It is often argued that military rule in Nigeria made no positive impact to the country but that is a fallacy. There were significant developments initiated during the military Era that actually contributed positively to Nigeria. In this article, i will carefully discuss some of the achievements of military rule in Nigeria that you probably don’t know about.
But before we go into that, It is important to note that, the fact that military rule in Nigeria caused so much damage to the country is not disputed. This article only highlights the major impacts of military rule that contributed to the country positively.
1. Restoration of peace and order during political crisis
The intervention and restoration of peace and order in 1966 and 1983 when there was serious political crisis in Nigeria is one of the achievements of the military in Nigeria. This is also responsible for the continued existence of the entity known today as Nigeria today. The military was able to achieve this by smoothening the secessionist quest of the default Eastern region.
Military intervention in 1966 also ended the attempt by Nigerian politicians to use the army to perpetuate themselves in power.
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2. Decrease in the problem of tribalism in the formation of political parties in Nigeria
During the first republic of Nigeria, a good deal of support given to any politician usually comes from his ethnic group and its immediate environments. The result of this situation was that a person, for instance, can be the prime minister at the center by getting most of his votes from one region.
In order to widen the base of political parties and to make them truly rational, the 1979 constitution (Which was introduced immediately after a military rule) provided that each political party should open its door to all Nigerian citizens irrespective of their place of origin, sex, religion and that the political parties should not confine its activities to a party only of the geographical area of Nigeria and that the party must have its headquarters in the capital of the federation.
Finally, that the members of the political party should reflect the federal character and should be drawn from at least two third of all the states making up the federation. In my view, this is actually a great achievement by the military because it helped to reduce the problem of tribalism in Nigerian politics. Though that problem still persist today.
3. Local Government reform of 1976
The Local government reform of 1976 is apparently one of the achievements of military rule in Nigeria too. Before January 1966, the various regions in Nigeria had different system of governments, at the grassroot level.
In the Northern region for instance, the local government was known by the name “native authorities”, with the emirs having enormous influence and authority in his locality.
In the South however, the local government was not well established and was very much attached to the apron strings of the regional government as Sam C. Ukabi Opined in his book “Strands in Nigerian military history”, that local government became obedient tools in the hands of the government of the region concerned.
The aim of the 1976 local government reform was to streamline the local government and adopt uniform system throughout the country, to climate corruption repression and violation of fundamental human rights which were characteristics of government at the local level in the previous years.
Hence local government councils would be elected and decisions would be taken by majority vote. This reform therefore was meant to bring about greater democratization at the local level and to encourage initiative and leadership potential. The military government also saw the council as the training ground for democracy.
4. Creation of states
Another outstanding achievement of the military in Nigeria was the creation of states to replace the then existing region as it used to be called in the past. Gowon in may 1967, divided Nigeria into twelve (12) states. Seven (7) more states were added by Murtalar during his own time and with the creation of two more states by Babangida, Nigeria had a total of twenty one states. In 1991 Babangida created nine (9) more and afterwards General Abacha created six (6).
The creation of states fulfilled a long standing demand, agitation, and clamoring by millions of Nigerians especially the minority ethnic groups who feared domination amd maltreatment from the major ethnic groups and would like to see a more equitable administrative arrangement in place of the four regions, which were dominated by specific and larger ethnic groups.
During the first republic, the Nigerian government was far from being truly a federal state since it lacked some of the essential features of a federal state.
For instance, there was absence of equality amongst the states. Also, the Northern region for example was not only larger and more populous than the remaining regions put together, it held a political veto over these other units.
In light of this, many citizens saw the government as a mere appendage of the Northern region. This situation was aggravated further by the fact that political parties were run on religious basis and were effectively dominanted by the largest ethnic groups which used corrupt political apparatus to silence any opposition of the rule.
The creation of states by the military generated an atmosphere of stability, unity and co-existence among Nigerian ethnic groups, to guarantee the interest and fundamental rights of all groups, to the basis of even development and equal opportunity for all to bring about a true federal system, since no single state would be in a position to dominate the country.
5. Foreign policy
On foreign policy, a considerable and lasting impact was made during the military rule. At the first republic, Nigeria foreign policy was centered around Britain and the common wealth Africa. In fact, it is only right to say that Nigeria’s government was pro-west and anti-communist at this time.
Nonetheless, at the wake of military intervention, Nigeria’s foreign policy become weak and lacked dynamism. This was so because the period was marked by political crisis and instability. But the Civil War of 1967 saw Nigerian adopting a true nonaligned policy.
Based on this, the excessive dependence on Britain and its allies was reduced with the countries of the Eastern Block and People’s Republic of China. At a time under the military, African started enjoying a pride of place in Nigeria’s foreign policy. Eventually, Nigeria became an avowed opponent of apartheid.
The military also adopted foreign policies that projected our National power abroad, playing a leadership role in the Organization of African Union (OAU) and to be seen and treated as an emrgent power on the continent of Africa.
6. National Integration
National Integration also received a good deal of attention during military regime in Nigeria. It was for this purpose that Gowon created the National Youth Service Cops (NYSC). This innovation enabled many graduates to serve in areas outside their own states and has consequently brought about greater national awareness amongst the Youths. For me, NYSC is also one of the achievements of the military in Nigeria.
Other aims of the NYSC was that it could serve as an instrument of national integration, promoting national unity, break down ethnic barriers and develop those ideas which would enable Nigeria to catch up with the advanced world.
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7. Agricultural Development
The highest development and contribution to the agricultural sector of Nigeria was made during the military regime. In Obasanjo’s regime particularly, there was many agricultural policies that ensured the growth of Agriculture in Nigeria. Some of them includes; the Kano River Project, South Chad Irrigation Project and even the Bakalori Scheme.
During military regime in Nigeria, both rural and urban farmers were given help by the government. Before military rule, Nigeria had 34% inflation rate and declining agricultural production. However, Military regime in Nigeria helped to reduce the inflation rate of the country and boosted the agricultural sector to a very high extent.
It will surprise you to know that even the little benefits Nigeria is currently getting from Agriculture currently is due to the hard work done during the military regime in Nigeria. This is undoubtedly one of the major achievements of the military in Nigeria.
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8. Development in Nigeria’s education & communication sectors
In the area of development, the military showed itself to be good administrators. At all times, the military endeavored to tackle the social and economic problems in the country as the basis for long lasting political stability.
This is why every development plan under the military was aimed at achieving this purpose. The military pursued the idea adopted in the development plan vigorously in every sphere of its developmental programme.
In the area of industrialization, the military was responsible for the setting up of almost all the key industries in Nigeria. Remarkably among these industries are Iron and Steel Complexes at Ajeokuta and Aladja, the warri and Kaduna refineries. The steel complexes are believed to be the basis for the establishment of secondary industries which will reduce Nigeria’s dependence on foreign imports.
More so, communication also received boast under the military government. Good road networks and airports were constructed improvements were made in railways and waterways, port facilities increased considerably.
In the area of education, the military really did a good work. During the military Era, higher institutions were opened in many parts of the country in an effort to promote literacy and to produce the much needed man power for industries and for technological development. No doubt, these are all achievements of military government in Nigeria.
9. Introduction of New Currency
The Nigerian currency was changed by the military in 1973 from Pound, Shilling and Pence to Naira and Kobo. The old currency of Pound Sterling was introduced during the colonial period by British Colonial rulers. Changing the currency was one of the ways of shaking off colonial legacies.
10. Large scale rehabilitation
The military embarked on large scale rehabilitation Programmes at the end of the Nigerian Civil War. As a result of the devastation and ravages caused by the Civil War, the then federal military Government under the then General Yakubu Gowon embarked on the three Rs-Rehabilitation, Reconciliation and Reconstruction. This programmer was aimed at bringing the country together again, re-settling the war victims and repairing and replacing what were damaged during the Civil War.
11. Establishment of New Capital
It was under the administration of Murtala/Obasanjo that the capital of Nigeria was re-located from Lagos to Abuja. This was because Abuja is located at the center of the country.
12. Launching of O.F.N
In order to provide food in large quantities to feed the teeming population of Nigeria, the military in 1976, launched the Operation Feed the Nation which turned yellow in the second republic.
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From the achievements I have discussed so far, it is clear that military rule did not only damage Nigeria. It also contributed to the country positively. The military substantially proved that they can also be an instrument capable of maintaining peace and unity in the country.