Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Illegitimate arrogance of power

By Seidu Ahmed

Here is a very distinct and interesting example of the contradiction between words and action characterising the Buhari Administration. Buhari maintains that "people have not been excluded from the Government".

It is said that Power corrupts, and when it is absolute, it corrupts absolutely. It is an old saying but so true, and it is today about the only philosophy or logic that gives us a plausible explanation of the recent arrogant behaviour and statements made to Nigerians by the Daura General Muhammadu Leko Buhari.

For the record, he was promoted to his post by the man he holds in detention today President Shehu Shagari. Little did Shagari know that by giving Buhari the Command of the 3rd Division with its headquarters at Jos, he was providing a golden opportunity for the man who would later betray his confidence. But then come to think of it, what would you expect of a man who is an off-shoot of the Kaduna Mafia? Treachery becomes part of normal business.

But one thing is somewhat consoling, while Shagari under detention must be experiencing the pains of confinement, Buhari too cannot sleep. The smallest noise from a rat will wake him, not to talk of a sudden tripping by an airconditioner. Incidentally, this brings to mind a current story making the rounds in Nigeria - a General on a visit of Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi. He was sitting in a lounge with a number of people ranging from his officials to the retinue of hangers-on. The air- conditioner made a loud bang! The General jumped and ran to the door. That then is your General, a member of the SMC, winner of a medal from Biafra Front and a more recent one from WAI.

Talking of the Nigerian General with and without medals, one wonders what medals Buhari and Idiagbon could have. For sure, Idiag- bon could not have won a medal from Biafra Front; at least not if one gives credence to the landrover story in which 'highway robbers' snatched the soldiers' salaries he was carrying from Lagos. So Idiagbon could only display a WAI medal. But let us not conclude too quickly. Like Buhari, Idiagbon may one day visit Borno and recall his place of political tuition. He may, who knows, claim that he deserves a medal for having once been there and leaving behind a legacy which, incidentally, has so far saved Muhammadu Goni from facing a Military Tribunal. Do not forget, Idiagbon took over the administration of Borno State from Buhari and Goni took over from Idiagbon. You can imagine what the picture would be if accountability is called for and taken to its logical conclusion covering both Military and Civilian eras!

Going back to the arrogant stance of Buhari, one cannot help recalling similar statements from Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi when he was in power as Head of State of Nigeria. Major- General Ironsi used to remind Nigerians: "We are not here by leave of anyone. We will not be deviated from the task of nation building." This was in the late sixties. Major-General Ironsi - the Head of State - was then being lauded by the foreign press as the 'iron-hand' who had come to wield Nigeria, to bring the feudal North to heel, etc, etc. He came to amalgamate Nigeria's regions and ensure unity by force of arms. That was the beginning of 'corrective' regimes by the Military in Nigeria. He had no time-table or programme for returning to the barracks. He instead began to work out a 20 year Development Plan, for his newly acquired estate, namely Nigeria. Well, he did not last one day longer than God's time-table that had been kept in reserve for him but out of his sight.

Today, in the eighties almost decadent era, a Messiah had appeared and in the same way is addressing the 'bloody civilians'. He is speaking to Nigerians as if he literally owns the country; the people are mere serfs on his farm. It is so true that history repeats itself. The same "we" is again ringing in our ears. When Buhari says "we" exactly what does he mean? Does he mean the Armed Forces of Nigeria? We say NO. It is a well known fact that he does not speak for them. He has not referred important matters of State to the officers and or other ranks for advice in any case. Except the few ranking Major-Generals and Brigadiers who are holding political office enjoying the best of two world Honourable Minister General/Brigadier - no one in true professional Military can, in honesty, say he knows what is going in the Government of Nigeria today. And yet that Government is labeled Military Government. The real power makers are the faceless rogues, Kaduna Mafia, calling in the night private memoranda hidden under armpits to give to someone within SMC at the top. In truth, what there is today is a Government of a clique in the name of the military. A group of fair weather friends, some in the military and some outside it, running Nigeria as a private estate, filling the air with the most deceitful propaganda.

So Buhari's "we" can only refer to this clique, this group of fair weather friends who somehow believe that the rest of us are less entitled to security and freedom that our country can offer. Obviously this "we" can’t mean Nigerians since we know that he is not Head of State by their leave; what is more, his picking personal friends and appointing them to public office is NOT the same thing representing the people. No Minister serving the military regime, in khaki civic clothes, should ever deceive himself in thinking that he represents people or the area from where he comes. They came to power by coup d'etat and are ruling the people by force. This is the long and short of it; but make no mistake, Nigerians are not the fools that some people think they are. They may be afraid to talk out as at now, but the clock is ticking and the hour will strike.

In an interview with Radio Kaduna, Major-General Muhammadu Leko Buhari said "There is no question of a return to Civilian Rule until the economy of this country improves substantially for us to feel that we have earned the confidence of our leading trading partners and other international communities." He continued by saying that "Any form of election under the Military or Civilian would have to wait until then." Let us examine this, compare and contrast it with Ironsi's programme, remembering that both men boasted that they were in power not by leave of anyone. Ironsi claimed he was out to 'build the nation' and set no time limit for its completion. Thus until his "we" were satisfied that the nation was properly built, they would not hand over power to the people.

We will not get into the argument as to whether they succeeded in building the nation or not. All we know is that after six months, his "we" vanished. Now Buhari has set himself a task, not of building that nation but of building the economy. Like Ironsi, they (his "we") remain the one and only judge of when and if the task they have set themselves is satisfactorily completed! And this they will pronounce only when they are satisfied that they "have gained the confidence of their major trading partners and other international communities." As far as we know Britain was Nigeria's major trad- ing parter. Japan was another in a different way. Today Nigeria has turned to Brazil and others. These new partners are countertrade partners. Since Britain has the same kind of crude oil (light) as Nigeria, countertrade is not feasible.

So who are the trading partners that have become such vital determinants to the return of Constitutional Rule in Nigeria? African countries do not trade substantially with Nigeria any- way, despite the so-called ECOWAS arrangements. In any case since the Military came to power, for the fourth time in Nigeria, all borders of Nigeria have remained closed. So there is no trade with our neighbours, ECOWAS or no ECOWAS. Trading with our neighbours has in fact been defined by Buhari as smuggling.

Next, who are the 'international communities' that constitute such crucial determinants of our freedom in Nigeria to choose our Government? Buhari could not possibly mean the United Nations and the OAU or any of their agencies. Both the UN and the OAU are essentially political organisations even though not ideologically oriented. What both organisations are more concerned with are fundamental human rights, such as freedom of thought, speech, movement, etc. What they want to see are people exercising their right to self determination, ie. choosing their governments by secret ballot. So, can a Military regime honestly talk of winning the confidence of such international communities? Certainly not. As to when a Military regime can win such confidence, the answer is until doomsday! So, this is when Buhari is telling us he would be ready to go! And we have to wait until then, he decrees. This ties in nicely with his subsequent warning that Nigerians are banned from discussing their collective future or the destiny of their country. In other words, to discuss the politics of your future is now like having a passport, ie. a privilege and this privilege has been withdrawn from all Nigerians with very few exceptions. Thus only those above politics in Nigeria may discuss politics. And to be above politics you must be a has-been khaki politician or some kind of retired General wtih a strong news media connection or backing.

Poor Sule Katagum and Bukar Zarma, they did not perhaps quite realise that there are no more laws as we know them, only decrees. Civilians are now surrounded by barbed wire and are truly in chains. It is now voting by bullets not by ballots, so logic and oratory must go on leave, until further notice! Every Civilian, especially if he was a politician, has already been assumed or declared a criminal and corrupt and is subject to arrest and detention any day by the single signature of a single person! This is not fiction being narrated but reality in Nigeria

Here is a very distinct and interesting example of the contradiction between words and action charaterising the Buhari Administration. Buhari maintains that "people have not been excluded from the Government". According to him "people write to the press, people are interviewed on the radio and they sit in the Executive Councils of the States and the Federal Government". Three hearty cheers for this generosity and congratulations to those lucky civilians allowed to sit in the military executive councils.

If people can write to the press and this is considered as a major concession worth being cited as an example by Buhari, why then is Decree 4 necessary? Why the threat to close some private newspapers? But more import- antly, why were Alhaji Sule Katagum, a private citizen, and Bukar Zarma of New Nigerian, taken to detention? Why were some staff from Radio Kaduna taken to Lagos for questioning purely because they played a certain interview? And so the list goes on and on. The General should never under- estimate the will of the people. He should remember that the desire to attain supreme control over the affairs of men by force of arms can only lead to contradictions and ultimate danger from which the aspirant cannot escape, no matter by how many tanks and machine guns he is protected.

talking drums 1985-09-02 Coup in Nigeria Fresh hope emerges