Wives of Miltary Personnel in Nigerian Barracks, 1905-1999: A Socio-economic History

Nzemeka, J.A (2015-08)

A Thesis Submitted to the School of Postgraduate Studies, University of Lagos


This study examines the history of wives of military personnel in Nigerian barracks from 1905-1999. It focuses specifically on the origins, political, economic, and social organisation of wives of military personnel in the barracks during the colonial and post-colonial periods. The work also highlights the burden of civil war and peacekeeping missions on wives of military personnel in Nigeria. Over the years women’s participation in military camps did not only promote the social system but the general well-being of combatants. For instance, in pre-colonial Yoruba wars, women contributed effectively to the economy, politics and social life of the camps. This development has stimulated interest and generated debates among members of the public who have sought to understand the position, power, and influence of wives of military personnel in contemporary barracks. It is against this backdrop that this study focuses on wives of military personnel in Nigerian barracks. It examines the social identity, power relations and interdependence between wives and their military husbands. To illuminate our understanding, the work exploits Susan Moller Okin’s liberal feminist approach of “Power as a Resource” and Talcott Parsons’ Theory of Social System. The two theories are central to the analysis, especially in clarifying the role and contributions of wives of military personnel in the barracks. The study adopts an interdisciplinary approach by utilising information from cognate disciplines. It specifically relies on primary and secondary data collected from military formations, archives and Nigerian universities. It also exploited the advantage of documentary programmes and films for the insight they provide. The study demonstrates that some of the women had a stronghold not only in Officers’ Wives Associations but in other aspects of military affairs. It also establishes that wives of military personnel have contributed to the peace of the nation by providing conducive and habitable environment for their spouses, since it is only a settled soldier that can secure his country. It further demonstrates that contrary to the views of some critics that wives of military personnel have no history worth studying; this study shows that the activities of wives of military personnel over the years did not only complement the efforts of their military husbands but promoted barracks culture and inter-group relations. It equally discovered that wives of military personnel have had distinct experiences over the years arising from their unique social environment; an understanding of their history presented in this work exposes an important section of Nigerian women and by extension gender historiography. The study therefore recommends that military authorities should establish welfare and juvenile departments for wives and dependants to complement the effort of military wives associations. Similarly, authorities should adequately cater for the needs of wives of military personnel before deployment of their husbands to mission areas and internal security operations to alleviate their sufferings. It is also important for military authorities to sensitize wives of military personnel through seminars and conferences with a view to re-positioning them in the new democratisation process.