Though not involved in the January 15, 1966 coup, Col. Paul Ogbebor (Rtd) was nevertheless, a major player on the side of the Federal forces in the civil war that followed the uprising.
In this interview with Vanguard, he insists that military intervention eventually helped to shape the nation’s democracy. Excerpts:
By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
Military intervention in our political system has helped us a lot there is no doubt about that. That insinuation that it is our problem is not true. The 1975 coup came with mixed reactions because Gen. Gowon had successfully ended the war.
The problem was that he gave a date for hand over unfortunately he changed that date twice and that led to the 1975 coup. It is difficult to describe any coup as justified or not because some people will be happy while others would disagree.
So military intervention has helped us a lot, otherwise if it was during the civilian era that the civil war came, Nigeria could not have survived it. As at 1966 January, Nigeria was already factionalized with restiveness in the West. Remember the operation WETIE in the West and in Benue area, remember the battles in the Tiv area, many people died.
The Tivs wanted to separate from the Northern region. You also remember the skirmishes in the South East when many people could not cross the Niger bridge. That was why the January 1966 coup was welcomed all over the country. War in any country will come when it wants to come and normally it is a tonic. We had the American civil war and after that America started to have progress. China, Spain, England, many countries who witnessed military intervention later witnessed progress and that is the same with Nigeria.
The military intervention in Nigeria was an act of God and it helped us a lot. If you re- member that as at 1966 we had only three to four universities in Nigeria, we had regions those days but today we have many states rather than regions. And each state is today a centre of development.
The military intervention has helped us in achieving rapid development. The only problem is that during military rule freedom is limited but they take decisions that directly impact on the lives of the people.
Most of the people talking don’t know about the civil war. Without security no nation will stand. What the military did in 1966 was to secure the nation. If the military had not come by then there would have been serious problems. But the military intervention came to sustain Nigeria.