Reasons For Military Intervention In Nigerian Politics

Reasons For Military Intervention In Nigerian Politics

The Nigerian military has registered their unequivocal and unquestionable presence in the political atmosphere of the Nigerian state. Since the time of independence in 1960, the military have held on to power for a record of 29 years. { Reasons For Military Intervention In Nigerian Politics }.

1966 was the first military intervention in Nigerian politics and the grip on power lasted till 1979. In 1983, the military again truncated the Nigerian civilian rule and ruled again till 1999. All of these totaled 29 years of military rule in Nigeria.

Reasons For Military Intervention In Nigerian Politics

The Nigerian people have always criticized the military for their unruly and unannounced presence in the Nigerian politics. However, there is no military intervention except that they would cite reasons for such break in democratic rule.

For this reason, we have researched and investigated the many reasons for military intervention in politics and presented it here for information sake.


Reasons For Military Intervention In Nigerian Politics

There are many reasons for military intervention in democratic rule. Some of them are genuine while some other are otherwise.


Firstly, the inordinate ambition of the military to hold sway of power was the major factor for military reign in Nigeria’s political atmosphere. This is an irrefutable fact.


In 1966 for instance, the first coup d’etat of January was masterminded by major Kaduna Nzeogwu. Nzeogwu and his cohorts were revolutionary minded officers who had the intention to attain the leadership position of the country and redirect its course of movement.

Major Adewale Ademoyega, one of the trio that orchestrated the coup, noted in one of his book, why we struck, that he along Major Ifeajuna, one of the trio that carried out the coup, were enlisted into the Nigerian army in 1961 for revolutionary sake. They had a revolutionary mind set and believed the military is the only viable option to attain and achieve that.

Their military intervention on that morning of January 15 1966 was, therefore, one borne mainly out of their revolutionary ideologies, not necessarily out of the wobbly situation of the Nigerian state then.


The military also saw the political instability of Nigeria as a reason to intervene at the various time they did. Truly, the polity of the Nigerian state was heated up at the various time coups took place. For instance, prior to the January 1966 coup, the people of the western region were in mess. The people experienced several crisis and moved from one to another. There were killings, arson, looting, intimidation of political opponents and so on.

The Action Group’s crisis was the genesis of the crisis in the western region. There was a leadership tussle between Chief Akintola, then the premier of the western region, and Awolowo, the first premier of the western region and the main opposition leader at the federal house of assembly, respectively. These duo were the main leaders of the party. However, due to political differences, both leaders were at loggerhead with one another and this lead to the party’s crisis and region’s at large.

Awolowo and his foot soldiers believed Akintola, his deputy, betrayed the party and must step down as the premier of the western region while Awolowo was the opposition leader at the house of assembly.

Akintola refused this request and the scuffle that resulted thereafter lead to the various riots that occurred. There was pandemonium, hullabaloo etc here and there.

Akintola was sacked as the premier of western region but he refused to abdicate the post. There was crisis as a result. Akintola’s action was therefore, tantamount to disrespecting the laws of the land.

The crisis was not limited to the western region alone. In the north likewise, there was clamp down on the Tiv protesters seeking for a region to be carved out for the people of the region. The Sarduana government rather than heeding to this, responded by suppressing the people with force. There was serious crisis in the north as well.

Therefore, the political situation of the country, at that tender age, was then like a pendulum dangling in the air. There were crisis, riots, arson, looting, killings and so on. The politicians also were first class law defaulters. They never respected the law the least.

The men of the arm forces could not bear this further and they never wanted the messy situation to persist, hence the sharp and aggressive intervention.


Not that alone, electoral malpractices was one of the factors that largely engulfed the Nigerian state then. It is well known what electoral malpractices usually lead to. No political party can tolerate that.

In 1964, the election result was adjudged as lacking credibility and reliability, just like that of 1983. In the eastern region, the election was totally boycotted due to the crisis that lead to the build up to the election. In the western region as well, the election was partly boycotted. However, in the northern region, the election went on and the NNA mainly dominated by northerners sweeped the large majority of the federal positions.

People in the other two regions where election were boycotted called for a fresh election. There was nothing of such. Nnamdi Azikwe, the then president, had the chance to become a natural umpire to adjudicate in the case. He too failed. Hence, the magnitude of the crisis that later culminated were enormous that the barrack men could not withstand it.

Truly speaking, the wobbly state the Nigerian men in regalia had left the country, at the various time of military truncation of the political atmosphere, calls for independent observers to check their excesses.

There was the falsification of census figure for political gains, electoral malpractice, disrespect for the law of the land, economic mismanagement and corruption, nepotism, killings of political opponents and intimidation, abuse of power, treasury looting, economic sabotage and wastage and so on.

At this instance, there was need for an external, independent and neutral observers and umpires to wade in and check the excesses of the politicians. The barrack men thought, at this instance, to fill this role, hence, their intervention.

To a very large extent, the military intervention was timely and called for, and thus genuine on the ground of allegations levied against the civilian at the corridor of power. But it is widely believed that the worst civilian rule is worst than the best military rule. This assertion is wrong to a very large extent, in my own opinion.


On the other hand, it must be noted as well that the military also had the inordinate ambition to rule the country. This is obvious from the account given by one of the coup plotters of January 1966, and also from their refusal to hand over power to civilian after years of governing the country, and their annulment of election result that signaled a transition to civilian rule, like the case of General Babangida.

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