By Iorliam’Amo Shija
It appears one of the most under-studied phenomenon in Nigerian history is the 1985 Palace Coup. When the military took power on 31st December, 1983 , truncating the second term of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, many people, perhaps including General Mohammadu Buhari, didn’t know that the event was not an end but just a springboard for the rise of other ambitious officers .
Through hindsight, we could say, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida and his group had been planning for their big day for years.
For years, General Ibrahim Babangida had set a lot of events in motion; overtly or covertly, intentionally or unintentionally, to rule Nigeria. So to his core group; some who were his boys and others who were his trusted friends and allies, it was just a matter of time – and when the right time presented itself , they activated their cells and took over power.
A background knowledge of the palace coup is important to understanding the modus operandi of its actors like David Mark, perhaps one of the most active IBB boys and product of the era still much around . This will also give us an insight into where he stands on issues, and his possible next move.
At independence, Nigerian army was not designed to play any roles in politics. But sooner had the nation started off than tribalism and corruption in the First Republic , made gullible politicians to drag the military in politics.
At the beginning, most of the officers in Nigerian Army were of the Igbo and Yoruba tribes , with northerners who were disadvantaged by education coming behind. Sensing trouble, northern politicians, under their charismatic leader, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello brought up a plan to close the number gap. One of the ways used was to lower the bar of educational qualification into the army.
Also, neatly dressed young officers were, in some cases , taken to the government secondary schools in the north to bait unsuspecting intelligent teenagers or adventurous ones. That was how, Yakobu Jack Gowon was used to attract the likes of Babangida to join the army.
The politics of the 1960s and the politicisation of Nigerian army would give rise to series of events. The 1966 coup d’etat, both the Kaduna Nzeogwu’s coup and the counter coup. Following this was the Nigerian Civil War, 1967 to 1970. These events were enough for an ambitious Major, Babangida who was seeing these changes and also parctipated in the war and sustained injuries to start a deliberate policy, to take advantage of these events and be relevant in the scheme of things.
Between 1970 and 1972 when then Major Babangida, having recovered from war injuries was made an Instructor and Company Commander in the Short Service Wing of Nigerian Defence Academy, one of the young army officers who came under his influence was a 22 years old boy, Bonaventure Alechenu David Mark. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1970.
To be continued next Sunday…
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