Military rule in Nigeria: Perish the thought

Ogunsakin Mustapha
13 Min Read

By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

A few weeks back, I sat down listening to an elder statesman, an experienced Learned Senior Counsel and one who should truly know, campaigning for the return of the military in the affairs and government of Nigeria. His reason is purely due to the deep-seated frustrations occasioned by the seeming cluelessness of civilian leadership since 1999, when we returned to democratic rule. When the practitioner of law and an advocate of due process, sits down to preach anarchy and disorder, when someone at the peak of his professional career disowns the very process that made him, when one who has suffered the brunt of dictatorship most now transforms himself into its mouthpiece, then we should get scared as a nation, knowing that something serious is evidently and ominously amiss. It was one of those days that I had prayed would never come to pass in Nigeria, but there he was, with all sense of conviction, desecrating the hallowed altar of the rule of law and constitutional democracy. Let us hear him more in detail.

Chief Robert Clarke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to hand over the government to the military temporarily in order to solve the security and economic dilemma Nigeria is facing. According to Clarke, the military should take over the government temporarily and get Nigeria back to six States.

Clarke, who spoke on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, said that Buhari has the powers under the 1999 to delegate all his powers to the military who will now be charged with the task of getting the country back to six States.

“Now I’m going to propose this about security. I don’t know whether I may be right or wrong … if anybody feels I’m right, thank God, if they feel I’m wrong let them tell me.

“Now there’s no gainsaying that Nigeria is on the way to collapse. Nigeria has to be changed and the only way to change it is to create a state that will make the 1999 constitution ungovernable for its existence.

“We want a state of emergency to be created in Nigeria today. As it is today, the President, who is the Commander-in-Chief has the powers to delegate all his powers to the chief of defence staff.

“Let him now talk to the Senate, House of Reps, State Governors and House of Assembly Speakers that a state of emergency has been created in Nigeria next week which means that all Governors and legislators must go.

“Then the military will now set up what we call the six geographical zones. Let us start on that and allow a military governance over these states.

“Reduce Nigeria to six states and I can assure you the day Nigeria is reduced to six states and there’s a state of emergency, 80 percent of the money spent on governance will return to the treasury,” he said.

The senior lawyer added, “The military should take over temporarily, get Nigeria back to six States. There’s a legitimacy involved in it. So let us start from there.

“Nobody is going to stop banditry in Nigeria today because it is a lucrative business. Look at what is happening in the Eastern region.”

It sounded like a dream to me at first, but there it was, on prime time national television, on the social media and reverberating all over the globe, that a Learned Senior Counsel is calling on the lawfully-elected representatives of the people to abdicate power in order to allow unelected military personnel take over the reins of government. I then began to ask some questions. Is the elder not aware of section 1 (2) of the Constitution that says thus: “the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.” So, where did the Learned Chief get this idea of Nigeria under unelected military rule? What will he do about this Constitution? Suspend it and destroy the entity called Nigeria? What will be the foundation for the legitimacy of the military contraption that he wants to impose upon us? Is he not aware that section 3 (1) of the same Constitution states that “there shall be thirty six States in Nigeria”? How did we get here really? Did the Chief not read section 2 (2) of the Constitution that “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory”? Hmmm. Na wa, as they say it in Warri!

For this to come from a Learned Senior mind the way it came, then surely our civilian leaders must have messed up the political atmosphere so badly that they don’t deserve to be trusted with power again. We must blame the politicians, as they have had close to three decades to put their houses in order since the military were chased out of power in 1999. Things have gotten worse since then, we are more divided now that we ever were, we are more concerned about our ethnic loyalties than ever before and we have more religious tendencies than it used to be. We can’t even talk about how corruption has eaten so deep into our national life, such that nowadays in our own very eyes, snakes do swallow cash and septic tanks have become storage places for dollars. The rate of youth unemployment is higher than before, inflation is climbing at an alarming rate and basic infrastructure practically does not exist, in confirmation of any form of leadership. Good enough, those concerned have since disowned Chief Robert Clarke in this rather strange call. The military authorities have since declined the call to take over the governance of Nigeria, pledging their loyalty to civilian authority, as stated in the Constitution and indeed the Armed Forces Act. The call by Chief Clarke was akin to staging a coup d’etat, which was flatly rejected.

“The Nigerian military has warned politicians and military personnel against planning a coup.The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) in a statement on Monday by Onyema Nwachukwu, its spokesman, said its attention has been drawn to comments by Robert Clarke, a senior lawyer, calling for power to be handed over to the military.
The military dissociated itself from the statement which it described as “anti-democratic” and said it remains loyal to the current administration.

“The attention of the military high command has been drawn to a statement purported to have been made by one Robert Clark SAN, suggesting that current political leadership should hand over power to the military for the purpose of restructuring,” the statement said.

“The Nigerian Military wish to dissociate itself from such anti-democratic utterance and position. Let it be stated categorically that the Armed Forces of Nigeria remain fully committed to the present Administration and all associated democratic institutions. We shall continue to remain apolitical, subordinate to the Civil Authority, firmly loyal to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari and the 1999 Constitution as Amended.

“We shall continue to discharge our constitutional responsibilities professionally, especially in protecting the country’s democracy, defence of the territorial integrity of the country as well as protection of lives and properties of citizens.”

The DHQ warned politicians and military personnel against contemplating the idea of a coup as the full wrath of the law will be brought on anyone caught doing so.

“The Military High Command wishes to use this opportunity to warn misguided politicians who nurse the inordinate ambition to rule this country outside the ballot box to banish such thoughts as the military under the current leadership remain resolute in the Defence of Nigeria’s Democracy and its growth,” it said.

“We also wish to remind all military personnel that it is treasonable to even contemplate this illegality. The full wrath of the law will be brought to bear on any personnel found to collude with people having such agenda. The current security challenges are not insurmountable.

“The Armed Forces of Nigeria in partnership with other security Agencies are working assiduously to ameliorate the challenge. Nigeria will know peace again. PLEASE BE WARNED!”

Our collective experiences with the military have been very unsavoury indeed, comprising inconsistent policies, wanton illegality, monumental corruption, arbitrary legislations, nepotism which cannot be questioned and sectional allegiances. Perhaps the most dangerous sign of military dictatorship is the love for unitary government, which in itself has halted the progress of Nigeria beyond comprehension. To make matters worse, Chief Clarke is even advocating for the abolition of the present structure of 36 States, suggesting only six States instead! Pray, where will Warri, his home, be? Not to talk of the abrogation of the rights of citizens, arbitrary arrests and detentions, mysterious assassinations here and there and uncertainty in governance. We surely cannot return to that inglorious era, as we all firmly believe now that the worst civilian rule is better off than the best military rule.

The call by Chief Clarke has however led us to think very deeply, as to the utility value of civilian government to the people of Nigeria since 1999. We have only raised petty bourgeoisies, jet owners, electoral bandits and political godfathers who have all found retirement in politics and are very unwilling to let go. This is the present tragedy of our nation; namely that we love democracy and its system of governance but we have not gained much from it, because our leaders have bluntly refused to play the game according to the rules. It is unfortunate that we will keep lamenting in this manner and sooner than later, 2023 will come and go and we will still be singing the old songs in Babylon. But we will keep enduring it, until it gets better to give us the dividends that we truly deserve. As for military rule in Nigeria, perish the thought! That era has ended for good.

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