Meaning, advantages and disadvantages of military rule: Various forms and systems of government, either the popular and legitimate or the illegitimate ones have existed in the various communities, states or countries of the world.
In the territory called Nigeria today which was originally a sparse land with various nations and kingdoms, the monarchical system of government reined, then the colonial masters came on board (The British) with their indirect rule which did not completely take powers off the monarchs but used them during their administration and afterwards, in the post colonial era of Nigeria, various systems of government have been practiced whether in isolation or in conjunction with any other system because of their similar features.
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Some of the systems are presidential, parliamentary or cabinet system, republican, and most current is the federal system. It is important to note that in all the transmissions that occurred with these various systems in Nigeria, there was also the intervemtion by the military in form of coup de tat and this formed the military system of government where the government of the people were military heads of state and the mode of election was more coup’s.
This is an anomaly rather than a normal situation and it occurred not only in Nigeria but in other African states for example; Togo which was the first West African country to experience a major coup in 1963 and also Ghana where the first president Kwameh Nkrumah was removed from office through a coup, Egypt and others, then Asia and even Central and South America.
Military Rule in Nigeria
Military rule in Nigeria first started on January 15, 1966, when a group of young millitary officers who were led by General Chukwuma Nzeogwu overthrew the NPC-NNDP government which was three years old i.e (1963-1966) the fisrt republican civilian government then and killed many of the country’s political rulers, the president who was overthrown then was Sir Ahmadu Bello. After this coup, millitary take over and rulership became the norm up until 1999 where military rule officially came to an end upon the election of President Olusegun Obasanjo into power.
The following is a list of the military rulers of Nigeria from the first coup by Major Nzeogwu (although he did not become the military leader) to the last military reign in 1999:
- Major General Aguiyi Ironsi (January 16, 1966 – July 29, 1966)
- General Yakubu Gowon (August 2, 1966 – July 29, 1975)
- General Murtala Mohammed (July 29, 1975 – February 13, 1976)
- General Olusegun Obasanjo (February 14, 1976 – September 30, 1979)
- Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (December 31, 1983 – August 27, 1985)
- General Ibrahim Babangida (August 27, 1985 – August 26, 1993)
- General Sani Abacha (November 16, 1993 – June 8, 1998)
- General Abdulsalami Abubakar (June 9, 1998 – May 29, 1999)
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Features of a Military Government
1. Suspension of the constitution
2. Absence of election
3. Use of decrees and edicts.
4. Lack of respect for fundamental human right
5. No checks and balances
6. Centralized form of government
7. Respect for hierarchy and seniority
8. No periodic elections
9. Zero tolerance for any form of opposition
10. No respect for the rule of law.
Advantages of a Military Government
A military government is not a legitimate government because it is usually self imposed and not optional or put in place by the people and therefore, it would generally not have many advantages from the side of popular opinion. A few of the advantages of a military government are;
a. Absence of bureaucracy: bureaucracy or bottle neck administration is a concept in the civil service which usually refers to frustration of projects and assignments in plain language. In a democracy or other system of government where there is seperation of powers which is accompanied by checks and balances, there are usually a lot of processes to go through to successfully carry out a project as their is need for approval from the various units, but in a military system where the powers are mostly centralized, decision on projects and policies are made faster thereby saving time.
b. Cost effective: flowing from the discussion of the point given above, in a military dispensation, there is the absence of duplication of offices which is prevalent in a democracy ( a system of government which is a direct opposite of the military dictatorship) and this effectively saves the administration money which could be used in paying the various officers especially in a coutry like Nigeria where the salary and allowances of the various government officials are on the high side.
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c. Merit: one of the reasons why the military government came into play in Nigeria was the level of tribalism and nepotism in the country which caused a serious lack of disloyalty to the government at the central but in the advent of the military dictatorship, the problem of tribalism was handled to an extent as appointments where given out to people on merit.
d. Challenge: civilians who witness a military dictatorship would not want a repeat of it and are therefore challenged to do their best when the power returns to civilians so that the military will not be given another reason to want to return to power. In essence after a military dispensation, the next civilian government tends to do well to avoid the situation from arising again.
Disadvantages of a Military Government
There exist a plethora of disadvantages of a military dictatorship and we can mention but a dew for the sake of this material.
a. No respect for the fundamental human rights: fundamental human right are those rights which a person is entitled to only because of the fact that he is a human being. These various rights of the citizens of a country are usually enshrined in and protected by the constitution of that state, in Nigeria for instance Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provides for the fundamental human rights of the Nigerian citizens and as a known fact, every millitary government starts their regime with a suspension of the constitution which goes ahead to leave the citizens open and unprotected from any inhuman treatment that the government may mete out to them.
b. No respect for the rule of law: the rule of law is the supremacy of the law over and above any government machinery or person and this essential ingredient of any government in existence is totally absent in any military government because starting from the way in which the head of state takes over power it is evident that he considers himself above the law.
c. No periodic election: in a military dispensation, there is usually no periodic election hence there is no change of government and the people continue to endure whatever oppression they have been suffering until another coup occurs and due to this, the leaders cannot be held to account to the people unlike in a democracy where a governor, president or other leader does well so that he may get a chance at a second tenure.
d. No checks and balances: there is usually no separation of power in a military dictatorship into the executive, judiciary and legislature, hence all powers are centralized at the apex who is the highest authority and power in the state. He can do whatever he pleases with no opposition or checks whatsoever, as it is said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
e. Dictatorship: all military governments are a dictatorship as there is usually no room for any form of opinion, suggestion or opposition from the people.
In conclusion, as gathered from the Advantages and disadvantages of military rule above, a military dictatorship although with its few advantages has obviously been seen to be a far greater evil than whatever good it may have to offer and should be totally discouraged from coming into play in any civilized country of the world as it is a disguised form of modern day enslavement.