This study analyzes military rule and the political transition to democracy in Nigeria. It enquires into how military intervenes in the Nigerian politics in the recent time. The study also examines how corruption induces military intervention in Nigerian politics due to the embezzlement of public funds by our political leaders as well as mismanagement of government properties. This study looks at the major challenges in Nigeria‟s transition to democratic rule so as to establish the gap in the existing literature by examining the roles played by ethno-political organizations in the country and also the activities of some ethnic militias like OPC in the West, Arewa in the North and Youth organizations in the south.
1.1 Background of the Study
In this study, I examined the relationship between ethno political organisations and the transition from military rule to civilian rule (democracy) in Nigeria between 1993 and 1998. I also inquire into both how ethno political organizations affected the process of democratisation and how the process, in turn, influenced their roles in politics generally, and in exacerbating or ameliorating political conflicts. Ethno political organizations are pan ethnic formations serving or out porting to serve the political interest of their members, their co-ethnics and ethnic homelands. They could be seen as specific movement organisations pursuing more diffuse and generalized ethnic interests. The political role of ethnic organisations has been well documented by observers of Nigerian politics.
In fact, by the 1920s southern Nigeria was awash with such organizations with immediate and remote political aims, taking their names from respective communities and clans of their members. Recognising their incipient political aspiration, a 1935 colonial report described them as young men‟s club of semi political nature. By the middle years of colonialism in Nigeria, these young men‟s club were speedily turned into pan- ethnic organisations. Ethno- political organisations such as the Igbo aged grades or unions, the Hausa Fulani Jamiuyar Mutanen (Arewa) and Yoruba Egba Omo Oduduwa, were the main ethno political organisations ravaging our country Nigeria, before the attainment of our independence on October, 1960. These pan ethnic organisations were to become important actors in the democratic struggle of Nigerian people against colonial rule, which culminated in independence in 1960. The salutary roles they played in the first were of democratization in Nigeria, including the dynamics of their relations with the colonialist and another has been articulated by some studies.
Nevertheless, the precipitate decline of Nigeria into authoritarian rule a few years after independence, characterised by nearly three decades of military rule, has also been blamed on the political intervention of these ethnic organisations. Consequently, when the military seized power and banned all political parties in 1966, at least 26 tribal and cultural associations were also banned. Still, ethno political organisations remained central in Nigerian politics generally, and in the recent process of ending authoritarian rule in particular. Some of the organisation that emerged in this process include the Egbe Afenifere, literally meaning persons wishing to protect their interest in association with others and Egba Ilosiwaju Yoruba (Association of Yoruba progressive) claiming to represent Yoruba interest, the Mkpoko Igbo (union of Igbo‟s) for the Igbo, the movement for the survival of Ogoni people (MASSOP) for the minority Ogonis and the northern Elders Forum representing or perceived to represent Hausa Fulani interests. Some of them have coalesced into larger inter ethnic and regional ensembles like the southern Mandata Group with purports to represent all ethnic interest in the south of the country.
The primary objective of this study is to explain the roles of ethno political organisations, in the transition to democracy in Nigeria which began in 1986, when the then military government of General Babangida announced its transition programme. That attempts was botched, perhaps temporarily, with the annulment of presidential election on June 12th, 1993. Three months later, the military led by General Sani Abacha, a prominent member of the Babangida administration, seized power and promised to return the country to a democratic government which he never did until he died in 1998.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Various studies have examined transitions to democracy in Africa, often situating them within the context of the so called third wave of democracy, which refers to the recent experience of eastern European, Latin America and African countries. Although there are still many dissenting voices calling for more rigorous examination of the concept of democracy the dominant attitude is that the democracy on offer is settled, namely liberal / multi-party democracy/ this attitude, in most cases, is both reflection and a result of the renaissance and resurgence of Tocquevillean and Schumpetarian notions of democracy as institutional political arrangement and practices of west, and democratization as the spread of those institutions with them.
This process is also seen as ineluctable, contrary to this position, however the originality of Africa’s transitions are undeniable. Surely, extra African influences have impacted on Africa’s transition, but to be spread by proselytizing others. To be sure, the reversals already being experienced in democratic transitions in some African countries and recline into authoritarian rule in others, suggest to us the need for a re-examination of the democratic content of African transitions. One factor that many will agree is central to such re-examination is ethnicity. The interface between ethnicity and democracy has been prominent theme in extant literatures. Studies have focused on the reciprocal impact of ethnicity and multiparty democracy. While some argue a negative impact of ethnicity on democracy, others argue positive (or potentially positive) link. What is still lacking however, are in debt studies of the concrete experience of multi ethnic African societies in the light of transitions to democracy. That is the major concern of this study. In doing this, we must realize that the political interventions of ethnic groups in politics are not spontaneous.
Ethnic groups act in politics through their organizations. In fact, we know that ethnic organisations sometimes help to invent identities in the first place. Such organisations as they functioned in Nigeria’s effort to transition to democratic rule between 1993 and 1998 constitute the focus of our study. In a view to accomplishing this research work effectively, I therefore pose the following research questions:
1. Does corruption account for military intervention in Nigerian politics?
2. Does ethno political organizations induce military intervention?
3. What are the challenges in Nigeria’s transition to democratic rule in Nigeria?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The general objectives or purpose of this study is to examine the problems and prospects encountered by military rule in Nigeria with special references to political transition in Nigeria 1993 – 1998. The specific objectives are:
1. To examine how corruption accounts for military intervention in Nigerian politics.
2. To determine the roles played by ethno-political organizations in military intervention.
3. To find out the major challenges in Nigerian’s transition to democratic rule.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The most important significance of this study is that even in the context of the liberal democratic project, what remains largely lacking in existing studies is analysis of the specificity of ethnicity in on-going democratic transitions in Africa. There is need to analyse the impact of ethnicity not only the process of transition, but also its different phases. This study is therefore significance because it helps research students or scholars, as well as those who wish to specialise in this area of study, to understand and be in position to analyse the major influence or causes of military interventions in Nigerian politics, again the main roles being played by ethno political organisations in Nigeria whether positive or negative, and finally, to understand the prospects and challenges being faced by the military and ethno political organisations in Nigeria’s transition to civil rule.
The research formulates the following hypotheses based on the statement of the problems of thus:
1. Corruption accounts for military intervention in Nigerian politics such as the embezzlement of public funds.
2. Ethno-political organizations played some roles in military intervention of Nigerian politics through the activities of some political and religious groups in the country.
3. There are challenges in Nigeria’s transition to civil rule in terms of the malpractices during elections and the failure of leadership quality by our leaders.