Government Notes

Military Rule In Nigeria: Reasons, achievement and weakness


The first military regime in Nigeria started in January 15th 1966, which was staged by five (5) Majors led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. It was a bloody military coup in the annals of Nigeria’s politics. Prominent Politicians including the Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, Premier of Western Region, S.L. Akintola, the Minister of Finance, Chief Festus Okotie Eboh, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of the Northern Region and many other top ranking officers in the armed force were killed.

This coup brought General Aguiyi Ironsi to power. On July 29th 1966, a counter coup was staged by Northern officers in the army and Aguiyi Ironsi Government was toppled and he was killed. Then Col. Yakubu Gowon took over from him. July 29th 1975 Coup brought an end to the 9 years rule of Yakubu Gowon when he was busy attending O.A.U. summit in Kampala Uganda. General Murtala Mohammed who was the coup leader took over as the Head of State. General Murtala Mohammed was assassinated in an aborted coup led by Lt. Colonel Buka Suka Dimka on February 13, 1975. General Olusegun Obasanjo the next in command to Murtala Mohammed took over as the Head of State. General Olusegun Obasanjo eventually handed over power to a democratically elected Government of President Shehu Shagari on 1st October, 1979.

On December 31st 1983, the civilian government was terminated by a coup headed by General Mohammed Buhari. On August 27th 1985, General Ibrahim Babangida, the Chief of Staff to Mohammed Buhari took over from him and became the President and Commander In-Chief of the Armed Forces. On December 1985, unsuccessful coup was led by late General Mamma Vatsa. Then on April 1990, another unsuccessful coup was led by late Major Gideon Orka. However, Babangida retired from the army after handing over in 1993. He set up an interim government with Chief Ernest Shonekan as the Head of State. Late general Abacha sacked the interim government and assume the Military Head of State of Nigeria. Abacha died on the 8th of June 1998 and was succeeded by General Abdulsalam Abubakar, who eventually handed over power to a democratically elected President on 29th May, 1999. 


  1. Account for the coming of the military into Nigeria’s politics.
  2. Why was February 13 1975’s, coup regarded as aborted? 


  1. When the process of changing political leadership is in doubt, the military may intervene.
  2. Politicization of the army.
  3. Nepotism, tribalism and favoritism which pervert justice.
  4. Regional differences; Differences among regions were so acute as to precipitate crises leading to direct assumption of power.
  5. Mismanagement of the national economy e.g Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
  6. Corruption and abuse of office by political leaders in the 1st and 2nd Republics.
  7. Clumsy handling of census exercise e.g Nigeria in 1962 and 1963 census.
  8. Lack of free and fair election e.g Western Nigeria election of 1965.
  9. Long stay in office; Most Nigerian leaders want to make themselves life president.
  10. Bad administrations in Nigeria have contributed to frequent coups that occurred in the country.


Give five reasons for military intervention in Nigeria’s politics.


  1. Preservation of the unity of Nigeria; the civil war was fought in order to preserve the unity of Nigeria.
  2. Infrastructural development; such as construction of roads, bridges, air ports and establishment of institutions.
  3. The creation of more states which gives room for self determination by different ethnic groups in the country.
  4. The National Youth Service Corps (N.Y.S.C.) was established to foster unity among the different ethnic groups in Nigeria.
  5. The military brought about a positive change in the Nigeria’s foreign policy.
  6. The establishment of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) by Gowon and Eyadema.
  7. Changing in the pattern of driving; this was done on 2nd April, 1972.
  8. Creation of a new federal capital territory by the military administration of Murtala/Obasanjo.
  9. Teaching hospitals, Polytechnics, College of Education and Universities were established.


  1. Highlight 5 achievements of military regime in Nigeria.
  2. State the pattern of driving before 1972.


  1. Mention the names of the officers that were killed during the first bloody military coup in Nigeria.
  2. How has bad administration contributed to military intervention in politics?


Essential government by C.C. Dibie pages 213 to214


  1. The first military coup in Nigeria took place on (a) Jan. 15, 1965 (b) Feb. 15,1966 (c) Jan. 15, 1966
  2. The first military coup in Africa happened in (a) Egypt (b) Nigeria (c) Ghana
  3. Who handed over power to a democratically elected president in 1979? (a) Murtala Mohammed (b) Olusegun Obasanjo (c) Gen. Buhari
  4. ____ was the military President between 1985- 1993 (a) Gen. Yakubu Gowon (b) Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (c) Gen.Olusegun Obasanjo
  5. ____ is associated with military rule (a) Popular consent (b) Accountability (c) Decrees


  1. What are the characteristics of the military rule?
  2. Describe the structure of the military rule


  1. The military are not trained in the act of governance.
  2. Military regimes are by their nature autocratic; they are insensitive to the opinions or the demands of the people.
  3. The Nigerian civil war; the military was responsible for the civil war that claimed many lives.
  4. Military rule is based on fear because they possessed weapons of coercion especially the gun.
  5. Mismanagement and wastage of public fund.
  6. Increase in the rate of crime in the country.
  7. Violation of fundamental human rights.
  8. Lack of respect for the rule of law; the military do not respect the rule of law because military rule is conducted without a constitution.
  9. The military derive pleasure in passing harsh laws (draconian law) which some times take retro active effect.
  10. Failure to conduct an acceptable population census.


  1. State 5 failures of the military regime in Nigeria.
  2. Discuss the military involvement in the Nigerian Civil War.


  1. Military intervention could be prevented with the eradication or reduction in the level of corruption in Nigeria by politicians.
  2. It can also be prevented through accountability and transparency on the part of politicians.
  3. Necessary atmosphere should be created for the conduct of free and fair elections.
  4. It can be prevented if elected officials are responsive to the yearnings of the people.
  5. A law should be made to depoliticize the military and be completely separated from politics.
  6. It can be prevented if politicians learn to avoid mismanagement of public fund.
  7. The people should resist military rule through peaceful mass disobedience.
  8. Fundamental human rights should be respected by everybody in the country especially the politicians and military.
  9. The masses should be given political education so as to be able to fight for their right when it is being infringed upon.
  10. Politicians should learn how to avoid ethnic politics in order not to attract military rule.


  1. State 5 measures that could be taken to prevent military intervention in politics.
  2. What is it to depoliticize the military?


  1. The Armed Forces Ruling Council: This consist of the Head of State and the Commander In- Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, the Service Chiefs, Inspector General of Police, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation and the Secretary to the military Government. This was the supreme decision making body in the country
  2. The Council of Ministers: This consists of the President, Vice President and the ministers some of whom were military officers, while others were politicians. The council performs executive functions with the President as the Chairman.
  3. The Council of States: This was an innovation introduced by Murtala Mohammed. It was an advisory body to the S.M.C./A.F.R.C. It was usually presided over by the Chief of Staff supreme headquarters. It is composed of the Head of State, Chief of General Staff, Minister of Defense; service Chiefs of the Army, Air force and Navy, Inspector General of Police, Attorney General and all military Governors.
  4. The Judiciary: This is headed by the Chief Justice of the country and various Judges of the court of appeal and high court.
  5. The Civil Service: It was made up of  both the Secretary to the military government and the Head of Service. Apart from this, the structure of the civil service remains the same with that of the civilian regime.


  1. Discuss the structure of the military rule.
  2. Make a list of the members of the Council of States.


  1. Why do people reject military rule?
  2. Discuss the reasons why the military involve in politics


Military Rule in Nigeria

Essential Government by C.C. Dibie, pages 214- 219


  1. The following are the failures of military regime except

(a) provision of infrastructure (b) increase in crime rate (c) making of harsh laws

  • One of the following is a feature of military rule

(a) periodic elections (b) use of decrees (c) respect for the rule of law

  • P.R.C. stands for (a) Peace Reconciliation Council (b) People’s Redemption Council

(c) Provisional Ruling Council

  • Which military regime introduced S.A.P.? (a) Babangida (b) Abacha (c) Obasanjo
  • Oil boom was experienced in Nigeria’s economy during ____ regime

(a) Aguiyi Ironsi (b) Murtala Mohammed (c) Yakubu Gowon


  1. Explain (5) weaknesses of the military.
  2. What is Retro-active effect? How is it related to military rule?

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