The 2023 presidential election was a great leap forward for Nigeria. For the first time, either by design or coincidence, we had three industrialists, namely, Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP); Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led in the race. This marked a total departure from the era when retired and tired army generals dominated the political scene.
You won’t be wrong defining 2023 as the end of an era and beginning of another. In the unhappy era that ended 29th May 2023, Nigeria was a political disaster. Under the retired military officers, who initially came to power as young revolutionaries, Nigeria abysmally failed to grow on all indices of power- political, monetary, intellectual and religious stabilities. You now begin to question the rationale for returning them to power as civilian presidents.
We are convinced there is a direct link between the long period, 15th January 1966-29th May 2023, Nigeria was exposed to the clueless leadership under the old guard and high levels of violence and corruption of today. Isa Sanusi of Amnesty International revealed that within the first three weeks of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu government, 123 Nigerians were killed by non-state actors; a spillover from the General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) government, for instance.
Agreed that a probable great future beckons; we must still interrogate the leaderships of the past six decades. Such exercise, apart from engendering the much-needed national relief, will also bring about foreclosure to an unproductive epoch.
This article comes in two parts. In part one we shall look at the revolutionary forces that brought the generals to power as young officers and still retained them as civilian presidents. Did they advance or hinder Nigeria while in public office? What other profitable ventures can we put them to, if only to wean them from politics? In part two we shall look at our national quest for industrialisation. What do Nigerians stand to gain under Industrialist-President Tinubu?
Political revolution is the change of government by force of arms. The change can be spontaneous or takes a long time coming as crawling revolution. However, when the same change occurs without violence under free and fair election, we privilege it as political evolution; being the direct opposite of revolution. For ages philosophers have debated whether society should embrace revolution or evolution to move forward.
Revolution comes in three stages manned by different historical figures. The first stage is led by the Prophet of Revolution who dreams and defines the envisaged change. While people sleep at night, he calculates and conspires with himself. Though he may not live long enough to see his dream come to fruition, the most important thing is that his vision will change things for better.
The Diplomat of Revolution features in the second stage. It is his manifest destiny to build alliances around the vision of the Prophet. This he does by recruiting friendly people and institutions to back his cause. He also prepares his people for the vicious struggle ahead.
Finally, the last stage of revolution is championed by the Military Genius. Impatient with the endless preaching of the Diplomat, he fires the first shot to set the revolution in motion. By the time the guns become silent he has either achieved regime change or is killed. If he succeeds, he becomes a hero. If he fails and is executed, he becomes a martyr.
Paradox of Revolution: 1966-2023
Researchers are agreed that every revolutionary movement ends up perpetuating the very evil it sets out to abolish in a true Orwellian tradition. Here is a good example: On 21st March 1960 the African National Congress, ANC, of South Africa went to war when the Apartheid police massacred 69 unarmed blacks in Sharpeville. Half a century later, precisely on 16th August 2012, the same ANC under President Jacob Zuma massacred 34 black miners demanding for better wage in Marikana.
Many African nationalists, upon inheriting power at independence, killed their own people more than the colonialists ever did. They also became hopelessly corrupt going by the antecedents of President Mobutu SeseSeku of Zaire and Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa of Central Africa Empire, now Republic.
Between 1900 and 1966 Nigeria evolved into a modern state with minimal casualty. The country did well on all indices of power. On 15th January 1966, however, this steady trajectory came to an abrupt end following a violent revolution by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. A second revolution by Isaac Jasper Boro followed on 21st February and a third by Major Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma on 29th July of the same year. In just one year more Nigerians were killed in purposeless revolutions than in sixty years of British colonialism. That is Paradox of Revolution.
Besides, the ills seen in the Tafawa Balewa government by Nzeogwu was equally seen in the latter by Boro and Danjuma. The faults seen in Nzeogwu by Danjuma were also seen in Danjuma by Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka who narrowly missed killing him after assassinating General Murtala Mohammed. The condemnation reserved for Dimka by General Olusegun Obasanjo would have been reciprocated had the opportunity presented itself.
On 31st December 1983, General Buhari found fault with President Shehu Shagari before kicking him out of State House only to be overthrown by another revolutionary called General Ibrahim Babangida. Major Gideon Okar almost succeeded in killing Babangida with his own revolution. The military that set out to save Nigeria from corrupt nationalists, by 2023 when the last retired general handed over power after eight years in office as civilian president, became a great threat confronting Nigeria with corruption as its number one problem.
Africa is a classical case of cultural diffusion where internal change is stimulated by external factors. Be it commerce, politics, sports or education, Africans are told by outsiders what to think and practice. Nigeria is no exception. Could it be that the myriad of revolutions only served to stop the real Nigerian revolution? No political action is without beneficiary and we must question who gained from coups in Nigeria.
While negotiating Nigerian independence with committed nationalists at the Lancaster House in London, the British was also preparing young uninformed Sandhurst-trained officers to overthrow the nationalists. Point blank: Revolutions in Nigeria never really led to national rebirth as witnessed in Turkey under Mustafa Atatürk, Cuba under Fidel Castro and Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser. Military rule in Nigeria only entrenched the British interests at the expense of economic freedom for the people.
As leader of the 1952 Egyptian Revolution, Nasser introduced land reform that returned every inch of Egypt, including the Nile River and pyramids, back to ordinary Egyptians. But the reverse was the case in Nigeria where the military government enacted the anti-people Land Use Act 1978; leading to poverty, corruption and underdevelopment.
Consequently, in Egypt, small amount bought much food but in Nigeria much money fetched small food not minding the millions pumped into the military-induced Operation Feed the Nation (OFN). As for petroleum and other minerals, Western multinationals gained upper hand over Nigerians; an aberration unknown in Egypt that seized the Suez Canal from the West.
Footnote on Exceptional General
But does it mean we have no role in national development for our retired military and paramilitary men and women? We do. Considering their unique military training, exposure and discipline, we honestly believe that if better engaged these veterans are a huge national asset and veritable catalyst for greater Nigeria.
Our case in point is General Danjuma, an industrialist who retired from the army in 1979 only to blaze the trail in business. To his name are Nigeria America Line shipping company, Comet Shipping Agencies Nigeria, South Atlantic Petroleum Limited, etc. It is also on record that General Danjuma never stood for election into public office; enmeshing himself wholly in the production of goods and services.
Our argument is that the General Danjuma success story is worth replicating in the lives of other veterans. Let us agree that end-service transition could be daunting for any one and our military veterans are no exception. But if we are to get the very best from these patriots, three things must be done.
Firstly, the demobilising authorities must not be in a hurry to expel them from their living quarters. They should be given, at least, one year to prepare themselves for reintegration into society. At the point of retirement some are still battling to complete their private residences. Stampeding them out of the barracks is not the best approach in this crucial rite of passage.
Secondly, there must be some affirmative arrangement for this special group. This makes sense considering that they were isolated while engaged. It is on record that the services train their about-to-retire personnel in carpentry, farming, electrical installation, etc. Still, our research shows that even with this ameliorating measure it is still an uphill task for beneficiaries to succeed in private business. The Federal Government should create business districts exclusively for our veterans.
And thirdly, lending institutions should be encouraged to extend facilities on liberal terms to our veterans since running a business is capital intensive. This must be complemented by extension service.
The French Revolution of 1789, followed by the destructive Napoleonic Wars, retarded France from attaining Industrial Revolution before Britain. Likewise, yoked with unending revolutions Nigeria weakened to the point where it could not feed itself, run its cities, become energy self-sufficient or wage war against insurgents.
Fifty-seven years after the first revolution, we are still groping in the dark with young Nigerians in full flight to foreign lands for greener pastures. It makes sense we give political evolution a try.
In the concluding part we shall configure how we can be strong under Industrialist-President Tinubu who assumed office on May 29, 2023.
.Osiagor (Email: [email protected])