Association of 
Nigerian Scholars 
for Dialogue

Nowamagbe A. Omoigui, MD, MPH, FACC


Although there is a tendency to imagine that it is indigenous to Nigeria, the "coup syndrome" has afflicted many countries, large and small, developed and underdeveloped. These range from the 'banana' republics of Central and South America to the 'pepper-soup' states of Africa. But the list also includes countries as diverse as Russia, Greece, Turkey, South Korea, Indonesia, Portugal, France, and Pakistan. Even in Britain, whose English history includes Oliver Cromwell's coup d'etat, the possibility of a coup against Harold Wilson reached discussion stage in the late sixties. The only two continents that have never experienced a coup d'etat are Australia and North America (Canada, USA, Mexico). Although the conventional wisdom is that a "good" government is the best insurance against coups, not all successful coups have been planned and carried out against "bad" governments.

To design a prevention and treatment program for a disease, one has to understand its causes, natural history, system of transmission and manifestations. Likewise, preventing a successful coup d'etat requires a complex and detailed understanding of interrelated political, military, security and intelligence issues that go into planning and staging one. In Nigeria, this is a very serious matter that should command the attention of all Nigerians. Some countries have dealt with the problem by appearing to keep the military as far away from politics as possible. Others (particularly communist nations) have used adjunctive tools, such as the deployment of political commissars in military units, to foster ruling party membership. In others (like Egypt) the military has simply been "civilianized". The system we need to set up to deal with coups needs to be able to respond at three levels: before a coup happens, as it is happening, and after one has happened.

But this is far from an easy task. Merely writing a "coup clause" in the Constitution does not guarantee much unless accompanied by a variety of other measures. The reason for this is that even though the Constitution declares itself "supreme", there is a wide gulf between policy and culture in Nigeria. Official policy is regularly flouted with no backlash from society, opening a window of opportunity for those who might dare. In the psyche of most Nigerians, there is simply no moral power of legitimacy of elective government.

This shaky foundation is what makes the rigging of elections such an attractive excuse for the timing of military take-overs. Under such circumstances, the ruling party actually acts as a role model for forceful seizure of power in the polity, which is then "welcomed" by disenfranchised voters. In a round-about way, therefore, the most important "anti-coup" proposal in our draft constitution may be the decision to limit executive civilian office holders to one term of office. Having made this preliminary observation, however, let us examine some ways to make our society less coup-prone.


The most fundamental prerequisite is to expand domestic political participation and give people a sense of control over their destiny. It is crucial to educate large segments of the population in such a manner as to become invested in the legitimacy of the system and process and thus see it as inseparable from the very basis of their sense of well-being. This will be assisted to a great extent by enforcing the rule of law and basic principles of fairness in a predictable and consistent manner.

Such a belief system helps to set the stage for a spontaneous act of sustained civil disobedience in the event of a coup and render would-be coup-plotters at a psychological disadvantage. Since the rank and file of the military would essentially be a product of society, illegal orders would be harder to enforce. We need to accept the fact that the village is the unit of political action in most precolonial African societies and remains so to this day. Most "urban" Nigerian elite think in "village" terms and remain so organized in social terms. The "formal" three-tier Federal-State-Local Government structure, therefore, needs to be expanded to include a municipal or Village level, in which precolonial systems of administration should be respected and enshrined into the Constitution, including a mechanism for those systems to be changed if it is the wish of the said villages or villagers. This is only one of several ways to bridge the gulf between primordial society and the modern state system in a manner that allows us to regulate the behavior of public officials and make our primordial heritage "part of the system".

Even then, it is important that there be excellent communication among the major segments of the Nigerian polity, to prevent emerging coup leaders from manipulating ethnic and religious differences to their advantage as they seek to consolidate. The experience of "June 12" 1993 is a classic example. The 'mandate' of late Moshood Abiola, who apparently gained a majority of votes across the entire country, ended up becoming the 'private property' of the foreign-based liberal element of one ethnic group, while everyone else watched from the sidelines. Another example dates back to 1978 during the "Ali must go" students crisis. The government cleverly manipulated communication difficulties between northern and southern based institutions of higher learning. Along with national TV and radio network news black-outs, regional editions of newspapers often failed to report events going on in other parts of the country. The student leaders of the uprising were forced to roam about the country using rickety and sometimes dangerous public transportation, just to be able to let each other know what was going on.

Secondly, (with safeguards to assure communication) the sources of political power and legitimacy in the country need to be decentralized. This follows naturally from the first premise above, but is important also from the technical standpoint of coup-plotting. [I shall say more on the matter of military reorganization below, but what I am focusing on at this point is political matters.]

Thirdly, without surrendering too much internal leverage, the state security infrastructure needs to be somehow integrated into the international system, so that taking it over internally becomes practically impossible without a major international angle. As an example, in retrospect, if Balewa 's unpopular attempt to sign an Anglo-Nigerian Defence pact had succeeded, it may have prevented the January 1966 coup.

A debatably less offensive option might be a regional military pact in the context of a West African Defence Force (WADF). This needs to clearly spell out the role and expectations of the Nigerian state because there are examples where defence pacts and the presence of foreign troops did not protect the host country from coups. The most recent (in our environment) is the failure of Nigerian troops in Banjul (Gambia) to prevent the Yayah Jammeh coup against Dauda Jawara. In addition to their basic impotency (from the standpoint of firepower), they took the "neutralist" view of not interfering in the internal affairs of the country once the coup succeeded. It created an embarrassing situation in which the Nigerian unit was even unfairly suspected of complicity on the take-over!

More remotely, the presence of French troops in Cameroun and nearby Central African Republic did not necessarily stop an unsuccessful coup attempt against Paul Biya. On the other extreme is the Sierra Leonean example, earlier this year, of an "after the fact" intervention by ECOMOG to restore the democratic regime of Tejan Kabbah. Back in 1964, Nigerian Army units also flew into Tanzania to prop up Julius Nyerere after a mutiny. Situations in which a neighboring country intervened directly to successfully preempt or crush a coup also include the mobilization of the South African Army to stabilize Transkei and the Senegalese intervention to crush the Police coup against Dauda Jawara during the royal wedding of Charles and Diana. However, things do not always work out between sponsor and client. After regaining control, Jawara initially proposed a Sene-Gambian confederation to solve his security problems. This arrangement later broke down, leading him to establish a small Gambian Army from scratch. Paradoxically, this army eventually removed him from power! More recently in Kabila's Congo, we have seen the spectacle of a client-regime brought into power by foreign elements relying on other foreign elements to keep it there.

Another variant on the theme is to "contract" with a private foreign corporate military entity, such as the powerful South African based mercenary group "Executive Solutions". Whether such an arrangement will be popular or provocative in a country like Nigeria remains to be seen.

But the presence of foreign troops locally is not the only way to achieve an international integration of the state security infrastructure. An important element in this process would be to spell out the "chain of succession" in the Nigerian Constitution. Traditionally, people assume that the Vice-President succeeds the President, but think not much further than in the chain of command. In addition to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives, the rank order of succession to the leadership of the country should be written to include a few individuals who are usually PHYSICALLY outside the country, and therefore, likely to escape arrest or assassination. The Ambassador to the United Nations would be a good example; and there are others. Upon the arrest and/or death and/or incapacitation of the locally available chain of command (triggered by the coup announcement), this individual would be constitutionally empowered (by the "unsuspendable" constitution) to form a government in exile with full international legal protection. He or she would be able to demand the loyalty of other elements of the Armed Forces who may not be privy to the coup or in support of it. He or she would have the authority to freeze Nigeria's assets abroad through the International Banking system and sign pacts with foreign countries to authorize military intervention if necessary.


As the late Anwar Sadat once observed, "It is dangerous to toy with the Armed Forces." It is a unique organization that makes a great slave but a very bad master. Even then, being more akin to a broad sword rather than a scalpel, it must be handled and used with extreme caution. Our ancestors frequently only raised armies when they needed them, but we have been stuck with the phenomenon of standing armies. It is important, therefore, to know the "animal" we are dealing with, and then feed and nurture it in a manner consistent with national goals and stability.

In a modern state structure, whenever a serious puncture occurs in the constitutional wheel that links the roles and responsibilities of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, it is a matter of time for the opportunity and means to present itself for a coup. This is particularly relevant when an internal security dilemma co-exists with electoral tension. Even in India which is widely hailed as the largest democracy on earth, with an absolutely professional military organization, the situation came close to a coup in 1974. The Defence Chief, General Sam Manekshaw, a hero of the Indo-Pakistani war and a man of great personal integrity, contemplated a coup against Indira Ghandi after she declared a state of emergency, emasculated parliament and jailed scores of her opponents. Eventually, however, she lost the next elections and was actually barred from parliament for one year by the Indian Supreme Court. It was the timely intervention of due legislative (electoral) and judicial processes that kept the Indian Army away from its first foray into politics. The system worked.

On a tactical level, the key issues in coup making are surprise, speed and neutralization. Preventing a coup thus requires an afferent system that is not so pervasive that it becomes a provocation, but still detects the potential to plot, the tendency to plot, actual penetration, recruitment and plotting (including deception), as well as troop movements undertaken for the purpose of "waging war against Nigeria". Juxtaposed to this would be an efferent system designed to avoid neutralization, thus retaining the ability to mobilize and deploy loyal and reliable troops to intervene on behalf of the republic. The full details of such a system are beyond the scope of this article, but I shall reflect on some issues for completeness.

The Afferent System

Many coups in history do not really come as a surprise to the government in power. In Nigeria, both the Balewa (1966) and Shagari (1983) governments had an inkling that a military take-over was in the offing but did little to stop it. In Chief Ayo Rosiji's biography, for example, he describes how Brigadier Ademulekun confided his concerns about a junior officers' coup late in 1965, which he had discussed with Maj. Gen Ironsi. All efforts by Rosiji to stimulate the Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto and leader of the ruling Northern Peoples' Congress and the Prime Minister of Nigeria, Alhaji Tafewa Balewa, to take comprehensive action failed. Even the British (who usually know what is going on) offered to position a naval vessel near Lagos as an insurance, but Balewa refused. Other sources suggest that when Nzeogwu was reconnoitering the Premier's lodge in Kaduna in preparation for "Damisa", he bumped into Sardauna who made a comment that clearly indicates that he knew what was coming. In S. G. Ikoku's book Nigeria's Fourth Coup, he admits that the possibility of a junior officers' coup was widely expected by senior ministers in the Shagari government. When the coup came, they were simultaneously surprised and disappointed but ultimately relieved that it had originated from senior officers. While some might ascribe these behaviors to a culturally driven sense of destiny and fatalism ("God willing"), the paralysis of response from previous civilian regimes needs to be more closely examined by future civilian governments. Democracy has to "want to" survive.

But civilians are not alone. In the only serious conversation they had on the subject of security, General Murtala Mohammed displayed the same sense of fatalistic abandon when then Lt. Gen. Obasanjo tried to get him to take his personal security more seriously early in February 1976. "If they kill all of us, good luck to them" he said. Mohammed's predecessor suffered from the same disease. As he left for the OAU meeting in Kampala, General Gowon even went as far as telling Col. Garba in July 1975 to "make sure there is no bloodshed." On the contrary, the foremost military conspirators of the last 15 years (Generals Babangida and Abacha) were not shy to confront any challenge, real or imagined.

Thus, there are limits on what an intelligence capability can achieve if the users of intelligence fail (for whatever reason) to act on it. Be that as it may be, the afferent system should be designed like the human nervous system, complete with a matrix of nerve fibers reaching into every 'nook and corner' of the body. The next civilian government may indeed inherit such a pervasive system nurtured during the Babangida and Abacha years. It will need to be reoriented away from its more nasty habits.

But beyond merely having an administrative state security system (e.g. the National Security Organization, State Security Service, National Intelligence Agency etc.) the society has to be primed to "self report" by providing incentives that make it the rational choice to make even if one disagrees politically with the ruling party (or tribe).

That said, there may need to be an office in the Presidency (held by a trusted party man) to which civilians and soldiers may confidentially report verifiable treason via a "hot-line" for a well publicised financial "reward" without fearing reprisals. The reason for this is that one danger with "reporting" a coup plot through "normal" administrative channels is that the person to whom one is reporting may be part of the plot. Indeed, back in 1983, this had a very high likelihood of happening because of the command level at which the coup was hatched. But this should be balanced by the need to avoid creating a mechanism for witch-hunts and frivolous petitions designed to get even or set-up others. Investigations should be thorough and due process followed.


In the military, it is important to create a climate of "investment" by soldiers in the democratic system because one counter-intuitive observation stands out in Nigerian history: military regimes seem to be more "difficult" to overthrow (by the military) than civilian regimes. One reason may be that in the climate of civil liberties afforded by a civilian regime, the absence of 'detention without charge' decrees and the difficulty in summarily purging suspicious officers and soldiers imposes an extra burden in security calculations. But the main reason is probably that more recently, civilian regimes have become easily compartmentalized as "unworthy of support" when would-be plotters exploit the nascent "we versus they" mentality that now pervades the attitude of soldiers toward "bloody civilians" in Nigeria. In 1984, after the successful ouster of Shehu Shagari, then Brigadier Babangida stated: "soldiers need no longer be ashamed of wearing the uniform". Thus, evidence suggests that unquestioning acceptance (by the Nigerian Armed Forces) of the "supremacy of civilian authority" is largely academic and needs to be actively cultivated at multiple levels.

On the other hand, the one direct (rather than proxy) coup attempt in Nigeria by civilians against civilians (Awolowo versus Balewa) may have been more tricky because (among other things) the socialization process that makes a soldier more likely to withhold knowledge of a coup from a civilian was not there. Ethnic loyalties (particularly among some ethnic groups) tend to be situational and thus potentially less regimented. Conversely, direct coups by civilians against soldiers have the drawback of lack of firepower and "membership" of the state apparatus which wearing the uniform confers. It is much easier to sabotage the state from within than without.

In the particular case of Shehu Shagari, thoughts of coup plotting began as early as six months after he took over, although some concern was even raised (by junior officers) before Obasanjo handed over. In his book, Not My Will, General Obasanjo (rtd) discussed the growing gulf between military officers and the democratic regime, including his efforts (initially) to point out to mutiny-oriented officers that the democratic system needed time to grow and mature. But subsequent tensions emerged between Shagari and the Army over the handling of the Chad situation and Army-Police relations in the context of possible plans to use the Armed Forces to 'monitor' the 1983 elections. The "corruption" of the civilian government as a whole, along with the schism generated among politicians over the conduct and results of the elections provided the "cover" for a coup that may have been motivated by other agendas, including a disaffection with the ruling National Party of Nigeria's zoning policy and the need to pre-empt a rumored coup attempt by junior officers. Plotters could rest assured that resistance from the divided and discontented political class (some of whom were urging them on) would not materialize. They were right.

Thus, contained therein are some pointers on ways to avoid bad civil-military relations. Soldiers need to be respected for what they think they know how to do, particularly professional views on matters of a security and military nature. Political oversight needs to be firm but discrete.

Politicians need to conduct themselves in a manner that breeds respect. However, the military also needs to be conditioned to accept civilian control. The Ministry of Defence provides a good mechanism for enforcing two important principles of oversight - approval of the military budget and all postings. In 1983, civilian oversight of military postings was so loose that the then Military Secretary (who later emerged as Chief of Staff, SHQ) was able to pre-position sympathetic officers in key positions in preparation for the coup.

In addition, for the second time in 20 years the potential or real use of the Armed Forces in divisive internal security situations created tensions that eventually spilled into mutiny. Back in the sixties it had to do (in part) with perceptions that the federal government was "misusing" the military against democratic opponents in the West and the Middle-Belt. In the eighties, it had to do with fears that the experience of the sixties might repeat itself in the 1983 elections. When (in deference) Shagari tried to beef up the Police (with armored vehicles) to prepare it for a decisive internal security role, his efforts were interpreted as a move against the Army. This interpretation was partially sponsored by his political opponents who feared being left out in the cold in a "winner-takes-all" contest. Thus, along with single terms of office, the proposed constitutional provision to give cabinet seats to parties that win a certain percentage of the popular vote may help prevent this scenario in the future.

Even military governments have also had to be more watchful of the Army when a series of internal security situations follow one another in quick succession. Thus, the Army should be used only in situations that are clear-cut threats to the corporate existence of the state. If the federal government is perceived to be the instigator of an internal crisis that they are being asked to contain by force, it could quickly lead to an erosion of loyalty to the national command authority. On the other hand, I have been told that soldiers that are used to exercising power can be unnerved by any situation that portrays lack of "control" or "decisiveness" on the part of a national civilian command structure that does not share its institutional identity. It makes them feel "impotent".

In Nigeria's case, when one adds the ingredients of personal ambition and greed to this mix, it is easy to see why trips to the radio station have been frequent. Some friends have joked about the fact that no civilian government in Nigeria could have held on to power in the setting of the kind of fuel shortages we have been experiencing in the last 10 years. Some ambitious officer would have exploited the situation. Thus, civilians need to be able to ignore the patriotic rhetoric in coup speeches and focus on the fine print.


When a soldier (or civilian) approaches another soldier (or civilian) to discuss coup plotting, he or she does so based on a number of presumptions, the most important of which is that the target of recruitment will likely see it as more beneficial to conceal (and possibly aid) the plot than to leak it. Four competing factors come into play. The first is ethnic trust and other primordial "buddy" or shared attachments which enhance a culture of mutual silence in what may technically amount to a suicide pact. The second is the promise of advancement (or gratification) which a successful coup brings. The likelihood of the coup succeeding (based on who else is involved) comes into play heavily at this point. But both of these factors need to be balanced against the third and fourth factors which are the benefits (and risks) of reporting to the 'appropriate' authorities and the penalty for remaining silent in the event of detection of the coup from other sources. The last factor is what encouraged the promulgation in 1976 of the decree (by then Lt. Gen Obasanjo) that was later used to frame General Obasanjo himself and the late Maj. Gen. Yar'Adua (rtd) in the alleged Gwadabe coup of 1995. Adolf Hitler used the same principle to execute thousands (including priests) after the ill-fated Stauffenberg coup of July 1944. Whether this decree should be enshrined in the Constitution is debatable but merits consideration along with calls to make it illegal for anyone to invite the military to take power.


Back in 1974, then Brigadier Murtala Mohammed told General Gowon: "If you want to prevent a coup, remove the cause." That sounds simple enough. But in addition, governments do try to sponsor competing "attachments" designed to undermine 'primordial "buddy" or shared attachments which enhance a culture of mutual silence'. For example, recognizing the greed of Nigerians, money was used as a tool "very effectively", as General Bali once put it, by General Babangida in what is affectionately known as "settlement". Babangida benefitted from his deep understanding of General Buhari's cardinal sin - a failure to keep touch with and distribute political appointments and financial opportunity among the "storm troopers" who brought him to power. But along with the "carrot", he also wielded a "stick" which he (along with General Bali and others) used 'for effect' on March 5, 1986 when Maj. Gen. Vatsa and others were shot "about an hour ago."

The late Ahmadu Ahidjo of Cameroun also used similar 'settlement' techniques, until he was tricked out of power by a French physician. Back then, friends of mine in Cameroun told me they were never too sure of precisely how much their paychecks might bring from month to month except that it never fell below a minimum. No questions were asked.

But money has its limits. All the oil concessions and contracts Shehu Shagari doled out to senior military officers did not stop them from removing him in December 1983. But while Babangida's then selective "settlement" policy did not stop Orkar, Mukoro, Nyiam and others from springing a coup attempt on April 22, 1990, it may have helped (along with tactical errors on Orkar's part) to create enough of an investment in his survival among a "caucus" of middle ranking officers fearful of the unknown. A chastened Babangida subsequently expanded the range of personnel eligible for 'settlement' by giving out cars (Peugeot 504s) en masse for no apparent reason to supplement other measures such as the elaborate Barrack rehabilitation program. But in 1993, when his cup was full, (having dribbled even the referee), 'settlement' did not prevent IBB from 'stepping aside'.


Civilian society is insufficiently aware of and sensitive to the politics of hierarchy in the military. Not enough attention has been paid to establishing a 'rules-assurance' system that helps to avoid the personal alienation of individual officers and men from one another and the government. In this regard, it is important to track (by computer) the careers of military personnel in order to detect those passed over for promotion and those who consistently get "army job" rather than "juicy" appointments in comparison with their "course-mates" and officers from other regions of the country. It is fair (for example) to say that any officer who falls two or three promotion exercises behind that expected for proficiency and experience at the level of his course mates should either not be in the military or should be carefully "managed". Extensive investigations should always be carried out to ascertain that perceptions of discrimination are not left to smoulder. Similarly, great care should be taken in arbitrarily promoting officers (or giving them appointments) substantially above the level attained by most of their course mates (or seniors). Even when it is well deserved, experience teaches us that envy and jealousies unleashed among fellow officers can turn out to be deadly. The antipathy in late 1975 to early 1976 between late Maj. Gen Illiya Bisalla and Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma falls neatly into this category. And the hastiness with which absolutely outstanding officers like Lt. Col. Mike Iyorshe, Wing Commander Ben Ekele and others were snuffed out on controversial charges in 1986 may have been partly related to such jealousies and fears among their rivals.

In particular, after a successful coup, 'rewards' tend to be based on 'participation' rather than 'merit' thus upsetting the apple cart. Officers frequently brag about their roles (inappropriately) and take on an air of undeserved invincibility and prowess which is often out of synchrony with their service records. Those officers who were left out of the planning, therefore, are prone to feel rejected and undervalued by the system. Unless carefully handled, this, by itself, becomes the nidus for a counter-coup, once the opportunity and means presents itself. There are highly professional officers in Nigerian history who would never have found themselves in a crisis of conscience over loyalty were it not for this factor.

At this point I must discuss a related matter. How General Abacha survived and steadily progressed through the Army hierarchy despite of confidential reports that reportedly (by foreign newspapers) declared him as "unstable" and "unfit for high command" is one of the biggest scandals of the modern Nigerian Army. General Colin Powell once described him as having the "worst CIA Biography" of any foreign leader he had ever read. The country paid a huge price for it. Somehow, with rigorous oversight from future civilian leadership, the military needs to respect their own well laid down policies and procedures mostly plagiarized from the British Army. The cooperation of all Nigerians is absolutely vital because pressure to bend the rules based on parapo or imamadu frequently comes from civilians (and traditional rulers). But the chicken eventually comes home to roost. The recent public comment by former Army Chief, Lt. Gen. T. Y. Danjuma (rtd) stating that he was evaluating "soldiers, not politicians", completely misses the point. Irrespective of ethnic origin, (or unfounded allegations of racial bias on the part of British instructors) there is just no reason why an officer who failed to pass Staff College should have been allowed to rise above the rank of Lt. Colonel even when he was not being evaluated as a politician. Furthermore, it was once fashionable in this country for senior officers to claim that military rule was not an aberration. Obviously, therefore, it was naive not to view all Nigerian "teeth arm" military officers as potential future heads-of-state. Many foreign military training institutions (at which Nigerians train alongside others from the third world) understand this unstated "principle". In this vein, Babangida's decision to leave Abacha behind to prop-up Shonekan, was a poisoned chalice. Lastly, as a former Chairman of the Army Council, General Obasanjo (rtd), now a candidate for Presidency also needs to reflect. He almost paid for it with his life.


Through segmentation and decentralization, the ethnic security map of the State of Nigeria could become sufficiently complex to increase the likelihood that a plot will be reported, detected or resisted once sprung. Paradoxically, those a leader needs to fear the most are personnel entrusted (and empowered) to guard him or her. And history shows that one is not necessarily safe from officers and soldiers from one's ethnic group or region. Shagari appeared eager to learn from Balewa's "Ironsi / Okafor experience" by appointing Lt. Gen. Inua Wushishi as his Army Chief, kicking Lt. Gen. Alani Akinrinade "upstairs" in the process. But neither Wushishi nor Khaliel (Guards Commander) could stop the 1983 coup, surrounded as they were by conspirators at the highest levels of Army Headquarters, including the then Director of Army Staff Duties and Plans, Military Secretary and Director of Military Intelligence among others.

This dilemma is not altogether alien to Nigerian leaders. But the Freudian calculation they tend to make is that if a coup were to succeed, the successor regime might emanate from their ethnic group or region. Irritation with this observation by certain segments of society is one reason for calls for the regionalization of the military. While such calls appear to emanate from bruised ethnic egos and "hidden agendas", they may actually be in the interest of the republic if implemented with appropriate safeguards against secession. Nigeria is certainly not the only country where ethnic calculations influence internal security decisions. During the Tienamen square crisis in China, troops from the Mongolian region were brought into Beijing to crack down on the students to avoid a crisis of conscience among more readily available local military units with potential ethnic sympathies.

In many countries, segmentation of security services is horizontal and vertical. On the one hand there is regionalization (based on territory) while on the other there is compartmentalization of police and security functions. One might, therefore, observe separate police forces controlling telecommunications & postal services, airports, ports and borders, and municipalities as an example. Similarly, intelligence organizations can be duplicated and compartmentalized. By manipulating their rivalries, the political leadership could potentially insulate itself from being taken by surprise. Built into this could be a regional structure.

The Nigerian Police Force should be stratified. The Federal Police could specialize in SWAT activities and sophisticated investigative roles like the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. The State Police could take over more mundane roles of daily policing, including highway patrol. County (or local government) Police units (possibly unarmed) could be established for the lowest tier of serving and protecting the public. The Commander of such a unit could be elected (as an independent) from a short list of qualified personnel and could report to a Local Government (County) Security Committee. Such a decentralized arrangement exists in India, a former British colony with much in common with Nigeria (except coup plotting), including a large population as well as multiple ethnic and religious groups. In India, independent police forces exist at the federal level such as the Central Reserve Police, Border Security Police, IndoTibetan Border Police, and the "Black Cat" Commando all of whom report to the Prime Minister through the Home Minister. Separately, there are State and City police forces which report to the Chief Ministers and Mayors respectively.

However, while such an arrangement has merit, its complexity could also theoretically be a hindrance to the rapid mobilization of units to put down a coup. Hence, the need to have an additional constitutional "out of country" mechanism for ensuring the survival of a legitimate element of the political leadership that could then issue credible orders to 'wait-and-see' elements. It is noteworthy that before the 24th coup attempt finally succeeded in toppling President Jaffar El Nemeiry of Sudan (while on a visit abroad), he actually had a powerful independent radio-transmitter and electronic jammer secretly located within the country so that he could have a mechanism for broadcasting appeals for support in the event that disloyal troops took over the country's 'official' radio stations. Unfortunately for Nemeiry, Egypt detained him (on his way back from the US) once the coup was announced in Khartoum.


In some countries, the police is larger than the military while in others paramilitary elements are integrated into the party structure. The Police coup against Dauda Jawara of Gambia showed that even the police can attempt to seize power.

One thing that has been tried in Nigeria (with mixed but largely ineffectual results) is the development of competing (or elite) security force elements. Tafawa Balewa thought he was 'protected' by the Guards Company but the commander (Major Donatus Okafor) arrested and killed him. General Gowon had an 'elite' Brigade of Guards (which eventually removed him, was disbanded after February 1976, only to be reconstituted using fresh troops.) Lt. Gen Obasanjo's government established the National Security Organization (NSO) after being taken by surprise by Lt. Col. Dimka. In the sixteen year period from 1960-76 (prior to the establishment of the NSO) there were four coups. In the sixteen year period from 1976-92 (after the establishment of the NSO), there have been three (3) definite coups and one publicly alleged one. Since the number of coups "prevented" or "nipped in the bud" during the period are unknown, it would be unfair to draw any conclusions from these numbers.

President Shagari tried to build up the Police with armored vehicles but was interrupted in December 1983 by Brigadier Abacha. The 6th, 19th and 123rd battalions of the Guards Brigade were either neutralized or rendered irrelevant. His Guards Commander (Colonel Bello Khaliel) was subsequently retired. Maj. Gen Buhari maintained the Guards Brigade but it was not of much use to him in August 1985 (although individual officers tried in vain to stand by him, only to end up being severely beaten).

With Israeli assistance, General Babangida's government split up the NSO into the SSS and NIA and began plans to establish a National Guard, (in addition to the Guards Brigade). He later tried to decentralize (regionalize) the headquarters of the Army, Air Force and Navy by moving them to Minna, Lagos and Kano, a decision that was stoutly resisted by many (including Gen. Obasanjo). In addition, efforts were made to 'sedate' the services through such measures like controlling fuel supply to Air Force bases and severely limiting training and readiness in the Armed Forces as a whole in the name of "national security". None of this prevented him from being nearly totally surprised in April 1990.

Ernest Shonekan was essentially a passenger on a ship he did not understand. Once his government was declared illegal by a judge, Abacha shoved him off the ship. General Abacha initially demurred (exploiting public frustration with Babagida) but later established his own personal security outfits, assisted by Libya and North Korea. They included the Special Presidential Guard, Strike Force etc. which functioned separately from the Brigade of Guards and had a different command structure independent of the Army. Fearful of the Nigerian Army Armored Corps, Abacha also redeployed Recce units to border regions and implemented some interesting moves like physically taking tracks off armored vehicles in storage. Abacha's State Security Service and Directorate of Military Intelligence were vicious. He "foiled" two alleged coup attempts in 1995 and 1997 before dying of a cardiac arrest, from which none of his security outfits could save him. General Abubakar has disbanded some of Abacha's private units but still has the traditional Brigade of Guards, along with the SSS, NIA, Army Intelligence etc. which are likely to be inherited by the next civilian regime.

I am unfamiliar with the current state of affairs. But in most previous Nigerian governments, the 'real chain of command' of the Brigade of Guards has been direct to Army Headquarters rather than through the formal divisional structure (at various times called the Lagos Garrison Organization, 4th Division, and Lagos Garrison Command.) Supporting units from other formations (e.g. Artillery and Armor) were typically integrated (ad-hoc) into the basic infantry command structure based on rotations. Naturally, some of these units with 'access' and 'firepower' (like the former 245 Recce Battalion in Ikeja) provided a fertile target for coup makers seeking recruits.

In December 1983, the former 9th Infantry Brigade in Ikeja (under Brigadier Abacha) provided motorized infantry many of whom were trucked in from Ogun State to seize road junctions as a counter-measure against potential resistance from the Guards Brigade in Lagos, while the light armored vehicles from the 245 Recce Battalion (Ikeja) acted as the vanguard in the assault on Dodan Barracks ("State House, Ribadu Road") through Ribadu and Obalende Roads. Unable to enter State House for several hours because of a reluctant Captain (who had not been recruited beforehand), orders were actually given (by a future Nigerian leader) to "bring down the buildings" even though Shehu Shagari was far away in Abuja ostensibly being accosted by late Brigadier Bako's group. Bako, the Brigade commander in Kaduna, had driven to Abuja to confront a Guards Brigade detachment.

Cut off from a credible chain of command, the Captain of the Guard at State House, Ribadu Road, eventually gave in. Much later that morning, the Brigade Major and his Commander elected not to push the envelope in part because they were disconnected not only from the service chiefs (who had all been arrested) but also from competent civilian authority. The reliability of some of their own units was also suspect.

In other African countries, examples of fierce resistance by Guards Units on behalf of civilian regimes, long enough to allow the mobilization of other loyal units, exist. The comparatively recent failed coup attempts against Paul Biya of Cameroun and Arap Moi of Kenya fall into this category.

I have gone into some detail on these issues to underscore the basis for some of my recommendations for preventing coups. In Nigeria's case, after over 35 years, it is time for an incoming civilian regime to seriously re-evaluate the utility of the Brigade of Guards. To move into Aso Rock (or Ribadu Road) blindly may not be a good idea. The responsibility for the personal protection of the President may be better handled by an entity outside the Military along with other safeguards outlined during the course of this essay. That Abacha and Babangida could not rely on the Guards Brigade for their protection says something.


One more thing that is common to all the Nigerian regimes (civilian and military) after Balewa is the paralysis of nearly all training above the sub-unit level in the Nigerian Military prompted by the conversion (by Major Nzeogwu) of the night exercise ('Exercise Damisa') into a full fledged coup on the night of January 15/16. This has not stopped coups in the country but has severely affected the professionalism, quality and readiness of the military. The conventional wisdom has been to use opportunities for foreign peace-keeping as a way to get around the problem of training at home, since (conceivably) fully mobilized Nigerian troops based abroad would not be a threat. However, even this is not really danger-free. Back in 1964 when the Ghanaian UN contingent was returning from the Congo, Afrifa almost decided to drive straight from the port with his fully armed battalion to seize power (from Nkrumah) on arrival. Eventually this was put off. Colonel Kotoka later staged a successful coup in February 1966. Any proposals on preventing coups in Nigeria, therefore, should take this into account if we intend to have an Armed Forces worth its salt on the one hand while ensuring that officers do not abuse our trust.


The role of motivated civilians in preventing the success of a coup must never be discounted. In giving credit to soldiers who crushed the revolt, many people scoff at those students of the University of Ibadan and Lagos who marched out of their campuses to protest the Dimka coup in 1976. But what they did was of major psychological value to loyal elements and presented a threat to the ability of the coupists to consolidate, even if the coup had physically been a 'success'.

During the attempted coup (in the eighties) in neighboring Cameroun, a civilian radio station employee set up the transmission switches in such a way that the coup broadcast could only be heard in Yaounde. Thus the coupists sat in the station under the mistaken assumption that their broadcast (which was supposed to signal other mutinous elements in the country) was being heard all over Cameroun. Failing to hear the signal, those units did not move out as planned, and therefore, Biya, who had escaped into an underground command bunker, was able to rally troops to flush out the rebellion which was essentially contained in Yaounde.

The military coup in Algeria which was launched to forestall the victory of the Islamic party led to a scale of civil strife and insurgency which the planners could never have foreseen.


It goes without saying that the Nigerian Constitution should have zero tolerance for forceful seizure of power. This has been repeatedly stressed in public by others and appears to have been written into Section 1 of the current draft. However, some scholars have pointed out that even though our 1979 constitution did make reference to this matter it was suspended in December 1983 by then Brigadier Sani Abacha and other officers who obviously had no fear that the clause would ever be enforced. One approach, therefore, could be to draft a section that emphasizes that the constitution is not suspendable. Further, we need to strengthen the language of our 'anti-coup' clause with a Ghanaian type quotation. In its 1992 constitution, Sec. 3 (4) declares that "All citizens of Ghana shall have the right and duty at all times- (a) to defend this constitution, and in particular to resist any person or group of persons seeking to commit any of the acts referred to in clause (3) of this article; and (b) to do all in their power to restore this constitution after it has been suspended, overthrown, or abrogated as referred to in clause (3) of this article". The constitution goes on in sub-section 5 to say: "Any person or group of persons who suppresses or resists the suspension, overthrow or abrogation of this constitution as referred to in clause (3) of this article, commits no offence." The constitution also states that such persons who resist the overthrow of the constitution will be compensated (directly or indirectly) for any losses suffered in the process from a Consolidated Fund.

Alarmingly, section 218 (3) of our draft constitution currently states: "The President may, by directions in writing and subject to such conditions as he may think fit, delegate to the Chief of Defence Staff of the Armed Forces of the Federation his powers relating to the operational use of the Armed Forces of the Federation." This clause provides perfect cover for a "Pakistan-type" coup. Recently, a similar clause in the Pakistani constitution was removed. It had been misused by Pakistani Generals in the past with collaboration from the country's Presidents. The nearest precedent in Nigerian history is the manner in which Maj. Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi "squeezed" Senate President Nwafor Orizu to "hand-over" in January 1966. It is also remarkably similar to the Abacha clause in the decree creating the Interim National Government of Shonekan. If we may recall, Shonekan was not 'overthrown'. He 'handed over'. The clause should be deleted.

To set a "live" precedent that those who plan coups risk future prosecution, some contributors to the debate have suggested that we put all the officers responsible for the 1983 coup on trial, in much the same way as has been done in Bangladesh, South Korea and a few other countries. The basic premise would be that civil society places successful and unsuccessful coups on the same moral wavelength, no matter the outcome of the governments that successful coups generate. However, officers who plan subsequent coups against fellow officers who themselves came to power illegally, might then be guilty of being "accessories after the fact of treason", but could be retrospectively pardoned depending on whether or not they removed their colleagues with the express intention of restoring civil rule. In putting this into effect, however, we must be pragmatic enough to note that many living serving and retired officers belong to the category of successful coupists and are in a position (militarily and financially) to make it costly for the country, unless they are taken by surprise. Thus, I shall, for the purposes of this constitutional debate, play the 'devil's advocate'.

We must consider the fact that the "coup culture" in the Nigerian Military is part of a dialogue of measure versus counter measure that has been going on since January 1966, resulting in what some call the "Train and Kill" syndrome. Sadly, we have not been consistent with the way we have dealt with real coup plotters. Even among the January 1966 "plotters" and "killers", Major C K Nzeogwu (for example) was buried with full military honors at the Kaduna Military Cemetery (without his eyes) after apparently being killed in combat in the Nsukka sector. Timothy Onwuatuegwu was tricked into being murdered unceremoniously shortly after the war. On the other hand, many of their co-conspirators who survived the July 29 coup and the civil war were imprisoned (until the mid-seventies) and later dismissed.

The "killers" of July 29, 1966 have never been tried, whether or not they were acting in retroactive self-defence or in a state of aggravated manslaughter. At least one of them later became Nigeria's Head of State. Major-General Ironsi and Colonel Fajuyi (both suspected of sympathies and complicity with the January "boys") were convicted by mob-action and shot in the bushes near Ibadan by mutinous subalterns and NCOs, only to have their bodies later released for full military burial. And we must not forget the unlucky Lt. Col. Arthur Unegbe who was 'accidently' killed in January 1966; Maj. Gen. Dumuje was more fortunate in 1976. Former Lt. Col. C. O. Ojukwu who led the most serious secession attempt in this country to date was pardoned in 1982. On the other hand, 'Major' Isaac Adaka Boro was released from jail (by Gowon) where he had been held for treasonable insurgency, launched from Bakassi, only to die in action during the civil war. He was buried with honors. Ken Saro Wiwa was not so fortunate under Abacha. He was executed using a method that had not been used since the departure of the British - Hanging.

Brigadier Ibrahim Bako, a coupist killed "in cross-fire" during the 1983 take-over (at Abuja) was later buried with full honors, by his successful colleagues. Had the coup failed, he may not have been so lucky. On the other hand, a large group of imaginary and real failed coupists in this country have been shot and buried incognito (like armed robbers) in "acid-enhanced" mass graves (1976, 1986, 1990) while others have been imprisoned (1995, 1998). Some (like Dauda Usman, Clement Yilda, Mukoro, Nyiam and others) are still 'wanted'. In this connection, even though General Sani Abacha is dead, the status of Lt. Col. S. Dasuki (with whom he had personal differences) is unclear even as Colonel L. Gwadabe and the others languish in jail awaiting some kind of review of their cases. Meanwhile, retired Generals Obasanjo and Yar-Adua received state pardons for the same alleged plot.

Similarly, it is difficult to see why Maj. Gen. Vatsa was shot while Lt. Gen. Diya sits in prison waiting for amnesty from the next government. The case of Col. A.D.S. Waya (in 1976) remains a mystery. And there are some innocent people who were simply lucky to have escaped being shot back then. Thousands of others over the years who were not guilty of coup plotting but were "suspected of disloyalty", either to a sitting government or an incoming one, suffered arbitrary early termination of promising military careers. None of this reaches the brazen hypocrisy with which "successful" coup plotters have imposed themselves on the national scene as "social commentators", "leaders" and "new democrats". The pathology of this inconsistent application of the rule of law since 1966 is so deep and ethnically complicated that we have to come to grips with it as a country in order to start anew and move forward.

If we elect not to prosecute those officers who have taken part in successful coups, we need to do something to level the playing field. After all, knowing what we now know, who is to say that Nigeria would not have been a better country today had the coup against Buhari failed or the alleged coup against Babangida in 1985 actually been real and succeeded? The same question can be asked of every coup that failed and every government that failed to stop a coup. The graveyards are full of unsung heroes and unfortunate victims. And there are many who today live quiet lives having been vilified for this and that crime while others who are more guilty than sin, are running around making public statements.

To facilitate the enthronement of the new culture, and make a clean break with the past, there should be comprehensive general amnesty granted to all prior coup plotters since Independence (successful and unsuccessful). We should release (to their families and communities) the bodies (remains) of those executed in the past for alleged and real failed coup attempts after appropriate forensic identification. Some of Nigeria's best and brightest are in this category. If their families choose not to re-bury them privately, they should be re-buried in military cemeteries. Those currently in jail should be released, and all those dismissed should have their dismissals converted to retirement or discharge. This includes paying the families of executed coup plotters back benefits due at the time of termination of service. The only debatable exception could be those guilty of first degree murder. But even among this group one could make the argument that amnesty should be granted, as part of a process of national healing.

Having done this, all serving and future officers and men of the Military should take an oath of renewed allegiance to the Nigerian State in which they specifically swear (on Bibles, Korans and [preferably] symbols of African religion) not to partake in mutiny or coup plotting, and sign an undertaking that they fully understand the constitution and its implications. A copy of the undertaking should be kept in the Supreme Court as a contract with the Nigerian people.


As it stands today, few former serving military officers doubt that the Nigerian Military has become so politicized, unprofessional and corrupt that it simply cannot be reformed. For quite some time now, many entrants to the Nigerian Defence Academy have been solicited to do so by civilian family members eager to 'have someone there when they take over'. There are stories of rejected applicants returning "with a note from a Big Man" to overrule the selection committee. The average young officer does not dream of becoming a "Patton" or "Rommel" or "Shaka". They dream of Governorships and positions as ADC (aide de camp) or MA (military assistant) to "Big Men" who award contracts. And to compound matters, the quality of officer recruits is declining along with the decline of the national educational infrastructure. One can only dread what type of officers may end up ruling Nigeria in 15-20 years if something is not done drastically to end coups and clean out the military. It cannot be overemphasized that if properly "handled" the military can act as a laboratory for societal progress and a facilitator of national identity. But it must first be saved before it inevitably forces civilian society to ask for its total dissolution (a la Costa Rica).

We may have no choice, therefore, but conclude that with foreign military assistance, the current Nigerian Military should be reorganized from scratch with an emphasis on professionalism. The focus of the new Nigerian Military should be on Internal Security and International Peace keeping. The size of the Nigerian Military should be defined in the constitution. Service mission in the context of force structure and doctrine should be explicitly stated. If we need one at all, we do not need more than 25,000 (or even less) officers and men in the Nigerian Army which should be multi-ethnic in character based on equal six-zonal `opportunity' for recruitment based on stern standards of educational, ethical and physical fitness.

The regular Army/ Air Force/Navy itself should NOT be ethnically regionalized. Rather, as much as possible, officers should preferably not be allowed to be posted to their zones of origin. My reason for saying this is primarily to maintain cohesion and combat effectiveness, but also to complement my next point. To introduce constructive complexity into the national security equation, we do need to establish equally sized and equipped regional infantry/ civil air patrol/ coast guard reservist units in all 'zones' drawn from the residents (not necessarily natives) of those zones that could be as large (in aggregate) as 60,000. Along with a skeletal core of full-timers, these citizen soldiers ("weekend warriors") should be trained in a manner similar to the US National Guard or Swiss Territorial Army and be ready to be called up to defend the nation while they maintain jobs in the civilian sector. As in the US, the Commander of reserve units in each state could be independently elected from a shortlist of qualified personnel. The roles of the "Reserve" viz-a-viz the "Regular Military" should be carefully spelt out. The "Reserve" should be capable of basic infantry tasks, high level Search and Rescue, and level 2 Internal Security support for the Mobile Police or other Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units. Their command structures should be parallel to and independent of the Military.

The Navy could establish a marine infantry regiment. The Presidency and all federal (state) buildings should be guarded by the "Secret Service" which should be administratively under the Ministry of Justice, independent of the Police and Military. For reasons that I have previously stated, the Brigade of Guards should be recast away from its present role as the "guards" of the Presidency. [In India (as in many countries), the elite Brigade of Guards does not protect civilian politicians.]

No regular military unit should be located within the immediate environs of any major administrative capital in the country. Lagos and Abuja in particular should be demilitarized and provided with "early warning systems". "Federal Military training districts" should be established in each zone where remote training above the sub-unit level can take place quietly without threatening the government. A rule should be promulgated to ensure that soldiers, airmen and sailors do not wear their uniforms outside their barracks.

As previously noted, we should also encourage the formation of a security/ defence pact through a West African Defence Force (WADF) with trans-national units located in the capitals of all ECOWAS countries. The WADF will be available to fire-fight regional disputes as determined by the ECOWAS council of Ministers (e.g. ECOMOG), protect the territorial integrity of the region and also help serve (along with the indigenous regional reserves) as a neutral stabilizing (quarantining) force against local coups.

To optimize "mission clannishness", tri-service military institutions should be split up. The Army, Air Force, Navy, and Ready Reserves should have their own training institutions. The disadvantage of this is cost, lack of 'economies of scale' and a potential for the weakening of operational coordination. However, this can be addressed via joint exercises above the sub-unit level.

The new Nigerian Army should be structured on a regimental basis which will create a sense of relevance to Nigeria's primordial reality. Civilians may thus feel a closer "emotional tie" to the Military. Military regiments (fairly distributed by zone) should be renamed in honor of the most famous ethnic national armies that fought against the British. Their uniforms and insignias should reflect something about the cultural heritage of those nations and their ultimately common fate at the hands of foreign (British) invaders. Indeed, the Indian Army has such regiments. Examples include the Sikh, Jat, Gurkha, Rajput, Poona Horse and Madras regiments among others.

Right now we have mostly meaningless numbers that have more bearing to the history of foreign military organizations. [One example is the 82nd 'composite' division in Enugu, which sounds suspiciously like the famous US 82nd Airborne Division! It might be more appropriate to call ours the "Abam" Regiment.] As regards insignias, the present motto of the Nigerian Army, "Victory is with God Alone" written in Ajami character and taken from the flag of the great Sokoto Caliphate, may be more appropriate for a "Sokoto Regiment" rather than the whole country. The new motto (based on a national competition) should be written in English, not because there is anything "wrong" with Ajami but because National entities (like the Army) should reflect what unites us - a common history of British conquest. [I readily admit that many institutions in the country bear Greek and Latin mottos, which are not necessarily more credible.]

One reason why military units and establishments "seem to be concentrated" (as southerners frequently say, with or without proof) in the Northern part of the country has to do with a precedent set long ago by Lord Lugard. To begin with, the West African Frontier Force (WAFF) Camp was based in Jebba before being moved to Kaduna in 1912 to test the site of Lugard's proposed new capital, consistent with the decision to transfer the headquarters of then Northern Nigeria from Zungeru. Prior to this it had been used to conquer the armies of the Fulani Caliphates between 1900 and 1905, having first completed the Ashanti campaign in Ghana. The unit was reorganized under one Commandant. Two Infantry battalions were stationed in the North and a battery of Artillery in the South. The "Mounted Infantry" was based in the North. As of that time, the main entity in the South was called the "Southern Nigerian volunteers", which upon the outbreak of the first world war, was replaced by the "Land and Marine Contingent" which later became the Artillery detachment. Lugard had been the Governor of Northern Nigeria before becoming the Governor-General of Amalgamated Nigeria. As Governor-General he made strong efforts to move the central capital of the entire country from Lagos to Kaduna. Kaduna was popular with British colonial officers because of climate, lack of "congestion", ease of separating "natives" from "Europeans", good water supply, as well as the presence of the Railway Headquarters (at that time), along with the WAFF headquarters. During the first world war, support for the British was very strong among Emirs who contributed money and helped to raise troops to Lugard's delight.

However, the perception of fairness (or otherwise) of distribution of military units and establishments today has taken on a life which detracts from building a stable polity. We are now an independent "amalgamated" and "united" country, which as General Obasanjo stated recently, "still needs to be saved". It is, therefore, important to make everyone feel a sense of belonging and remove one potential irritant in the so-called North-South dichotomy (among other dichotomies) to help stabilize the polity. Thus while the historic position and importance of Kaduna should not be swept under the carpet, there may be need to review things as they stand. After all, what we are discussing here is the ultimate security and stability of the State. And coups are one form of threat.

`Teeth arm' and `Service arm' military training institutions in the country should be relocated in a fair manner, preferably by random ballot. Each of the so-called six "zones" is entitled to get at least one of each category, unless geographic requirements ABSOLUTELY dictate location. In the Army, for example, the "Teeth" schools of Infantry, Armor, Artillery, Combat Engineers, Intelligence and Signals should be distributed to the six zones. The Nigerian Army Depot, Nigerian Defence Academy, Command and Staff College, National War College, and National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) should be similarly redistributed among the six zones. Service schools can be shared in a separate ballot. The Defence Industries Corporation (DIC) in Kaduna can be split up into light and heavy weapon specific units and similarly spread out or a "School of Armament Technology" may be cited in another zone. The number of army divisions (regiments), naval flag commands, marine amphibious regiments, and air commands in the services may need (if possible) to be a simple multiple of six (6) to allow zoning. `Teeth' and `Service' Corps headquarters and units should similarly be distributed in a manner that ensures that zonal regiments have a balance of power. The precise location within a zone for location should be driven by technical requirements and historical value.


There is no fool-proof way of preventing coups. However, the steps discussed in the context of this debate may ultimately help us to achieve some stability as we enter the 21st century.


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