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Military rule is synonymous to dictatorial rule whereby there exist coercive tendency in the governance system. When the military steps in to power, they tend to militarize the governance structures and apparatus by way of suspending the existing legal instruments in order to carry out their nefarious and dictatorial assignment. Military governments have performed poorly in economic management and governance and have relied on the civilians they had overthrown to govern. Likewise, civilian administration have relied upon, and manipulated the military institutions and structures thereby politicizing the military and restarting the cycle of the military intervention. This cycle has repeated itself several times in the post colonial period and any effort to design a system of preventing military interventions must address itself to this cycle. Due to the nature of the topic which borders on the military and their mode of behavior after forceful seizure of power from the civilian rule makes it pertinent to indulge in many sources and materials (academic wise) in order to achieve a vivid view of the topic. The findings definitely has to do with the post colonial period during which the military took advantage of the lacuna in civilian structures then to unleash chaos in government thereby disrupting civilian order. The thesis will also show that the relationships between the military, the executive branch, ministry of defence and the legislature are very important in ensuring effective civil-military relations and breaking the cycle of military interventions. In addition, a balance of the activities of the intelligence agencies, which must operate in secrecy but with some form of transparency, is very important in democratic consolidation. This is the crux of this research work. The main aim is to examine how the Nigerian law prevents the outbreak of military interventions in politics and governments.


Title Page




Table of Contents

Table of Cases

Table of Statutes

Table of Abbreviations



1.1  Background of Study

1.2  Objective of Study

1.3  Scope of the Study

1.4  Significance of the Study

1.5  Research Methodology

1.6  Literature Review

1.7  Definition of Terms


2.1Background of military involvement in politics

2.2 Causes Of Military Incursion Into Politics.

2.3 Impact of military coup d’état on political development in Nigeria.



3.2 Major coups in Nigeria

3.3Military Rule and Damage to the Spirit of the Nigerian Constitution


4.1 Supremacy of the 1999 constitution

4.2 The prevention of military coups in Nigeria by the 1999 constitution



5.1 Summary

5.2 Conclusion

5.3 Recommendation




1.1 Background of the Study

The military in Nigeria, just like in most of the countries in West Africa, has been intermittently involved in politics since independence. Attempts by government after government to keep the military out of politics and direct rule have failed in both Nigeria and the rest of West Africa. Even after attempts had been made to transit back to democracy in Nigeria, the military intervened to stop the progress. The first and most obvious question is whether the military can be prevented from initially intervening, re-intervening, and from threatening to do so in order to shape the new political order in accordance with its interests. This is not a problem easily resolvable by constitutional and legal bans against coups. The answer does not lie in the military establishment but in the democratic institution functioning effectively and remaining legitimate in an active civil society in which social and political forces remain strong enough to deter military intervention in economies that grow and redistribute resources minimizing discontent and conflict, and in an international environment supporting democratic institutions.

On the 15th of January 1966, a group of young military officers attempted to overthrow the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They succeeded in killing several high ranking political office holders and politicians, including the Premiers of the Northern and Western Regions of the country.

By the next day, it was not known whether the then Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was dead or alive. Nonetheless, the then Acting President, Nwafor Orizu purportedly invited and handed-over the administration of the country to the armed forces under the leadership of the General Officer Commanding the Army, Major-General J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi.

Between 1966 and 1979, four (4) serving generals directed the affairs of Nigeria. This fourteen-year period was that of complete military rule. The second period of military rule was 1983 to 1999; allowance is not intended for the period of the Shonekan Interim National Government (ING), which was an imposition of the then military administration, and so, the sixteen years from 1983 to 1999, with its three Army Generals, will be treated as the same single, continuous period of military rule. Although the Interim National Government was headed by a civilian, heads of the executive arm were not elected by popular vote in a general election. The then military President had to step aside to allow ING and an elected National Assembly with elected State administrations already in place to remain in office.

It is humbly submitted that since no fundamental changes occurred in the structure of the ING or indeed the nature of its assumption of executive authority, a justification to remove it from the main stream of a military dispensation will only result in a dry inconsequential excursion. The three months it was in office was therefore part and parcel of the military government that put it in place: a position on the legality of the ING will therefore reflect in any position taken on the legality of the administration that brought it into being.

1.2 Objective of the Study

The objective of this study is mainly to:

a.     Analyse the involvement of military in the government of Nigeria;

b.     Consider the major causes of military intervention;

c.      Consider the impacts of militants in Nigerian politics

d.     Examine the constitutional prevention of military government in Nigeria; and

e.      Analyse strength of the constitution in preventing its outbreak

1.3Scope of the Study

This long essay is limited to the constitutional or legal prevention of military intervention in the Nigerian government and will lay emphasis on the impact of the military on our democratic society.

1.4 Significance of the Study

It is the basic of this research to uncover and establish the role of the fundamental law of the land in preventing the intervention of the military in the government of the country and to maintain consistency in civilian rule.

1.5 Research Methodology

The design utilized in this discourse is the qualitative research approach. It is an approach where qualitative data are sought from relevant sources and also analyzed contextually without necessarily involving any quantitative techniques. Based on the nature of data required, this discourse relied mainly on secondary data sources in the process of gathering relevant information. In this process, documented and archival data were extracted from government gazettes, texts, periodicals and other relevant sources. Data generated from these sources were condensed and critically analyzed through content and context analysis where relevant and specific information were distilled from the collections.

1.6Literature Review

Even though a lot of literature is available on civil-military relations and transition to democratic rule, few resources can be found on Nigeria. All the literature that has been produced is on transition to democratic rule, forms of military rule, military in politics, and some accounts on the involvement of the military. Nothing has been written on civil military relationship with the purpose of preventing coups. In the review of the literature, therefore, this work will focus on good civil military relations as seen by some experts in the field and apply this to Nigeria. Civil-military relations have been a source of concern for countries in the emerging democratic dispensation of the Third World after the collapse of the Cold War. This concern exists because the process of democratization tends to put the military, which hitherto controlled so much power at the state level, under civilian control.

This literature review will first define good civil-military relations as seen by some authors in establishing effective civilian control of the military to prevent military interventions. The literature uses Nigeria as a case study in analyzing how civil-military relations can best lead to effective civilian control of the military. Finally, it discusses the relative weight of structure vs. human agency for attaining good civil-military relations and democratic civilian control of the military.

In his book The Soldier and The State, Samuel Huntington describes civil-military relations as an aspect of national security policy. He sees the military institution as operating from two forces; a functional imperative, stemming from the threats to the society’s security, and a societal imperative, arising from the social forces, ideologies and institutions dominant within society. He believes that balancing these two forces results in good civil-military relations. Huntington goes further to explain subjective civilian control, which civilianizes the military making them the mirror of the State, and objective civilian control, which militarizes the military making it the tool of the state. Subjective civilian control exist in many forms; whereas, objective civilian control has only one.[1]

Nigeria in its effort at democratic consolidation desires full objective civilian control because the prime aim for any system of civilian control is to have strong, and nonpolitical military. Objective civilian control will achieve this reduction while, at the same time, increasing professionalism of the military thereby making it apolitical.

In defining good civil military relations, Douglas L. Bland sets up four benchmarks in which conditions must exist in a nation state:

(i)                Acknowledge distinct civil and military spheres;

(ii)             Explain the factors that shape how civilians exercise control over the military;

(iii)            Transcend the concept of professionalism;

(iv)           Derive it deductively before empirically testing it against the historical records.

He also favored the theory of a shared responsibility for good civil military relations, in which various players work within a known regime in which the rules of the game and the sanctions for breaking the rules are understood and generally agreed upon.[2] The rules and sanctions must be binding on the armed forces and the civilian leaders. Bland also supports objective civilian control for good civil-military relations. 

          Peter D. Feaver sees good civil-military relations as a challenge in reconciling a military strong enough to do whatever the civilians request and a military subordinate enough to do only what civilians authorize.[3] For good civil-military relations, balance is required between the protection by the military and protection from the military since any effort to assure one side complicates effort to assure the other. Feaver further noted that objective civilian control signifies autonomous military professionalism. He pointed out that interference or meddling in military affairs undermines military professionalism and so undermines objective control. Objective civilian control also weakens the military politically and facilitates its voluntary subordination to civilian control.

          Henry H. Gaffney, Jr. recognizes that for the military to function effectively and have good civil-military relations, effective civilian control is essential. He further outlines the following requirements that are to be met and referred to as the basic rules for effective civil-military relations:

(i)                The minister of defense should be a civilian.

(ii)             The military establishment must be embedded within the government system.

(iii)           The military establishment must be embedded within the society.

(iv)           The military establishment must be embedded within the economy.

(v)             A unified military command must exist for the Services.[4]

Herbert M. Howe identifies the rulers' trepidation about loyalty as prompting the creation of parallel security forces, usually ethnically based, as counter-weights to the established armed forces.[5] These forces only protect the ruler and the regime rather than defending the nation, which is one major source of instability in civil military relations.

The theme of this thesis is “Preventing military intervention in Nigeria.” The study is important because Nigeria, like any of the countries in the West African sub-region, has experienced a lot of coups since its independence in 1960. All attempts at effective democratic rule have failed in Nigeria and in most of West Africa since the military have been indirectly involved in the political system of the countries from the pre-colonial period until today.

The primary concern for the country is achieving civilian control of the military and making a democracy work during this fourth attempt at constitutional rule. A good relationship between the intelligence apparatus, the executive branch, the military as well as the population is of prime importance in consolidating democracy. This will build confidence and reduce hatred and suspicion that exist between the institutions. Failure to achieve this undermined previous attempts at effective democratic rule in Nigeria, and in most of West Africa.

The colonial master, Britain, established the military in Nigeria to protect and defend the territorial integrity of the nation but also maintain order in the smooth functioning of the colony by engaging in police duties, suppressing internal unrest and rebellions. As a result, the military found itself either directly or indirectly involved in the governance of the nation. Government upon government further shifted the military from its assigned roles to a role in politics.

1.7Definition of Terms

Legality: The Black’s Law Dictionary gives two definitions for legality;

1.     “strict adherence to law, prescription, or doctrine; the quality of being legal”

2.     “The principle that a person may not be prosecuted under a criminal law that has not been previously published” [6]

Military: In defining ‘military’, the Blacks Law Dictionary gives the following definitions:

1.     (n) “the armed forces”

2.     (adj.) “of or relating the armed forces; of or relating to war”, administration is defined as 1) “The management or performance of the executive duties of a government, institution, or business”

3.     “In public law, the practical management and direction of the executive department and its agencies”.[7]

Here, the need to distinguish government from administration and put forward the definition for ‘government’ as opposed to ‘administration’ is paramount. Government, according to the Blacks Law Dictionary means

The structure of principals and rules determining how a state or organization is regulated: the sovereign power in a nation or state: an organization through which a body of people exercise political authority; the machinery by which sovereign power is expressed.

A ‘military government’ is defined, within the context of international law, as:

The control of all or most public functions within a country, or the assumption and exercise of governmental functions, by military forces or individual members of those forces; government exercised by a military commander under the direction of the executive or sovereign, either externally during a foreign war or internally during a civil war.


It is enough at this point to assume that a picture has been created of the scope of our analysis in determining the legality of the various military administrations in Nigeria.

Coup d’etat: Coup is an original French conception meaning blow. But generally, it means a “highly successful stroke, act or move: a clever action or accomplishment”. The term coup d’état, also French, literally means a “blow, or stroke, concerning the state”. In politics however, it means a “sudden and decisive action, especially one affecting a change of government illegally or by force”. In other words, a coup d’état, as given in this definition, is characterized by “suddenness”, “decisiveness”, “illegality”, and “force”.

[1]Samuel P. Huntington, The Soldier and the State. (New York Vintage Books 1957) pages 2 & 83

[2]Douglas L. Bland, “Unified Theory of Civil Military Relations”. Armed Forces & Society, Vol 26, No1, Fall11999 p.9

[3]Peter D. Feaver, “The Civil-Military Problematique; the Question of Civil Control”. Armed forces & society, vol.23 winter 1996 p. 149 & 160

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