Where do we go from here? What is our fate and what is the next line of action? were the questions that cascaded like the waterfalls through the mind of the masses as deduced from the unpredictable actions of the men in khaki uniform.

To live was pain, to die was gain as fear zoomed death in the helpless minds of the unsecured masses. Of a truth, a time to eat with your hands fidgeting sideways was the military era. It was a time, for which the red ink of nature will forever be Jettisoned. Its indelible mark on the sand of nature is a scar yet to be deleted as men were mere puppets in the eye of the military juntas during the military era. Demi -gods they were as they autocratically proclaimed  this:

“In the name of the supreme council of the Revolution of the Nigeria Armed Forces,I declare Martial Law over the Northern Provinces of Nigeria. The Constitution is suspended and the regional governments and elected assemblies are hereby dissolved. All Political, Cultural, Tribal and Trade Union activities, together with all demonstrations and unauthorized gatherings excluding religious worship are banned until further notice. The aim of the revolutionary council is to establish a strong united and prosperous Nation free from corruption and internal strife. Our method of achieving this is strictly military but we have no doubt that every Nigerian will give us maximum cooperation by assisting the regime and not disturbing the peace during the slight changes that are taking place”.

This was where the rain started beating us as an independent Nation as we Delve into the Terrain of Military Rule/Coup de tat and it’s Effect in Nigeria.


What is Military Intervention?
This is simply seen as the violent or nonviolent overthrow of an existing political regime by the military.

The Black’s Law Dictionary sees it as the total 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.

What is coup de tat?
Historical records unveils the word “coup” as a French word literally meaning a “blow”. Generally meaning “a highly successful stroke”,” act or move”,”a clever action or accomplishment”.

Politically, it could be seen as a sudden and decisive action especially one affecting a change of government negatively or by force.
A Coup might also mean a violent and unexpected reformulation of state policy.

More so, it can be seen as a violent or nonviolent overthrow of an existing political regime by the military.

On Juxtaposition of the both essential terms,we deduce thus from the definitions above, that military coup is as well as military intervention in the context applied Herein.

Military Intervention/Coup de’ tat in Nigeria
A Brief Overview

Nigeria as an independent Nation had since experienced series of coups and military intervention since the wee hours of January 15, 1966 when the first Military coup in Nigeria was executed by Late Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu which emerged thus to the leadership of Major General J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi. This coup that was termed tribalistic and regionally masterminded, which saw to the death of prominent elites/cadres, the likes of sardauna of Sokoto, the Prime Mister,The Finance Minister and many others. There was a counter coup in July 29, 1966 bringing in Late Col. Yakubu Gowon who due to his unquenchable quest for continuity in power ,governed for 9 years and was removed through the first bloodless coup which ushered in General Ramat Murtala Mohammed as Head of State who Prior to the fulfilment of his promise of handing over power to the civilians was assassinated 200 days of his ascension into office on the Friday, February 13, 1976 as plotted and executed by Buka sulker Dimka. Then Murtala’s second in command, General Olusegun Obasanjo took over the mantle of rulership as he continued with the policies of General Murtala Mohammed thereby handing over power to elected civilians on October 1, 1979 which saw to the emergence of Alhaji Shehu shagari after 13 uninterrupted years of military interregnum.

However, the khaki juntas were not over yet in the race as Major General Muhamadu Buhari swept out the civilian government on December 31, 1983. Nonetheless his rulership was short lived by the outburst of another intriguing coup by Major General Ibrahim Badamosi Babanginda (who happened to be his former Chief of Army Staff) on August 27, 1985. And preferred the title “President” to “Head of State”. Babangida conducted an election which many believed was won by Abiola. An interim government headed by Sir Ernest Shonekan was established. General Sani Abacha struck at this eve and took over power in 1993, and managed the Nation ruthlessly for 6years before his termed Miraculous Death occurred in office in 1998 at the jubilation of all that the tyrant is gone.

On this note, the military decided to confer power to their commander and highest ranking military officer in the person of Abdusalami who took over and later handed same to Olusegun Obasanjo with a constitution already made in 1999.  Thus, from 1999 till date, Nigeria have not experienced military intervention again.

Relatively, with our stethoscope in our hands, we critically examine various implications of coup de tat in Nigeria.

Political Implications of Coup de tat in Nigeria

As Ezenwa (1987) rightly stated that one of the major political event of the First Republic was the military intervention and its Draconian Laws.
It is no new thing that military rule is force rule where decisions are taken at the whims and caprices of the men in khaki.
There was high absence of Press Freedom as in negation to Section 39(1) of CFRN 1999. This automatically kept the press at a halt and they moved only when asked to and towards the direction they were directed to. This was evidenced by the exertion of suspending Chapter 4 of the constitution which covered fundamental Human Rights and thus this saw the masses rested at their mercy.

More so, this era brought about sectional rivalry which was the order of the day as it was a battle if who wins the tussle, who should control the helm of affairs, who should at his command make the populace his loyal subjects.

This indirectly paved way for the personal rivalry of some of the juntas which was a sharp blow to the masses. A classical example to this effect was the personality clash between Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu and Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon which was one of the chief reasons that gave birth to the first Civil war wherein the innocent citizens were the victims.

Consequentially, politicking in this era was a do or die affair where there was gross display of political instability in the administration system as the forceful disposition of military juntas powered on the more in the reoccurring coup after coup which led to reformations of different political agendas that directly or indirectly affected the lives if the wailing masses.

Constitutional Implications of Coup de tat in Nigeria

One troubling aspect of military rule is its disrespect for the constitution. This had been evidenced in two different categories. The first is that all Military regime in Nigeria have suspended sections of the constitution that may restrict their powers while retaining those portions of the constitution that they find helpful to their administration.
Additionally, on a second note, we see that military rulers who control Nigerians without the benefit of the constitution, have drafted and provided constitutions for civil regimes that will succeed them. Clear Examples of these Military_supervised constitutions are; those of 1979, 1988 and 1995. Each of them was drafted and constructed with instructions not to go into certain zones dear to the Military ( so called “no_go areas”) such as attempts to ban military coup de tats.

On this note, it is no aberration, if it is stated thus, that military_supervised Constitutions effectively established Nigeria’s Federalism.

Concluding it to this effect, military rule is an era where decrees rule seen as the supreme rule and the federal constitution under the civilian government is subject to the dictates of the decrees under the military rule. This was and still is the greatest assault and insult to the constitution which was further evidenced in the case of Lakanmi v A.G Fed. where the military administration made it clear that Decree No 1 of 1966(Their First Decree) had established a new legal order under which their decree was superior to whatever part of 1963 Constitution that they permitted to continue existing.

Economic Implications of Coup de tat in Nigeria

The Economic effects of military rule was indeed disastrous as the traditional agricultural based economy was abandoned and they became extremely dependents on exports of oil which due to frequent fluctuations in oil prices led to an unstable economy.
It is of great necessity that the federation account should be fully regarded as an agency for fair allocation of constitutionally allocated funds. Sadly, under military rule, the federation account has been badly abused. A classical instance is the FESTAC 77 reckless spending in this regard.

Furthermore, we see the Babanginda regime as characterized by “gross incompetence and unbridled waste and mismanagement, the privatisation of public offices and public resources, the neglect of non oil sectors and misplaced priorities. Essentially, the focus was on the private sector as opposed to the good of the Nation.

Apparently, as a result of the military economic policy of the 1980’s, 45% of the foreign exchange earnings were going into debt servicing and there was very little growth in the economy. This led to a rise in poverty, crime, child abuse, disease, institutional decay and urban dislocation.

Even more so is it no argument that the instability and dissatisfaction caused by these policies was one of the causes of the consistent pattern of coups.

Legal Implications of Coup de tat in Nigeria

It is very disheartening to state the fact that the military juntas are very sire to the dictates and judgements of regular courts. They, in many firms have sworn to see that their administration is not made subject to the ruling of the courts or courts orders. Hence in the case of Lankami v A.G Fed(supra), the Supreme Court declared one of the decrees of the Military government to be ultra vires in the 1963 Constitution and therefore null and void. The military on this note, passed another decree, Decree No 1 of 1966(their first Decree) through which they made it clear that their decree was superior to whatever part of the 1963 constitution they permitted to continue existing when they assumed office.

More so, in the case of Adamolekun v Council of the university of Ibadan, the Supreme Court held to be void, the provision of a regional edict which was found to be inconsistent either with the unsuspended part of the constitution or with any provision of a decree of the military government.

On this note, it is evident, that the military rule never gave cognisance to Court rulings and Orders most especially when it is in contradistinction to their orders.

Religious Implications of Coup de tat in Nigeria

As challenging as it was and still is, the military intervention heightened the sectionalized disarray of beliefs and the unavoidable feuds and animosity that came alongside it.
Thus, it is no argument that the Nation being a large one was a religious minded state. This is evident in the feud between Islams and Christians which never ceased. it was a sharp edge in the first coup and a returning edge in the response coup. Till date, the stones of religious trauma keep hunting and it is still arguably the major problem of Nigerian Federalism.

Social Implications of Coup de tat in Nigeria

The social implications of coup de tat in Nigeria is evidenced in the lives of the Nigerian citizens. A striking display of this emanated from the war. It is the civil war which will ever remain in the hearts of all Nigerians especially the Easterners. This war took a high amount of Nigerian essence with it, the disruption of education in many parts of the federation, mostly the Eastern part, the fact that the civil war bestowed a lot of hardship on the people of Nigeria especially the Igbos which was evident in the fact that parents, breadwinners and hopeful sons were lost in the battlefield and outside the warfront.
Hunger was the order of the day as starvation and diseases contributed to the massive loss.

Even when the war came to an end, the immediate problem that arose was that of reintegrating the people displaced by the war. This forced the then military government headed by General Yakubu Gowon to embark on the three R’s_ Rehabilitation, Reconciliation, and Reconstruction. On this note, we cannot claim to be ignorant that the social lives of Nigerians were in shambles during the military era.


Of a truth, only few, if any Individual, body or organization would ever dream of experiencing military intervention again in the nation Nigeria. To curb this issues, we need transparency, honesty and probity in the  of administration, as we look forward to consistent free and fair elections.
More so, military intervention should be outlawed by the constitution. This will go a long way to restrain the possibility of its reoccurrence.

From 1999 till date and beyond, if these factors are maintained in governance, then the emergence of military intervention will sure be a hardnut to crack.

Since we know when the rain started beating us as an independent Nation, only we still know when it stopped and when our body got dry from the wetness of the rain. We are the solutions to our problems to see that the nation becomes great. That rule of law is obeyed, justice and equity is applied to all its citizens past, present and the future.

About the author
MBAH CHIDIEBERE SIMEON is a law student, Faculty of Law, chukwuemeka odumegwu ojukwu University, Anambra state.

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