Politics and Economic Development in Nigeria

By Tom Forrest | Go to book overview

3
Military Government and Politics, 1970-1979

The Gowon Regime, 1970-1975

The Military/Bureaucratic Alliance

The coming to power of the military in 1966 increased the power of senior federal civil servants. With military cover and protection, they assumed political as well as administrative control of the civil service. During and after the civil war, they played an important role in initiating and implementing state policy. Federal civil servants were, for example, influential in shaping the federal position in negotiations with secessionist Biafra. A condition of their power was the existence of centralised decisionmaking, which became a reality during the war for the first time after more than a decade of virtual regional autonomy. Their influence was apparent in constitutional policy, in the conduct of economic policy, and in the formulation of national policies in areas like education. After the civil war, the military, who had no plans of their own, relied heavily on civil servants to formulate and execute policy. Bureaucratic power was popularly referred to as the rule of the super-permanent secretaries.

A further consequence of military rule was the increased power of minority groups in the country. 1 The minorities--those who did not belong to the three major ethno-linguistic groups--were generally committed to a stronger federal centre and supported federal initiatives. They gained prominence with the creation of new states and the breakdown of the old regional hegemony. They were also well represented in the army and civil service. For example, indigenes of Plateau and Benue states were prominent in the army, and the highly educated elites of Bendel state had a strong presence in the federal civil service.

With the successful prosecution of the war and a stronger nationalism borne out of that experience, there were hopes that federal leadership with centralised policymaking would be carried over into peacetime. Civil servants saw it as an opportunity to strengthen the federation and enhance

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