'Why I Retired 93 Top Military Officers In One Day' - Obasanjo
"On assuming office as president, I decided to put an end to these incessant coups. I asked the military to submit the list of all officers who had either participated in coups in the past or benefited in the dividends of coups by being appointed to political office as governors or ministers".
Former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo said this at the launching of the book titled “Making Africa Work”, in Victoria Island, Lagos.
While giving insights into how nations of the world can put an end to military interventions, the former president explained that no matter the excuse, military interventions have negative impact on democracy, governance and unity.
“A coup is a treason punishable by death only if it fails, and yet it puts the plotter in the State House if it succeeds. It was a destructive and destabilising practice, wasteful for the military itself, and undermining in terms of discipline, good order and military conduct,” Obasanjo wrote.
“A junior officer takes a gun and looks at his political boss and senior officers through its sights, bumps them off and puts himself in the State House.
“He instantly becomes superior and senior to all political and military officers. Such was the situation existing in Nigeria between 1966 and 1999.”
Obasanjo revealed how he cleverly placed senior military officers on compulsory retirement to stop them from plotting coup.
“Not knowing what the list was meant for, the military faithfully compiled it and submitted to me as the commander-in-chief and chairman of council of each of the arms of service. Ninety-three officers in all were given six hours’ notice of retirement on a Friday, and ordered not to spend the Friday night in uniform or in barracks to prevent adverse reaction.
“The following Monday, the service council met to ratify the retirement of all the officers. From my vantage position and background as a battle-tested and war-victorious general, I knew that an officer out of uniform and barracks is like a fish out of water, and their power and influence would be greatly diminished.
“The retirement of these 93 officers all in one day was salutary. It meant that taking part in a coup or benefiting from one could catch up with you, no matter how long it would takes, and for as long as you are alive,” he explained.
“The idea was not to punish them for life but to exclude them from positions in the military where they could be coup planners, coup plotters, coup executors or coup beneficiaries.
Explaining why the nation hasn’t experienced such incidence of coup d’etat, the former president said the measure was quite effective even if it wasn’t perfect.