Tuesday, May 17, 2022


Tunji Akinremi

The National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, was formed on 15 May 1994 by a broad coalition of Nigerian democrats, who called on the military government of Sani Abacha to step down in favor of the winner of the 12 June 1993 election, M. K. O. Abiola. The members mostly came from the southwest of the country.

NADECO was roughly a product of another organization, which existed before the June 12 crisis.  This was the Committee for Unity and Understanding (CUU).  The overriding motive of CUU was the campaign for power shift from the North to the South. CUU was started not long after the Babangida transition-to-civil-rule programme started.  Founders and key members of the CUU included Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Chief Sam Mbakwe, Mr. Ayo Opadokun, Chief Edward Kobani, Chief Lulu Briggs, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Alhaji Abdulazeez Ude, Ambassador Tanko Yusuf and General Theophilus Danjuma.

However, when the June 12 election was annulled, the CUU, in conjunction with such groups as the Movement for National Reformation (MNR), led by Chief Anthony Enahoro, Egbe Ilosiwaju Yoruba, led by General Adeyinka Adebayo, Afenifere, led by Chief Michael Ajasin, the Progressive Alliance for Justice and Unity (PAJU), Justice Forum and National Patriotic Front (NPF) and several other pro-democracy and human rights groups like Beko Ransome Kuti’s Campaign for Democracy came together to form NADECO in General Adeyinka Adebayo’s house, GRA, Ikeja.

NADECO quickly became the symbol of mass resistance against military rule. On 11 June 1994, using the groundwork laid by NADECO, Abiola declared himself president and went into hiding. He re-emerged and was promptly arrested on 23 June.

This led to a mass protests and the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola, his wife, Kudirat, and several Nigerians paid for it with their lives. Scores of NADECO members including the likes of Senator Cornelius Adebayo, Olatunji Hameed George, Femi Ojudu and many others went on exile for mounting pressure and organising civil unrest on the military regimes. 

Nigerians were not weary to insist on their constitutional demand to wilfully choose their leaders.  Thus, after close to two decades, their wish was granted. But it came at a very high price.

The anger that came before and after the deaths of these Nigerians forced the Abacha’s successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd.), to set in the machinery for a return to civilian rule within days of assuming office, following Abacha’s sudden death on June 8, 1998.

With the support of the international community, Nigerians went to the polls on February 27, 1999, to elect Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as civilian President, and that was the very first red flag that a military was ruling wearing a civilian garb.

With the arrival of Democratic rule fought for by NADECO’s underground, open-ground, self-exiled and other cadres of Nigerian patriots, one would have thought that military incursion into politics was done with in Nigeria. 

Before his election, Obasanjo who previously served as military Head of State, was serving a 15-year prison sentence over a phantom coup.

He was released, granted state pardon and won the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party. He contested and won the election thus getting a second chance to preside over the world’s largest black nation.

The presence of the military was felt, even though it was a Democratic government as the military was more often than not, called upon to deal with civil unrest. Angry soldiers, avenging the death of their comrades in the hands of Niger Delta militants’ also killed scores of men, women and children in the infamous Odi massacre.

The 2007 elections were held after the third term attempt of President Obasanjo failed. The biggest beneficiary of the electoral heist, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, acknowledged this when he took the oath of office.

His tenure was cut short by a terminal ailment which eventually claimed his life. He was succeeded by the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, after what almost became a constitutional crisis. Before his death, close aides of the late President kept Jonathan and most Nigerians in the dark about the true state of Yar’Adua’s health.

It took several street protests and the intervention of the Senator David Mark-led Senate which came up with the doctrine of necessity to break the impasse and transfer power to Jonathan to act as President until 2011, when he contested and won the presidency.

His administration recorded modest achievements but was marred by allegations of corruption. 

In the run up to the 2015 general elections, opposition political parties formed the All Progressives Congress. Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who promised to tackle corruption and tame the monster of insecurity, became the candidate of the APC.

He won the election with Jonathan conceding defeat even before the final votes were tallied. Buhari, who was re-elected in 2019, has also recorded modest achievements in agriculture and completion of several infrastructural projects in the transport sector.

However, his regime has been characterised by allegations of massive corruption, nepotism, economic hardship and insecurity at a scale never before seen.

The Executive Director of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said, “It is sad that this regime has placed greater value on the lives of cows than that of citizens. Armed herdsmen have been going about raping, maiming and killing citizens across Nigeria with most of them not being brought to book. Crop farmers in the middle belt and the South have been at the receiving end. There is banditry across the country, including Zamfara, Kaduna and even in the President’s home state of Katsina.

Speaking in a similar vein, the National Publicity Secretary of the main opposition PDP, Kola Ologbondinyan, noted, “This APC-led regime has taken Nigeria back to a disgraceful level. Nigerians and the rest of the world can testify to the progress made under the PDP since the days of President Obasanjo, right through the Jonathan presidency.

“But today, what do we have? We have a nation where human life has become cheap because of the ineptitude of those in power.

Although there are still challenges, the general consensus among Nigerians is that the worst form of democracy is better than the best military rule. 

However, some believe that what is operated in Nigeria is diarchy, an arrangement involving both civilian and military.

The Catholic Arch Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Rev Father Hassan Kukah, at a point voiced out his concern for a long term military dominance of Nigeria's politics, which he said had been accentuated by the emergence of two retired Generals, Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari as the President of the country. As a result, he advised retired military personnel, especially the imposing generals to lessen their interference in the political space of the country.

The narrative of the democratization processes in African states cannot be written without a bold reference to the role played by the military class in several African countries. 

Nigeria presents a remarkable case, while the military regimes of Olusegun Obasanjo (February 1976 – October 1979) and Abdulsalam Abubakar (June 1998 – May 1999) presented the second and fourth republics, the regime of Muhammadu Buhari (December 1983 – August 1985) would be remembered for aborting the second republic in December 1983.

The democratic change of government in 1999 did not keep the military out of the Nigerian state’s political affairs. The military’s constitutional roles provided for them to not only maintain territorial integrity and defend against external aggression, but also to suppress insurrection and act in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the legislature. Hence, post-1999 Nigeria has featured a motley of incidents that necessitated, at various times, military intervention to either defend the country’s territorial integrity, assist civil authorities, or act as agents of state hegemony and control in manners reminiscent of previous military regimes in the Country.

Nigeria’s democracy is in a distressed state. It is perhaps apt to state that Nigeria is a democracy from afar, but far from a democracy. According to Thomas Carothers in the 2002 article, ‘The End of the Transition Paradigm’, and Larry Diamond in the 2002 article, ‘Thinking about Hybrid Regimes’, ‘reckless and pseudo’ forms of democracy explain the type of Nigeria’s democracy; and for analysts like Ryan Cummings, Nigeria’s democracy is best described as a ‘sham’. The distressed condition of Nigeria’s democracy arises from the failure to fully democratize after its final transition from military rule to democracy in 1999. According to Nic Cheeseman, in his 2015 book, Democracy in Africa: Successes, Failures and the Struggles for Political Reform, democratization involves three distinct but overlapping processes. They include ‘the transition to multipartyism, the reconstitution of a new political order, and the later process of consolidating democratic gains. While post-1999 Nigeria has passed through the first two processes, it stalled significantly in the phase of democratic consolidation, allowing different subaltern groups to contest violently for their share of the national cake.

The Nigerian state’s inability to consolidate its democratic journey since 1999 has resulted in a trapped democratization process. A trapped democratization is one that fails for whatever reasons to improve its democratic qualities, measured by its procedure, content, and results. Shola Omotola, in the 2015 essay, ‘Trapped in Transition: Nigeria’s First Democratic Decade and Beyond’, argued that in such transitions, there is always disequilibrium between the demand for and supply of democracy, distinguished by a democratic motion without democratic movement, a sort of cause without effect.

In Nigeria, this caged democratic transition mode has not only created a weak state; it equally has unwittingly paved way for the emergence of ethnic militias and insurgent groups in different geo-political zones across the country. This has led to the deployment of military forces in various internal security operations where they are either operating as stand-alone operations or working in concert with other civil authorities to secure peace.

The Nigerian state’s failure to fully answer the question of democratic consolidation at the post-transition stage was also evident in the gap between the people’s expectation and the reality of governance. As far back as 1986, eminent political theorist, Richard Sklar, in his chapter in the 1986 book, Political Domination in Africa: Reflection on the Limits of Power, captured the failings of democracy in Nigeria after the end of the Second Republic. He noted that:

‘Liberal democracy in Nigeria is debilitated by the effects of economic anarchy and social distemper. A small minority of the population is conspicuously wealthy and privileged while the vast majority seethes with discontent. In Nigeria, liberal democracy is democracy with many reservations’.

Sklar’s position accurately mirrors the present realities of Nigeria because a prominent section of the ‘securitized elite thrives on crony capitalism and patron-client deals in violation of the rule of law, sometimes with benevolent and malevolent attributes’ as argued by Isaac Olawale Albert in his 2012 article titled, ‘The Securitized Elite: A Deconstruction of the Cabals in Nigeria’s Political Economy’. As a result, the Nigerian state has suffered insecurity, capacity and legitimacy gaps. This has been demonstrated in the declining capacity of its institutions to deliver public goods and dividends of democracy. The resultant effect of this is a huge gap between the demand and supply of democracy and good governance in Nigeria, according to Said Adejumobi in the 2010 book, Introduction in Governance and Politics in Post-Military Nigeria.  

At this juncture, would it not be right to again invite the NADECO members to come back and finish their job by ensuring that the hands of the military are completely removed from Nigeria’s democracy? Then the generals often referred to as cabals won’t have a say in who becomes what in the country’s democratic governance. 

While I invite Senator Femi Ojudu, Olatunji Hameed George, Senator Cornelius Adebayo and other great members of NADECO’s underground, Open-ground and self exiled Patriots to come rescue the nation still from the military, I would end this piece with a quote by Rev Father Hassan Kukah, who said "You know that the military has already taken away most of our years in this democracy, and as you have seen, they are still not yet through with us. "After Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, how many more generals do you want to have as Presidents? Will civilians grow this democracy or will it be the duty of soldiers? 

"My people, we must make progress and our democracy will grow. This is not anti-military rally but please soldiers retired and serving give us civilians to rule.

"Let those soldiers who have retired enjoy the benefit of their retirement and let the soldiers who are serving remain in the military and do very well what they set out to do when they joined the military".

Tunji Akinremi writes from Ogun State as a concerned citizen with interest in genuine democratisation of the Nigeria States.

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