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Coup d’état: An Alternative to Democracy?

Feb 02, 2010

By Clifford Ogbeide

The recent calling by some segments of the Nigerian society for military interregnum as a result
of the epileptic leadership and vacuum in the management of state affairs in Nigeria due to the
continuous absence of President Musa Yar’Adua, was not only uncalled for, worrisome,
barbaric, ill-conceived and unpatriotic. Despite the apparent imperfections of the nation’s
democracy there is still no alternative to democratic governance. The fact that military top brass
has even admitted that it is aware of “rising tensions” in the services would not be a yardstick for
intervention rather a proactive mechanism should be put in place to check these “rising nerves”.

The recent warning from the military top brass to its members of the Armed Forces to steer
clear of the political arena is a welcomed development in the right direction in our political
history as a nation. Since their constitutional primary responsibility is to defend the territorial
integrity of the country. There is no gain saying that military regime is an aberration and no
longer fashionable in anywhere in the world.

We are able to discuss freely the comatose state-of-the- nation through intellectual discourse,
non violence protest by the civil society’s organisation without fear of arrest and intimidation is
the beauty of democracy which can never be contemplated in a military regime. Draconian
Decrees Number 2, 46 and 47 are reminders of the dark days of illegal detention. The hallmark
of a military regime is the suppression of free speech, violation of press freedom and human
rights abuse. Military as a regime of force is a non accountable system of government which as
the Nigeria experience has shown, perpetrates arbitrary arrest, repression, authoritarianism in
governance. As constitutionalism, the rule of law, respect for human rights and other principles
essentials for democratic rule give way to arbitrary, authoritarian and repressive rule under
military, civil society is virtually held hostage.

When the military came to power as in case of Nigeria, the society became militarized through
the establishment of military task forces, military governors or administrators, military tribunal,
supreme military council, armed forces ruling council, not as representative organs of
government but mere super structures for the conduct of government business with little or no
regard to the ideas of popular will and public opinion.

With the overthrown of a legitimate government by military, there exists a low political culture,
absence of institutionalized political norms with respect to process of political participation. In a
situation of low political culture, governmental legitimacy is likely to be at low ebb while law
and order are most likely to be threatened.
During military regime, the judiciary usually suffers reduced capacity, independence and
credibility needed to serve as the last hope of the common man. The most common forms of
assault on rule of law by military regime in Nigeria are the ouster of the jurisdiction of court.
By this, the military precludes the judiciary from inquiry into the validity or legality of any
legislation be it decree or edicts, any action or decision of the government.

Corruption as a monster in Nigeria today was the handy work of the military through the
institutionalization of corrupt practices by plundering of state resources for their personal
aggrandizement at the detriment of the generality and mismanagement of national economy
which left the economy in ruins till date. For us as a nation to have successfully managed the
first ever civilian-to-civilian transition only three years ago, in spite of 49 years of political
independence, the invitation for military interregnum is not just only inappropriate, but sign-
post- to -disaster and should be nip in the bud and condemned in the strongest term.

It’s my humble submission that the military establishment should in imbibe the political
culture within the political system and not allow herself to be drag into murky waters of politics
by some self serving politicians who would want to undermine their constitutional
responsibility of protecting the territorial integrity of the nation for their selfish political
interest. The military must subject its self to civil authority at all time and must protect the
interest of the nation.

Clifford Ogbeide
Centre For Strategic & Development Studies,
Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma, Nigeria