Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Umaru Dikko in a Crusade Against Military Regimes

Elizabeth Ohene

He was said to be the most powerful man in Nigeria these past four years. Now forced into exile by the December 31st, 1983 coup, an unrepentant UMARU DIKKO tells ELIZABETH OHENE of his battle plans in his war against military take-overs in Africa.
Umaru Dikko in flesh and blood is not at all like his reputation makes him out to be.

He has no horns and certainly did not have the trappings of the sterling billionaire that the London Sunday Observer claims he is believed to be.

Not that I had met a billionaire before but in my imagination, they come in two groups, the eccentric recluses and the diamond and solid gold ostentatious ones. Umaru Dikko was none of these and he was soft spoken even if one could detect the steel in his voice.

It was obvious however that he had not recovered from the shock of the military take-over in Nigeria and the overthrow of Alhaji Shehu Shagari's government in which he served as Communications and Aviation Minister.

Will he accept that he has failed the people of Nigeria who would say that they had entrusted the destiny of their country in his and his colleagues' hands and they had allowed the military to take over by not having paid proper attention to the security of the State?

Yes he will, except of course that it ought to be recognised that 'there is no armour against treachery' and when people who have been placed in positions of trust and were being paid to defend the very constitution they had sworn on oath to defend, turn traitors, then you are helpless. He was quite contemptuous of the soldiers currently in power. They are not only traitors, they are cowards as well. If they are such brave people and were so sure of the correctness of their cause, why did they move in the night? "I would have been impressed if they had moved their tanks in the daylight, after all when we politicians were campaigning the people for a mandate to rule, we travel the country in broad daylight”.

It has been suggested in the Nigerian Press that considering his earlier posturings, many people would have expected him to try and at least mount a counter attack to the coup, and Alhaji Dikko was quite categorical that if there had been an alternative way of broadcasting to the people of Nigeria apart from the Broadcasting Houses that had been seized by the soldiers, he surely would have obliged those seeking to sneer at him today.

But far from having been cowed, Alhaji Dikko announced the declaration of a crusade/jihad against not just the military regime in Nigeria but all other military regimes in Africa.

"This is going to be a mass organisation in Africa and anybody who believes in the inalienable right of the people to choose a government of their choice without fear of intimidation from the military will be part of this movement."

The combatants in this crusade/ Jihad will be civilians versus the military, and the fight will not end until African soldiers learn their proper role in our societies.

I suggested to him that it could be said that this was a newly discovered abhorrence of military regimes only because this time, it affected him personally. While serving in the Cabinet of President Shagari, the Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity was overthrown and brutally murdered with many of his ministers. The elected government of ex-President Hill Limann of Ghana was also overthrown by the military. Nigeria's attitude then appeared to be very much like the attitude of the western nations that he was condemning today - initial coolness followed by business as usual. That stung him as unfair and one was led into the inner workings of the time period that led to the Flight-Lieutenant taking power and now is convinced that Nigeria did nothing at the time to demonstrate its abhorrence of the action because the soldiers who have staged the coup in Nigeria now, had their own plans and thus dissuaded President Shagari from any such actions.

The second stage of the liberation struggle in Africa, he said, has now begun. We will show that we will not be ruled by guns. Until that struggle is ended successfully no value can be put on any African political leader.

Alhaji Shehu Shagari is being toasted in the White House today, a guest of the Queen in Buckingham Palace the next day, being adulated by his own people and then one night tanks move into Lagos and the whole world is being told, he is nothing but a villain. The rest of the world must be wondering how long it will take for General Buhari also to become a villain.

As for the charges of corruption, Alhaji Dikko proclaimed himself ready to face any substantiated charge that is made against him in a proper court of law and feels quite justified in having made good his escape from Nigeria 1 the actions of the military since then have convinced him that he was right to have left Nigeria when he did.

"What does the junta mean by declaring me a wanted person, I have left Nigeria, I have made a statement saying where I am, and yet they claim I am wanted, it isn't as though I had disappeared into thin air, since they have nothing to substantiate the wild charges with, they have to resort to these gimmicks."

Unfortunate though the tragic events of 31st December 1983 are, Alhaji Dikko is convinced that something elected President of Liberia and then positive will come of it.

Up until now, we have always paid lip service to democracy in Africa without any real commitment. Now we will at last have to fight for our beliefs and in this war, the battle lines will be quite clearly defined. It was stupid to think of the military handing over power, they love power.

"People should not forget that the constitution of the second Republic stated quite clearly that anybody who takes up arms and overthrows the elected government of Nigeria is guilty of treason, no matter how long after the event, and that means that it does not matter how long it takes, these soldiers will pay for their treason and any civilian that joins them is aiding and abetting treason".

But how does he intend to fight the soldiers, and how will his civilian continental mass movement fight the military?

"Military skills are not inborn, every soldier started as a civilian, and they learnt these skills, what is more, if you have a cause for which you are fighting, the civilians will make even better military men". He is convinced that enough people are fed up with military interventions in Africa to make this mass movement a success.

Alhaji Dikko threw a challenge to General Muhamadu Buhari and the members of the Supreme Military Council to not only declare their assets but to do so publicly to show the Nigerian public that they are indeed as honest as they claim to be.

They might then want to make a statement of account of their period in government between 1975 to 1979, then the whole world will know that most of the problems faced by the Shagari Administration were inherited from the same military people".

One got the distinct impression that Nigeria definitely had not heard the last from Umaru Dikko and that all future coup plotters in Africa better look out for the man the SMC has declared the number one wanted man in Nigeria.

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