Those who gave permission for the deployment of 300 heavily armed soldiers who cordoned off the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport last month when President Umaru Yar’adua got back to the country without knowledge of the Acting President, including the Commander, Brigade of Guards, Brigadier General Abdul Mustapha and the roles of the service chiefs under whose command troops deployment can take place owe Nigerians a sobered apology.
Nigerians are in dire need of economic power than that of the military now. Throughout history, military power has been paramount and economic power a luxury. This has slowly changed to the point that the two roles have been reversed. Japan, China and even the United States have relied on economic prosperity to finance formidable military forces. Conversely the Soviet Union, Iraq and North Korea have relied on their military to build economic power with little or limited success.
Economic power can be defined broadly as the capacity to influence other states through economic means. It is composed of a country’s industrial base, natural resources, capital, technology, geographic position, health system and education system. Military power on the other hand is the capacity to use force or the threat of force to influence other states. Components of military power include number of divisions, armaments, organization, training, equipment, readiness, deployment and morale.
Military equipment, a key factor in military power can be purchased from a range of countries. Russia, Israel and China are willing to sell their hardware to almost any state in the world. The United States, Japan and the European countries are more selective in the countries they will sell to, but are still big arm’s exporters. All a state needs to purchase arms in the international marketplace is hard currency. This allows states with economic power to easily obtain military equipment. While the other aspects of military power like training and morale are harder to obtain through conversion of economic resources, it is not impossible. A well financed force is able to send members overseas for training and pay its members well. A highly paid soldier is likely to exhibit a high standard of professionalism and have high morale. If a state has the economic resources it should be able to increase its military power.
At the close of World War Two both the United States and the Soviet Union found themselves in parallel positions of military and economic power. Both arrived at this position largely through converting their economic resources into military resources during the war. The two superpower’s actions in the next fifty years make an interesting comparison.
The U.S.’s continued military dominance survived in tact until the mid 1970s. During this decade it faced a major military defeat but more importantly its economy stagnated. With a stagnating economy the U.S. could not increase the amount it spent on its military forces without serious domestic political difficulties. Only when the economy picked up during the 1980s could the U.S. resume increasing its military power.
Under the Regan administration 1981-1989 the U.S. increased its military expenditure significantly and commenced the key Strategic Defence Initiative. This project threatened to radically alter the balance of power between the U.S. and the Soviet Union by rendering Soviet intercontinental nuclear missiles ineffective by means of a nationwide anti missile system. One of the aims of the S.D.I. project described in a defence guidance document was “to open up new areas of military competition and obsolescence previous Soviet investment or employ sophisticated strategic deception options to achieve this end.” The S.D.I project was one aspect of the American spend Moscow into the ground strategy. Under this strategy the U.S. not only used economic power for conversion purposes but also as a military weapon in itself. A weapon that proved extremely effective.
The Soviet Union employed a more unbalanced strategy towards the growth of its military power. Soviet military industries directly employed 10 million people including the most highly trained scientists and the best educated workers. The military segment of the economy accounted for 25% of the Soviet Union’s gross national product and half of all manufacturing in the Russian republic was devoted to the military. This mindset relegated the expansion of economic power to a second order priority. While this strategy worked well for close to thirty years in the long run it was a failure. By the 1980s the Soviet economy had deteriorated to such an extent that it could no longer support the Soviet military machine let alone help increase the country’s military power.
Military crackdowns did however allow the Soviet Union to maintain and prolong its economic power. In Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1956 and 1968 respectively, Soviet troops kept Eastern Europe under Soviet control and hence in the Soviet economic block for an additional twenty years. Eastern Europe rebelled again in the late 1980s. By this stage Soviet economic power had declined to a point that its political masters and citizens no longer had the political will to use Soviet military power to suppress the rebellion. As the Soviet Union collapsed Russia was faced with the task of converting its military industries to civilian production. Mikhail Malei, President Yeltsin’s then chief adviser on conversion estimated in 1992 the task would take 15 years and cost 150 billion dollars. One method Russia has chosen to fund this conversion is international arm’s sales. However this option comes with its own problems not least that many of Russia’s traditional customers like Iraq can not pay in hard currency. The true benefit of conversion may only come when a large proportion of Russia’s 1500 arm’s factories go bankrupt. This would release the industry’s highly skilled personnel to find employment in other sectors. The physical conversion of military power to economic power is horrendously expensive and difficult to achieve.
Iraq is a country that was able to transfer much of its economic wealth earned largely from oil revenues into building its military power. However Iraq’s attempt to use this military power to further increase its economic power was a complete disaster. Its invasion and incorporation of Kuwait were swiftly condemned by the nations of the world who defeated Iraq and threw its forces out of Kuwait. Apart from the obvious material loss and infrastructure damage severe economic sanctions were placed on Iraq. These sanctions continue to this day and include oil, Iraq’s main foreign currency earner. The result has been a near collapse in the Iraqi economy. Iraq’s blatant use of its military power in an attempt to gain additional economic power backfired dramatically placing its economy in ruins.
North Korea is another state that has pursued military power at the expense of economic power. In North Korea’s case it has almost completely failed to convert its military power into economic power. According to Lee Ki-Tak, an expert on North Korean affairs the North’s development of heavy industry for military purposes has ensured the agriculture and consumer products industries are virtually non existent. This lopsided development has forced thousands in the country to die of starvation. The northern government has also had to approach its previously sworn enemies, South Korea and the U.S. for humanitarian aid. North Korea’s military build up and subsequent military power has been of no use in curing the countries economic woes.
Japan has taken the opposite path since World War Two. Using its growing economic power to build the second most advanced military force in the world. Throughout this period Japan has been able to keep its defence expenditure around or below one percent of gross national product. In comparison the U.S. spends upwards of six percent of its G.N.P. on defence and most European countries around three to four percent. Re
markably during this period Japan has also been able to increase total defence expenditure by an average of six percent per year. Hence Japan’s increasing economic power has allowed it to rapidly increase its military power without causing cut backs in other areas. Japan is now in the enviable position of spending a larger amount on defence than every other state bar the U.S. with a relatively smaller drain on its economy.
For years China has maintained the world’s largest standing army but has had relatively little military power. For as the size of its military has been large the quality and technology of its equipment has been low. In the last two decades as the expansion of the Chinese economy has grown pace the government has begun to modernize its military forces. Modern fighter aircraft, submarines, air-to-air missiles, ground attack missiles and supersonic anti-ship missiles are being added to the Chinese military arsenal. These advanced weapons are costly and China purchasing them would have been unthinkable before its economic resurgence. China is using its growing economic power to increase its military power.
While it is possible to convert military power back into economic power peacefully, the cost is largely prohibitive. Forceful use of military power to build economic power is extremely risky and can have counter productive side effects in the form of economic sanctions. Military power is also extremely difficult to sustain without corresponding levels of economic power. For it is economic power that allows military power to be built up in the first place.
Power, they say; is the capacity to restructure actual situations, but in today’s’ situation the threat posed by cabals who oppose Jonathan’s emergence on acting capacity is undermining Nigerian’s aggregate strength (size, population, and economic capabilities), its geographical proximity, its offensive capabilities, and its offensive intentions. People in “nigeria4betterrule”forum argue that the more these cabals view a rising nation as possessing these qualities, the more likely they are to view it as a threat and balance against our people.
How should the military power be used to sustain democracy in Nigeria? What should be the optimal uses of military power in a free society? What should be the nature of civil-military relations in a country like Nigeria? These are some of the questions that are analyzed very briefly in this write-up. For instance the continental policy of England [after 1525] was fixed. It was to be pacific, mediating, favourable to a balance which should prevent any power from having hegemony on the continent or controlling the Channel coasts. The naval security of England and the balance of power in Europe were the two great political principles which appeared in the reign of Henry VIII and which, pursued unwaveringly, were to create the greatness of England.
In the developed capitalist countries, especially in Western Europe, Britain, North America, Australia, New Zealand, supremacy of the civilian authorities has been the order of the day. Civilian rule also remained predominant in the centrally planned societies of the communist World. Both the capitalist and socialist countries have had two important societal characteristics in common. One is the presence of a broad-based consensus among the politically relevant sections of population on the nature of political power, nature of incumbents and so on. Where this consensus is developed, there develops a corresponding belief that exercise of military power by the civil government is only legitimate and thus acceptable. In the developed western countries this consensus has been brought about mainly by fabricating a strong mutuality of interests of the various social forces, generated over a longer period of times, though in the communist countries this was achieved within a shorter period, quite often with a tincture of coercion.
The other characteristic is the depth and width of organizational cohesiveness that bind the social groups in such associations as trade unions, political parties, churches and other professional groups. The politics of a society has been, in these cases, the struggle for the definition and exercise of power in that society. Political power has thus become more and more broad-based, spread out almost equitably to all sectors of society through a network of organizations. The broad-based societal consensus accords legitimacy to the civilian authorities and organizational alacrity strengthens political institutions. The armed forces, under the circumstances, become used to their prescribed role and thus become professionalized in the art of defending the country and not lording over it.
In the developing world the situation is different, however. The military elite have been playing crucial political roles in most of these states. In fact, more than two-thirds of these states have experienced military intervention already and many more are likely to do so in the future. The military elite do it either directly by displacing civil authorities or indirectly through them.
How, then, can we stabilize the democratic use of military power by ensuring civilian control over the armed forces in Nigeria? This issue has been discussed and debated by a large number of social scientists from different angles of vision. They have put forward a host of suggestions in this regard and that ranges from outright abolition of the armed forces to military professionalisation. Some scholars have suggested that a democratic state for its civilian supremacy may eliminate the coercive capabilities of military or reduce them to virtual insignificance. In rare cases, however, the armed forces have actually been abolished. Today we find only a few instances where the armed forces do not exist. These are, in fact, exceptional cases, created out of intricate historical situations, and not applicable to most states. Even in Japan, which does not maintain land, sea and air forces, through its 1947 constitution, forced on it by the United States, the existence of ‘police reserve’ and ‘national defence force’ has compromised the situation. The national defence force is as good as its national army. Costa Rica, a small state in Latin America, disgusted with repeated military coups, thwarting democratic growths in the country, abolished its armed forces in 1948-49.
Some scholars have suggested that democratic use of the military power may be ensured if the armed forces are formed with citizen soldiers. The Swiss Federation has done it by making military service a constitutionally imposed obligation in 1848 and 1874. With the exception of the top officers who are full-time professionals, the Swiss military is still composed of citizens on temporary duty. In most other European countries since the World War the land forces comprise troops raised by conscription for brief terms of service civilians-in-uniform. In the east, Singapore has also adopted this process.
These two methods, elimination of armed forces or diffusion of military power among the citizens, do not seem to answer the needs of most of the states in the developing world. In some cases, it is the military which symbolise national independence and sovereignty of the state, and in the formative phase of nation building this is highly significant. In some cases, the military strength embodies the penultimate phase of foreign policy of states striving for economic emancipation and national integration in these days of intense competition. In many other cases, the armed forces serve as the brokers of peace in different parts of the globe within the framework of the United Nations, the national army being the potent instrument. In all these cases, the national army stands out as representative of the state. How can we then think of abolishing the armed forces?
The concept of citizen army may be appealing to many, but reality is different. Even the citizen army needs a strong national army as its nucl
eus. Moreover, it is not likely to meet the demands of continuous rigorous training of the forces and its capability to handle the most modern and sophisticated weapons, which characterize the dynamic and innovative armed services these days. There are many other ways of getting citizens involved in the defence services other than this one.
Naturally the last option is military professionalism which tends to create and sustain trust on the regime to which the military owes loyalty and obedience and which it is obligated to defend. The military, especially its officer corps, must be indoctrinated in such a fashion that they would accept their loyalty to the regime as an article of faith. They must believe that military rule is an aberration and never an alternative to democratic order. They must also believe that firepower is not a substitute for the mandate of the people. These, in fact, constitute the core of military professionalism. A professional army is expert in man-management, capable of handling organizational affairs, technically-oriented and subordinate to political authority. Modern professionalism is also corporative in the sense that it generates group consciousness, encourages formation of corporate professional associations and maintains clear line of demarcation between military and civilian affairs. The military should be professionalized to the art of defending their country and reaching out to the people in times of natural calamity and other crises, if necessary.
Military professionalism in a society is enhanced if and when the civilian rulers are steeped in democratic ethos. They should also be professionalized to the art of good governance and must be adept in forging the political system on the basis of consent and consensus. We must add that for the democratic use of military power in a state two conditions are absolutely necessary: (a) if the military exist, as they surely will, then they must be subject to civilian control; and (b) the civilians who control the military must themselves be subject to the democratic process. If the two are synthesized, there is no room for alarm, but it is indeed a very, very difficult process. The success in the area demands contributory conditions both from within and without. There must be full-flowering of democratic culture in the polity and a respectful recognition of democratic order at the global level. These are the two regulations for success of a democratic polity on Nigeria ground.