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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo explains why Nigeria has not experienced military coup since 1999

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the launching of a book title “Making Africa Work” gave reasons why the Nigerian Army has not stage any military coup since 1999.

Obasanjo, a retired military general first served as a military head of state between 1976 and 1979. He was also elected as a democratic president and served as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007.

“A coup is a treason punishable by death only if it fails, and yet it puts the plotter in the State House if it succeeds. It was a destructive and destabilising practice, wasteful for the military itself, and undermining in terms of discipline, good order and military conduct,” Mr. Obasanjo wrote.

“A junior officer takes a gun and looks at his political boss and senior officers through its sights, bumps them off and puts himself in the State House.

“He instantly becomes superior and senior to all political and military officers. Such was the situation existing in Nigeria between 1966 and 1999.”

According to Obasanjo, when he resumed office as president, he decided to end military coups in Nigeria by retiring 93 top political and military officers.

“On assuming office as president, I decided to put an end to these incessant coups. I asked the military to submit the list of all officers who had either participated in coups in the past or benefited in the dividends of coups by being appointed to political office as governors or ministers,” the former president wrote.

“Not knowing what the list was meant for, the military faithfully compiled it and submitted to me as the commander-in-chief and chairman of council of each of the arms of service. Ninety-three officers in all were given six hours’ notice of retirement on a Friday, and ordered not to spend the Friday night in uniform or in barracks to prevent adverse reaction.

“The following Monday, the service council met to ratify the retirement of all the officers. From my vantage position and background as a battle-tested and war-victorious general, I knew that an officer out of uniform and barracks is like a fish out of water, and their power and influence would be greatly diminished.

“The retirement of these 93 officers all in one day was salutary. It meant that taking part in a coup ot benefitting from one could catch up with you, no matter how long it would takes, and for as long as you are alive,” he explained.

“Some of them later entered politics and became elected governors; some went into parliament; others got appointed as ministers and ambassadors,” he wrote.

“The idea was not to punish them for life but to exclude them from positions in the military where they could be coup planners, coup plotters, coup executors or coup beneficiaries.

“And once an officer has tasted the trappings of a political life, of living in a government house, with free food and so on, he would easily look for excuses to want more if he is in a position to make it happen.”

Making Africa Work

A retired Maj.-Gen. in the British Army, Dickie Davis; Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mrs Idiat Adebile; Formal President Olusegun Obasanjo; and Director of Brenthurst Foundation, MR Greg Mills, at the launch of a book titled: “Making Africa Work”, in Lagos (Image Source: Premium Times)

The former president noted that his action was very effective even though it wasn’t perfect, but it is the reason why no coup has been experienced in Nigeria since 1999.

“The fact that since 1999, there has not been a coup or an attempted coup in Nigeria speaks to the effectiveness of the measures taken to put an end to the destabilizing influence of coups on the political life and dispensation of Nigeria.

“Before 1999, and since independence, the longest that a democratic dispensation had lasted was six years –from 1960 to 1966.

“It has neither been easy nor perfect, but there are improvements and evidence of learning among the political class. Any bad signs and misconduct would have to be carefully monitored,” he argued.

The book was co-authored by Obasanjo and three others; Greg Mills, Director of Brenthurst Foundation; Jeffrey Herbst, President of NEWSEUM and Dickie Davis, a retired major general.

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