“On assuming office as President, I decided to put an end to these incessant coups.I asked the military to submit the list of all officers who had either participated in coups in the past or benefited in the dividends of coups by being appointed to political office as governors or ministers. “Not knowing what the list was meant for,the military faithfully compiled it and submitted to me as the Commander-in-Chief and chairman of the council of each of the arms of service.Ninety-three officers in all were given six hours notice of retirement on a Friday and ordered not to spend the Friday night in uniform or in barracks to prevent an adverse reaction.“The following Monday,the service council met to ratify the retirement of all the officers.
From my vantage position and background as a battle-tested and war-victorious general,I knew that an officer out of uniform and barracks is like a fish out of water,and their power and influence would be greatly diminished.“The retirement of these 93 officers all in one day was salutary.It meant that taking part in a coup and benefitting from one could catch up with you,no matter how long it would take, and for as long as you are alive.“Some of them later entered politics and became elected governors;some went into parliament;others got appointed as ministers and ambassadors.
“The idea was not to punish them for life but to exclude them from positions in the military where they could be coup planners,coup plotters,coup executors or coup beneficiaries.“And once an officer has tasted the trappings of a political life,
of living in a government house,with free food and so on,he would easily look for excuses to want more if he is in a position to make it happen.“The fact that since 1999,there has not been a coup or an attempted coup in Nigeria speaks to the effectiveness of the measures taken to put an end to the destabilizing influence of coups on the political life and dispensation of Nigeria.“Before 1999,and since independence, the longest that a democratic dispensation had lasted was six years from 1960 to 1966. “It has neither been easy nor perfect,but there are improvements and evidence of learning among the political class. Any bad signs and misconduct would have to be carefully monitored.”