Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums

Coup-riddle and enigma?

Ours has always been a hypothetical society where actions are never governed by hard facts. Similarly, ours has remained a unique embodiment of what independence should be all about. Certain flaws here and there notwithstanding, changes in government in Nigeria whether through the bullet or the ballot box have always come from within rather than from. without.

Hardly is there ever a case of foreign influence or help as happens in some African countries where leaders are made and removed at will by neo colonial so-called super-powers using mercenaries.

Thus, it is that whenever a change of leadership occurs, particularly one caused by the military, questions are asked as to who and who must have been responsible. Such questions become pertinent because more often than not, those that help organize the change hardly emerge as the leaders, preferring rather to remain in the background and then use their considerable influence with the leaders to have things done for them.

Since the military overthrow of the popularly elected civilian administration of ex-president Shehu Shagari on New Year Eve's day, we have had names mentioned of those said to have been directly involved. First there was the Kaduna-mafia - a semi-mythical, larger-than-life yet omnipresent political potantate of our time.

The mystery in this is that those who subscribe to the view that the Shagari government was overthrown by the Kaduna mafia were themselves associated with this club one time or the other. If this hypothesis is true, then the only plausible explanation to this could be that somehow, within the rank and file of this organisation, there was a quarrel among the members and a break-up which eventually led to one faction which incidentally had access to the guns to overthrow the government. I could be wrong.

There is yet another school of thought which has it that the coup was a strictly military affair, which arose from the fears of the senior officers of the armed forces who got wind of a possible coup by the captains, the sergeants and the corporals - those in the class of Doe of Liberia, Sankara in Upper Volta, and Rawlings in Ghana. Knowing that if such a coup takes place and succeeds all senior officers would be eliminated, the Generals were quick to act to guarantee their safety and continued stay in the army. As it is, the search for further theories continues but for now, I concede the coup to be a riddle wrapped in an enigma.

Looking back at the press

It was slow, it was hesitant, it was tentative. But those of us who have been in the business for God knows when, knew it was coming. For no where in this world has there been a mutual co-existence between military dictators and a free press. Where there existed a free press, there are no military dictators. Such has been the case with Nigeria as from 1979, the blessed year of our Lord.

For us journalists, the sky was the limit. We raved at our society, bullied our president and ridiculed our lawmakers. There were no broken bottles to shave our heads, no 'batmen' or 'orderlies' to cane us and no prison could contain us. After all, we were the people's conscience, the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the conduit of our development process. We were gods!

We were envied by our brothers and sisters in the same profession who were serving under closed systems. We were hailed by world democracies as having arrived. We took our superiors to court for tampering with our evidences and we won. We quoted the constitution and it protected us, gave us liberties and made us free.

It was a joy to be in the profession and we walked with our heads high.

If nothing else, the four years of democracy in Nigeria was the best of times for Nigerian journalists and for lovers of freedom.

Then came - 31st December, 1983. Having been under such a closed, near totalitarian system before, we prayed that this time around, we should be treated differently, more maturedly. So what to do? Give our unflinching support to the military, of course! And like the spoiled brats that we had become, we hailed them, welcomed them and worshipped them. We gloated and wrote that the media has brought the Second Republic down, and swore in the name of Buhari and his SMC.

And then came the reaction from the state, we can hear the wailing of 35 employees of the Nigerian Television Authority ordered to be caned by the military Governor. In Lagos, the voice of Tunde Idiagbon is menacingly warning Ministers not to talk to any journalist without clearance from the Supreme Military Council. In Dodan Barracks, the frail figure of Buhari is seen issuing orders for a decree to abolish the rights of the journalist as well as the individual to freedom of speech and expression. We have arrived. A stifled Press, a mangled society. Tufia!

Taking charge

Strange rumblings in the Nigerian press… was it a scoop for the National Concord or a case of preferential treatment? Some media people seem to have been aggrieved about what they see as a closer than usual relationship between the military regime and the Concord.

There are two daily newspapers in Nigeria that are Federal government owned. In 1975 when the parent government of the Buhari regime seized power, two independent newspapers were unceremoniously acquired and turned into federal properties.

New Nigerian's acquisition was total while the federal military government acquired a 60% interest in the Daily Times. Since that time, these two newspapers have functioned as Federal Government newspapers and the journalists on these papers have had to put up with teasing remarks about being government employees.


These journalists had since 1975 come to think that part of the privileges of belonging to the Federal government network was that they would have priority on all matters in which the Federal government had a say.

That seems to be the reason that tempers are said to be frayed at the New Nigerian and the Daily Times that a privately-owned newspaper, the Concord appears to have usurped what they see as their rightful position with the federal military government. Why, they say, was it the Concord that was chosen for the first wide-ranging interview of the new Head of State with the Nigerian media? How, they are asking, did the Concord qualify for their famous '60 minutes with Buhari' interview? Is there any special relationship between the Concord and the military regime, and how did the Concord get picked when almost every other newspaper has been seeking the opportunity?

talking drums 1984-02-27 ghana's aimless revolution - pro buhari demonstration in London