Military dictatorship not an option for Nigeria, by Kayode Oladele


There is no denying the fact that due to the efforts of the government to fix and rejig the ailing economy and create a better future for Nigerians,

the country is currently experiencing one of its most difficult periods in history, as citizens face increased economic hardship and rising living costs which is testing the resilience of many Nigerians, who are staging protests to demand for food security and other palliative measures to cushion the effects of the economic downturn.

Not only that, a growing number of Nigerians believe that a military dictatorship is better option for providing a long-term solution to the country’s economic challenges. As a result, I will address this vexed issue by acknowledging Nigeria’s economic difficulties while deconstructing the reasoning for advocating for a military-led administration during times of significant socioeconomic challenges such as today. This article therefore, provides a brief history of Nigeria’s military-led regime, underlining its associated severe decisions and explaining why military regime is not suitable for the current democratic system, despite the challenging situations.

It should be noted that Nigeria has experienced periods of military rule that lasted approximately 33 years since independence. During these periods, Nigeria’s political and economic landscapes saw little to no growth as the country endured civil wars, and most economic reforms were received with uncertainty. From General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi’s unification decree in 1966 to General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s transitional rule in 1999, the military-led government had caused more harm than good in the country’s political and economic spheres.

For clarity, the Aguiyi-Ironsi’s unification decree sparked ethnic violence and a subsequent counter-coup. Civil strife and significant loss of lives and property marked the Gowon era (1966-1975), contributing to Nigeria’s rising poverty. While Lt Col Dimka abruptly ended Murtala Mohammed’s rule, General Obasanjo’s regime was characterized by limitations on political activities and free expression. The foundation of Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) confirmed that there was widespread hunger and food insecurity in Nigeria at the time.

General Buhari’s Decree 4 was regarded as one of the most restrictive decrees, as it incarcerated journalists and outlawed free speech and the press. The annulment of the considered fairest presidential election on June 12, 1993, which was expected to be won by Late MKO Abiola, was a prominent aspect of General Babangida’s administration, whereas General Abacha’s represented the most obnoxious and notorious regime in Nigerian history. His regime was marked by the 1995 detention and killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other human rights campaigners, the prohibition of all political parties, and restrictions on free expression and human rights. Although General Abubakar’s regime was credited with transitioning to civilian rule, the military regime in Nigeria was still known for severe mismanagement of public resources, corruption, suppression of free speech, and other activities that undermined the interests of democratic government.

Furthermore, the military governments in Nigeria had a negative impact on the economy. Apart from the fair improvement witnessed during the Muritala/Obasanjo era, which focused on boosting local agriculture, the policies of other military governments have had terrible consequences for Nigeria’s economy and set the stage for what we are currently experiencing today whereas, it should have been the time to maximize the Nigerian economy to compete with the global economy following the oil boom.

In a nutshell, the Babangida dictatorship squandered and wasted oil wealth, privatized most public agencies after implementing the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in 1986, and Nigeria went from being a food exporter to a net importer due to agricultural neglect. The civil war under General Gowon halted economic development and worsened poverty among Nigerians, while the military-led government was heavily involved in corruption and mishandling of resources, further harming the economy.

Given all of the foregoing, it is evident that military dictatorship is not a choice for Nigeria in the face of socio-economic issues; rather, it is a step toward more uncomfortable political and economic challenges that will appear intractable to resolve. Human rights violations, a lack of democratic freedoms such as free speech and the press, a lack of rule of law, increased corruption and resource mismanagement, instabilities, conflicts, international sanctions, and underdevelopment are among the serious consequences that will emerge. What will also be significantly disrupted is the usage of social media handles to criticize the military government. Social media platforms can be interpreted as representing the views of ordinary Nigerians, and they have historically served as a means of exposing the government, criticizing its acts, and questioning power. Under a military leadership, these forums will be filtered and monitored to reflect what the junta wants, and violators and activists would be detained and arrested.

The military government will also cause economic instability and discourage foreign direct investment leading to further underdevelopment of the country. Business executives and entrepreneurs will find it difficult to invest in the country owing to unexpected and rapid political and social instability, government exploitation, and an eventual civil war that will interrupt economic activity. With a focus on military spending and weapons, educational growth would suffer owing to a lack of finances for new research, infrastructural amenities will dwindle, and concerns about the health sector will be ignored. Judiciary will also lose its independence and the rule of law will be negatively impacted with dire consequences for the people.

In conclusion, the long-term impact of Nigeria’s military dictatorship in the face of socio-economic issues would be far worse than we can handle. An imperfect state of democratic governance appears workable if all hands are on deck, regardless of political party, to effect changes that will move the country forward, rather than reverting to a military dictatorship that promotes human rights abuses, dictatorship and lack of transparency in government.