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The Reality of The Nigerian Military Rule  1


Nigeria  is  a  country  of  great  diversity  and  contradiction.  A

country with over 180 million people spread across 250 different

ethnic groups, half of them Christian, half of them Muslim. It has

world class wealth, yet is full of poor people. Christians live in the

supposedly Muslim north; Muslims live in the supposedly Christian

south,  and  some  ethnic  groups  (like  the  Yoruba)  practice  both

Christianity and Islam. Yet through all the contradiction, diversity

and linguistic confusion, there has been one constant in Nigerian

life: military interference in politics.


Sometimes referred to as the “Giant of Africa,” with a population

of over 180 million, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country; a quarter

of all Africans are Nigerian. Nigeria is located in west Africa, just north

of the equator and south of the Sahara desert. Its southern coastline

dips into the Atlantic Ocean. Nigeria is the United  States’ largest trading

partner in sub-Saharan Africa, with annual trade between the two countries

in 2009 valued at approximately $30 billion.


Nigeria exports more than one million barrels of crude oil a day to the United

States (representing nearly 50% of Nigeria’s daily crude oil production), and it is

projected that by 2015, Nigeria will provide 25% of the United States’ oil supply. 1

With the United States’ frequently strained relations with Arab countries, Nigeria is

increasingly viewed in Washington as an alternate dependable crude oil supplier.


Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) is larger than the combined GDP of its

fifteen neighboring west African countries that make up the Economic Community

of West African States (ECOWAS). It is a regional economic, political and military

superpower in west Africa, is blessed with abundant wealth from crude oil and natu-

ral gas, has the best educated workforce in Africa, and enjoys a vibrant free press with

over one hundred privately owned newspapers and magazines.


Its nationals  are  leaders in  arts, science,  finance  and literature. Professor  Wole

Soyinka is Africa’s most distinguished playwright and was the first African to win the

Nobel Prize for literature. Nigeria’s former Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a

Managing Director of the World Bank. Dr. Augustine Njoku-Obi developed a chol-

era vaccine. Despite having all the prerequisites to become a superpower, Nigeria

staggers from one crisis to another. After ten military coups, three heads of govern-

ment assassinated, three ruinous decades of military dictatorship, and a civil war that

claimed a million lives, Nigeria is still struggling to fulfill its vast potential.


Under military rule, the country abandoned its traditionally agriculture-based

economy  and  adopted  a  dangerously  polarized  oil-dominant  economy  that  is  ex-

tremely susceptible to fluctuations in oil prices. Nigeria became almost totally de –

pendent on earnings from its crude oil exports which currently account for over 90%

of its foreign exchange earnings. Since Nigeria’s oil is exclusively located in the south

of the country, this also polarized the country on ethnic and religious lines, with the

mainly Christian inhabitants of the oil producing southern areas bitterly resenting

that the revenue from oil drilled from their land is used to develop non-oil producing



Oil is obtained from only 9 of Nigeria’s 36 states. 1  Approximately 75% of Nigeria’s

oil and over 50% of its earnings are obtained from just three of these oil producing

states. 2   Despite producing the overwhelming majority of Nigeria’s wealth, the inhab-

itants of the oil communities do not have the political strength to resist control of

their resources by Nigeria’s federal government.


Read more:

1. Soldiers of Fortune by Max Siollun.

2. Oil, Politics and Violence : Nigeria’s  Military Coup Culture

(1966–1976) by Max Siollun.

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