Achievements of Military Rule In Nigeria (15 Major Contributions of the Military Administrations)
The military could be credited with some achievements during the period of military rule.
1. The intervention of the military in Nigerian politics saved the country from total disintegration on several occasions. A case in point the failure of the civilian government to resolve the Western Region crises in 1965. The military coup of 15th January, 1966 might have saved Nigeria from the apparent incompetence of the political class.
2. By training, the military is much more able, to rise above sectional and parochial interests than any other group in the political system. The military therefore gives the people a sense of belonging.
3. The military promotes political stability especially in developing countries where centrifugal forces tend to tear the society apart. In Nigeria, the military successfully fought a civil war to keep the country united, and managed to quell the Maitatsine riots which swept through parts of Northern Nigeria in the 1980s.
4. State creation is another achievement of the military. There is the general belief that the military finds it easier to create states than civilians. Nigeria has indeed moved from a federation of four regions to one of 36 states. All the states were created by military regimes.
5. Military governments have promulgated some laws which promote economic development. The Indigenisation Decree of 1972, for example, attempted to foster national economic independence, although the poor implementation of the programme led to the sale of most indigenised enterprises to top government officials and other well-connected businessmen. The Land Use Decree of 1978 helped to remove some of the obstacles (such as the land tenure system) to large scale agriculture in the rural areas and minimize land speculation in the urban areas.
6. The military created institutions and programmes that would promote national unity and patriotism among Nigerians. The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme, for example, remains one of the best legacies of the military.
7. The abolition of the Native Authority system and the removal of the local police, courts and prisons from the hands of traditional ruler has set the Nigerian masses free from internal oppression.
8. It is to the credit of the military that the local government has been made the third tier of government in Nigeria. Although questions are being raised about the impartiality of the military in the creation of local governments in the country, the fact, however, remains that the local government is an important instrument of development today than in the First Republic.
9. The various civil service reforms carried out by the military (e.g. the 1988 Civil Service Reforms) have removed some of the intractable problems of the service such as the conflict between professionals and generalists and have repositioned the civil service for better service delivery.
10. The military deserves commendation for the successful return of power to civilians in 1979 and 1999.
11. The introduction of the Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme in 1978 has made education more accessible to Nigerians.
12. Some military governments mounted determined public attack on corruption. In 1975, the Murtala government retired several top civil servants who were found wanting in their duties and had compromised their position. The Buhari government was reputed for its frontal attack on corruption including the arrest, detention, trial and sentence of several top politicians who stole public money. The regime’s War Against Indiscipline (WAI) is still relished by Nigerians as one of the most serious attempts by any government in Nigeria to deal with the problem of indiscipline and corruption in the Nigerian society. In spite of the superficiality of the programme, Nigerians were compelled to exhibit disciplined behaviour everywhere while the WAI lasted. This could be contrasted with the seeming lawlessness in the contemporary Nigerian society in which public funds are stolen by public ofiicers with reckless abandon and sometimes, remain ofiicer unsuspended or unprosecuted.
13. The massive development of social infrastructure by the military cannot be overemphasized. Most of the major roads and housing estates in the country today were constructed under the military. The number of public universities in Nigeria increased from five in 1966 to about 15 by 1979. Several teaching hospitals and other specialist hospitals were constructed. In addition, some of the old airports like the Murtala Mohammed Airport were upgraded and new ones such as the Nnamdi Azikwe Airport Abuja were constructed. Today the norm is to sell those public facilities to a few privileged Nigeria in a failed privatisation policy.
14. The period during which the military was in power experienced the fastest growth rate in the Nigerian economy. In the 1950s the growth rate of the economy was 4 percent per annum. The economy grew at a very high rate of 8 percent per annum between 1966 and 1975. The single most important contributor to the fast pace of economic growth during the military era was oil wealth which rapidly accumulated between 1970 and 1974 due to the rise in oil prices brought about by the interventionist role of OPEC of which Nigeria was a member.
15. Nigeria’s foreign policy was generally dynamic and goal-oriented under the military.
In spite of these achievements of the military, it must be said that it was not all roses. For example, the highest inflation rate ever witnessed in Nigeria occurred during the military era. Moreover, defence expenditure kept on rising even when there was no war to tight. Notwithstanding the efforts to deal with corruption, it remained an intractable problem.
Again, a military government is potentially unstable and may be overthrown by another group of ambitious soldiers. For example, there were at least two bloody attempts to overthrow the Ibrahim Babangida military government in 1986 and 1990. There was, in addition a war of attrition always going on in the military.
Perhaps, the most disconcerting problem of the military was the unwillingness of many military governments to voluntarily hand over power to civilians. The Yakubu Gowon government, the Babangida administration and the Abacha military regime, for example never had the intention of handing over power to civilians. In any case, military coups against democratic governments have become unfashionable in modern times.