Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigerias Military Coup Culture by Max SiollunAn insider traces the details of hope and ambition gone wrong in the Giant of Africa, Nigeria, Africas most populous country. When it gained independence from Britain in 1960, hopes were high that, with mineral wealth and over 140 million people, the most educated workforce in Africa, Nigeria would become Africa s first superpower and a stabilizing democratic influence in the region.
However, these lofty hopes were soon dashed and the country lumbered from crisis to crisis, with the democratic government eventually being overthrown in a violent military coup in January 1966. From 1966 until 1999, the army held onto power almost uninterrupted under a succession of increasingly authoritarian military governments and army coups. Military coups and military rule (which began as an emergency aberration) became a seemingly permanent feature of Nigerian politics.
The author names names, and explores how British influence aggravated indigenous rivalries. He shows how various factions in the military were able to hold onto power and resist civil and international pressure for democratic governance by exploiting the countrys oil wealth and ethnic divisions to its advantage.
Africa is featured in the headlines as developed countries and China clash over the need for the continent s resources. Yet there are few serious books to help us understand any aspect of the never-ending cascade of wars and conflicts. While other titles on Nigeria are mostly childrens books or travel guides, the current work focuses specifically on the social tensions, the motivations and the methods of the series of coups that rent Nigeria.
Operation Wetie: Akintola-Awolowo rivalry and Nigeria's first military coup of January 15, 1966
1966 Nigerian coup d'état
It was against a civilian, ostensibly democratic government widely regarded as corrupt. There were counter-coups and massacres of Christian Igbos in the Muslim north. Igbo efforts to secede from Nigeria and establish an independent state, Biafra, led to the civil war in which it is estimated that at least one million died, mostly from starvation and disease, before Biafra was defeated. The civil war was then followed by a generation of increasingly authoritarian and corrupt military governments until the restoration of civilian, ostensibly democratic, government in But, the coups and the civil war continue to shape Nigeria. Much scar tissue from the era remains, and few Nigerians can write dispassionately about the civil war.
By the time a disparate group of junior officers struck first in January , the officers were still politically naive and had yet to master the art of coup planning and execution. This inexperience partly explains why Major Kaduna Nzeogwu and others who masterminded the coup, failed to take over state power. Some of the remote causes of the coup included the use of soldiers to quell unrest, such as the riots among the Tiv people of the lower northern region, and calls on the military to supervise the elections. Whereas the latter involvement gave the soldiers a feeling of political efficacy, the beginnings of what came to be known as the "federal character" principle that sought to give each area some parity of representation, gave military personnel a sense of being sectional representatives. The coup of January was seen by many northerners as an attempt by the Igbo people of the east to dominate the federation. A successful countercoup six months later led by northern soldiers demonstrated the degree to which soldiers had become politicians in uniform.
Today, Friday, January 15, , makes it exactly 50 years since the events began which led to the military taking power for the first time in Nigeria. The coup, though not completely successful, laid the foundation for coups and counter coups in Nigeria. On January 15, Maj. Kaduna Nzeogwu decided to turn a night-time training exercise known as "Exercise Damisa" into a full blown military coup. The coup was planned because according to the Majors, the men at the helm of affairs were running Nigeria aground with their corrupt ways. The senior army officer, General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, then used the coup as a pretext to annex power, ending Nigeria's nascent democracy. The officers involved on both sides of the coup are Conspirators : Maj.