Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums With Maigani

by Musa Ibrahim

Verdict from Lagos

"The people scorn'd the ferocity of kings...
But the sweetness of mercy brew'd destruction,
and the frightened monarchs come back;
Each comes in state with his train -
hangman, priest, tax-gatherer,
Soldier, lawyer, lord, jailer, and sychophant."

- Walt Whitman
As soon as the seizure by force of political power has been successfully ascertained, the first thing the military does is to "abolish with immediate effect" all political parties and para-political organizations. In almost all cases of military intervention, even apolitical institutions like the judiciary, the press, the civil service and the like, are often tampered with as well. Reasons for such actions are as varied as they are divergent, and therefore difficult to understand. But in the sometimes shallow and myopic reasoning of the military, political parties and like institutions are usually seen by them (the military) as instruments of disunity and agents of strife and discord. A simple "military logic and equation" is therefore made: political parties and like organisations are synonymous with political strife. Abolish political parties and you automatically abolish the basis of political strife.

Beyond such debilitating and simplistic arguments, however, is the belief that the existence of parties and the like could constitute a source of opposition and a base for social mobilisation against the military and against their aims and programmes. But what is often ignored is the fact that such actions do not in the end help the military leadership in any way. Rather, a vacuum between the leaders and the led is created and in the absence of an intermediary, the leadership finds itself cut off from the people. It becomes insensitive to the demands of the majority and this makes the people alienated and disgruntled. This is true of all military regimes in Africa today.

So, in the tradition of all military interventions, Nigeria's 31st December 1983 military coup abolished all political parties. Not only that, the regime went beyond its bounds of etiquette by trying to destroy the entire social structure of the country. The most exuberant judiciary that is as free as any was dealt a deadly blow, having suspended the only sacred oath of office the constitution. Soon after, Buhari and his Brigade started swearing not on the constitution, the Bible or the Koran but on the gun, ushering in a reign of terror unprecedented in the country's entire 24 years of existence. With no prior agenda or laid down governing procedures, the whims and caprices of soldiers who know less than anybody else became the country's governing rules and regulations.

The judiciary, which for several years has been an epitome of the country's freedom serving as the common man's last best hope on earth was brought down to its knees. The politicians became pariahs in the eyes of the military and were rounded up and herded into the country's notorious Kirikiri maximum prison. With utter ambiguity that goes to reveal his total lack of under- standing of law and justice, Buhari, head of the 19-man supreme military junta was quibbling that "you are innocent until proved guilty...but our technique may prove to be a bit unorthodox."

The "unorthodox technique" used by Buhari as a basis for the release of detained politicians have been manifesting itself in the military tribunals saddled with the task of probing the assets of those overthrown. Here, three things are being taken into consideration - knowledge that the politicians possess about the activities (both past and present) of the military leaders, the connections that the politicians have in the country, and the part of the country they come from. Based on these yardsticks, a detained politician is liable to be released or convicted without the least consideration of his innocence or guilt. That explains the release of Adamu Ciroma who was without doubt a very influential Minister in the Shagari administration His release, according to my sources was based on the fact that he a member of that faceless secret society - the Kaduna Mafia whose armed friends are currently in government else Adamu must have been a saint and a miracle - but we all know that he none of these.

The Victor Masis, the Jim Nwobodos, the Bola Iges, the Abubakar Rimis and the rest of them languishing in jail presently, might have made mistakes in the course of the discharge of their duties. They are humans after all, but since the military tribunals have no universally applicable laws for determining al cases, there is room to believe that they are simply victims of Buhari's unorthodox technique. That goes to explain why all of those convicted have stated that they are innocent.

Most intriguing of the verdicts so far is the one passed last week on Mohammadu Goni, former governor of Borno State. The military tribunal stated that "for want of evidence of misappropriation and misrule, Goni is hereby discharged and acquitted but will remain in detention for security reasons." Lest my readers misunderstand me, I am not quarrelling with the fact that a politician accused of corruption has been discharged and acquitted. What I am quarrelling with, however, is the basis for the acquittal.

In a normal court of law, the verdict would have been proclaimed as a success and a victory for the political institution under which Goni served as governor. But in this trial there was nothing normal about it, and there is therefore, no cause for rejoicing. ln fact, the outcome of the case was a foregone conclusion long before it ever started. Were both Buhari and Idiagbon not governors of Borno Stan at one time or the other? Did not Goni make it clear that if something is said to have gone wrong in Borno state during his stewardship, he knows of many more wrongs during both Buhari and Idiagbon's eras of office? So who was the pot calling the kettle black? Because Goni is intimately acquainted with the past of both Buhari and Idiagbon, a verdict of not guilty has been passed on him. This is a mockery of the essence of their so-called corrective regime; but in a way, it is a blessing that this thing has happened because Nigerians are now in a position to know the true identities of their "incorruptible" leaders. If the debate had succeeded and the military had gotten its way, who would have the guts to point accusing fingers at the politicians today?

The junta is hesitant to bring ex-President Shagari to trial because according to my highly reliable sources, he has told them that he will not answer any of their questions without his predecessor - Obasanjo being around.

They are not prepared to commit another gaffe, so they are trying to frame some charges that Shagari broke a section of the constitution somewhere in the discharge of his executive duties. Very ironic indeed, this coming from those that betrayed the constitution itself by staging the coup. There is again the "Action Governor" - Lateef Jakande of Lagos state - who in the eyes of most Nigerians is being detained unnecessarily considering his heroic deeds for the people of Lagos. And all the hue and cry aside, charges against Umaru Dikko are being framed based on the evidence of his Houseboy!

Do you make this a serious regime or a regime of jokers? Perhaps, after all, when all has been said and done, there would be other verdicts for everybody as pointed out by Abubakar Rimi that by the people, that by posterity and that by God. Evidently, that is only a matter of time


Due to one of those inexplicable mix- ups that occur in a press room, Maigani last week turned out to be a repetition of the previous week’s column. We regret the error

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