Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums With Maigani

by Musa Ibrahim

Buhari: Moral Ruins, Battered Credibility

"The blood-dimmed tide
is loosed, and
The ceremony of
innocence is drowned;
The best lack all
Conviction, while the
Are full of passionate

W. B. Yeats.
Violence, now widely known by statesmen all over the world as terrorism, has its roots entrenched in the world's distant past. There is the colonial period and the nature of the colonial situation itself. To many nationalists including the most extreme such as Frantz Fanon, colonialism was a demonstration of violence and so needed an equally violent response. Based on this understanding, violence became the only weapon necessary for decolonization. Supporting this premise, Fanon wrote: "The encounter of colonized and colonizer was marked by violence and their existence together - that is to say the exploitation of the native by the settler was carried on by dint of a great array of bayonets and canons . It required anti-colonial violence to end colonial violence, liberating violence to end repressive violence…”

Another contemporary line of reasoning running from fairly orthodox Weberian premises sees violence as an indication of the absence of legitimacy in a given social system. In this school of thought, usurpers of constituted government and authorities lack legitimacy. That is why, according to Weber, such states are defined in terms of violence, with the statesmen insidiously locked in a fierce battle of trying to transform power into authority, force into law and obedience into duty. Besides, "such leaders want their political, social and economic positions "legitimized". They wish to see their positions transformed from purely factual power relations into a cosmos of acquired rights, and to know that they are sanctified. Only violence opens up to these categories of men these possibilities of action because violence is the most extreme form of the exercise of factual power…”

In as much as virtually every government in the world today claims legitimacy, in reality, however, and going strictly by the Weberian teachings and common sense, only a few can be classified as such. Those governments that do not qualify are those governments that use violence as a means of attaining their positions of leaderships, and it is here that the continent of Africa ranks second to none. Apart from a few questionable and isolated cases, almost all present leaders of Africa used the barrel of the gun to bulldoze their way to their present positions of leadership. And aware of the fact that their governments lack legitimacy, such leaders employ the use of violence, coercion and intimidation as the only veritable weapons of government and governing. Potential and imagined opponents are brutally silenced and the people and society which they preside over live in constant fear of their lives and of the unknown.

Often, the most gratifying justification for such leaders' wanton destruction of human lives is the allegations of coup attempts by so and so number of persons; and, without giving the public the benefit of the doubt and the culprits an opportunity to defend themselves, they are hurriedly rounded up and executed. In their own view, such executions are supposed to serve as warnings to other would-be-coup-plotters. But the unabated continuity of such actions always makes one wonder whether such allegations are ever true.

There is today no knowing how many "attempted coups" have been mounted on Rawlings, Doe, Gaddafi, Kerekou, Mobuto, Siad Barre, Mengistu, Buhari and many others. There is equally no knowing how many people were caught on each occasion and eliminated. I shiver to think on any number, for whatever the number, I know it is staggering.

Nigeria saw her last public executions of men and officers of the army in 1976 when the then Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed was assassinated in a coup attempt that was eventually crushed. At that time, the present set of Nigeria's military leadership were among members of the government of the day. The way they went about dealing with the coup-plotters, though still leaving a lot of room for doubts on the complicity of some of the executed men, was, to say the least, gratifying because there was no secret about the whole affair. In the end, everybody, including those families affected, forgot and forgave and in time, Nigerians were once again journeying together with clasped hands in the typical, lovable qualities of being a Nigerian.

It is against this background that I read with shock, disbelief and utter dumbfoundedness, The Observer story of November 18, 1984 that 42 coup-plotters have been secretly executed by the Buhari regime. Under normal circumstances, I would have waved Richard Hall's story away as one of those international conspiracies of the Western World. But I know that these are no normal circumstances, and thus it is that I am painfully inclined to believe what I read on that gloomy Sunday morning. And for good reasons too.

Consider the catalogue of events that have been perpetrated by the Buhari-Idiagbon and Rafin Dadi regime on the Nigerian populace ever since they came to power. Only then can one appreciate the fact that there is nothing evil under the sun that they cannot do. Forget about the prompt denials that often accompany any of their dastardly acts. First, they betrayed Nigeria's revered constitution, the office of the president and the Nigerian populace and staged a coup against constituted government and authority using violent means. Then the purges came, rendering quite a number of Nigerians jobless and homeless. The press has been stifled and the society transformed to a closed, totalitarian system. There was the Dikko kidnap saga which brought Nigeria into the fold of the international criminal and terrorist class of zionism and the Gaddaffys, and the unanswered question on the non-celebration of Nigeria's 24th Independence anniversary. These are frightening because these events are amalgams of everything objectionable and detestable. And they represent the achievements of Buhari and his colleagues to date.

I prefer to believe the Observer story because no journalist or no paper worth his salt will sit down and fabricate such stories of magnitude against a government, Observer is a newspaper with international repute. Besides, Richard and the Hall whose by-line appeared in the story is believed to be in "good terms" with the Buhari regime in Lagos and was once invited to Lagos as their guest.

I prefer to believe the story because of the cavalier manner with which the denial of the Buhari regime has been handled. On occasions where there were only rumours of a coup attempt and so-called fugitive invasion, none other but the country's information minister is the one to assure all and sundry that all was well. On mere trivialities such as a bottle of champagne bearing Akinloye's name, it is Idiagbon, the country's No. 2 man that comes out to tell the unfunny story to Nigerians. But on issues that border on human lives, it is only a press secretary that is saddled with the responsibility of issuing out a denial. Something has to be wrong somewhere.

In the course of time, we shall come to know all the things that have been going wrong in Lagos. But the question that stands before all Nigerians today is the question of the credibility and the moral sanctity of the Buhari regime. And anyone who tries to gloss over this for whatever reason is sinning against himself, is sinning against the country and is sinning against the sense by which independence was fought and won. For, in the final analysis, one finds that Nigeria's present problem is not that it is under a military regime. The problem is that in Nigeria today there is a leadership that is not independent, not legitimate, not responsible, and morally ruined, sitting hard over citizens who are free, disciplined, and politically conscious. Now tell me which is more evil, more terrorist and more unwanted: the reign of terror in Lagos, or corrupt politicians?

talking drums 1984-11-26 secret executions in Nigeria