Contracts and coup plots

The following passage is from Page 8 of Max Siollun’s ‘Soldiers of Fortune‘, a book I strongly recommend for anyone interested in Nigeria’s history.

Civilian-military tensions went beyond meddling. The Shagari government received numerous warnings of coup plots against it. The Director-General of the National Security Organisation (NSO), Umaru Shinkafi, detected up to ten coup plots against Shagari. However, most of them were nebulous intelligence ‘chatter’ that the government could not act on. The overt exception was a coup plot detected in 1983, and incited by one Alhaji Bukar Mandara. In 1983 the commander of the Brigade of Guards in Lagos reminded his men during a parade that they were duty bound to report any knowledge they had of coup plots against the government, and that any soldier who failed to report a coup plot to the authorities would be punihsed in the same manner as the plot’s ringleaders. Shortly after the parade, a soldier present at the parade walked into his commander’s office and informed him that Mandara was trying to recruit soldiers from the brigade to overthrow the government.  Mandara had previously been awarded a contract to supply food to the brigade but became aggrieved when the contract was revoked in 1979 following the restoration of civilian rule. He decided to get even with the government by inciting a military coup to depose it. Mandara was arrested and convicted of treason, but on appeal was subsequently released due to a technicality involving the venue at which the charges against him were brought.

One of the things the above passage makes clear is that there were those civilians who benefited a lot from the military, and wanted to see them continue. Generally, any system which stays in place long enough will create those with a vested interest in its survival. Military rule was no different.

Secondly, it is very ironic that Mandara was released based on a ‘technicality’, the kind of technicality that could only exist in a democracy, the very same that he tried to overthrow.  If he had tried to plan a coup during a military regime, he would simply have been shot. Luckily for him, he lived to be 81, passing on last year.

Finally, Max Siollun is a very good historian. His first book, Oil, Politics and Violence covered the years 1966-1976. You can get it here.

I urge you to read both.


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