Vice Marshal Femi John Femi in charge of the Air-Force. What gave theseofficers more confidence was the presence of General Oladipo Diya - the main fixer of thepolitical class during the early days of the coup and one of the few officers who openlychallenged Babangida’s continued presence in the military during the heady days of the 1993national crisis.All this was soon to change. By mid 1994, revelations by a disaffected coup participant (Brigadier-General DavidMark) in the November 1993 coup that the regime did not in fact intend to limit itself to a brief stay in powerstrongly supported the view that the Constitutional conference was, after all, only part of the government’s attemptto create a veneer of legitimacy. Outside of the military, the public had woken from its battle wearied slumber and, 19
  • national strikes, co-ordinated by the Labour unions and a newly formed broad coalition of civil societyorganisations, ethnic pressure groups and political groupings - NADECO - paralysed the government for ten weekswith a seriously negative impact on an already parlous economy. Chief Abiola, winner of the annulled electionsused the opportunity to reclaim his mandate as the elected president of Nigeria. In desperation, the regimejettisoned its collegial facade and adopted a repressive edge which earned Nigeria its pariah status and led to hersuspension from the Commonwealth in 1995, after the regime murdered environmental rights activist, Ken SaroWiwa and his fellow minority/environmental rights activists.Inside the military however, dissension was also growing. When two of the outspoken servicechiefs, - Major General Chris Ali, the Chief of Army Staff and Rear Admiral Alison Madueke,the Chief of Naval Staff - urged the release of political prisoners from jail, General Abachasimply sacked them and replaced them with officers he considered more complicit of apermanent transition agenda. Further repressive measures were soon to follow, including theconviction of several retired and serving officers including ex-Heads of State and his deputy,General Olusegun Obasanjo and Major General Shehu Musa Yar’adua now in the vanguard ofopposition activities. Leading democracy activists and journalists like Dr Beko Ransome Kuti,Malam Shehu Sani, Mrs Chris Anyanwu and Mr Kunle Ajibade were also jailed on apparentlytrumped up charges of plotting to overthrow the Abacha regime.As with previous rulers, there was an external dimension to this internal attack on civil societyand the military institution. In doing this however, he also displayed method. Having ridhimself, albeit temporarily of his main threats within the civil-society, the military and amongthe political elite, and in order to sustain a public image of seriousness, legitimation throughbourgeois technocracy became a major credo. Even so, regime legitimation via technocracyonly offered temporary reprieve, rather than long standing nation building strategy since thecontradictions within the Nigerian state and the failure of government cannot be dealt withwithout addressing questions of democratic governance and accountability of state structures aspart of the quest for an enduring nation-building project.Drawing significant inspiration from the neo-militarist credo in Latin America and South Asian,General Abacha and his advisers believed it was still possible to engineer a succession plan aslong as he could convince the west and the IFIs of a deregulated, market reform agenda. Therewere two planks to this agenda - both aimed at convincing the international community. Firstwas the version of Dr Mohammed Mahatir’s Vision 2020 agenda in Malaysia called Vision2010. This liberal economic policy agenda was co-ordinated by the deposed interim government 20
  • leader, Chief Ernest Shonekan. Principally encouraged to introduce this agenda because of whatwas seen as the dramatic reduction in the level of international campaign for sanctions againstthe regime barely months after the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa and the apparent lack of anyinternationally co-ordinated policy agenda to expedite democratic reform in Nigeria. Theregime’s contention that a significant section of the international community agreed that a levelof individual freedom and democratic reform should be sacrificed for economic growth andstructural reforms was backed by the apparent inaction from world powers to the campaign forinternational sanctions against the regime.Simultaneous with this technocratic legitimacy and re-assurance of the international communitywas the second plank of seeking legitimacy within the region with military turned civilianpresidents, with a view to establishing a conducive climate for General Abacha’s roletransformation. There is now evidence that resources were provided for the military-led politicalparties in Niger and Gambia by the Abacha regimexxxii as well as claims that the President ofGhana also received pecuniary benefits for his unwavering support of the dictator. Yet, in spiteof his heavy handed treatment of opposition, General Abacha also kept the political transitionproject in full view, just like his predecessors. He concluded, perhaps consistent with othermilitary rulers, before him, that participating in that political project mattered less than nothaving any project.Although it was General Babangida who put in motion the idea of constructing a disguised military party, it wasGeneral Abacha, his military successor who dusted up the blueprint and successfully implemented it through thebrazen creation of artificial political parties. At the time of his death, all the five parties in his democratictransition project had “unanimously” adopted General Abacha as the presidential candidate. Even with the strongopposition in civil society against this undisguised manipulation, many - including leading figures in theinternational community had resigned themselves to an Abacha civilian presidency.xxxiii The diminution of anyofficial pretence of a collegial façade which military rulers always projected was total by the time General Abachadied in June 1997. Unlike General Babangida who parcelled out the State to friends and mentors within themilitary, General Abacha kept the spoils of office for himself and his family, a small coterie of his securityapparatus and his small circle of foreign friends. He made a specific point of ignoring the military institution. Theruling military Council hardly ever met and an alternative power centre, personally loyal to General Abacha, wasset up in the security/intelligence units which undermined the institutional legitimacy of the military. In fact, thereare credible but unconfirmed claims that it was the insignificant attention he paid to the military constituency thateventually paved the way for his unexpected demise. 21
  • The nature of General Abacha’s exit and the arrival of General Abubakar on the scene arguably determined theoutcome of the democratisation project. However one may view the eventual outcome of the rushed transitionprogramme, the fact that General Abubakar was not responding to a full defeat of the military could hardly bediscounted in understanding the push for a graceful exit and elections of what was thought to be the closest party tothe military hierarchy. The compromised nature of the political settlement was therefore a product of thedemocratic pressure on the military’s political agenda. The fact that military influence is still very strong in thecountry – albeit in a disguised form - is an indication of the huge challenge the country faces in the post militaryera. It also underlines why the democratic experience remains fragile, under the threat of various unresolved issuestraceable to the influence of the political army.Impact of Transition Politics on Military ProfessionalismGiven the extent of military involvement in politics for over thirty of forty years of independence, it is hardlysurprising that the institution was riven by a variety of corporate, ethnic and personal grievances developed overtime in the prolonged years of the military in government. The negative impact on professionalism and theoperational effectiveness of the military had become noticeable in the confusion and lack of direction that attendedthe professional outlook of the Nigeria Armed Forces in the immediate aftermath of the civil war. Unfortunately,the euphoria of federal victory and the immediate pressures of rehabilitation, reconciliation and reconstruction of thepolitical terrain fostered the creeping organisational inertia in which the armed forces had become embroiled. Militaryplanners were less sanguine to believe the war was won by effective organisation of the militaryxxxiv , and honest enoughto admit that peacetime deterrence will be harder to achieve if renewed attention was not paid toprofessional/organisational issues around doctrine, force posture, force levels, combat operational command, resourceallocation and weapon procurementxxxv .In spite of this recognition, Nigerias immediate post war defence organisation did not depart markedly from whatexisted in pre-war circumstances, mainly because of the preference for incremental change was overwhelming. Indeed,a wide gap existed between defence organisation and strategic purpose, in terms of force design, posture, weaponsprocurement procedures, resource allocation and combat operational command. Although a few cosmetic attemptswere made in reorganising the defence organisation, subordinating the service viewpoint became the main problem inthe promotion of the defence view. Service interests, service needs and service power have dominated the Nigerianmilitary structure, frustrating all efforts to establish a rational system of strategic planning, force development, resourceallocation and collective military co-ordination.Not only did the succeeding military regime inherit the weaknesses of the service dependentstructure without much hope for central co-ordination, its successful separation of the office of thedefence minister and that of the Head of State early in its life was one in which the incumbentlacked a clear picture of his role and this threatened regime security. This was a problem thatplagued all successive military regimes. 22
  • Yet, the implications of the military’s transition politics transcend the defective defenceorganisation and management. One aspect that deserves a particular examination is the impactof military coups on corporate professionalism. By their very nature, coups are high-riskventures, which in their success or abortion almost always result in the loss of perpetrators ortheir targets, or both. The persistence of coups and the decimation of the officer corps had anegative impact on the profession and invariably, national security. For example, the 1966coups saw the loss of at least two thirds of the officer corps; the abortive 1976 coups led to theexecution of 116 military men, police officers and civilians; the 1986 abortive coup resulted inthe deaths of some of the countrys best pilots, and this in part led to the near total decimation ofthe air-force under General Babangida, a situation which further resulted in the avoidable deathsof 150 military officers in a defective C-130 Transport plane crash in 1991. The April 1990coup led to the deaths of at least fifty military officers. Altogether no fewer than 400 officershave lost their lives in or as a result of coup detats.In addition to the loss occasioned via executions was the scale and intensity of premature retirements, dismissalsand promotions that resulted from abortive or successful coups. Ordinarily, retirements and promotions in themilitary establishment is ideally a routine thing. Yet despite the surface plausibility of “routine exercise”, “naturalattrition” or “declining productivity”, that accompanied the dismissals and promotions of this period, theoverwhelming consensus was one of an exercise overtly politically motivated. Under the regimes of GeneralsBabangida and Sani Abacha however, the Nigeria Armed Forces became an organisation where anything “waspossible” to paraphrase the anguish of a former Army chief - given the nature of dismissals and promotions thattook place. In the quest for total personalisation of power, there was a desperate need to abandon the collegial andinstitutional agenda and turn the group project to the personal wishes of the individual autocrat, with little regardfor the general wishes of the military constituency and its corporate interests. Consequently, the strategy becamethat of neutralising all real and imagined opposition - and leaving no one in doubt as to who was in control of themilitary establishment, and indeed the country. By the time General Abacha died in June 1998, the militaryinstitution had suffered seriously from this blatant disregard of its structures and no fewer than 300 members of theofficer corps had lost their commission in the course of these haphazard retirements and dismissals.The flip side of the above situation was the excessively rapid promotions that accompanied them which tended tocreate false expectations through rank inflation and this had other implications for the countrys security ascommanders kept changing and not enough time was given for familiarisation in command and staff posts, theoverall consequences of which was acute disorientation and organisational dysfunction among the rank and file. Atanother level, the political careerism resulting from successful coups also engendered resentment, rivalry anddisunity amongst military officers. Thus, organisational dysfunction in the Nigerian military organisation resultedprimarily from this political involvement. Both played a mutually reinforcing role in their impact on 23
  • professionalism. The military cannot govern the civil society directly or effectively without losing its professionalattributes and without ceasing to be an army.Apart from the threat which the political military constituted to its profession, the increasingpersonalisation of power also led to the loss of morale and the ascendancy of policies andprocesses that did not emerge from the military constituency. This breakdown in institutionalcohesion and espirit de corps in the context of the personalised nature of rule over the lastdecade, especially under Generals Babangida and Abacha, saw the rise of alternative powercentres in shadowy security and intelligence outfits which inevitably became the anchor forregime security. Consequently, the rise in influence of the intellectual architects of militarypolitics and the overwhelming influence of military intelligence and associated bodies becamedirectly proportional to the loss of influence by the military as a corporate institution.Unfortunately, the policy of divide et impera which had either seen the sidelining of the bestprofessionals within the military or reduced good people to the status of mere purveyors of theindividual autocrat project served to mask the growing mutinous tendencies within the militaryestablishment. It is to how the alternative power-centre undermined military professionalismand the role that it played in hampering the nation building project that we now turn.Role expansion and the Security/intelligence servicesAlthough the internal crisis within the armed forces can be addressed through a redefinition of its role and missionby the political leadership, a rethink of the force design, posture and structure, weapon acquisition and politicalreorientation, retraining and demobilisation, any serious quest for military reform has to address the alternativepower-centre that has developed around the security/intelligence networks and used by successive rulers toundermine the military institution in order to remain in power.Consistent with the position of every post independence sovereign country in AnglophoneAfrica, Nigeria’s intelligence activities were largely conducted under the auspices of theSpecial Branch of the Nigeria Police Force since independence, except for military relatedintelligence work. Indeed, military intelligence had been blamed for failing to read accurately thestrength and weaknesses of the breakaway republic of Biafra, military intelligence was partlyblamed for the failure of the Nigerian armed forces to complete the civil war operation in forty-eight hours as envisaged by military planners. It was also blamed for not articulating correctlythe role played by Nigerias neighbours in the crisis. Although the post-war regime considered re- 24
  • organising the structure of collection, collation, evaluation, analysis, integration andinterpretation of all collected information, this only resulted in a strengthened internal covertoperation in the Special Branch.xxxvi Besides, since the weakness of the military intelligencebranch was neither articulated nor seen as a threat to regime security, the likelihood of ignoringthe concerns was much greater in the prioritisation of national security needs.The Special Branch, modelled after the metropolitan arrangement in Britain was responsible fordomestic security intelligence but it lost its pre-eminent role in this regard after its failure touncover the 1976 abortive coup detat in which the Head of State, General Mohammed wasassassinated. Hence it took the security of the single individual heading the government for theinstitution to come to the realisation that something had to be done about the intelligence aspectof national security. Even so, as Major-General James Oluleye observed, “one cannot fullyblame the Special Branch of the Nigeria Police for non-detection of the plot...the army or theservices have intelligence organisations that could detect the planning of a coup, but regrettably,the plan (Dimka’s) never leakedxxxvii . Add to this the fact that the Special Branch was dissuadedfrom doing anything about the last coup plot it uncoveredxxxviiiThe newly created organisation after the abortive coup detat that killed General Mohammedcalled - Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO) assumed wider powers in intelligence duties,including responsibility for external intelligence. The decree setting up the NSO incorporated theExternal Affairs Ministrys Research Department as NSOs external wing). While administrativesupervision of the section remained with the ministry, the operational control was with the NSO.This affected relations between the two bodies later. The other complication arose from the factthat a military intelligence officer was drafted to head the new all-encompassing securityorganisation. The officer, Colonel Abdullahi Mohammed, who had served as the General StaffOfficer for intelligence duties at the planning headquarters during the civil war, was at the timeMilitary Governor in the then Benue-Plateau State, Colonel (later Major-General). Mohammedheaded the security agency till the civilian government assumed office in October 1979.Although General Obasanjo was concerned with the role played by military intelligencedirectorate in the July 1975 coup plot which brought their government to office, a concern whichconvinced him of the need to curb military intelligence involvement in national security policymaking,xxxix and this was reflected in the prominence of civilian intelligence officers in theorganisation’s operations. In spite of this balancing act, a participant observer still noted that theorganisation could have easily become a witch-hunting Gestapo unitxl. The discovery of a 25
  • government secret detention camp by the human rights body – Civil Liberties Organisationconfirmed the view that the NSO was not only a product of regime security, but also performedits duties in a manner that perhaps created the impression that it was not driven by nationalsecurity concerns if these are not couched in regime security terms.The succeeding civilian government expanded the powers of the NSO while its Director, AlhajiUmaru Shinkafi also doubled as the President’s Principal Adviser on Intelligence matters. Whilethe nature of the democratic set up made the organisation more accountable, its public image as aGestapo unit for hounding private citizens equally gathered pace. By the time the militaryoverthrew the civilians in December 1983, the tension between the NSO and the foreignministry’s “research department” had reached a high point. Simultaneously, the competition fordominance in the intelligence service between military intelligence and NSO had become intense.The change of leadership at the NSO seemed to have worsened relations between the Head ofMilitary Intelligence, Brigadier Aliyu Mohammed and the NSO Director-General, AmbassadorRafindadi, a career diplomat with a wide ranging background in intelligence. As if to exacerbatethe tension, the Head of the NSO was made a member of the Supreme Military Council - thehighest policy making body alongside the Director of Military Intelligence, who had always beena member.On the other hand, the personal animosities between the NSO Director and the administrationsexternal affairs minister affected the smooth running of the external aspect of the intelligenceservices. According to the Minister, since the Director of NSO was a member of the rulingcouncil and he [the Minister] was not, he appeared to have seen himself as the member of theSupreme Military Council with the supervisory role over the ministry.xli Having contributed tomajor decisions affecting the Ministry prior to the Ministers appointment, including the selectionof new ambassadors and the reduction of Foreign Ministrys staff, the NSO head was widelyrespected by the military leadership as a professional intelligence officer whose experience wasinvaluable. Apparently, that much confidence was not reposed in the Minister, an academicwithout practical experience of government. Equally, the confidence the leadership had inmilitary intelligence at the time was low.xlii To regain its front-line status, military intelligenceresorted to a portrayal of the other services as uncouth and brutal with no regards for humanrights. So successful was this campaign (which was hardly helped by the treatment meted out topoliticians and journalists by the NSO under the Buhari/Idiagbon regime) that the publicperception saw the NSO as an organisation completely out of control. Equally, the Directorate of 26
  • Military Intelligence (DMI) continue to agitate for prominence, albeit unsuccessfully, at leastunder the Buhari/Idiagbon junta. Perhaps this was responsible for its [military intelligence] deepinvolvement in the palace coup that ousted General Buhari in 1985. As the former Head of State,General Buhari later revealed in a rare interview, I realised it was one of the master plans of thefifth columnist to embarrass and discredit my administration...I knew it was the militaryintelligence, not the police, not the NSO.xliiiEven though the Babangida regime made a much publicised attempt to expose the ‘excesses’ ofthe Nigerian Security Organisation under the previous administration and to ‘re-instateprofessional credibility to the intelligence service’, the attempt appeared superficial and directedtoward regime security. The ultimate beneficiary of the move by the new administration was theDirectorate of Military Intelligence, which had lost much ground in the Buhari administration.Not only was its head – Brigadier Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, [threatened with dismissal by theprevious government], re-instated, the NSO was disbanded.xliv But as with previous regimes,General Babangidas determination to re-structure the intelligence service only gathered paceafter the abortive coup of April 1990. As he informed the Command and Staff College graduatestwo months after the abortive coup: "We must in the light of the April [aborted] coup also review and reconceptualise the responsibilities of the security and intelligence services...The leadership must evolve a professional rigour of threat identification which enables it to respond to early warnings against all forces of destabilisation as well as develop the capacity to differentiate categories of threats".xlvThe new regime centralised the intelligence services by creating the post of a Co-ordinator for National Security(CONS) in 1988 to superintend the activities of three earlier created bodies - State Security Services (SSS) responsiblefor internal security; National Intelligence Agency (NIA) - responsible for external intelligence and DefenceIntelligence Agency (DIA)- charged with responsibility for co-ordinating intelligence among the armed services. Yet,units like the Military Intelligence Directorate (DMI) remained in place and still appeared more powerful that the DIAand SSS in matters relating to perceived and real military threats to regime security. Clearly, the in-bred tension did notcurb inter-agency rivalry fully, but the intelligence services became more powerful in the institutional hierarchy ofnational security policy making, particularly in ensuring regime security and the determination of threats internally andexternally.There is however a non-institutional side to the rise of the intelligence services under the Babangida regime. Thecreation of these parallel structures by military leaders assumed far more importance in their distaste forinstitutional arrangements that could mediate excesses of the Head of Government – a factor which made the 27
  • Supreme Military Council very central to previous military rule in Nigeria. However with the ascendancy of thesecurity/intelligence units, the associational and corporatist character of the regimes at inception assumed anauthoritarian regimen for power consolidation as their dependence on the security intelligence network grew.Although this practice had started with the creation of NSO in 1976, it was institutionalised under GeneralBabangida when he set up a plethora of security networks culminating in the creation of the alternative para-military service - National Guard – to undercut the military institution. By this time, the role of private militarycompanies in the activities of the intelligence services and in the overall arrangement of the regime security hadbecome a source of concern within the military as an institution.xlvi Equally, a regime that had come into officetouting respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights had lost all credibility with civil society and agitationhad increased exponentially by 1989. Through its responsibility for discovering and nipping ‘undue radicalism’and ‘civilian versions of military coup d’etats’ in the bud, the role expansion of the security services guaranteed itan autonomy and influence not hitherto accorded security and intelligence services.This growth in influence however took on pernicious proportions under the late General Abacha with the formationof the Libyan and Korean trained Special BodyGuard Services for the personal protection of the dictator as well asthe Strike Force and K Squad – responsible for carrying out state sponsored assassinations of political enemies.That this alternative power bloc around General Abacha completely made a nonsense of the military institution anddestroyed the hierarchy that is so central to the institution, became obvious in the current trials of the junior officersrunning it.xlvii Credible military intelligence sources claim that there are at least 5,000 were trained and the shortperiod of General Abubakar’s regime which concentrated on military hand-over to civilians failed to addressmilitary reform in any significant manner.Interestingly, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Even under the new dispensation, many aresurprised that President Obasanjo has resorted to using some of those responsible for the creation of these shadowysecurity agencies responsible for serious human rights abuses in the past.xlviii While this may help the governmentin achieving a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the intelligence services, it has reinforcedthe personality driven, rather than a structured and institutional approach that will ensure professionalism in anatmosphere of accountability. Ultimately, the key to ensuring that intelligence services act within the rule of law isto ensure an institutional strategy that will ensure proper accountability through an ethical code, legislativeoversight and executive control. Clearly, democratic control over the activities of the armed forces is central tocurbing the excesses and restoring the military into its pride of place and legitimacy among the people and there isno doubt that the intelligence services are still not accountable under the democratic dispensation, although they aremore sensitive to criticisms.Whatever professional difficulties the military had experienced in the past, the shocking revelations about militaryexcesses after just one year of civilians in power supports the growing view that the organisational inertia can onlybe arrested through concerted efforts that centre on redefining the role, mission and ethos of the institution. 28
  • Farewell to Political Armies or Transition to Neo-Militarism?Military disengagement from politics represents an important first step towards democraticcontrol, even if it does not equate with or immediately translate to civilian, democratic control.From the evidence available in Nigeria so far, the formal demilitarisation of politics haswidened the space within which concrete democratic reform is possible and sustainable but ithas also thrown up various centrifugal fissures in the country – which often provide the rightopportunity for previous military interventions. Even with this dispensation, a completeoverhaul of politics from its military roots, especially in a body politic that has become soatomised and, in which the symbols, values, and ethos of the military are replicated in largesections of the civil-society, still appears a long way to come.Yet for the country to attain stable civil-military relations, a critical task in consolidatingNigeria’s fragile democracy and rebuilding stable civil-military relations is reclaiming themilitarised mind, which has been fed by a deep-seated feeling of social exclusion under militaryrule. Given the prevailing political culture - bred by three decades of militarism andauthoritarian control in Nigeria, the current political transition only represents a reconfigurationof the political, economic and military elite, rather than an opening up of the political systemand broadening of participation. Indeed, what we have witnessed is the creation of “shadowmilitary and security hierarchy in a certain sense. One indication of this feature is the influenceof the political military, retired and serving in the affairs of the State. Another is the rise ofmilitant political activity in various parts of the country, believed to have been fuelled by thoseclosely connected with the erstwhile military leadership who seem dissatisfied with thedirection of the State. Broken free of years of repression and control under military rule, manycommunities are adopting military strategy in responding to any form of domination in theirlives.The greatest challenge to addressing the scourge of political militarism therefore is addressingthe psychology of militarism that has become reified in the context of this exclusionary politics.Herein lie the paradox of democratisation and demilitarisation not just in Nigeria, but the rest ofpost-cold war Africa. Dominant theories of civil-military relations contend that all that isrequired to correct the above anomaly is for the authority to use and control military power toreside fully with the elected authorities and completely outside the realm of professional 29
  • soldiers. This Huntingtonian model of civil-military relations assumed a level playing field inwhich “autonomous military professionalism” can be predicated on “objective civilian control”which encourages an “independent military sphere” that does not “interfere in political matters”.In reality, this perspective treats civilian control as an event, a fact of political life, not aprocess, which exists along a continuum.xlixIn our view, civilian control should not be seen as a set of technical and administrativearrangements that automatically flow from every post military transition, but part of complexpolitical processes, which must address the root causes of militarism in society, beyond theformal removal of the military from political power. There is a need to redefine our notion ofthe a-political military – a notion that has been central to the discourse of the dominant civilmilitary relations literature. In Nigeria where the military has become entrenched in all facetsof civic and economic life and where politics has just featured a reconfiguration rather than atransformation of power, simply anchoring the need for an objective civilian control to thenotion of an apolitical military underestimate the seriousness of the issues at stake. Whileformal mechanisms for control are not in themselves wrong, the reality underpinning Nigeria’scrisis of governance underscores the fact that subordination of the armed forces to civil controlcan only be achieved when civil control is seen as part of complex democratic struggle that goesbeyond elections.l These processes are expressions of relationships that are inherently political,subjective, and psychological.liIt is only when the political and psychological issues arising out of military involvement in politics are grasped thatwe can begin to look at objective control mechanisms. In our view therefore, addressing the constitutionaldimensions of democratic control, redefining the role and mission of the military, developing a civilian, democraticdefence policy expertise, ensuring professional autonomy and creating the necessary opportunities for networkingand dialogue between military representatives and civil society workers are the areas that need serious policyattention in Nigeria to enable us turn things around. But they must be presaged by a careful review of thepernicious but often indeterminate dimensions of the cumulative nature of the military crisis.Even so, this resolution cannot just be premised on the isolating the domestic arena from the international. Thisbecomes a central issue given the increasing importance of private, external military companies are playing in theagenda for military reform in Nigeria. Indeed, viewed within the context of globalisation, ownership of theprocesses of change and military reform in a manner that is process led and people driven, is being sacrificed foranother top-down security agenda driven by external players in the promotion of their own interests. The fact thatall of this is taking place with no discussion by the people underlines the need to locate change within aconstitutional framework. 30
  • Constitutional Dimensions of Civil-Military RelationsIf the objective of creating efficient and effective professional armed forces is to be achieved, particular attentionmust be paid to the principle of accountability to the people and their elected representatives. The location of themilitary in terms of its accountability to the executive, the legislature and the wider society must of necessity beclarified in constitutional terms. This is important for a number of reasons. First, accountability, transparency andopenness have become fundamental constitutional tenets and the current administration is leading the way in thisrespect. Second, as a national institution, the military relies on the public for support and sustenance in order tofulfil its constitutional mandate. Third, the idea that military matters are exclusive to the military constituency canno longer be tolerated. Hence, issues relating to the armed forces must be subjected to public discourse and theexecutive branch of government. Hence if the state must resolve the problems of accountability and address thecurrent lacunae arising from the character of the post-colonial state and prolonged military dictatorship, popularparticipation and organisational coherence, not exclusivity, are the crucial things needed to counter military controland widen national security perspectives.Unfortunately, previous constitutions have tended to be nearly silent about the armed forces andits role in Society. The same is true of the 1999 constitution. Although Section 217(2) definesthe purpose of the armed forces, this inadequate conception of the role of the armed forces waslifted from the 1979 constitution with no reflection on the problems that arose from prolongedmilitary rule in the intervening two decades. Although it is arguable that this general conceptiongives the political authority enough flexibility to define what it seeks, this lack of clarity canalso be the problem. This is more so in circumstances where civilians frequently lackknowledge and understanding of military affairs, and the apportioning of civilian and militaryresponsibilities often depend on the military itself, or on a small coterie of elected civilianofficials. This situation can often lead to further lack of accountability. This is the case inNigeria currently. Given the burden of its authoritarian past and the loss of credibility by themilitary, it was thought that elected civilians will be allowed to play a key role in militaryrestructuring and redefinition of roles and missions. Yet, there is a conflict between a section ofthe populace who feel that legislative oversight should be central to democratic control andothers who feel that the President and his Defence Minister, as ex-military men, should haveultimate powers to restructure the military without adequate recourse to other checks andbalances within the system.In fact, the legislature, as far as military matters are concerned, has largely functioned as arubber-stamp. Not only are they often unaware of developments, even the role of the legislaturein terms of determining policy on issues of size and character of the armed forces, overseeing 31
  • the armed forces activities and approving actions taken by the executive branch, have beenshort-changed by an overbearing executive branch.lii Clearly, it is expected that the currentreview of the country’s constitution would provide an opportunity to re-examine theconstitutional dimension of military matters and a clarification of the role of the executive,legislative branch and wider society in ensuring a stable civil-military relations.Quest for a Military MissionIn ensuring civilian supremacy and a democratic pattern of civil-military relations, the civilian leadership in anypost-authoritarian State must define the role of the military in a clear and precise manner. A ‘missionless’ militaryposes a serious threat in relation to its primary role as defender of the nation’s territorial integrity. In the past, thepolitical usurpation of military talents has proved dangerous in areas where the military was needed to functionprofessionally. While the Nigerian military has acquired a reputation in its commitment to and participation ininternational peacekeeping duties for example, involvement in regional security is not a role clearly specified inSection 217 of the 1999 constitution nor in any post independence constitution. This gives the impression that it isnot seen as a primary feature of the country’s defence arrangement and inadequate attention is therefore paid to it.In several instances, the professionalism of Nigerian soldiers on peacekeeping missions has been found wanting.Yet, it is a fact of civil-military relations that in countries where the military has a clearly defined external role andmission, the military increases it’s a-political nature, partly due to the external focus of its mission. Within reasontherefore, it is useful to restrict the military mission to its traditional external combat role as a means ofstrengthening civil-military relations and re-orientating it toward a more professional outlook. If it must getinvolved in any internal security operations, proper criteria would need to be developed for evaluating theinvolvement of armed forces in such non-combat operations.This is an issue that Nigeria has to address now given the urge in government to use the military to suppress civilinsurrection as was witnessed when the new authorities sent soldiers to the Niger-Delta and the President declareda “shoot at sight” order on prime television, even threatening a state of emergency in Lagos. Again, while Section217 (2)c of the 1999 constitution indicates that “suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities torestore order when called upon to do so by the President”, the constitution is very clear that “this is subject to suchconditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly;” Even so, there was no indication that theNational Assembly prescribed any such conditions before the military was dispatched into the Delta. This clearlyremains a slippery slope that must be seriously addressed if Nigeria’s fragile democracy is not to fall prey to anauthoritarian mindset.If militarisation is to become less significant as a means of managing conflict and enhancing the nation-buildingproject, then the military mission has to be redefined by the political leadership with input from the civil society.Within the context of the identified challenges, the entrenchment of the military in all aspects of civic andeconomic life makes their eventual permanent removal an area that will demand considerable skills in a countrylike Nigeria. This will have to be done by assuaging their fears about their future in a post-military dispensation 32
  • and finding an appropriate role and mission for those left behind in the institution, in terms of maintaining theirprofessional autonomy. Before now, the unifying theme in all of the political elite negotiations has been thedetermination to assert civilian (not necessarily democratic) supremacy and oversight and the subordination of themilitary to objective civilian control.While concentration on civil control is understandable, given the kind of Faustian bargains struck to ensure that themilitary suffers no great loss of influence as an institution, suffice it to say that such pacts will only lead todemocratic consolidation when they guarantee the complete subordination of the armed forces to the democraticauthority, not to either individual officers or influential military cabals even when they recognise the need toassuage legitimate fears and concerns within the military. In situations where pacts have been engineered for theconsolidation of personal autocracies in exchange for military privileges, which precludes the military from beingaccountable to democratic institutions, it is reasonable to predict that such democracies either become inoperable orcompletely reversed in no time.Finally, without being prescriptive about this, any attempt to redefine the role and mission of the Nigerian military,given the declining external security threats faced by the country, must consider security in its holistic humansecurity dimension. To achieve legitimacy and democratic accountability, the future of civil-military relations mustbe predicated on a broader perspective of security that is no longer restricted to military and internal policing. Fordemocratic control of the military and security services to happen, security policy must be broadened to seestability as the flip side of development in its political, economic, social and environmental dimensions. In doingthis, particular attention must be paid to the protection of offshore interests and promotion of a professionalpeacekeeping command. Even the military aspect must pay particular attention to peace support operations as theprimary external role of the Nigerian military. By achieving a consensus around these issues both within themilitary and wider civil society, a clear strategy governing conditions for involvement in military missions, extentof commitment, conditions for withdrawal of troops, rotation of soldiers, training and doctrine as well as legislativeoversight can be equally developed in a policy oriented manner, and not as an ad-hoc product. Developing Civilian expertise for legislative oversightThe point has been made earlier about how the lack of any expertise on the part of electedcivilian authorities has prevented effective oversight of the various arms of the armed forces.Any redirection of the defence policy process will inevitably require a different kind ofexpertise, which must be a mixture of civilians and military professionals. To sustain this, thereis a need for a significant thawing process through changes in relationships between the militaryand civilian political elite, and a significant increase in contacts between opinion moulders andthe outside world. The process of agreeing an appropriate role for the military can only besuccessfully achieved in a climate of sustained dialogue. Presently, contact is virtually non-existent, or just on a social basis and in an unstructured manner. In introducing civilianexpertise however, care must be taken not to substitute military incompetence in a political 33
  • setting with civilian inexperience, neither should power be given to technocrats who are notwholly accountable to the electorate through the National Assembly. If civilian control is to bedemocratic, it must empower those who have political platforms to lead the confidence buildingrelationship. This is not to suggest however that professional civilian expertise is unnecessaryin these countries. In fact, a possibility worth exploring is the creation of a Strategic Cell thatmay serve in an advisory capacity between a civilian presidency and the military professionals.At all times, the military should not be left to conduct its affairs without ‘interference’, at leastnot in terms of broad policy formulation, but political elite should leave the military alone indesigning wholly operational matters in areas where the broad policy questions have beensettled. Ensuring Professional autonomy over military mattersThe second major issue for consideration is the separation of broad policy decisions over matters such as size,shape, organisation, force structure, equipment, weapon acquisition and conditions of military service on the onehand, and operational control over these issues, on the other. The professional military loves a civilian head thatunderstands their predicament, values unrestricted access to the President as well as autonomy over their internalorganisation and operations. Any redirection of the defence policy process will inevitably require a different kindof expertise, which must be composed of a mixture of civilians and military professionals. There should beconstant exchange and redistribution of knowledge between the military and civilian political elite and a significantincrease in contact between the military and the larger civil society. The process of agreeing an appropriate role forthe military can only be successful in a climate of sustained dialogue and full consultation with the largerpopulation. At the moment, the level of contact is either non-existent or exists only at an unstructured social level.In introducing civilian input into military matters however, care must be taken not to substitute militaryincompetence with civilian inexperience.Equally, the incoming leadership must respect the professional autonomy of the military in spite of the temptationto want to display superior knowledge of the institution. Respecting the professional autonomy of the militaryshould not mean abdication of responsibility on the part of the political leadership. This is one of the paradoxes ofthe arguments for objective civilian control. While objective civilian control might allow the military toconcentrate on military matters and minimise its involvement in political issues, the logic of it also delimits civiliancontrol over military matters. The experience of Nigeria’s second republic under President Shagari showed thisphenomenon very clearly. Instead of maintaining political leadership, it resorted to complete subjective control bystrengthening the police and para-military forces as an alternative to the military institution even after admittingthat the military was the other political party, outside of the ruling National Party of Nigeria.The immediate challenge therefore is for the civilian, democratic leadership, not just the presidency to have anunderstanding of the sociological underpinnings of the military. Measures that combine emphasis of unequivocalchange with some elements of continuity will be necessary. However, whilst the government must work with the 34
  • military hierarchy, recommendations from them on who gets what job in the military should be handled withdignified scepticism if the danger of military politicisation in the ranks of serving officers is to be avoided. It wouldcertainly bode ill for genuine reform if some of those influencing change under the new administration had anyremote connection to the problems of the past. Even if this were to be tackled, the incoming government will haveto address the pervasive influence of politics among very junior officers too, many of whom had joined the armedforces primarily for the fast route it offers to political control. Resolving the Challenge of Ethno-Nationalism in recruitmentThe resolution of the highly volatile question of recruitment is only possible to the extent that the nationalityquestion is resolved in Nigeria. Although Section 217(3) of the Nigerian constitution refers to “the composition ofthe officer corps and other ranks of the armed forces of the Federation shall reflect the Federal character ofNigeria.” the fact that this clause has been in every Nigerian constitution has not assuaged perception of ethnicfavouritism in military recruitment.Various military regimes in the world have used the strategy of ethnic favouritism as a safety valve for survival inoffice. While this is a political problem that cannot be resolved on a rational basis, central to the issue of militaryrecruitment pattern in terms of military professionalism ought to be three central questions: Should armed forces ina democratic dispensation be an equal opportunities institution? Should it be a combat effective, battle ready forcerecruited from the most able in the most rigorous and competitive manner? Should the manner of recruitmentmatter – if the training is standardised and geared towards bringing out the best in every recruit?liii Although theabove are the rational questions to which answers must be found, they are not necessarily more important that thestructural issues. Yet, political issues are structural.If good personnel are at the core of any effective military organisation, the concern about representation is alegitimate one, especially in ethnically diverse societies where the armed forces are seen as key instruments ofnational integration. If the military is not inclusive and broadly representative of the religious, ethnic andgeographical configurations, the process of confidence building and nation building will be significantly hampered.Getting recruitment wrong from the outset has implications for the level of discipline, attrition rate and theorganisation’s institutional cohesion in the long run, all of which must be situated within the context of theperceptions and misperceptions bred by ethnic, religious and geographic domination. Therefore, attempts atdemilitarisation and stable military relations must ensure a balance between merit and equal opportunity. This canonly be done in a situation where the military is not seen as the fastest route to political power, but as a professionalinstitution serving the interests of all citizens. What becomes of utmost importance within this context is what themilitary mission is, what objective threats every nation faces? What are the necessary force levels, rather thanmanpower levels necessary for the accomplishments of the missions arising from the threats envisaged? Are thepersonnel procured for and retained in the armed forces suitable for the types of missions the military may becalled upon to perform? Are the manpower levels cost-effective, and most importantly, does the institutionalrecruitment process procure individuals that are wholly dedicated to their military duties in a democracy? 35
  • Another way this has been addressed is through compulsory military service and the 1999 constitution made apassing reference to compulsory military service in Section 220 (1) but only in terms “of establishing andmaintaining adequate facilities for carrying into effect any Act of the National Assembly providing for compulsorymilitary training or military service for citizens of Nigeria”. In countries like Tanzania and Senegal, that haveexperienced long years of stable civil-military relations, compulsory military service as an integral part of theirarmed forces demystifies the military and undermine its exceptionalist tendencies. Besides, this can alsocomplement the task of demilitarisation and demobilisation because armies in this mould tend to be political inorientation even when they refrain from partisan politics. A much reduced, but highly mobile deployment forcewithin a streamlined recruitment process can still achieve a credible deterrent doctrine in many countries in WestAfrica whilst addressing the huge concerns about ethnic monopoly with the democratisation of military trainingand discipline. These are crucial issues that must be addressed in trying to deal with the question of demilitarisationin a holistic and democratic manner.Yet if we are to resolve the problem of recruitment, especially at a time of declining national resources, the size ofthe armed forces itself must come up for scrutiny. These are political issues that can only be resolved through aprocess of confidence building and conflict management mechanisms. There is no accurate figure of the size of theNigerian armed forces, but most estimates range between 70,000 and 80,000 men; this makes an accurateheadcount of Nigerian soldiers an immediate necessity. There is also a consensus that given the level of threatsfaced by the nation, Nigeria can make do with a significantly reduced armed forces, although it must be said thattraditional assessment would consider the current size inadequate to the country’s population and its regionalresponsibilities. To buttress the demand for reduction in size, even the much discredited Constitutional Conferencethat produced the 1995 constitution agreed that the size of the military should be cut down to 50,000.The challenge that will necessarily arise out of an objective assessment is the need for demobilisation andrationalisation of the forces currently in place. What to do with the demobilised soldiers in terms of re-training andjob opportunities in their civilian dispensation will necessarily pose a danger to stability of a consolidatingdemocracy, especially within the context of militant non-state actors whose ranks they could easily swell.Ultimately, a “jobs” for “guns” strategy that would ensure that violent crimes, that might further threaten civil-military relations, do not increase exponentially in the course of the demobilisation effort, would be inevitable.The most important point at this stage is to take a principled stand to address the crisis posed by a huge, bloatedarmy that has become unprofessional in terms of objective threats, national security demands and affordability.Conclusion: What Future for Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria?Scholars of democratic transitions in countries emerging from prolonged authoritarian past have often stressed thevirtues of sequencing and argued that any opening for democracy can, at best, be a means to an end, aninstrumental response to a multi-faceted crisis. Yet, this position sometimes assumes that democratic transition isirreversible and would ultimately lead to consolidation, as long as it is incremental in nature. 36
  • Given the several false starts that Nigeria’s democratic journey has witnessed and the controversial nature of theoutcome of the last elections, there is an increasing need to think in a less teleological way about the chances of thecurrent democratic process to produce a settled democracy eventually. While democratic transition may lead todemocratic development, pacted transitions have not necessarily led to consolidated democracies nor stem the tideof democratic reversals. Based on current evidence, the current administration has convinced Nigerians anddetached observers that it is not a cloak for continued military rule. However, we have also witnessed the resort toother means of fomenting crisis in the country, given the fact that a coup has now become unlikely under thecurrent circumstances. Although one can still not rule out democratic reversal in the current fragile state inNigeria, yet even if reversal were the intention of military praetorians, the ascendancy of military constitutionalistsin the current re-organisation coupled with an ‘active’ civil society may well develop a logic of its own which willchallenge the overwhelming likelihood of military manipulation or democratic reversal.From the foregoing analysis, militarism and militarisation will still pose a major problem for the democratisationproject in Nigeria and we are not about to see the demise of political armies, however loosely defined, in a hurry.* Dr Fayemi is the Director of the Centre for Democracy & Development, a public policy research and traininginstitution with offices in London, England and Lagos, Nigeria. The Centre focuses on issues of democraticdevelopment, conflict management and peace building in West Africa.Notesi Sklar, 1992ii Gutteridge, 1969:6)iii (Crowder, 1970:505)iv (Dudley, 1971:171)v Prior to the first military coup in 1966, two thirds of the officers were Ibo in origin.vi On the issue of recruitment, see J.’Kayode Fayemi, “The Politics of Military Recruitment in Nigeria: A criticalappraisal,” Tempo Magazine, August 27, 1997,pp.4-5.vii Interview with New Nigerian, (Kaduna), 18 January 1966.viii Samuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies; (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), p.194.On Nigeria, see the view espoused by Larry Diamond that the character of the armed forces cannot be identified asa significant factor in the failure of democracy. See Larry Diamond, Nigeria: Pluralism, Statism, and the Struggle 37
  • for Democracy in Larry Diamond, et-al [eds.] Politics in Developing Countries: Comparing Experiences withDemocracy,(Boulder, Colo: Lynne Rienner,1990), p.392.ix Amos Perlmutter defines satrapism as aping a superior, usually an external culture. Psychologically, it results fromcolonial and patrimonial rule. See Amos Perlmutter, The Military and Politics in Modern Times; (New Haven: YaleUniversity Press, 1977), p.177.x cited in Omotoso, 1989xi cf. Decalo, 1976; Joseph, 1987xii Defined here as the process whereby the civilian sphere is increasingly militarised in both the psychological andpolitical sense.xiii Luckham 1971:108xiv cf. Luckham 197lxv Elaigwu, 1986:77xvi Mohammed, 1975xvii See Olusegun Obasanjo, Not My Will: An Autobiography of a former Head of State; (Ibadan: University PressLimited, 1990); p.xviii The post-July 1975 military leadership included the radicals of the previous regime who had insisted on the armedforces re-organisation and maintenance of professionalism through the exit of military class from political power.xix Joseph, 1991:75xx At least three of the Gowon’s era ‘Super-Perm-Secs’, Phillip Asiodu, Ibrahim Damcida and Ahmed Joda are nowleading figures in the Peoples Democratic Party. It is interesting to note that General Danjuma and Alhaji AhmedJoda were on the board of the French Trading Company, SCOA and ex-board members of Chagouri and ChagouriConstruction Company. General Danjuma, who is well respected in several circles and might have earned thesebusiness links completely unimpeachably, has resigned several board positions since he assumed office as DefenceMinister. This however cannot vitiate the convoluted nature of these networks and their perceived impact onprobity, transparency and accountability in governance.xxi Adekanye, 1993:30xxii I have written this advisedly, aware of the contention by Professor Bayo Adekanye that Babangida’sdemobilisation programme was the most far reaching. I have come across no evidence to concretely prove that theBabangida demobilisation exercise was more far reaching. See Adekanye, ‘The Military’, in Larry Diamond, et al:Transition without End: Nigerian politics and civil society under Babangida (Colorado: Lynne Rienner, 1997).xxiii See the revised Second National Development Plan for evidence. Also see, Fayemi, Threats, MilitaryExpenditure and National Security: Analysis of Trends in Nigeria’s Defence Planning, 1970-1990 – UnpublishedPhD dissertation, University of London, 1994, especially Chapter Four.xxiv The debate on Nigerias nuclear option typifies the preference for the prestige factor rather than the need basis indefence policy. The prestige component in defence policy is elaborately treated in O.S.Kamanu, Nigeria: Reflectionson Defence Posture for the 1980s, GeneveAfrique, Vol.XIV, No.1, 1977/78, p.35.xxv For details of the periods of international involvement see Ibrahim. Gambari: Theory and Reality in Nigeria’sForeign Policy Making, (New Jersey/London: Humanities Press, 1989)xxvi The fact that they shut Nigerias borders, a means of livelihood in many of the contiguous countries, and succeededin forcing these countries to sign an agreement banning smuggling of Nigerian exports through their territories did not 38
  • endear them to the leaders. Also, the governments refusal to allow American planes to refuel in Nigeria for PresidentReagans Chad involvement irked the Americans. At the same time, its policy of "mutual reciprocity" with Britain,Nigerias erstwhile colonial masters marked a departure from Britains easy ride with Nigerias ruling elite. Ironically,save for the regimes high-handedness, all these policies were praised at home as Nigerians saw in the two leadersprotective messianic tendencies and the ability to stand up to their world powers.xxvii See Address by Dr Pius Okigbo at the submission of the report of the Inquiry into the finances of the CentralBank of Nigeria between September 1988 to June 1994.xxviii For a fuller discussion of this twin strategy, see J. ‘Kayode Fayemi, “Military Hegemony and the TransitionProgram”, Issue: Journal of Opinion – Special on Nigeria, Vol.XXXXII, No.1, 1999, Journal of the AfricanStudies Association, Rutgers University, USA.xxix For an elaboration of this point, see Kayode Fayemi, “ The Truth behind General Abacha’s anti-corruptionCrusade”, Nigeria Now (London) Volume 5, No.5, June 1996, pp.20-24xxx A former military administrator in Oyo State, Colonel Usman made it clear in a public gathering that themilitary was here to stay! According to him, even if the masses managed to remove them from direct politicalcontrol, they would scale the fence and get involved.xxxi See my interview with Colonel Tony Nyiam; in: The News Magazine, May 1994. Colonel Nyiam, a formerStaff Officer to General Babangida was one of the leaders of the 1990 coup d’etat.xxxii Newswatch Magazine, October 2, 1996xxxiii Speaking in Cape Town, South Africa around this period, President Clinton went as far as suggesting that theUnited States had no objection to Abacha’s involvement in politics as long as he made his position clear.xxxiv Oluleye: 1985xxxv Obasanjo: 1980xxxvi Not My Will, op-cit.: p.xxxvii Oluleye, 1985:178xxxviii Yet, even when the Head of Special Branch, Alhaji M.D.Yusuf uncovered the July 1975 coup plot and tried toconfront the plotters he was dissuaded by the Head of State, General Gowon. See Elaigwu, op-cit, p.228xxxix Obasanjo, personal interview. See also Not My Will, op-cit, p.52xl Oluleye, 1985: 68xli Ibrahim Gambari, op-cit.; p.25. The author was the Foreign Minster during the period.xlii For details, see Why I was Toppled, Exclusive interview with General Mohammadu Buhari, The News Magazine[Lagos]; July 5, 1993. Since overthrown in a palace coup in 1985, this was the first interview granted by the formerHead of State detailing how his colleagues used military intelligence to undermine his administration. He referred tothe Head of Military Intelligence in the interview as a fifth columnist.xliii ibid.xliv As now confirmed by one top military aide to General Babangida, "the coup itself was not a nationalistic one. He(General Babangida) was trying to protect his interest by protecting Aliyu Mohammed (Head of DMI) among otherthings". See my interview with Major Debo Bashorun, former Public Relations Officer to General Babangida in: TheNews Magazine (Lagos); 24 January 1994. 39
  • xlv General Ibrahim Babangida, The Military and The Nation: Perspectives in Development. Address to the Commandand Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna, 29 June 1990, p.3.xlvi Ex-Isreali agents were already in charge of training the intelligence outfits and the presidential guard by then.xlvii There is a plethora of primary documents now covering this period. Among many others, see The NewsMagazine, “The Trial of Abacha’s Killer gang – We were paid to kill Kudirat - Excerpts from Sgt.RogersMshelia’s Confession Notes”, October 4, 1999; The Week Magazine, “Gwarzo confesses to Yar’adua’s murder”,October 4, 1999; Tell Magazine, “Bamaiyi’s Plan to Kill IBB – Exclusive interview with General Oladipo Diya”,October 4, 1999; “I would have tried Abacha – Exclusive interview with General Obasanjo” Tell Magazine,November 8, 1999 and “Ishaya Bamaiyi: From Grace to Chains”, The Week Magazine, December 6, 1999. Also, alot of the petitions submitted to the Human Rights Violation Investigations Commission cover the state sponsoredassassinations that took place under General Abacha.xlviii For example, his current Chief of Staff, Major-General Abdulai Mohammed was the first Director-General ofthe National Security Organisation and his National Security Adviser, Major General Aliyu Mohamed Gusau wasformerly Director of Military Intelligence and Co-ordinator for National Security under the Buhari and Babangidaregimesxlix Kohn, 1997l Williams, 1998; Fayemi, 1998li Unfortunately, the external military agency – Military Professionals Resources Incorporated assisting thegovernment with its military reform programme is still steeped in the Western tradition of objective controlmechanismslii In the course of researching this paper, the writer was told that even direct access to serving military members bymembers of the Defence Committee has been blocked. Equally, the executive decision to hire an American privatemilitary company to assist with the restructuring process in the military was neither subjected to parliamentaryscrutiny or approval. This pattern of executive fiat is however not limited to the oversight on armed forces matters.It would appear generally that the executive branch has no confidence in the legislative branch and resorts to extra-constitutional means to attend to some issues.liii Paper prepared for the International Conference on “Political Armies: Military, Politics and Nation Building inComparative Perspectives” Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands, April 13 & 14, 2000 40