THE MILITARY IN GOVERNMENT
In the developed countries, the military have no business in government. They are there to defend the state. It is the politicians who have responsibility for ruling the state. Throughout the independent struggle, the armies kept politically aloof. In fact, the colonial army and police were seen as instruments used by the colonial powers to suppress and brutalize Africans. It is therefore a surprise that since independence, there have more military than civilian government in Africa.
Whatever the reasons for an army take-over of the government, it normally starts with a deep seated desire to rule. The military always bring the nature of their training into government. They show themselves as puritans, appearing to be hard disciplinarians in terms of work ethics and general behavior. They give harsh punishment or wasteful spending, disorderliness, corruption, etc. Most military government starts by promising a purposeful leadership. They often confiscate wealth from corrupt politicians and their collaborators.
The military government uses its unified Command structure to get quicker result than a civilian regime. A junior officer respects and obeys his seniors more than a politician can do. Ethnicity, regionalism and other divisive influence are usually minimized under a military regime. It was this discipline and respect of command that, in times of crisis, helped many armed forces to save their country from total disintegration.
Most military regimes in Africa work hand in hand with professional, technical experts and seasoned administrators. The reason is simple. The army in normal circumstances knows very little about governance. This is why knowledgeable civilians are usually brought in to help the military in governing the country.
Many of the military regimes in Africa came to adopt some forms of ideology as rallying point for their governments. Colonel Ghadafi of Libya adopted islamic Socialism. In Congo, Dahomey, Ethiopia, Somalia and many others, the military governments adopted socialist system of government.
It is easier to take a swift and bold decisions could only be taken by a civilian one. In fact, some decisions could only be taken by military regime. For example, only a military regime like that of the late General Murtala Muhammed of Nigeria could be bold enough to re-locate Nigeria ‘s Capital from the over congested Lagos to the more centrally and spacious Abuja. It needed another bold military regime like that of General Ibrahim Babaginda to effect the actual movement of the civil servants from Lagos to Abuja. In addition, it has now been accepted that only a military regime could create more states out of the present ones in Nigeria.
Finally, it needed a military regime to embark on the bold economic reforms being undertaken in Nigeria and many other countries.
Finally, there appear to be more physical developments under military than civilian administrations. We have seen more roads, bridges, hospitals, telephone lines, improved water supply, and much else, during military regimes. This had been the case in Nigeria and even more so in Ghana under Ft-lieutenant J Rawlings. Under a military administration, as we noted earlier, many decisions are taken on merit and not based on political considerations.