Premium Times (Abuja)

Nigeria: National Conference - Ex-Military Leaders Blame Civilians for Nigeria's Woes

Retired military generals attending the National Conference were up in arms against their civilian colleagues, who openly condemned past military governments that emerged through coup de'tats.

Nigeria has had eight military regimes spanning about 30 years since its 54 years of independence.

The regimes were headed by Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi (January-July 1966); Yakubu Gowon (1966-1975); Murtala Muhammed/Olusegun Obasanjo (1975-1979); Muhammadu Buhari (1983-1985); Ibrahim Babangida (1983-1993); Sani Abacha (1993-1998); and Abdulsalami Abubakar (1998-1999).

There are about 25 former military officers, who served in those regimes, most of them retired generals, at the Conference. They include former military governor of old Imo state and Foreign Affairs Minister, Ike Nwachukwu; former governor of old Bendel State and former FCT Minister, Jeremiah Useni; former governor of the old Cross Rivers State; Paul Omu; former Internal Affairs Minister, Abdullahi Mamman; and former military governor of the old Rivers State, Zamani Lekwot.

Others are former Chief of Army Staff, Alani Akinrinade; former governor of Lagos State, Raji Rasaki; former governor of the old Ondo State, Olabode Geroge; former governor of Kaduna State, Tanko Ayuba; and former governor of the old Rivers state, Anthony Ukpo.

Geoffrey Ejiga, a retired General; Ahmadu Ali a retired Colonel and former Federal Commissioner for Education; Tony Nyiam, one of the April 22, 1990 coup plotters; Alex Mshiela; Idada Ikponmwen; a former governor of Bayelsa State and retired Air Force Officer, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha; and Muhammed Dan Ali are also members of the Conference.

During the debate on President Goodluck Jonathan's inaugural address to the Conference, which ended last Thursday, some civilian delegates repeatedly blamed the military regimes for the country's woes.

Some of civilian delegates also demanded that the former military administrators and coup plotters should not only apologise, but be barred from holding public offices.

However, the retired military officers fired back, insisting that the civilians did not only benefit from the regimes, but also sponsored the military takeovers.

Mr. George, a retired Navy Commodore and a delegate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, debunked the claim that the military caused the problems confronting the country today.

He also stated that the advent of the military into the nation's political landscape followed an invitation from the First Republic political class.

"I want to plead with our people that as we come here, when you are bringing out facts please do your research," Mr. George said.

"The military incursion into politics is not the problem that we are facing today. Those facts have been half-truth. Let us tell the younger generation what happened. The problem that we had in the South West that was not controlled expanded beyond our control and engulfed this country.

"It was the deputy chairman at the Senate at that time that invited the military. The military did not just wake up from their barracks and headed to take over the power. Let us tell ourselves the truth and prevent occurrence in the future."

Mr. Akinrinade, a Federal Government delegate, said the military has no apology to Nigerians for the way it ruled the country for over three decades.

According to him, many Nigerians supported the military only to claim to be democrats.

He stressed, "All the constitutions made in Nigeria were supported by all of you. You all contributed. I think it is time to do away with current constitution.

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