In a passionate plea for the preservation of democracy in Nigeria, former Aviation Minister Chief Osita Chidoka has called upon Nigerians to stand firm against any calls for military intervention in the country. Speaking at the 60th birthday National Dialogue honoring Prof. Udenta O. Udenta on Tuesday, September 5, 2023, Chidoka emphasized that military intervention would not be in the nation’s best interest.
Drawing from his own experiences as a young student activist during the tumultuous period of 1993, Chidoka recounted the grim consequences of supporting military intervention. He vividly recalled the mayhem unleashed on civil society and politicians after Gen. Abacha assumed power following the annulment of the 1993 elections. Personal accounts of individuals like Fred Eno, Abiola’s Personal Assistant, who was detained without information, and the imprisonment of prominent figures like Dr. Arthur Nwankwo and Prof. Udenta underlined the disastrous impact of military rule.
Chidoka stressed, “Democracy is our best option. Nigerians should reject calls for military intervention as it would not augur well for the country.” He highlighted the economic regression and the “lost decade” of the 1990s during military rule, noting that by 1999, Nigeria’s foreign reserves had dwindled to $3 billion, with meager economic growth averaging only two percent.
In contrast, Chidoka praised the progress made under civilian leadership, particularly citing the achievements during President Obasanjo’s tenure, where foreign reserves soared to over $60 billion, and economic growth surged at an annual rate of 6%. He also lauded the robust economic growth of over 7% during President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
The former Minister lamented the dark side of military rule, recounting the deaths of prominent figures like Kudirat Abiola, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and Alfred Rewane. He emphasized that the military had suppressed the press and dismantled national institutions like NLC, NANS, and religious organizations, while their economic record was dismal and contributed to widespread poverty.
Chidoka cautioned against repeating the mistakes of the past, drawing parallels with the mood in the country in 1993 when calls for military intervention inadvertently led to Gen. Abacha’s rise to power, resulting in a wave of damage, death, arrests, imprisonment, and forced exile.
In closing, Chidoka urged Nigerians to persevere in the struggle for a free and transparent electoral process, to hold the government accountable, and to advocate for constitutional and moral reforms that would propel the nation forward, despite the challenges faced in the past eight years.