ABUJA, 4 May 2021 – Senior military officials in Nigeria have dismissed calls for them to seize power, reaffirming their support for democracy.
“The military under the current leadership remains resolute in the defense of Nigeria’s democracy and its growth,” a statement issued Tuesday by the Nigerian Military High Command read in part.
We “warn misguided politicians who nurse the inordinate ambition to rule this country outside the ballot box to banish such thoughts,” added the statement signed, on behalf of the Military High Command, by one of its spokespersons, Brig-Gen Onyema Nwachukwu.
Last Sunday, a prominent lawyer, Robert Clarke, alleged during a television appearance that Nigeria was “on the brink of collapse” urging the army should take charge of the country’s states.
Seizing power is illegal, said Brig. Gen. Nwachukwu, adding that it was “treasonable to even contemplate this illegality”.
“The full wrath of the law will be brought to bear on any personnel found to collude with people having such agenda,” the statement from the Military High Command added.
Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has expressed concern about the state of insecurity prevailing in the country, encouraging Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to seek external help to return the country to peace and security.
Nigeria’s history is littered with military coups.
In January 1966, mostly Igno army officers led a coup that ousted Prime Minister Alhaji Abubakr Tafawa Balewa.
A counter-coup was staged against that January 1966 coup in July of the same year, culminating in Major General Yakubu Gowon seizing power.
On 30 July 1975, Yakubu Gowon was ousted in another coup which brought Brig. Gen. Murtala Muhammed to power. Upon the death of the latter, Lt. General Olusegun Obasanjo became head of state.
Nigeria’s next coup was on 31 December 1983 and was led by a group of senior army officers who overthrew the democratically elected president, Shehu Shagari. Major General Muhammadu Buhari was appointed head of state by the conspirators.
In August 1985, the then Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Babangida overthrew Major General Muhammadu Buhari.
Two failed coup attempts were staged in December 1985 and in 1990 against the rule of General Ibrahim Babangida.
Yielding to international pressure to return the country to civilian rule, Gen. Babangida resigned on 26 August 1993 and appointed Chief Ernest Shonekan who was interim president for only three months.
He was ousted in a palace coup by General Sani Abacha, who in September of 1994, made himself an absolute ruler by placing his junta above courts of law.
General Olusegun Obasanjo, who ruled the country as a military general from 1976 to 1979, became the first and only military officer to hand over power to a civilian president. General Obasanjo returned to power in mufti and elected as a civilian from 1999 to 2007.