In 1961, former United States President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, drew attention of Americans to the creation of a military phenomenon that endangered his country. In a blunt and honest speech to his countrymen, President Eisenhower said America's future was being mortgaged to what he termed as the military-industrial complex. Today, Nigeria faces a similar risk.
He remarked: "A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
I use Dwight Eisenhower's speech generously to draw attention to the danger of a military-political compex in Nigeria. There are striking similarities between what Eisenhower saw then, and what Nigerian faces today.
Nigeria's military today has little relation to that known to us many years ago. Soldiers see the uniform as an avenue to corrupt enrichment and eventual political domination at all levels. Many of Nigeria's retired military officers, even at a young age, are today active politicians at local to national levels. Even when they lack the requisite political philosophy and basic skills, soldiers are filling up positions from state assemblies, governorship seats, party offices, national assembly, to the presidency. How many presidential aspirants are retired generals? Most!
We have managed to create a permanent political industry made up of soldiers. There is also a long queue of serving officers whose only ambition is to retire young and become politicians. Not only do we spend to make them fine officers, the money spent is wasted because they never grow old in the profession before they retire or are retired. There are a few, in any, senior officers who grow up to cut their 50th birthday cake in the military.
The immense military-political establishment is a new Nigerian experience, which most people have yet to put in perspective. If one thinks that officers like Bode George and August Aikhomu are party leaders, Olagunsoye Oyilola is a governor, Tunde Ogbeha and David Mark are senators, Obasanjo is the president, Buhari, Marwa and Babangida are presidential hopefuls, even Raji Rasaki is getting into politics, it would not be that difficult to see a wide coverage of the political landscape by the military.
Just like Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote, the total influence of soldiers in politics is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal Government.
Nigerians must acknowledge the grave implication of military rule by other means. Again, "Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society."
We must guide against secondary colonialism by own own soldiers. These officers have acquired immense influence, wealth and power while in military service. There needs to be a ban on soldiers in politics for a number of years after retirement. Otherwise, we will be doomed, just Professor Wole Soyinka recently warned.
Tunde Odediran, former journalist with Guardian, Concord and Punch, edits againstbabangida.com.