When the khaki boys struck on the 15th of January, 1966, expectations within the populace, who had grown tired of the political class, were initially sky-high. The jackboots were hailed as national heroes who had come to the rescue of the people. But alas, the poor execution of the coup, especially the sectional tilt of the killings, resulted in a bloodier counter coup on the 29th of July, 1966, the aftermath of which culminated in a devastating Civil War between federal loyalist forces and secessionist Biafra forces, which lasted from 1967-1970, living in its wake a gory tale of death and destruction, and subsequently deepening the visceral animosities amongst the country’s political class and indigent groups.
Since its unsolicited intrusion into the country’s politics in 1966, the military has refused to vacate the political space, forget the pseudo dramas of October 1, 1979 and May 29, 1999. In fact, the military has metamorphosed into an itinerant army of occupation; a guardian without guards; a band of ungentlemanly officers who, despite making promises to vacate the political space, at the various junctures of their intrusions into the country’s politics, consistently reneged on their promises; an obstinate tic that has refused all attempts to squash it. The dramas we watched in 1979 and 1999 were simply changes of guards; transfers of power from serving military officers, who retired afterwards to join the political bandwagon, to their already retired civilian acolytes and associates; swapping of roles between comrades. The military simply installed caretakers to guarantee its continued influence on the governance of the state.
Commencing from 1966 to the current dispensation, Nigeria has had the misfortune of having subsisted under two long spanning military interregnums (1966 to 1979, 1983 to 1999, a total of 30 out of her 58 years of independence), and 28 years of civil rule (1960 to 1966, 1979 to 1983, and 1999 to date), a large part of which has been dominated by politicians with military backgrounds and inclinations – Military Brought Ups, MBUs, or Militicians, in Nigerian political parlance. From Obasanjo to Shagari, Abubakar to Obasanjo, Obasanjo to Jonathan, Jonathan to Buhari, it has been a merry-go-round of political tomfoolery; a revolving game of political abracadabra; a chess game of grand misdirection orchestrated by some of the most cunning con artists the world has ever seen – the Houdinis of Nigerian politics.
Now, who are MBUs? MBU’s are politicians with military orientations; civilians imbued with the psyches of soldiers. Factually speaking, it is difficult to draw a line between Nigeria’s political and military classes – two publics that, ideally, should be distinct, but which have seamlessly merged into one gigantic ruling class. This dominant class consists of retired military Generals and their civilian cohorts who control the country’s politics. They constitute the legendary Nigerian Political Establishment, the self-proclaimed “custodians” of the realm. They regulate virtually all aspects of national life. They own, control and determine the modes of production (what is produced, who produces, how to produce, how to distribute what is produced and those that should benefit from what is produced), define and determine the processes of political succession, and decide what is good or right for the state and its citizens.
MBUs have their hands in virtually every pie. For instance, the oil sector, the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, constituting large percentages of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), National Budget, Foreign Exchange Earnings and National Wealth, is dominated by retired Generals and their fronts (most of who are well known) who hold multiple directorships in the giant multinationals, with a sprinkling owning multiple oil blocs, most of which were acquired with monies pilfered from state coffers while in government. The telecommunications, banking, insurance, shipping, and other critical sectors of the national economy belong to this category.
Further evidence of the negative effects of the reign of MBUs is in the area of governance where centralization and the use of force in driving government policies have become the sad order at all levels – federal, state and local. The over concentration of powers in the hands of political chief executives, formulation of policies – domestic and foreign – without consultations, the cancer of official impunity by government officials, lack of accountability and transparency in the conduct of government business, disobedience of court orders, gross maladministration, adversarial conflict handling styles, flagrant abuse of power, to mention just a few, are further pointers to the militaristic tendencies of MBUs – they think, talk and act like their uniformed benefactors. They are neither civil nor democratic in their conduct. Worse still, the major political parties in the country have traditionally been funded and controlled by these civil-military elements.
No wonder there is a general systems failure in Nigeria, for when individuals with military orientations and inclinations run a system, they usually run it aground. The various policy summersaults, continued disconnect between the rulers and the ruled, cyclical economic downturns, cluelessness in the face of challenges and several other symptoms of underdevelopment, which have become the traditional hallmarks of governance in Nigeria, are traceable to the military backgrounds and affinities of the leaders the country has produced since the military’s entrance into its politics.
MBUs are already gearing up for another onslaught on our democracy in 2019, as demonstrated by the fallouts of the recent party primaries, especially that of the Presidency in which the “selected” candidates of the two major political parties (apologies to the rest), the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Party (APC), are individuals with deep affinities with the military. Incumbent President, Muhamadu Buhari, who was returned “unopposed” at the APC primaries, was a junta head from 1983 to 1985, before transforming into a civilian president in 2015, while Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the “anointed” presidential flagbearer of the PDP, was a former Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Services, who served as Vice President to another retired junta head and, later, civilian president, Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007. From Aso Rock to the Senate and House of Representatives, the State Houses to the Houses of Assembly, MBUs bestride Nigerian politics like colossuses.
Bearing in mind the predictable nature of party politics and electioneering processes in Nigeria, one cannot be faulted for concluding so soon ( or “prematurely”, as some would term it) that, at the conclusion of polling, either Buhari or Atiku will emerge as the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come 2019. Mark my words! The midgets (permit my sarcasm) that have emerged as the standard-bearers of the other political parties seem not to have the muscles to upturn the apple cart. MBUs have the financial savvy, political clout and unity of purpose to achieve whatever they set out to achieve, formidable tools that makes them the standards to beat, unlike some of the pretenders that emerged from the primaries of other contending political parties who are just there to add up the figures. When you add the lackadaisical attitude of most of us who are more preoccupied with struggling to eke out our miserable livelihoods, rather than take interest in matters of politics, it becomes very clear why MBUs have dominated the political terrain for so long. This has been the tradition for as long as one can remember.
MBUs will remain our country’s Albatrosses, until we say “enough is enough”. These power mongers will continue to constitute stumbling blocks to our growth as a nation, until we rise up to shew them out of the mansions of power. There is no way we can join the comity of great nations, if we continue tolerating the rank inanities of these narcissistic charlatans who do not give a hoot about our welfare; contemporary Visigoths who are encapsulated in self-love and vainglorious pursuits; self-aggrandizing mercenaries in mufti who constantly sell us to the devil for pots of porridge.
We need a new political class in this country; a productive, result-oriented and transformative type of leadership that is committed to providing the greatest happiness for the greatest possible number; a leadership that is ingrained in the utilitarian approach to governance; a leadership that would strive to provide the basic necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter, security et al) for the majority; a patriotic kind of leadership that is committed to liberating Nigerians from several years of asphyxiating underdevelopment. We must say “NO” to Militicians.
As the 2019 polls beckon, we have another window of opportunity to collectively change the course of our national destiny. Elections have always presented us with escape routes from the debilitating challenges – of inept leadership, grinding poverty in the midst of plenty, infrastructural decay, debilitating corruption, cyclical unemployment, insecurity of lives and property and sundry other avoidable deficits of democracy – that are traceable to the several years of inept leadership festooned on the country by successive regimes of MBUs since 1966.
Accepted that our electoral processes have not been open, free and fair, due to the mischievous inclinations of over ambitious power seeking politicians, we are as culpable as the political class we keep blaming for the inconsistencies and malpractices that have turned elections into the comic shows they have become in these parts. When you help a politician to rig himself into office, and get paid for your indiscretions, how can you expect anything from him once he consolidates on his position? Has he not paid his dues to you already? Have you any moral grounds to expect anything from him in return once he is in office? No wonder the culture of impunity has continued to fester in this country. No wonder those who ultimately succeed to political offices become impassive to the demands of the people to deliver the much-vaunted dividends of democracy. Why not? Have they not paid the pipers? Why shouldn’t they dictate the tune?
Sovereign authority belongs to the people in any democratic society; that is, real power belongs to the popular sovereigns – and not the political sovereigns who owe their privileged stations to the collective will of the people. It is the citizens of a state who, through their collective actions, decide the direction they want the ship of state to sail. The citizens decide those that should govern them, how these chosen ones should act while in office, and when there is need to change the operators of the machinery of the state, especially when they begin to act contrary to their oaths and terms of office. Indeed, the collective power of the people is truly omnipotent, if well utilized.
We must get up, stand up and act! We must not give up the fight! God save Nigeria, my dear fatherland!