Military Rule Crippled Our Democratic Culture


By Oluwagbenga Oyebanji

I like an environment where ideas are encouraged for debate, where there is no winner no loser, where all are interested in learning regardless of where the idea is coming from, where debate is encouraged. But you are seen like a weakling when you do not dictate to people. Long military rule in Nigeria has really crippled our democratic culture. Politicians dislike debate, they bully a better candidate who has better ideas. It is surprising that political debate is second guess by political-military mentality, 1966-1999.

The military guys truncated a political experience and replaced it with tribalism, nepotism and prebendalism. The same young military guys that hijacked  the democratic process in 1966 are now parading themselves as democrats and elder statesmen.

It is plain to see the effect of coup on politics. Today the military is politicized along tribal lines. The Boko Haram insurgents are having a field day, capturing Nigeria’s territory and kidnapping to cause mayhem. The politicians are clueless about the pervading insecurity. They only focus on politics and power. How did Nigeria get here? It started in 1966 when few young men got disgruntled about the way politics was played. They thought they had better ideas through the barrel of the gun. That was the genesis of Nigeria’s democratic problem. The military guys appointed politicians as ministers in their cabinet, they learnt politics from politicians while politicians learnt about military and the two variables created an equation called “Militocracy”. This is a type of government for the military, by the military, and of the military. It is a government where the military writes the constitution, create the political parties and even anoint their candidates.

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When they handed over in 1999 everybody thought they were backing off politics but they took off their uniform and wore civilian outfit. This is the story of lack of internal democracy because everything is seen from dictatorial point of view.

In 2014 the country is bedevilled by multifaceted problems. The solutions are caged like a lion ready to perform in a circus without a trainer. We need to demilitarize our  political mindset, create  an environment of debate and embed debate in the constitution. That is the way to build institution from the base. Nigeria will take her place in the comity of nations. It is a matter of time, Out of the 54 years Nigeria has existed as an independent country, the military spent 29 years in power cumulatively. We will get there either by crawling or walking. The most important thing is, we are moving.

•Oyebanji is a publisher/columnist

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