War Against Indiscipline

War Against Indiscipline was a Nigerian military government controlled mass mobilisation corrective response to social maladjustment within the country, the measure began in March 1984 and was in effect till September 1985. The measure was programmatic in design and broader in scope than previous measures, it aimed to attack social maladjustment and widespread corruption. But by July 1985, newspapers such as Concord and The Guardian that were critical of corruption and mismanagement of the economy in the previous administration began panning the WAI campaign and accusing military officials of engaging in abusive practices under the cover of fighting indiscipline.[1] Others viewed the measure as an exhortation from the military command at the top to the people below.[2] The program was gradually discontinued after a military coup removed Major-General Muhammadu Buhari's military regime.


The takeoff of WAI was announced in March 1984 by Tunde Idiagbon, the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters[2] and the launch event was held at Tafawa Balewa Square with much fanfare. The military government in which Idiagbon was a participant had seized power on December 31, 1981 and a key underlying reason given for the coup putsch was unprecedented rampant corruption and indiscipline within the political class. Prior to the coup newspapers wrote articles alleging corrupt practices during within the Shehu Shagari administration including fraud in the housing ministry and Nigeria external communications agency, bribes given to Central bank officials to obtain foreign exchange and government supported hoarding of rice.[1] Government officials and the political class lived in luxury while the civilian administration began an austerity fiscal policy. Support for a coup that will correct the excesses of political class was growing.[3] When the military took over government, the government set up measures to impose order and discipline within the country. One of those measures was War Against Indiscipline. A comprehensive program to correct many social ills that the new military ruling class perceived to afflict the Nigerian polity. Earlier corrective measures were specific in scope, for instance public unity schools with student population from all over the country were founded in different states to promote a national feeling, the National Youth Service Corps had a goal to serve a similar purpose and Operation Feed the Nation was to promote self sufficiency.[2]

War against indisciplineEdit

Acknowledging that indiscipline and degeneracy within the political class had climbed unprecedented heights, War Against Indiscipline, a comprehensive and controlled corrective measure was announced. The primary goals of the measure were to strengthen national unity, promote economic self sufficiency and instill cultural, personal and moral discipline so as to control indolence, corruption and criminal practices.[2] The military government showed commitment to the success of the plan, decrees were announced that placed harsh punishment on crimes and socio-cultural vagrancy.


The organizational structure of the program had federal and state level committees. Each state managed its own program and made monthly reports about its progress. The Ministry of Information was in charge of the administration at the federal level, within the ministry was a WAI department headed by a director, this department was advised by a central WAI committee. The program was also launched in schedules and meant to be continuous. Advertising and the media was constant means of promoting the tenets.



The first phase was launched on the same day as the program. The phase was about the desire of the government to instill and control orderliness and respect for fellow Nigerians within the polity. Instead of chaotic entry to buses at bus stops or jumping lines at airports or in banks, Nigerians were told to queue and wait their turn. At some locations, uniformed men were on hand to enforce queuing. But this had vocal critics who felt it was a simple attempt to cure a deeper problem caused by scarcity in the major cities. Controlling queues if the supply of foodstuff and transportation is lower than demand fails to adjust the need of the people. In addition, it was defined as a national malaise even though most towns and rural areas where not chaotic and disorderly as the urban areas.

II:Work ethicEdit

In television adverts to promote phase two, contrasting scenarios were created such as an office worker doing her nails while the phone rang and another worker quietly asleep during office hours. Both situations were contrasted with a hardworking baggage handler and an efficient traffic control officer.[4] The phase was appropriately launched on May 1, and was an attempt to manage truancy, lateness, laziness and to improve work ethic and productivity.

III:Patriotism and nationalismEdit

Launched on August 27, 1984, phase III was programmed to promote genuine national unity. Nigerians were asked to forgo statism and tribal affiliations and open minded in making decisions. Cultural and political nationalistic practices that raised cultural consciousness in clothing, food and everyday purchases was also a major target of phase III. Nigerians were asked to appreciate national symbols like the national anthem and the flag. These phase led to the ubiquitous presence of the national flag in public offices and the singing of the national anthem in schools. However, like the program in general, critics attacked the measure because those found wanting in reciting the national anthem were given uncommon punishments such as civil servants suspended without pay while public policies like federal character and out of state school fees were still in effect.

IV:Corruption and criminal activitiesEdit

Phase IV was launched in January 1985 and was a measure to tackle specific criminal activities such as oil bunkering and pipeline tampering, smuggling, fraud, currency counterfeiting, and drug peddling.

V:War against filthEdit

These measure was to clean private and public environment, it included an environmental sanitation program to clear refuse and illegal structures in public. But it also earned many critics as a result of displacement of street hawkers and street vendors such as mechanics. WAI was initiated during a period of economic downturn and people were struggling to earn income, the displacement derailed the means of income from street vendors. An austere economic policy initiated by the government gave legitimacy to critics who view the administration like the previous one as poor in understanding the depth of the country's social and economic problems.

WAI brigadeEdit

Previous measures were adhoc steps limited in scope but a similar measure was establishment towards the end of 1983. The measure called ethical revolution was viewed more as a propaganda weapon and when the government announced WAI, it was originally meant with skepticism. The military government took steps to make to demonstrate there commitment to structural reform of social maladjustment and corruption. Initially uniformed men played both supervisory and enforcement roles of the tenets of WAI but with criticism of lack of input from the community a WAI brigade program was established in May 1985. To give a civilian face to the enforcement of WAI tenets and to create a force instilled with discipline and the tenets of WAI, the WAI brigade was launched. There were three levels of WAI: the first were primary school students called the Vanguard, the second were secondary school students called the Crusaders and the third were those above the age of eighteen years who were called Patriots.[2]


  1. ^ a b Emenyeonu, Bernanrd (October 1997). "6". MILITARY INTERVENTION IN NIGERIAN POLITICS: What Has The Press Got To Do With It? (Thesis). University of Leicester.
  2. ^ a b c d e Agbaje, Adigun; Adisa, Jinmi (March 1988). "Political education and public policy in Nigeria: The war against indiscipline (WAI)". The Journal of Commonwealth & Comparative Politics. 26 (1): 22–37. doi:10.1080/14662048808447529.
  3. ^ The Nigerian Government is Overthrown. (1999). Great Events (p. 1171). US: Salem Press.