Nigeria on Fire : To Your Tents O! Nigerians – The Prodigal Sons

Think! for it distinguishes man –
raises him above the animal and
makes him more like God.
Think! for it is the greatest human
power – harness it as you will.

Think! for it is your chief vocation –
no matter how you earn your bread.

Leroy Brownlow, 1972


To Your Tents O! Nigerians is a chapter from Nigeria on Fire. It attempts to demonstrate more vividly the nature of the problems facing Nigeria by reviewing available institutions that will be relied upon to move the country forward. It is good for some Nigerians during any national crisis to go on glibly suggesting, lets move this country forward without understanding what they mean by moving forward. The political advisers and the so-called leaders always forget a local adage that says, if a child falls down he looks to the front; but if an elderly person falls down he looks to the back in order to see and to remove the cause of his fall.

The group of Nigerians who go by the appellation of junior or elder statesmen and women don’t believe in such things as identifying the cause of a problem. They would rather prefer to sweep the problems under the carpet than spend valuable time in learning a lesson or two from them to prevent a re-occurrence. In order not to fall into the same error, we shall try to look at some reasons why moving forward at this point in time is impossible without a thorough evaluation of the problems that have befallen us as a country.

Under this discourse, we shall be looking at some institutions within the country that are essential to the slogan of moving forward. How veritable are these institutions to the project of moving forward? How realistic is the project of moving forward itself? Where are we really moving to? At least there must be a destination and a goal to be attained, what are these goals? How do we measure our progress on this journey of moving forward?

This chapter is aimed to jerk the lackadaisical Nigerians back to reality. Nigerians must be made, if need be by dragging with love and not by force, to face the major question of our lifetime now or never. There is no room for any complacency. Nigerians must stop wasting their time on issues that, at this point in time, could be called irrelevant. The principal one among them is the issue of transition programme with all the in-built contradictions attached to it. This season of tomfoolery is only possible because Nigerians have stopped to use their intelligence and their refusal to engage the mind for reasoning.

We shall therefore look at the roles, in the past and in the future, of the following institutions: The Armed Forces of Nigeria who we shall call The Prodigal Sons; The Traditional Rulers, The Civil Servants, The Politicians alias political gangsters, The Professionals and The Civil Society.

 I. The Prodigal Sons (a.k.a The Military)

It was the coup d’état of January 1, 1966 that brought into life the presence of the military as a force to be reckoned with in the political arena of the six-year-old nation. Before then most Nigerians were never fully aware that there was a group called The Nigerian Armed Forces in their midst. Apart from seeing the obscure settlements  that dotted around the out-skirts of some major towns where these group of men were camped most people never really understood what their functions were.

Although older Nigerians who were around during the Second World War would have had a smattering knowledge of the role of soldiers as a fighting force for the protection of the security of a nation against external aggression but not as an internal aggressor for the sacking of government. And since there was no war on the Nigerian soil, the younger generation up till then did not understand the relevance of this colonial settlement at all. The bliss of ignorance was shattered by the acts of hooliganism perpetrated by Major C.K. Nzeogwu and the other stalwart Majors on the First Republic politicians.

Some apologist had argued that Nzeogwu and his other coup plotters were motivated by a patriotic zeal to rid the country of the daft, illiterate, wasteful and ignorant men who were flamboyantly parading themselves as political leaders. However, the method of execution of their intentions was barbaric and was never the sort that could usher in peace into any society. Their motives and the acts that followed were simply childish to say the least because they were devoid of knowledge or wisdom. The act of killing another human being has never been a perfect solution to right a wrong or to correct an error caused by ignorance of human judgement.

Redemption and salvation that come after a true repentance based on knowledge of truth is the only natural weapon authorised by the divine moral law to right the wrongs of ignorance. There is no doubt that the atrocities of the politicians in the First Republic were borne of a lack of wisdom. A person who understands the importance of loving your neighbour as your self as the most important divine principle for peace cannot go about carelessly doing things that would destroy his neighbours. A politician who understands the meaning of freedom, equality and justice would not embark on acts of pillaging and other corrupt practices that would eventually put fellow citizens in perpetual bondage and servitude. These are the crimes of the First Republic politicians and they were the crimes of ignorance. They do not warrant the dastardly execution, a kind of jungle justice, conducted by Nzeogwu and his colleagues.

The vengeance spree of July 31, 1966 was even more macabre and more unforgivable than the January episode. This military inter-tribal war that involved the merciless killing of innocent men from a particular tribe had no justification and could also not usher in peace into the sick land. This second coup only succeeded in pouring fuel on the ember of smouldering fire of hatred, distrust and stupidity.

However, the July episode succeeded in creating star heroes like Ibrahim Babangida and others. It is known in the military circles that whatever air of importance this officer pretends to came down from the acts of ‘bravery’ or wickedness displayed in the aforementioned military tribal war. The cold-blooded murder of Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi and Lt. Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi and many other fine officers in their prime was also cowardly and irresponsible. A tooth for a tooth or an eye for an eye jungle (or desert?) justice can never settle disputes and neither can it achieve the desired result of ushering unity, peace and progress into the polity. It has merely succeeded in pushing the beleaguered nation further into the abyss.

This is a snapshot of the history of the rude incursion of the military into the political life of Nigeria. They came, supposedly as knights in shining armour, to rescue fellow Nigerians from the foolishness of the politicians but they have ended up with soiled hands, soiled boots and soiled consciences. They have since become more foolish and more miserably ignorant than the politicians they drove out.

The history of the military in politics has been the most unsavoury experience for Nigeria. It has brought greater disaster than could ever have been imagined by the nationalist fighters who drove away the British imperialist. It caused a civil war with death and inhuman suffering to innocent people. But most importantly it has caused the death of the moral and ethical values that set all men apart from beast and other lowly animals. It has turned a nation of articulate vocal population into zombies and dummies now found worshipping at the shrines of low lifers like Babangida and Abacha before death took the latter away. Nigerians need to be reminded that the Babangida’s shrine is still very much intact and worshipers are still flocking down as usual.

The military institution as an agency of government established on the principle of esprit de corps was done a fatal blow by these two separate but related episodes of 1966. The spirit of comradeship died after those two events. Since 1966, the region that came tops in the coup within coups in the military has consolidated power beyond their wildest dream. These groups have stolen and grabbed money in excess, which are safely and foolishly locked up in private and bank vaults hidden across the globes. They have acquired political power that except by divine intervention, no man on earth can take away from them. I used divine intervention intentionally here. This writer believes in divine intervention but I also believe that man is the instrument used for the execution of all divine programmes on earth. The gods have never been known to come down physically to perform the tasks of men. There is a division of labour in heaven also. The planet earth is given to man as an inheritance forever. The duty of protecting and managing it for the satisfaction of all our pleasures and enjoyments is also given to man. This is the divine arrangement and the law of nature.

Anyway, as we were saying about the Nigerian military, since 1966 the men in uniform have straddled the political terrain of the country. The military personnel have become over bloated with power and money and have therefore acquired a fudged respectability, which hitherto was not accorded them. Before this time, most Nigerians who entered the military service were the school bullies, who could not advance beyond the secondary school class four or those with a weak pass in the General Certificate of Education. The military coups and the civil war catapulted these renegade men into national heroes.

The political postings as State Military Governors, Sole Administrators and membership of Supreme Military Council or Armed Forces Military Council and other such postings confer exclusive authority and power under which they could appoint former more brilliant classmates and friends to serve as commissioners, chairmen of parastatals or members of Boards of Corporations. This fairy tale transformation from the position of a nobody to that of Mr somebody whose name has to be preceded by His Excellency was too much for most of them to handle. Such taste of a majestic absolute power handed to nonentities and empty heads became too sweet and of course rather too difficult, if not impossible, to relinquish.

This is the reason why transition programmes into democratic government has become a game of wit. Each military regime except General Obasanjo has obfuscated and deceived the population over and over again. None of them had the intention to release sweet political power with all its privileges on a platter of gold to ‘the bloody civilians’. From Gowon to Buhari to Babangida and to Abacha, none of these men had the honour or the intention to quit power voluntarily without a push. However let us examine the military institution vis-à-vis their avowed role as the vanguard men of peace in the defence of national unity and as the moving force of national development and progress.

i. The Prodigal Sons as Defender of National Unity

Yes, the Nigeria Armed Forces have the right to lay a claim to being the defender and the protector of the unified geographical territory of Nigeria but to nothing else. It is only to the unification of the land mass but with respect to the people, they failed dismally to unify them. Yes, in the defence of the unity of Nigeria, the civil war was fought at the back of preventing an aggrieved region from exercising its natural right to self-determination. It is a truism that self-determination has been acknowledged by all lovers of liberty as an inalienable right of every human being. It has also been agreed all over the civilised world that no man or government should have the power to prevent another man or a group of people who so desires from exercising this natural right.

However, by the unnatural circumstances of Nigeria at the time, (nothing about Nigeria is natural!), it was felt inauspicious to allow the people of the Eastern Region to do so. We shall not go too deeply into the moral or otherwise of this episode. But we shall simply say that the Nigeria State as set up by the mischief-making colonial power was a time bomb that was waiting to go off at anytime. The colonial government, right from the inception of this inglorious country sowed the seed of cultural, tribal, religious, social, political, educational, and economic differences as early as the 1920s. The seed germinated as will be expected, and since the planter had not waited long enough to reap the fruit, poor innocent Nigerians have however been forced, by circumstances beyond their control, to reap the evil harvest to a full undeserved measure.

The military, at least the rump that remained after the massacre and the departure of the rest of the fine gentlemen and officers from the Eastern Region, fought a war that was unnecessary if only those in charge of affairs had used their intellects rather than been driven by their over-bloated egos. One of them, the Governor of Northern Nigeria, even boasted that he would finish the war in less than one week. It was quite clear as early as 1966 that Nigeria as a country was simply a mirage. The level of hate and distrust of every other person from another part of the country to which a person belongs was palpable and this could definitely not augur well for any co-operation on national development. The inability to trust one another, to work and to plan together made the next stage of independence, unfortunately, practically impossible.

This is the stage of genuine economic liberation and political emancipation that would have moved the country out of colonial domination. The divide and rule tactics of the colonial government were imbibed by the group that came to power after independence to the detriment of the ideals of freedom, equality and justice championed by the nationalist fighters. The military that seized power rather than help douse the festering fire of the burning social and political environment merely compounded the situation. They also became submerged in the looting and sharing of unearned national booty. As a result of the privileges, power and profit connected with political postings, the universally acclaimed discipline associated with military hierarchy was completely compromised and was later thrown over board.

The region that came tops in the military hegemony wielded and used power to break and oppress other regions at will. By 1975, when Brigadier Murtala Mohammed, the Head of State was assassinated, the degree of authority an officer could command became a question of the place of birth the officer belongs to and not of his rank or seniority in the Armed Forces. This is the atmosphere that dictated a search for a relatively junior officer to be parachuted from the rank of Lieutenant Colonel to a Brigadier in order to assuage the ethnic group of the murdered Head of State.

This supposedly good intention inadvertently contributed to the destabilisation process of the much-cherished esprit de corps of the military that started as a result of the coup d’état. It sets the precedence that seems to accept that the state of origin an officer belongs to is more important than the skill, experience, and seniority he or she has in the Armed Forces. The young officers from the northern part of the country quickly imbibed the air of arrogance and cocksure manner, which such belief bestows, and were found to display outright disobedience to the commands of senior officer from other parts of the country. This simple but important change in the value orientation within the military was the first deadly blow to the much-acclaimed spirit of unity of purpose of the Nigeria Armed Forces.

The impact of this new military principle at the political level could be seen in terms of the case of a man offering as gifts something that he does not possess. A defender of unity that is more disunited than the country he has come to unite. The military boys have never heard or learnt the adage that says ‘charity begins at home’. A disunited military should have no business offering what it has not got to the Nigeria nation. But this is exactly what they claim to be doing since 1966. Each successive military administration has capitalised on the disunited Armed Forces to the personal advantage of the group in power.

The military ruler, by the paralysing circumstances of indiscipline that developed through a divide and rule game of the commanding officers, practically become a despotic tin god wielding immense absolute power of life and death over his comrades. Babangida was able to appoint or disappoint, select or deselect any one and anybody at will by share whims into position or out of position. He became so proficient in this game that single-handedly he changed every member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council, the Brigade Commandants, the State Military Governors, the Federal Cabinet and the Chairmen and members of Boards of Corporations and Parastatals.

Wow! What a power? But it happened and there was no whimper throughout the length and breadth of this ‘great’ nation. Abacha again followed in the same trend. This sovereign rule of one man in a country of over 100 million people was possible because the military was riddled with division, jealousy, intrigues and massive witch-hunting and paranoia. Everyone was watching his back because of a culture of surveillance of a one to one type. Trust flew out of the Nigerian Armed Forces years ago. It is a classic case where every member of the officer corps adopts the motto of ‘no friend, no foe’. The Officers’ Mess became a no-go area since you could be linked with one macabre plot or the other for which the dire consequences could be death or perpetual incarceration in gaol with no trial.

Retired Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe was one officer who stood up to challenge the disrespect from junior officers from the North. As the Chief of General Staff to Babangida he observed that the door that gave him a direct access to the office of Babangida was locked thereby forcing him to go through the common reception. He made inquiry on why and who authorised the change of key. To his amazement it was a very junior officer probably in the rank of a Captain who decided that Ukiwe was becoming too big for his shoes and so decided to cut him down to size. Other events followed culminating at the much-reported 1986 Independence Day celebration parade in Abuja when Abacha said, just a few days to October 1st, that the country has no Number Two person to President Babangida. In order words, Ukiwe should not expect to stand next to Babangida in the order of protocol.

Ebitu Ukiwe had the gut, and that is a very uncommon trait in Nigeria, to call off the insult and he resigned his commission. But what followed, another naval officer from the south but definitely not a gentleman was appointed into a much-trimmed down office of the Chief of General Staff. There were plenty of insults, abuses, disrespects and indignities but this officer kept his mouth shut and he kept his post. The booty and largesse of office flowed until his final ‘glorious’ retirement in 1993. Hopefully, the said officer is living in peace now and enjoying the fruit of his selfless hard labour and services to the people of this poor nation.

This is the set up that promises to deliver democracy to Nigeria. We must all be joking. The covert persecution of officers from other parts of the country outside the core Hausa-Fulani north continued under Abacha until the arrest, trial and sentence of Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo and others for involvement in a coup plot. And finally in the arrest of General Oladipo Diya and other members of his Abacha co-supporters for another coup plot. Any sane person from the south of the country would have reasoned that after the arrest and humiliation of Diya, a staunch supporter of Abacha, that the presence of any officer outside the north in the Nigerian Armed Forces would have become untenable.

Just like Diya and company, these serving officers may still be feeling invisible, well connected and well enamoured from suffering the same fate as their seniors. Like everything in Nigeria reality is not what we love to deal with. All Nigerians are dreamers. We want success, money, honour and every good things of life on a platter of gold without any mental or physical exertion.

So, no wonder, all the other young officer and even the senior demoralised officers from the other parts of the country are still sticking their necks out to be used and discarded or cut off as their lords and masters desire. This is the time to think. Nigeria is in need of martyrs not opportunists.

The military institution has lost the moral ground to make promises for anything concerning Nigeria. Abdusalami Abubakar may look good, may have good intentions, may mean well, but he can not and can never and should not even be expected to deliver Nigeria from the doom which is hovering above and about to destroy us all. Abubakar is a part of a discredited institution that has fed fat on the carcasses of fellow citizens; that has left the moral fabric of a nation in tatters; and that has inflicted unimaginable hardship on the millions of gullible citizens who believed in their lies and who trusted them.

ii. Prodigal Sons as Author of National Development and Progress

If we care to examine all the dimensions of national developments – political, economic and social – the military, as an institution that came to rescue the country and to set the records straight, has recorded a massive dismal failure. The political development of Nigeria has been drastically hampered by their intrusion. Political development, like any living ideas or living things must be allowed to grow from gestation to maturity. There is no other natural road to development. The lying military authority in Nigeria that promised to midwife democracy or political institutions from the magic boxes is a misnomer.

An institution that is conceived, powered, and operated by hierarchical authoritarian rule is now making promises and pretending to procure, as if from a supermarket, an institution which is contrary to its own experience. How do you go to the market to buy what you have no idea about? This is a farce and it is quite impossible. But for thirty-two years this is the calamitous experience of Nigerians at very great cost of money, material and human resources, and as will be expected by any thinking person, to no avail.

By instituting a perpetual state of political instability, the military ensures that there was no competition in the political arena. Nigeria as a nation has been set back more than a hundred years from progressing. It should surprise no one if one suggests that the misdeeds of the last thirty-two years will take at least four generations of innocent Nigerian to unravel and redress. The gravity of the madness of the last three decades cannot be quantified but the evidence is all around us.

Nigerians have become a disillusioned, frustrated, shattered people carelessly positioned in a state of limbo. Nigerian nations are neither moving forward nor backward nor stationary either.  In real terms the Nigeria State has deteriorated beyond recognition. There is now a common feeling of regret and of nostalgia among older Nigerians that, maybe the Colonial government might have been left to continue with their benevolent supremacist rule after all. This sad feeling of regret and remark by the older Nigerians tell the entire story about how much progress we have made under the prodigal sons.

Let us hear from the mouth of Ibrahim Babangida as he lambasted General Buhari’s administration of 20 months during his maiden address to the nation in 1985 titled, New Goals, New Direction. In the address, he said, “The last 20 months have not witnessed any significant changes in the national economy. Contrary to expectations we have so far been subjected to a steady deterioration in the general conditions of living and intolerable suffering by the ordinary Nigerians has reached unprecedented heights. Prices of goods and services have risen higher, scarcity of commodities has increased, and hospitals still remain mere consulting clinics, while educational institutions are on the brink of total decay. Unemployment has stretched to critical dimension.”1

What else can one add to this assessment of one prodigal son by another prodigal son than to replace the 20 months of evaluation with 13 years?

Babangida had the effrontery in that address to accuse the Shehu Shagari’s government of corruption. He said, “The history of our nation has never recorded the degree of indiscipline and corruption as in the period between October 1979 and December 1983.”2 Again let us replace ‘October 1979 and December 1983’ in the above quote with ‘August 1985 and June 1998’. Can anyone fault Babangida’s evaluation if it is applied to his tenure and that of his clone?

This is the type of statement that warms and draws the hearts of the people to the prodigal sons as saviours anytime they arrived on the political scene. They cajoled the people with such empty sentiments, which have never failed to woo and conquer the gullible and hapless citizens for another spree of a grand slaughter. And every time after the rescuing missions have been abandoned, (have never been completed), each of the actors, either principal or minor, laughed his way into luxury with multi-million raw cash (in all major currencies of the world), properties and investments to their names or aliases.

The degree of corruption of the last thirteen years was possible because of the level of in-built political instability that made political office holders unsure of their term of office. They were ceremoniously appointed and unceremoniously sent packing, with no justification, merely on the whims of the smiling or shaded despot. Each of the political office holders was therefore inadvertently forced to act in a hurry if he desired to establish his presence in the office.

During the First Republic when the unwritten code of commission and kickbacks from government awarded contracts was established, the going rate was ten per cent. Every fool or clever rogue that intends to enjoy the services of the politician knew the rate. You might voluntarily up your offer to beat all rivals and competitors, anyway that was at the prerogative of the contractor. It was not stated in the unwritten code of practice.

But since the smiling vampire and the dark shaded Dracula in the shining green armours entered the scene, the kickbacks and the commission rates from government awarded contracts had witnessed an astronomical leap forward to between 50 and 100 percent of the value of contracts. Maybe this new rate was adjusted to take care of the high inflation rate and other economic variables, it is difficult to say. This is impossible, some people would say. It never happened, some naïve Nigerians would argue.

How was it done? It is very simple. It is a process called “over-invoicing”. A contractor bid for and got a job at say one million Naira. The political office holder and his cronies would invite the contractor for a chat and would demand he reviews the contract upwards to a new value of two million Naira but with a proviso. The contractor would be required to deposit 50 per cent of the new value before the political office holder can sign the letter of contract award. This is the state of affairs under military regimes that came on the ticket to rout corruption out of the fatherland.

Is it still a surprise why all the major capital projects by the national, state and local governments have remained moribund and uncompleted many years after their commission? The list is long but the following will suffice: Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Project; Iwopin Paper Mills; Abuja Capital Territory; several Road projects; several State secretariats projects; several hospital building and infrastructure projects; several expensive machinery and tools imported and rotting away at the port or along the roads because building sites to house them have never been cleared not to say built; the repairs and refurbishing of the Petroleum Refineries, and many other projects dotting about in the jungle of the country after they have consumed billions and billions of scarce resources.

To the naïve Nigerians who are envious of their kinsmen or relations in the military or the associates of the military that go about the country in new shining expensive Mercedes Benz or Lexus or BMW cars; that built the most expensive house in the village and in town; and that donated lavishly at every social occasions, the money being spent by these daylight robbers belongs to you all.

Your ‘honourable’ kinsman is a stupid man. He was given the greatest responsibility and honour by his nation after swearing to an oath to protect and manage the resources and wealth of the nation in the most judicious manners and for the benefit of every member of the commonwealth. But like the true prodigal son, the type to which your kinsman belongs, he seized the key to the national treasury, scooped every kobo in sight and disappeared into the beer-parlour and pepper-soup joints to enjoy. What an enjoyment?

These dishonourable boys in uniform are all fools by any standard of assessment. Capital project is the gateway to the type of financial security every military officer and their associates dream about. It is therefore easy to find all military officers, lest we forget they are all civil servants paid under the civil service pay scheme of grade levels, retiring from the civil service or their roguish commission of pillaging into multi-million naira investments, properties and funds hidden within and outside the country.

No wonder political posting in the military became a do or die affair. Intrigues, backbiting, blackmailing, calumny, and every evil arsenal are adopted against colleagues, friends, and seniors to gain the attention of commanding supervisors. Some went as far as to become glorified houseboys to the wives of their supervisors. Indeed, this is the Nigerian version of an officer and a gentleman. It was so bad.

Even the Olusegun Obasanjo regime that could claim some semblance of sanity created the Leviathan multi-millionaire Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua who was able to foot the bill of all politicians in the country under his political party during the deceitful Babangida Transition programme. Every Nigerian felt comfortable and even jockeyed to be in Yar’Adua’s good books for donation.

Nigerians never asked the most basic question, where did Yar’Adua get all this money from? What has this young man done in his fifty odd years apart from being a soldier that could justifiably account for all the unlimited wealth stacked in his bank account? If Nigerians did ask at all, obviously they were powerless anyway to do anything about the answer, if given the evidence of the irresponsible procedure through which that kind of wealth was procured. Anyway, nobody asked or none was driven by moral outrage to question this malady. To any morally decent observer, Yar’Adua’s type is the barometer you need to determine the basest level of the moral decadence in the Nigerian society.

This is the price a blessed rich country is paying for the three decades of military incursion into the political lives of Nigerians. The ‘maradona’ of them all, the evil smiling genius of a General, the master strategist and tactician in the game of the minds and blackmailing, succeeded in building himself a super monstrous palace of a house in Minna. Is the fund expended for this monstrosity taken from the salary paid this ‘humble soldier’ and the self-styled President of Nigeria? Or was he a businessman as well during his loyal and committed selfless service to the fatherland, contrary to the oath of office as a civil servant?

In a nutshell without much ado about nonsense, the national development and progress that can be accounted to the military administration is found in the number of multi-millionaires without any visible collateral entrepreneurial, manufacturing or value added productive engagements they have helped to create within and outside the military establishment. With respect to economic, science and technology, human and infrastructure development the country has remained worse off than the time they entered the scene. Of course like fools, they created forms and shells of everything but everything they touched, like vampires, were killed off or like prodigal sons completely left in ruins.

Many universities were established but no facilities for teaching or research. Many ministries and parastatals were created but no concrete function beneficial to the people is being performed. The military institution expanded beyond reason but soldiers have no skill, no materials or tools, and most importantly no discipline. They could therefore not perform the avowed duties of peacekeeping and of protecting life and property of the citizens. Every utility services in the country were completely run down.

The railways built by the Colonial government has not been expanded beyond what was handed down in 1960 but most worryingly is the fact that the whole network has virtually collapsed under cronyism, nepotism and corruption. Every road in the country has become a death trap claiming the life of Very Important Personalities and their families every year not to mention countless downtrodden and nameless citizens.

Electricity, the cornerstone of production and manufacturing, is erratic and totally unreliable for industry or household use without an additional private investment on stand-by generators. It is however non-existence in the rural areas. Same with water, a privately financed borehole is a must for all industries and upward mobile families.

Telephone, Nigerians were rudely told by David Mark, one of those who called themselves ‘Babangida boys’, that it is only meant for the upper class like him. His only claim to the status of an upper class is a three-year stint at the Nigeria Military School in Kaduna. In effect, the middle class and the masses were surreptitiously told not to bother applying for a telephone line.

What then can we particularly point to or identify as the achievement of this group of nonentities, the never-do-wells and social misfits who have bestridden, like colossus the political landscape of Nigeria with disastrous consequences? They came. They saw. They destroyed. Everything they set their eyes on were bastardised and tarnished beyond redemption.

This is the legacy, a future generations of yet unborn innocent Nigerians, if Nigeria ever remains at all, shall have to battle with. I mentioned earlier on that this would take at least four generations to cover every ground these marauding prodigal sons have treaded. How can any sane true son and daughter of the soil do all these heinous deeds to one’s fatherland? The whole experience is beyond the understanding of all sane civilised people of the world. No wonder, Nigerians receive knowing looks from the rest of the world and we have the audacity to complain of bad image.

And so let us go back to the question we were trying to answer earlier on, can the military institution be trusted to see or lead Nigeria through this difficult period intact and into a safe democratic haven? Can they, as they are at the moment, the lords and master of the Nigeria manor, procure as from the supermarket of political hardware, democratic government for Nigeria? Can these human beasts, let go voluntarily their unearned privileges to which they have become accustomed since 1966 just like that?

Let us remember what the sages have often said about power. Power is sweet and power can corrupt and more so if it is an absolute power. The type of absolute power the Nigeria military has carved out for itself this past 32 years, is even sweeter than honey and no wonder they have since been corrupted absolutely. Are Nigerians still so gullible as to believe that any of these nonentities in khaki uniform can deliver them to the Promised Land flowing with the biblical milk and honey?

At this stage, having been reminded of the atrocities of this group of pretenders and yet if Nigerians still found it in their hearts and heads to put their faith in the prodigal sons, then we have no-one to blame but ourselves for the next and the next and the next broken promises. It is a shame that after three decades, Nigerians in their tens and hundreds are still in the habit of sending emissaries to these scallywags with no sense or gumption to rescue them from miseries they have mercilessly and carelessly inflicted on the population.

If it is so, this writer believes that all thinking Nigerians should have their heads examined by competent psychiatrist or shrinks as the Americans called them. It could be concluded that Nigerians have a serious problem of mental lapses that has led to a congenital inability to use and combine available sensory data necessary for reasoning and for making intelligent decisions. This is the only tentative diagnosis one can make at this moment. Even then, it is still a serious problem.

Therefore, this writer is very sorry indeed to disappoint you, the military ‘boys’, and they are boys in every respect, are not the answer to the Nigeria’s problem. And unless we are determined to sort them out psychologically, technically, physically, and spiritually, we are all done for and for a long time to come for that matter.

Abubakar, the incumbent or any one of them for that matter, with fine or ugly disposition, with smiling or shaded face cannot and should not be taken seriously to deliver Nigeria from the abyss of aimlessness they have consigned Nigeria. They have tasted the forbidden fruit and unless they are forced out of the garden of Nigeria they will never go away freely. They will prefer to die in Aso Rock than face the wrath of the people when the details of their atrocities are finally brought to light.

This is the reality Nigerians have to face and this shall be the greatest test of our manhood. This is the test that will qualify Nigerians into the select group of nation state. How do we force them out? This is the next question all Nigerian should be asking. The greatest Sage of them all also said something to that effect, “seek and you shall find”. There is always a way if we truly seek. But no matter how careless each of us wants to behave with respect to our natural rights to freedom, equality and justice, we must recognise the gravity of the issue under focus and also acknowledge in all its gory detail that the military personnel of Nigeria are not the answer to our freedom and emancipation as a people.


29 January 1999

(Continue to The Traditional Rulers at II)


1. Ibrahim Babangida, ‘New Goals, New Direction’, the maiden speech after the putsch of the Idiagbon-Buhari Military Administration on August 20, 1985.

2. ibid.