The federal republic of Nigerian army… A philosophical rereading
Editor: Maduabuchi Dukor
Publisher: Malthouse Press Limited
There is a Kiswahili proverb, which says, “Dua la ku ku halimfikii mwewe,” meaning, “a hen’s prayer can never reach the hawk.”
The proverb recognises the limitations of the ‘mighty’ in dispensing justice to the ‘meek’.
The coming of military in Nigerian politics seems to encapsulate the statement.
In 1966, when the military made its first incursion into Nigerian politics, it was a welcome development, so to say. The country was in a lamentable state.
However, after 13 years, the romance with military became a disaster. Things fell apart and the centre could no longer hold, as injustice reigned supreme in the land.
In other words, as expedient as the experience was, the incursion into power by the military became a charade and arbitrarily misused by the army, as the author of the book, The Federal Republic of Nigerian Army, the Siege of a Nation, Mohammed Chris Alli, points out.
A lucid explanation of the parable. Don’t expect a good judgment from a contraption.
If anything came out of that intervention, it was the exposition of the country to corruption and a plethora of vices, which Alli further reveals in the memoir.
The book chronicles the activities of army officers in Nigerian politics and society since the first military coup of January 15, 1966.
It is also an eyewitness account of the events of 1967 to 1970, and 1984, when the military made a re-entry into Nigeria’s political arena after a four year civilian regime.
In the book, he shows how the military (not just as institution, but individually) metamorphosed from being saviours to traitors.
The author tells the story of his close involvement in the administrative and intelligence matters as a member of the former Head of State, General Sani Abacha’s caucus. He was Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff between 1993 and 1994.
The siege of a nation is a fairly big book; it has 17 chapters, 408 pages, a preface of two pages, 74 pages of photographs and six pages of indices.
Alli says, “the dividing line between ‘honesty’ and ‘kleptocracy’ in Nigeria lies in the realm of opportunity.
Those who had a chance and access to public treasury do not grumble those who did not have the opportunity to exercise quick fingers blame everyone else for corruption. This is the depth and culture of corruption in Nigeria.”
In Maduabuchi Dukor edited Mohammed Chris Alli’s The Federal Republic of Nigerian Army, the Siege of a Nation, Symposium on Sage Philosophy, there is an attempt to subject Alli’s historical narrative into critical exegesis. It is a rereading that uncovers the man’s thought and philosophical disposition.
The collection of essays captures masterfully, the essentials of military misrule in Nigeria and its undue influence on the body polity.
Here, “the dominant and damaging role of the military is being subjected to the rigours of philosophical analysis.”
Each section looks at critical concepts and issues in the Nigerian historical trajectory. However, the conceptual schema for analysis is Theism.
This philosophical concept undergirds every aspect of the rereading.
Suffice it to say that Alli’s abiding faith in God is the eye of the camera through which all the chapters are seen. Each chapter lives its own life, wears its own clothes and its sheltered in a habitué.
Weighing in at nearly 240 pages and spanning 11 chapters, it is divided into three sections: The Military and National Security, Morality and National Question and Federalism and Philosophy of Development. The anthology is well written, thoughtful and highly critical in nature.
Though, not an indictment of the military, it is just the man’s perception of the conduct of officers of his generation.
With a foreword that is incisive and written by Emeritus Prof. Godwin Sogolo, there is nothing shallow about its attempt at a philosophical rereading. No lacuna is created in knowledge. There’s historical interrogation and conversation to produce thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis of a just, fair, equitable and free republic, as Sogolo points out in the foreword:
“Major General M. Chris Alli sets the ball rolling in this critical masterpiece on the role played by the Nigerian military in decapitating the country’s federalism.
Indeed, an intellectual and critical conversation on the book has actually begun with Professor Maduabuchi Dukor and his team.
This is the logic of civilised discourse, which must be revisited now and again in different relevant forms to preempt the morbidity or neglect of progressive thoughts, like those of Alli, especially in a materialistic society like ours.”
Chapter one establishes a conceptual framework for the analysis of the memoir.
Titled, Rereading of Mohammed Chris Alli’s The Federal Republic of Nigerian Army, the Siege of a Nation, Dukor not only rereads the book, but gives it a scholastic perspective.
In 20 pages, Dukor introduces the work, pointing out that Alli’s ideology is encapsulated in three elements.
One, the guidance of a person’s life is by the Almighty God. He believes a person has no control over his destiny.
Two, God endows you with intelligence, good physique, health, the five senses and the sixth sense.
Finally, Alli believes God brings you up in an environment, which has considerable impact on your life. Your environment provides you the circumstances and opportunities to facilitate your growth and development.
Dukor reveals that Alli’s abiding faith in God reflects and refracts in his memoir. “His moral and political philosophy has been guided not by fate, but by freewill, hardwork and self-confidence under the surveillance and super variance of an anthropomorphic ultimate who is the governor of the universe,” he says.
Dukor says, “Alli has the character of a spasmodic and original thinker whose thoughts are of eclectic tradition re-inventing the echoes of broad schools of philosophy namely: Theism, theistic, humanism, idealism, existentialism, consciencism, historicism, liberalism, neo-liberalism, federalism, republic, post humanism and his own deductive monologue about Nigerian society.”
The essay comes like an epilogue. It weaves together various threads of thoughts and arguments emerging from the symposium that interrogated the memoir.
He lays bare wide ranging issues and discussions, which consistently illuminate and provoke. He examines the book from different perspectives, the synthesis of which is the plot of the obvious 240-page academic exercise.
In the second chapter, titled, M. Chris Alli, Nigeria Statist-Militarist Realism and National Security, Ujomu Philip Ogochukwu, in 33 pages, critically analyses the ideas of Alli on Nigerian military, especially the army and its key doctrines and philosophy within a statist-militarist realist social system.
The work recommends a more holistic pathway to security, peace and social order in Nigeria. It also recommends ideas that improve the quality of the self-concept, doctrine and professionalism of the army.
Paramount of the recommendations includes, the need for the army to see itself as a team player in the Nigerian project, true to its essence and nature, as well as concentrate on its primary vision and value, commit and concern, mission and mandate.
Ogochukwu also harps on the need for the army to develop a robust sense of history and destiny that makes this institution and its members to look beyond today.
Conclusively, he admonishes the army to follow the rule of law guiding civilian and military relation, while rethinking its role in peacetime.
The third chapter by Oladele Abiodun Balogun titled, M Chris Alli And The Politics In The Nigerian Army: A Philosophical Discourse, interrogates the concept of politics in the Nigerian army as seen in Alli’s autobiography.
The chapter exposes the antinomies in Alli’s narrative on political and apolitical Nigerian army.
In 12 pages, the essay examines the dimensions, implications and possible solutions to military in politics as x-rayed in Alli’s corpus. An attempt is made at exposing the logical contradictions in the militarism of politics in Nigeria’s democratic space.
Balogun concludes that the Nigerian army is a politicised institution that must be quickly redeemed. The paper recommends pragmatic overhaul and restructuring of the Nigerian army.
It is from chapter four that the reader begins to see the other side of military hegemony. The 14 pages essay, titled, M Chris Alli And The Morality of War, Egbeka Aja articulates the writer’s morality of war as solution to conflict. The chapter also review’s Alli’s adoption of combatant/non-combatant distinction as solution, saying whatever method of justification, war is not a rewarding means of settling disputes as an “unintended consequence is bound to occur.”
In chapter six, having looked at Moral Character and Holistic Development, Jim Ijenwa Unah insists, “Alli’s upbringing and character training point to the need for an early, rigorous, systematic and unbroken moral character development of the Nigerian child for both his or her own benefit and the overall good of society.”
In chapter 11, Neo-Liberalism and M. Chris Alli’s Hermeneutics of Federalism, Dukor, putting forward his academic contestation with Joseph Osei of the University of Ghana, concludes that neo-liberal solutions are required to solve Nigeria’s socio-economic problems, especially the excesses of the Big three, Hausa/Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba, in the appropriation of power using land mass and population.
The symposium that has birthed this book has done critically well to open the eyes of Nigerians on lamentable military incursions and no doubt the book will surely open up new vistas in the study of Nigeria’s historical trajectory.
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