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Date: Tue, 15 Jun 1999 23:02:44 -0500 (CDT)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: POLITICS-NIGERIA: President Obasanjo Cleans Up The Military
Article: 67726
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.19697.19990617121607@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 512.0 **/
** Topic: POLITICS-NIGERIA: President Obasanjo Cleans Up The Military **
** Written 9:03 PM Jun 13, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

President Obasanjo Cleans Up The Military

By Remi Oyo, IPS, 13 Jun3 1999

LAGOS, June 13 (IPS) - Nigeria's new President, Olusegun Obasanjo, appears determined to clean up the military to prevent another coup d'etat in the future.

The military has dominated Nigeria's politics since independence from Britain in 1960.

To prevent them from seizing power again, Obasanjo, who is himself a former military leader between 1976-1979, has retired 116 military officers, who had held political offices since 1985, the year former military dictator General Ibrahim Babangida seized power.

Former Military Governors of Nigeria's 36 states, as well as former ministers and chairmen of board of governors, who were militarymen, were retired.

They include officers who served under Gen. Abdulsalaam Abubakar, the last military head of state who handed over power to Obasanjo on May 29.

Obasanjo also fired Maj-Gen Patrick Aziza, the Chairman of the military tribunal that convicted him of complicity in the 1995 coup against the late dictator Gen Sani Abacha.

The retirements are in keeping with the pledge made by the President in his inaugural address (on May 29) to initiate far- reaching measures that will ensure that the permanent subordination of the military to civil authority and ensure that the Nigerian Armed Forces regain their pride and professionalism, said Doyin Okupe, spokesperson of President.

He said the retirements do not indict or cast aspersions on the integrity of these officers but should be seen as some of the sacrifices that have to be made to guarantee the survival of democracy in Nigeria.

Okupe said although Obasanjo's administration appreciates that most of the affected officers had political appointments thrust on them and accepted them as routine military postings, it must be made clear that such postings will in future put the careers of officers in jeopardy.

In future, all officers of our armed forces must recognise that the ultimate reward for participating or benefiting from coups will be premature or forced retirement from service in the minimum, Okupe warned.

He said the move to retire the officers was to achieve a clean break from the years of military incursion into politics which have been an unmitigated disaster for the nation and to discourage any future foray into the polity by men of the Armed Forces.

Nigerian generals used corruption as one of the main pretexts for overthrowing the two previous elected civiian regimes in 1966 and 1983.

But times have changed. After 15 years of military rule, when the economy collapsed and the army's reputation and integrity took a battering, popular hostility towards the army is now widespread.

Former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi recently urged the government to flush out ambitious officers if democracy is to survive in Nigeria. This category of officers are still very much around, Bamaiyi said, adding that they must be checked to ensure that the Nigerian Army plays its role as enshrined in the constitution.

Such officers must be shown the way out to ensure that only officers and soldiers who are interested in serving the nation and subjecting themselves to civilian authority can remain in service, he said.

His colleague, former Navy Chief, Rear-Admiral Jibril Ayinla, disagreed. There is nothing wrong in allowing the officers to stay behind in the military. Their experiences could be of immense use to the new administration.