Since 1945, the impression has been created that take – over of political control by the armed forces or ensuring the replacement of one civilian government by another is a norm rather than an exception in modern political systems. Successful and unsuccessful direct intervention in Africa, Central and South America, Asia etc, are witnesses to this fact.

Nigeria, for example, as one of the new states was not left out in this exercise. On the 15th of January 1966, some young military officers led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu sacked the First republic civilian government (1963-66). Egypt experienced the first military coup in 1952 when colonel Abdel Nasser took over power.

Similarly, Togo was the first West African state to experience a major coup which brought in General Eyadema to the seat of power in 1963 after removing President Olympio in a bloody coup. Also, in 1966, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was removed from power.


Features of Military Government

The armed forces have features or characteristics which distinguish them from other groups in all political systems:

These are:

  1. Hierarchical and centralised: The structure of the military is hierarchical and centralised, putting a premium on rapid communication.
  2. Opposition: The military do not tolerate oppositions of any kind.
  3. Dictatorship: All military governments are dictatorship.
  4. Discipline and obedience: Obedience to higher commands are considered a priority.
  5. Separation from civilian society: This is done through separate barracks, distinctive uniforms etc.
  6. Values: Values held by members of the armed forces, especially the officers may distinguish them from the rest of society in a way that is not true of other contemporary groups such as the police.
  7. Instruments of violence: The military monopolises the chief instruments of violence in the political system.
  8. Absence of the rule of law: The military do not operate with a constitution. There is no respect for the rule of law.
  9. Decrees: Laws or rules are made through issuing of decrees. There is no place for a constitutional law-making body, e.g. Parliament.



Military rule is a form of unconstitutional administration of a state or country by members of the Armed Forces based on martial laws. (Decrees and Edicts) after successfully overthrowing the civilian government of that state or country.


Reasons for Military intervention

  1. Lack of a legitimate base: The failure of the existing political institutions to establish a legitimate base and to win the respect and support of powerful groups within the state.
  2. Low level of economic development: This may lead to military intervention in a country.
  3. Regional differences: This may be so acute as to precipitate crises leading to direct assumption of power.
  4. Tribal loyalties: This is a problem facing new states, e.g. In Nigeria, where tribal loyalties take precedence over loyalty to the central government.
  5. Nationalism: In some states, the army is identified with nationalism, the protection of the general interests and embodiment of the values of order and efficiency.
  6. Allegations of different proportion: Corruption, nepotism, mismanagement of public funds, breakdown of law and order, rivalry etc, are some of the allegations why there is military intervention in the political system.



  1. Primary Function: By the training of the Armed Forces, they are not meant to rule. Its primary function is to protect the state from external attacks.
  2. Military rule: is characterized by corruption, tribalism, sectionalism, nepotism, etc.
  3. Is undemocratic: Military government is undemocratic and unconstitutional. It comes in by force of arms.
  4. No accountability under military rule: There is no accountability to the people because the people did not elect them in the first place.
  5. Arbitrary alterations of boundaries: In the process of state and local government creation, military rule often brings confusion in the country through arbitrary alterations of boundaries.
  6. It frustrates: Military rule frustrates all efforts at establishing democratic government.
  7. It is autocratic: Military rule is autocratic e.g. ruling by Decrees and Edicts.
  8. Sectional Rivalry: It usually leads to personality conflicts and sectional rivalry within the armed forces.
  9. Establishment of tribunals: The system undermines the judicial power because of the establishment of tribunals.
  10. Suspension of the constitution: It allows the fundamental human rights to be abused, through the suspension of the constitution.
  11. No Opposition: It curtails the freedom of expression and the press as every opposition or even contrary views are crushed.


Causes of the First Military Intervention in Nigerian Politics

  1. Electoral Crisis: The Western Regional Electoral Crisis of 1965.
  2. General Electoral Crisis of 1964: The General Electoral Crisis of 1964 between the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA) and United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA).
  3. Inter-tribal Politics: The Inter-tribal Politics among the three major tribes Hausa-Fulani; Igbo and Yoruba.
  4. Census Crisis: The Census Crisis of 1962/63 was one of the causes of the first military intervention in Nigerian politics.
  5. Political Power: The inordinate ambition of the military to taste political power.
  6. Conflicts: There was inter and intra-party conflicts.
  7. Politicization of the army: E.g. involvement of the army in the Western Regional Crisis and the Tiv riots of 1964.
  8. Influence of other groups in Africa: E.g. Egypt, Togo and Central African Republic.
  9. Economic Mismanagement: There was economic mismanagement by the politicians.
  10. Corruption, Nepotism/Sectionalism: were rampant in the public service.


Differences between Republicanism and Monarchy



  1. Head of state is the president.
  2. He is popularly elected by the people,
  3. The president stays in office for a fixed term.
  4. Elected representatives are responsible and accountable to the people.
  5. There are limitations to the exercise of power by the political leaders.
  6. Leaders abide by the provisions of the constitution.
  7. There is popular election; succession to different political offices is through popular elections,
  8. It is democratic and there is respect for the rule of law.



  1. The monarch (king, queen, president emperor) is the Head of state.
  2. Not elected, but ascension to the throne is hereditary.
  3. The monarch does not have a fixed term.
  4. Representatives or officials in government are mostly appointed and therefore not responsible or accountable to the people.
  5. Limitations to the exercise of power are in constitutional monarchy but not in absolute monarchy.
  6. In absolute monarchy, the powers of the head of state are absolute. He does not need to abide by the provisions of the constitution. Infact, he is the law himself.
  7. Succession to some political offices is through appointments.
  8. It is not democratic and there is no respect for the application of the principles of the rule of law.