A Comparative Analysis Of Ibrahim Babangida And Sani Abacha’s Transition Programme And Its Implication On The Nigeria Fourth Republic

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A Comparative Analysis Of Ibrahim Babangida And Sani Abacha’s Transition Programme And Its Implication On The Nigeria Fourth Republic


The literature on the activities of the Nigerian military since independence is unquestionably copious. However, while many of these works centred on military coups and intervention on politics, civil – military relations, transition to civil rule programmes, etc., few actually analyse the political intrigues or schemes surrounding these activities. This article is an attempt to fill some of these gaps, especially in the area of military transition programmes to civil rule in Nigeria. This paper against this background X-rays all the military transition to civil rule programmes since 1966 till date, and attempted a critical analysis of them with the view tounveiling the politicisation these transition programmes were subjected to. The study reveals for instance, the calculated attempt at using military transition programmes to transform erstwhile military Heads of state to civilian president during the Babangida and Abacha regimes; as a strategy for ‘safe exist’ for erstwhile military rulers; and a ploy for the military to return to power by handling over power in chaos as experienced during General Babangida transition to democracy.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Transition as project of democratization looms large of African political horizon. These projects now occupy an important place on the political agenda of many African countries. Every where on the African continent, one party regimes, one man rule, military rule and authoritarian rule generally are under siege increasingly forced either by popular demonstration, intra-elite accommodation, externally induced pressures, or a combination of these and other social forces to pen up to liberate and to make important concession to competitive politics.

Nigeria like most Africa countries is at present infested by coups and counter-coups, it has become a society where military rule has become a volatile political norm (Adejumbi and Momoh (1995) the perennial rule of the military in Nigeria which began with the first coup led by major Chukwuma Ezeogwu in 1966, has not only made the military define the nature of the political economy of Nigeria but has often created the context for enthronement and dethronement of civil regimes (Adejumbi and Momoh, 1995), paradoxically, civilian regimes in Nigeria lack the disciplines and political will to protect civil society from the vulnerability of military rule.

According to Ihonebere (1966) postulated that; the fractionalization of ruling elite and the weakness of civil society and the fragility of the state helps to explain why the military has emerged as the most powerful contender in the struggle for the power in contemporary Nigeria.

It is within this context that one can better understand the contradictions or military rule in Nigeria.

The years of perennial military rule in Nigeria and a tradition of toying around with the political class without political repercussions seems to suggest that there are two political parties in Nigeria, one being self imposed and the other elected.

Therefore, it seems that the political systems obeys two contradictory impulses at one time, authoritarianism and democracy. Either way, the military or the political elite in Nigeria have demonstrated in recent times their inability to respect the democratic ethos of leadership (Amuwo 1995).

1.2 Statement of the Problem

As will become clear from this research work, there has been a recurrent problems with the transition programme of the Babangida and Abacha administration in Nigeria.

The notion of political crafting implies some in determining of the end-point and the end will of the transition programme.

This research work examines the transition programme in Nigeria to civilian governance offered by the various military leaders in Nigeria since 1985. A scrutiny of these programmes implementation reveals a peculiar. Pattern typically, the designed junta leader proposes a military withdrawal time table and soon thereafter connive with civilian and military collaborations to abort the very programme he initiated.

The set up agencies, commission, and electoral bodies are usually a subterfuge aimed at retaining power or at least prevailing the establishment of a genuine democracy. The attainment of a bonafide democracy has remained elusive because of the culture of corruption. Various regimes helped to institute amidst unattended mass poverty; the essentially antidemocratic nature of the military institution has made it ill prepared to usher in democracy in Nigeria.

For 15 years (1984-1999) the Nigeria polity was held spell bound in the clutches of different shades of treacherous military rules. Within this period, there was four military regimes namely, Buhari/Idiagbo (1985-1993), General Ibrahim Babangida regime (1985-1993), General Sani Abacha (1993-1993) and General Abdulsalami Abubakar (1998-1999).

Aside Buhari/Idiagbo regime, other regimes whipped up sentiment and appeared committed to the pursuit of transition to democratic government.

All the resources whether monetary or materials or committed to the transition programmes went down the drain in two, out of three occasions. For instances, while Babangida’s transition resulted in contraception known as interim national government, that of Abacha linged on a grand designed self succession device that was scuttled through his death in 1998. However, in the process, many people paid the supreme price notably chief Alfred Rewane, Chief M.K.O Abioloa Kudirat Abioloa among others.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

  1. To analyze the transition programme of Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha’s transition
  2. To examine the success and failure of each transition programme of the two military rulers (Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha)
  3. To analyze how the failure of this transition programme had great implications to democratic consolidation

1.4 Significance of the Study

The importance of this research work cannot be over emphasized. The studies are important in the following way:

It is also relevant for student of comparative politics in other to be able to trace out the similarities and difference inherent in the two transition programme

Awareness on the part Nigeria that the propagation of democracy rest on a true transition programme

The study also helps in understanding the current democratic challenges and how it is linked to the past and failed transition programmes of Ibrahim Babagida and Sani Abacha.

The study highlight the decent, corruption, self aggrandizement, sit tight leadership and its implication on the current democratic dispensation.

Finally, this study is quite important to all Nigerians and students of public administration because, it make us to understand the civil harms, damage in the military particularly in the regimes of Ibrahim Babaindia and Sani Abacha has done to the democratic landscape of this nation.

1.5 Research Questions

  1. What are the programmes of the transition to democracy of Babangida and Sani Abacha?
  2. Are they successful in their various attempts?
  3. What are the various implications it has on the current democratic dispensation?

1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study

The scope of the study is centred on the comparative analysis of Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha’s transition programs and its implication on Democratic Dispensations which covers a period between 1999 till date.

This is due to the peculiarity and intriguing nature of their administration and how their transition programme impact the Nigerian people.

Nature of the school library and the state owned Stella Obasanjo’s library which were supposed to be a better references place for the researcher.

Absence of researchable material: Since the topic of this research is a past military regimes, the researcher was unable to access relevant materials for this research work due to the ill-equipped.

Financial constraints:

A research of this nature is money demanding since its respondents are on the generality of Nigerian citizens, the researcher has to move from one place to another in search for relevant answers from the people which therefore involve transportation.

Time factor:

The duration for this research is relatively too short, as the researcher has to combine both lectures and other academic activities with the project completion which is not an easy task as such contributed to the constraints of this research

The inability of the researcher to obtain all the desired and relevant information to the study from the secondary sources of data easily. That is, from library, internet, newspaper and journals among others.

1.7 Concept Clarifications


Is simply a government through elected representative of the people chosen in a free, fair and transparent election.


It could be defined as the contextual discrimination by which members of one group discrimination against others on the basis of differentiated system of socio-cultural symbol. This could be referred as the contextual discrimination in which people are denied access to certain opportunities and public goods.

Military regime:

This is a self imposed authoritarian regime that is institutionalized in a given country by military personal or the operative of the armed forces (comprising the Army, Air force, Navy and the police force. It derives power and legitimacy through the board of gun.


It is defined as the essence, orbit the heart and the conceptual; nerve of politics: it’s the ability to control, rule or compel obedience.


This can be defined as the act of influencing manipulating and controlling or it is the quest for power order and justice.

Political stability:

For the purpose of this research work, the concept would be defined as democratic system that has low level of actual or potential civil or military unrest or violence and high probability of remaining inconsistent.


In ordinary parlance, transition implies passage from one stage or subject to another. For the purpose of this study, it would be conceived as the process of transforming, change or movement from a military regime to a civilian regime.


This could be concerned as the process of transforming a group or community or state into a democratic entity.

1.8 Organization of the Study

This study is divided into five chapters, chapter one focus on introduction, statement of the problem, significance of the study, research questions, objectives of the study, scope and limitations of the study, conceptual clarifications and organization.

Chapter two dials with the literature review and emphasis will be on the clarification of transition, democracy and civil society.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Summary and Conclusion

Nigeria was colonized by GT Britain and consequently had lots of things in common during the colonial days and after that are bequeathed with common languages. The military struck first in Nigeria in January, 1966. The Federal Military Government (FMG) under Gen Aguyi-Ironsi did not last long when he was overthrown by Gen Gowon in a counter coup d’etat. Gen Gowon was also ousted by Gen Mohammed. The military stayed longer in power, The military hang on for thirteen years in Nigeria while their counterparts in other African countries returned power to civilians after three years i.e to Dr K.A. Busia. In Nigeria it was Alh Shehu Shagari who received the reins of power from the military. The second wave of militarization came earlier in other African countries than Nigeria. Gen. Acheampong overthrew Dr Busia’s government in 1972 and set up the SMC I. Acheampong himself was pushed aside in a palace coup in 1978 and Gen. F.W.K. Akuffo came to power and formed SMC II. The junior officers rose up against senior counterparts and having subdued them, appointed Fit Lt J.J. Rawlings the Chairman of the AFRC. Like in the first wave, the military did not stay in power for long because Gen. Akuffo had already started the process of handing of power over to civilians. The elections in progress were continued uninterrupted. When Gen Buhari dislodged Alh Shehu Shagari in the second Republic, he did not have the intention of handing over power to civilians and his dictatorial regime Ncompelled’ Gen Babangida to seize power. He set up the AFRC but his indecision and 290 unwillingness to leave power through the annulment of the June 12 1993, Presidential Election made him step aside. The ING which succeeded him did not live long before Gen. Abacha brushed it aside. He too was not straight forward in his transition programme until his death. Gen Abubakar who stepped into his shoes set up the machinery for transition and handed over power to civilians in May 1999 even though the winner of the elections Gen Obasanjo was a former military officer. Individual and groups may at times use the courts to interfere with the functions of the electoral commission. This was more exemplified in the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election in Nigeria. Considering party formation, when the military are in power, they place a ban on all political activities. Consequently, what usually happens is that the political elites tend to congregate to form social groupings where they articulate their political ideals. It is this social groupings which facilitate the formation of political parties immediately the ban on them is 291 lifted. The ineffective management of the economy has been one of the major reasons why the military intervene in politics. In Nigeria too, especially in the Second Republic, it was the introduction of austerity measures and the mismanagement of the economy which invited the military onto the political scene. In Nigeria, Buhari■s autocratic measures did not bring about much relief to Nigerians whose economic plights worsened under Gens Babangida and Abacha. 292 In Nigeria, transitions to civil rule are well articulated. The one by Gen Babangida in Nigeria span through a long period and it was well elaborated – perhaps to buy time, since he was insincere through postponements of elections and rescheduling of the date of handing over to a civilian administration. In the analysis of the transition to civil rule in Nigeria, we were guided by power theory because of the struggle between the military and the political elites over the control of the decision making apparatus and the resources of the nation. We able to draw the following conclusions from our study

  1. That most transitions in Nigeria are characterized by the desire of the military to remain in office.
  2. That the military have an over-bearing influence on transitions programme hence their inability to succeed,
  3. That transition from military to civil rule will succeed if only the military are committed to it and
  4. That transition to civil rule will be successful if there is an alternative political elites the military want to hand over power to.

5.2 Recommendations

We would like therefore, to make the following recommendations: For a transition to civil rule to succeed, both the military and civil society have important roles to play. The military incumbents must be honest in their willingness to hand over power to civilians and consequently, in setting up democratic structures for transition, they should select men of proven integrity and capability and not government cronies. Civil society, especially the political elites must also know that politics is a game and consequently its rules must be obeyed. The practice of winner-takes-all must be eschewed. It is this which makes the section that enjoys under military rule to encourage them to hang on to power and also encourages those in opposition to seek extra- judicial means to come to power. We agreed with Anebo (2000:81) that: the (democratic) process like a child first faltering steps on the road that leads to adulthood, is a gradual and tortuous process. It may from time to time fall. But each fall should serve as a new experience and provide the challenge that eventually leads to the realization of adult life. Patience, tolerance and fair play among all stake holders are essential ingredients. Civil society should reckon that the military is now a force to reckon with in politics. During the first transition in Nigeria, no military personnel vied for a k political office but now, in both countries, former military 294 leaders have shed their military uniforms to win general elections to become Presidents. Fit Lt Jerry Rawlings did it first in 1992 and Gen Olusegun Obasanjo also in 1999.

Former political soldiers are now active in politics. The antidote to military incursion into politics is good governance. Civilian leaders should therefore, try as much as possible to eschew ethnic sentiments and tendencies and spread political appointments evenly across the nation. It is only when an ethnic group feels marginalized as happened under Dr K.A. Busia when no single minister was chosen from the Volta Region, that such a group will be antagonistic to the government and find ways of overthrowing it to address the imbalance. The military should also realize that their traditional role is to defend the nation against external attack and this remains to this day. Military rule is an aberration. There is no perfect constitution. A constitution can therefore, work if it is made to do so. Consequently, a situation where constitutions are suspended and re-written whenever the 295 military take over power should be discouraged. This is one of the ploys to buy time. Our constitutions must be made to grow. The same thing applies to political parties. Those parties which fought for political independence are made to atrophy. If anything at all, it is the politicians and not the parties per se that usually fail. That culture of belonging to an established political party is therefore, absent in both countries, even though the political traditions are there NPC, NCNC and AG in Nigeria.

Finally, it is recommended that further studies should be made on the consolidation of democracy not only in Nigeria but in Africa as a whole.e things by the Bureau, others paid for their own. Also individuals in the academic and other professional bodies were commissioned to prepare papers on various topics. Thirty-one such copies were commissioned. The members toured all the nooks and crannies of the country and at the end of their assignment, the Bureau held 149 meetings and received 27 324 contributions from individuals and groups including almost 15000 memoranda, almost 4000 newspaper articles, 1723 recorded cassettes and video-tapes, 2214 papers on debates and conferences, 13729 summaries of debates and interviews and 703 contributions made at public hearings organised by the Bureau (Oyediran, 1997:71 quoted).

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