Why 'soldier go, soldier come': Osasu Obayiuwana on why "militics"--instead of politics--has become the order of the day in Nigeria.

Author:Obayiuwana, Osasu
Position:Cover Story: Nigeria - Brief Article

An enduring -- and very frightening -- consequence of the Nigerian military's 29-year involvement in national politics is the undue influence they will wield in the 19 April elections. With four retired generals (including President Obasanjo himself) running for the top job, it is evident that the civilian political class lacks personalities with the charisma and needed financial support to mount a serious challenge.

No one can feign surprise that "militics" -- a word aptly coined to describe the intimidating practice of civilian politics by retired military personnel -- reigns supreme.

"With so many military men with more money than ideas, it was a certainty that they would remain a dominant force in Nigerian politics," says Nosa Igiebor, editor-in-chief of Tell, Nigeria's top-selling weekly news magazine. "Since they have more experience of ruling the country than the civilians, their influence will be felt for a long, long time," Igiebor adds, while bemoaning the dearth of credible civilians in the democratic polity.

"There are many civilian politicians who made their reputations through close association with the military and a good number of them are more than happy to maintain those links to their benefit," Igiebor says. "If they really want to have a bigger say in the democratic era, it is the responsibility of the civilian politicians to develop a military-free political culture that will last the test of time."

But it is easier said than done. The patronage system engendered by the soldiers' long years in politics and the huge wealth they accumulated as a result, means that they have usurped the role of the traditional civilian movers and shakers of the country, and any candidate (civilian or military) so helped to power by the ex-soldiers, becomes beholden to them. In effect, the soldiers hold a disproportionate sway over national affairs.

The choice of Major-Gen Buhari, a Hausa-Fulani, as presidential candidate, was to provide a political counterweight capable of turning the tables against Obasanjo on 19 April.

With almost identical career backgrounds, with ethnicity being the distinct -- and key -- difference, the choice of the Daura-born Buhari is the response of the Northern Nigerian military/civilian elite to what they perceive as Obasanjo's insensitivity to their political and economic interests.

"It was quite clear that if the president got the nomination...

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