Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Playing War Games In Lagos

Razak El Alawa, Ilorin, Kwara

On 28th February the Guardian newspaper of Lagos carried a front page story that Alhaji Uba Ahmed, the former powerful secretary of the proscribed National Party of Nigeria (NPN), had cabled a front-line government functionary from Frankfurt, West Germany to say that Nigeria's image abroad was getting better.

The paper quoted the code number of the Nigeria External Telecommunications (NET) form on which the cable was forwarded.

The news was the first any Nigerian could get on the whereabouts of the former party secretary who had seemed to have disappeared into thin air since the 31st December coup which toppled the government of the ruling National Party of Nigeria.

The Guardian report doesn't seem to have convinced many Nigerians that Alhaji Uba Ahmed can be hiding somewhere in West Germany without making much noise apart from sending such a simple message home.

There have been contradictory reports and statements about what happened to the one time senator on the day of the coup, leaving many observers to speculate that if Alhaji Uba Ahmed is not under detention he can't just be in exile and be so silent on events in Nigeria since the end of last year.

The first report on the ex-senator after the coup was carried in The Guardian of Monday 2nd January 1984. The report said that Alhaji Ahmed was on a Nigerian Airways plane which touched down at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos at about 7 a.m. on the day of the coup.


According to The Guardian initially the plane was refused clearance to land since the army had then taken over. The pilot then relayed the message to the passengers. The report further said that on hearing this Uba went over to the cockpit and told the pilot that he should tell the control tower that he Uba Ahmed was on board and the plane should be allowed to land. As a result the plane was allowed to land since Uba Ahmed was a leading member of the NPN and he would be needed in the investigations to be conducted into the administration of the NPN.

The report then went on to say that as soon as the former party secretary came out of the aircraft and saw armed soldiers instead of policemen it dawned on him that something unusual had happened and 'he nearly collapsed'.

However nowhere in the report was it mentioned that the ex-senator was arrested on arrival but it was assumed by many people that he couldn't have been allowed to go away free.

But a week later the PUNCH carried a story on its back page saying that Uba Ahamed had escaped from custody, leading to speculations that ex- President Shehu Shagari had also been allowed to go home to Sokoto.

People started reading some favouritism into the sudden turn of events while many thought ethnic factors had been brought to play in the escape of Uba Ahmed.

The police in Lagos reacted prompt- ly and issued a statement to the effect that the former NPN strongman was under lock and key. This was reassuring and put many critical minds at ease.

But these critical Nigerians were to receive the shock of their lives when Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, the chief of staff, Supreme Headquarters and widely regarded as the Second-in- Command in the hierarchy of the Supreme Military Council, told a meeting of media executives in Lagos Republic. towards the end of January that Uba Ahmed was never arrested but 'took off' again as soon as he realised that there was a coup on the day he arrived from London after a trip to Japan where he had gone to transact some private business.


It was never explained how Uba Ahmed 'took off', whether in a Nigerian Airways plane or in his own private Jet. Since the airport was closed to landing or taking off of aircraft in the early days of the coup this could not have been possible.

There was one report in a Lagos newspaper that Uba Ahmed seized the opportunity of the confusion created on the day of the coup to escape through Abeokuta, in Ogun State. Many people however don't believe this story.

The Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari has since told a team of interviewers from the National Concord, when asked about the whereabouts of the former NPN Secretary because of rumours that he might have been killed on the day of the coup, that Uba Ahmed 'vamoosed'.

After almost two months of the coup, very few people actually believe that Uba Ahmed is alive after 'Vamoosing' from the country.

Uba Ahmed was as powerful as either Umaru Dikko or Adisa Akinloye in the ruling disbanded NPN. He was known to be talkative and was involved in so many controversial issues arising from his official statements before, during and after the elections.

Many observers of the Nigerian political scene therefore believe that if Uba Ahmed had succeeded in making it to Europe or America he would have been spitting fire from his hideout. He would have probably outdone both Dikko and Akinloye in the buying of newspaper columns or air space.

This is what has left many Nigerians, both friends and foes alike, to believe in the rumour currently circulating that Uba Ahmed is dead

Uba Ahmed from Bauchi was a senator from 1979 to 1983. He was elected as National Secretary of the NPN in a hotly contested election of the party in December 1982 replacing the incumbent Suleiman Takuman who later became the political adviser to Shehu Shagari during the 91 days of the Second term of the Second Republic.

Uba Ahmed was also known to be a close associate and confidant of the former President.

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