Reasons For Military Interventions In Nigeria


Military intervention refers to the situation where the military moves out of their barracks and takes over political power from the civilian governments of the day. Normally, this is done through a coup d’etat.

In Nigeria, the military first came into power in 1966, overthrowing the first democratically elected government after independence. Several reasons account for the military venturing into politics.

The presence of regionalised parties

One of the reasons the military advanced for their intervention in the politics of Nigeria in 1966 was that the various political parties that were operating at the time were not national. The entire support base of the various political parties was regionalised. The National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroun was supported mainly by people from the Eastern Region, the Action Group drew its support from the Western Region and the Northern People’s Congress drew its support mainly from the Northern Region. This, according to the military did not engender national cohesion.

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Mismanagement of the economy

Another accusation that was levelled against the civilian government to warrant their overthrow was that they mismanaged the economy. The economy was said to have been so mismanaged that if the military had not stepped in, the economy would have slid into an abyss.

Unhealthy rivalry among the major tribes

The politicians of the day were accused by the military of engaging in tribal politics. The political practice of the time was based on ethnicity so each of the major political parties was jostling for supremacy. This, according to the military, badly damaged national unity.

Politicization of the army

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Another cause of the military intervention in Nigeria was the politicization of the army. The army was so politicized that one’s promotion was no longer based on one’s experience, qualification and training but rather on one’s political leanings which were in turn underpinned by one’s tribal origin.

Tribalism and nepotism

Another key contribution to the military overthrow of the civilian government of the day was tribalism and nepotism. Recruitment, appointment and promotion within the Nigerian Civil Service was based on “whom you know”. One was not too sure of appointment into the Civil Service if one did not know any “Oga” within the service or did not belong to a certain tribe. This, the military said was bad.

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Foreign complicity

One cannot rule out foreign complicity in the Nigerian coup d’etat of 1966 and subsequent ones. Some foreign powers are suspected of being involved in regime change so that they can help put into power governments that are amenable to their whims and caprices.


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