The Nigerian Military began its involvement with governance on January 15, 1966; by May, 29, 1999 Nigeria had been through six Military Regimes, and collectively, the Military had governed Nigeria for a total of about 28 years.
Over the years, there had been consensus on the broad Foreign Policy Principles outlined by Prime Minister Balewa at Independence. While there was a national consensus in support of these broad Foreign Policy Principles, each of the Military Government over the period of 28 years gave its own elitist interpretation to these principles. Thus, from the appraisal of the different Military Regimes under the period of study, Nigeria’s Foreign Policy can be classified into five phases or epochs viz:
• The period of uncertainties;
• The Post war and Naira Diplomacy (Diplomacy of Prestige)
• The period of radicalization.
• The Adventurist and populist period (Economic Diplomacy); and
• The Combative or Abrasive period.
Each of these phases concurred with Military leadership styles and the exigencies of the time.
It is generally recognized that the involvement of the Nigerian Military in governance has done more harm than good, resulting into negative impacts and consequences. It is not, however, true that there had been no progress or achievements recorded since the first Military Regime in 1966. In the field of foreign policy for instance the Military had impacted positively. It is as such that the Military phenomenon has become very central in the analysis of the Nation‘s Foreign Policy and National image abroad.
1.0. INTRODUCTION: BACKGROUND TO MILITARY INCURSION IN
From a mere aberration fives years after independence, it became recurrent and before long, military regimes became a fixture. Since 1966, when the military came to power, it has mutated, changing form and duration, thus becoming a norm rather than an exception.
As corrective regimes, military governments are similar, but in approach, they differ significantly. Specifically, some are benign, others are draconic and some fall in-between. Intermittently, and for twenty-eight years, the military called the shots in Nigeria’s political history; hence as a result, professionalism was relegated, coups gained currency, careers and lives were wasted. Significantly, they became part of the problem; thirty -four years ago, i.e. in 1966, some army majors and other officers killed some civilian politicians and senior military officers in a coup detat. In that coup, Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, the first Prime Minister; Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardaunan Sokoto and Northern Premier; Chief Festus Okotie Eboh, the Federal Minister of Finance, and Chief Samuel Akintola, the Premier of Western Region, were brutally killed. In addition, Brigadier, Zakari Maimalari, Colonels Kur
Mohammed and Abogo Lagema lost their lives.
Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu led the coup, and in his address to the Nation, he stated why they struck. According to him, they intervened to wipe out corruption, nepotism and to elevate Nigeria.1 Although, the first Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and other top officials were killed, the coup failed. In Lagos, General Aguiyi Ironsi, the then highest-ranking military officer, quelled the revolt. With some loyal officers and Men, Ironsi routed the coupists, and in Kaduna, Nzeogwu was on one limb. With little or no logistics, a fresh supply was blocked, as both Kano and Lagos, where the coup had failed refused his orders. After several emissaries and assurances, Nzeogwu laid down his arms, went to
Lagos and was arrested and detained.
There after Honourable Nwafor Orizu, the Senate president, met with some Ministers and handed power to General Ironsi. Six Months later, there was a counter -coup, and in that counter- coup, General Ironsi was killed and LT-Colonel. Yakubu Gowon, the highest-ranking Northerner, succeeded Ironsi. He ruled for nine years, through the civil war and the oil boom, terminating in 1975.