Tamara GeeNigeria: Military DictatorshipsNigeria was ruled by the British Commonwealth for roughly 60 years, starting in 1901 and ending in 1960. Nigeria fought hard to end colonization with Britain, and gained their independence in 1960, to become its own republic nation. The Nigerians were thrilled to gain their independence after the Independence Movement of the 1950s. However, the “independence” of the Federal Republic of Nigeria only lasted until 1966, when different military generals staged various Coup D’etats, or military takeovers, on the Federal Government. While in power, each general treated civilians and politicians terribly, along with lying to the public, and speaking out against the Federal Gov’t. Essentially, Nigerian Military Dictatorships treated civilians poorly and spoke negatively about the Federal Government so they could keep their power on the base of many military coups. Many false promises were made by military dictators during their coups so civilians would favor them over the democratic system.
There have been 7 successful coups, or takeovers by the military government, since 1966, and most dictators gained power through telling civilians what they wanted to hear, not what they were truly going to do. (BBC) One of the major lies that any dictator has made was a coup by Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in 1983. Major-General Buhari was one of the leaders of the military coup of December 1983 that overthrew the democratically elected government of President Shehu Shagari.
(BBC) The Buhari regime promised civilians that he would “rejuvenate” the economy from its recent decline. The economic decline was caused by chaos in the oil industry, the biggest industry in Nigeria. Many civilians living on oil plantations demanded that the federal government should’ve given them some of the profit from oil, and from there, the market crashed drastically. In Buhari’s regime, he said he would fix the economy, but he did the opposite. He caused corruption throughout Nigeria and in the government and was soon overthrown on the coup of August 27, 1985, by Dictator Babangida.(BBC) The Babangida regime promised he would help the economy, and pledged to transfer power to a civilian administration in 1990. Babangida promised to return to the civilian rule, stating that the current (at the time) economy was “plundered.
” After years of persuading civilians to trust his promises, he extended the return to a democracy based government in 1993, putting the economy in a worse position that it was in before Buhari.Through various coups, the military persuaded civilians to believe that they were superior to the federal civilian-run government. To help stay away from remarks against the military government, when critics spoke out against it, they would face harsh repercussions such as getting beat or hanged. After seizing power from civilians, the military justifies its action on the ground that civilian politicians are corrupt, inefficient, unpatriotic and incompetent. (Searcey) These claims were essentially mainly accurate, which lead to the acceptance by the general public. However, the military government was also corrupt in the sense that it treated civilians with extremely harsh conditions.
On November 10, 1995, Nigeria’s military leader hanged nine political prisoners, working under a critic named Mr. Saro-Wiwa, for speaking out against the current, at the time, military government. (Beck) They were all critics of the gov’t and got convicted than hanged for trying to speak out about their opposition to the oil industry in the Niger-Delta region of southern Nigeria. They believed that they should’ve been getting some of the profits for the oil in the Niger-Delta. Mr. Saro-Wiwa’s organization, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, grew to become the largest political organization in the 350-square-mile homeland of the Ogoni. (Beck) This ethnic group, to which he belonged, includes 500,000 people who live in the oil-rich but desperately poor swamplands of Delta State.
(Searcey) This organization grew as a protest against the poor treatment set by the military government. Along with the harsh treatment, the military government played a role in banning certain human rights, such as freedom of speech and expression. Until the late 1970s, when military rulers deprived many citizens of their rights through detention without trial, physical assault, torture, harassment, and intimidation, the issue of human rights was not a major concern. (Brooke) Under the Buhari regime, there was a law placed named the “State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree Number 2 of 1984” law, which empowered the chief of staff at Supreme Headquarters to convict anyone suspected of being a security risk indefinitely without trial. (French) Military security was the reason for such judicial action, often in the form of military tribunals.
Another assault on human rights was when General Babangida took power in 1985 and repealed a law that made it criminal behavior to publish any material that was considered embarrassing or against the interests of the government, there was hope for freedom of expression both by the people and the media. Within the Babangida regime, political tolerance occurred for some time. (Brooke) However, this brief strike into human rights broke down when the regime began jailing its critics and firing employees who did not promote their views and ideals. “This regime closed down more newspapers and banned more popular organizations than any other in Nigeria’s post-colonial history.” (Beck, Roger B.) Along with altering the right to freedom of speech, the government also placed a ban on LGBT rights.
If anyone displayed same-sex affection in public, he or she would be convicted to up to 14 years in prison. (French)Another problem within the Federal Government that the Military was trying to exploit were the minority ethnic groups that have been fighting for equal rights since Nigeria’s independence in 1960. Many of the tensions between ethnic groups arise from Nigeria’s federal system, and many minorities view the Federal government as skewed in favor of the three major ethnic groups, the Hausa-Fulani, the Yoruba, and the Igbo. (Agbese) The Military generals persuade civilians to believe that the federal government is not inclusive of minorities, which leads to some privileged ethnic groups over others. Nigeria has a population roughly split in half, between Christians predominantly in the South and Muslims in the North, and with a minority population of all other ethno-religious groups.
(Agbese) Also, the Military government made it extremely apparent that Nigerian public holidays honor Christian and Muslim feast days, but not holidays of any other religion. Also, the government subsidizes only Christian and Muslim pilgrimages and allows Christian and Muslim religious education in schools. (Agbese) Essentially, the military government treated civilians harshly and spoke negatively about the Federal Government so they could keep their power on the base of many military coups.
The military government hanged people who spoke badly about them, and abused many human rights and made false promises to the public. These tactics worked for roughly 30 years until General Babangida gave power to a civilian run government in 1993.