I am working on a longform article based on the aftermath of the 1976 Nigerian coup led by Lt-Colonel Dimka in which the Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed was killed. I have had to read several Nigerian and International newspaper clippings and a book on Nigerian military coups for background information. There is one thing that struck me about majority of the top Nigerian military leaders in the 1960s and 70s.
Most of them were in their mid-30s. It is frightening to think that the governance of a country like Nigeria was in the hands of these young inexperienced guys. Mix inexperience and incompetence with a sprinkling of tribalism and you have a recipe for leadership disaster. The odds of succeeding as effective leaders of a country were always against them. They didn’t know what the heck they were doing and they were just making things up as they went along. They were ill-prepared to lead and manage a country because they were trained soldiers not politicians. Each successful coup led to rewards of fast-track promotions which they did not merit. A number of them became Lt-Generals before they were 40 years old.
The lust for power corrupted most of Nigeria’s top military brass in the 1960s and 70s and their inexperience and incompetence hampered their governance. The end result is that some of them died early (via coups and counter coups) while most never fulfilled their military potential. Instead, they became politicised soldiers rather than professional ones.