The strength of an army is not in its number but in its discipline

Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s opinion on the Reorganisation of the Nigerian Armed Forces as contained in his press statement of 18th August 1975.


THE reorganisation of the Army, as I understand it, must be a multi-faceted problem of discipline, morale and efficiency.

Promotions, increases in pay, and the provision of decent barracks and modern weapons are certainly parts of the solution to the problem. But a drastic reduction in the number of our troops as well as the strengthening, retraining, and re-equipping of the remaining troops is also an essential part of reorganisation, and evidently more in keeping with our overall and long-term national interests.

Nobody advocates indiscriminate or hasty demobilisation or sociul redeployment of the members of the armed forces. Such redeployment must be well-planned, organised and phased. And no soldier must be made to leave the army until an alternative gainful employment of equivalent earning is found for him. The solution proposed here, therefore, is bound to take time. And, in my judgment, only a beginning can and ought to be made in the time at our disposal between now and the return to Civil Rule.

In 1970, after the declaration of the Nine-Point Programme, we had six clear years within which to initiate and accomplish the kind of rational reorganisation here suggested. But we stalled and procrastinated. However, it is never too late to do what is right and sensible; and, fortunately, the reorganisation of the Army is a job for military experts, and can be carried out under civilian auspices.

We were once told and j trust no one in the present ruling hierarchy ever shares that thoughtlessness, that the existing inordinate size of our Army was a guarantee against future coups.

Now, if the last coup in Nigeria and the one in Egypt in 1952 are anything to go by, then it can be said that the larger the Army, the neater, more classic, and more bloodless the coup. Provided the two indispensable antecedent ingredients of neat, bloodless coup arc present: an utterly discredited leadership or regime, and a small cohesive group of officers dedicated to the national cause and general well-being.

The army cannot mobilise the people for the implementation of national development plans

From Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Press Statement of 18th August 1975.

TWO things puzzled Alhaji Yahaya Gusau and myself about the Second National Development Plan: why was four-year period chosen for the Plan, and why the attempt to push it through the Federal Executive Council, with what appeared to us as indecent haste.

Alhaji Gusau was the Commissioner in charge of Economic Development. But the memoranda on the Plan were issued and circulated behind his back under his initials. Besides, the first set of memoranda that were Circulated for consideration at a particular meeting of the Executive Council, were not only not in numerical sequence, but also even the first two chapters were not yet ready for circulation.

We knew later, as we had all along suspected, that the reason for the attempted rush was the desire to get the Plan ready for launching on I st October, 1970, so as to give supporting pretext for prolonging army rule till 1976.

But, thanks to the resignation of Alhaji Yahaya Gusau, and the acceptance by General Gowon of my strenuous advice not to consider the plan piecemeal and in the irregular order in which the chapters had been issued, it was not possible to launch the Plan in October 1970.

The same sort of tactics is apparent from the timing of the pre- launching of the Third National Development Plan. It would appear that the preparation of the Plan had been deliberately delayed so that the launching of it might provide the needed pretext for prolonging army rule for an indefinite period. The long, boring dawn broadcast of 1 st October, 1974, giving an elaborate but ill-digested outline of the Plan, six months before it was ready, was designed to achieve this end.

I have made these observations in order to show that the current Third National Development Plan, like its predecessor, had been conceived in deceit and launched in bad faith.

Apart from this, there are many other things, which are wrong with the Plan. But this is not the place to detail and discuss such defects. It is enough, in the context of this statement to emphasise that it is none of the business of soldiers to assume the responsibility for formulating Development Plans for the people, and trying to implement them before handing power back to them.

One of the crucial factors for the success of a Development Plan is the conscientious and active involvement of the masses of the people, for whose benefit the Pan is made, at two decisive stages – the stage of formulation, and the level of implementation.

The Military, by their training, have neither the temper nor the organisation for tnobilising the people with a view to evoking from them the required voluntary involvement. 1t is not even good, for their proficiency and the security of the fatherland, that they should have the temper and organisation requisite for this purpose.

What is expected of our present Military Rulers, therefore, is that during the comparatively short time that they will be in the governmental saddle, they should do all they can to implement such portions of our ill-conceived Third National Development Plan as fall within their tenure of office.

It is, decidedly, not in the national interest that they should regard the full implementation of the Plan as part of the conditions precedent to handing over power to civilians.

The truth is that in this type of matters, the politicians, whatever their faults may be, are, other things being equal, better qualified than any other professional groups or classes of people in the country to ensure the voluntary involvement of our people wherever they may live, and whatever their individual status in life.


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