Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums With Maigani

by Musa Ibrahim

An inevitable change

The entire Nigerian populace saw it coming. The possibility of a coup d'etat has been the only topic of conversation making the rounds in the country for the past ten months or so. So the announcement by Brigadier Dogonyaro that the sadistic and cruel rule of General "Dan Buzu" had come to an end was only an anti-climax. And for once, the yearnings and aspirations of the Nigerian populace is seen to have been met.

The coming of General Ibrahim Babangida and his friends might not be greeted with enthusiasm all over the country, but there is no doubt in my mind that every sane Nigerian would wish them well. Having been subjected to a tyrannical rule by a regime whose only achievement was the deprivation of the fundamental human rights of the individual, Nigerians are definitely going to heave a sigh of relief and pray that this time along things would be different.

Of very striking significance is the reason advanced by Brigadier Dogonyaro as to why Buhari's regime had to be terminated. The standard litany of corruption, mismanagement, insensitivity, inaccessibility etc, etc, did not feature prominently even though that is not suggesting that these things did not exist during Buhari's tenure of office. Rather, the Brigadier stated that they had to intervene because Buhari, Idiagbon and Rafin Dadi have blatantly misused and abused the power given to them by the military and the entire Nigerian population.

Power, it is said, corrupts, while absolute power corrupts absolutely. Similarly, as the good old Shakespeare would have us understand, it is good to have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant. Buhari no doubt had a giant's strength (even if from the totally unalloyed support accorded to the regime on its ascension 20 months ago), but like all fool he proceeded to use that strength like a giant. The regime became tyrannous, dictatorial, corrupt and insensitive. Power had been abused and misused.

As a result, the reasons which justified the military takeover of government from the civilians on the 31st December 1983 were allowed to persist, leading to a betrayal of the initial objectives of the regime. There was uncertainty, there was suppression and victimization and the nation was inexorably being plunged into chaos. The situation became more apprehensive by the actions and utterances of high officials whose exercise of authority held the nation to ransom. Consequently, the regime which was greeted with a tumultuous welcome was eventually alienated from the people. These and many others had to be the reason for the Babangida intervention.

And while applauding the newcomers, I also want to caution them. Nigerians are not under any illusion that they alone have the answers to the country's problems - the newcomers should not even harbour such illusions themselves. But that is not saying that whatever problems there are cannot be surmounted. The key for any leader to achieve his mission is to heed the call of conscience, healing and unity. And with courage and initiative a leader can change things. Only leadership "that intangible combination of gifts, discipline, information, circumstance, courage, timing, will and divine inspiration" can lead a country out of a crisis. Good leadership can work wonders and wrought miracles. And leaders are not born - they are made.

General Ibrahim Babangida must be a leader not a ruler. He must initiate things and have the courage to execute them. He must be accessible to all Nigerians, and not to a few bootlickers and sycophants

The chaos in the fall of governments in Nigeria must not be allowed to rear its ugly head. Buhari was officially accessible to only a handful of public and private advisers. This led to his alienation and estrangement from the people. Lack of accessibility was General Gowon' growing fault, unlimited accessibility made President Shehu Shagari prisoner of his party stalwarts and in the end, he lost his leadership qualities. Babangida must never be seen as neither here nor there. And whatever programme of action he and his colleagues have for the country must be executed with courage and with as much human touch and feeling as possible.

Unnecessary time must not be wasted probing the activities of the past. The past is gone and they must try to forget it, remembering that it is only the present that is available to them and should therefore use that. Political detainees must be granted an unconditional pardon, and so-called "fugitives" and "wanted persons" must be granted a free welcome home. A regime based on love and not hatred or jealousy or vindictiveness must be ushered by Babangida and his colleagues. It is the only way they can attempt to wash away the inequities and soiled hands of their predecessors.

The regime must make room for the Ibos, the Yorubas, the Hausas and the Minorities. Most importantly, it must make room for the Nigerian masses, the most exploited of all our people. They have known the pain of neglect far too long and have been scapegoats for the failures of governmental policies and inadequacies far too often. The regime must make room for our youths, for in them lies Nigeria's hopes and future. It must make room for farmers, doctors, lawyers, journalists, businessmen, teachers, civil servants and everybody else, and no Nigerian ought to be denied equal protection under the law. The regime must be unusually committed and caring to the problems of the individual and must be tolerant and understanding to the problems of the country as a whole.

The regime must be long suffering as it seeks to right the wrongs of our great nation. It must seek to expand its legitimacy by healing the wounds of the past and unifying the country into one umbrella. Finally, it must be able to know when the nation's ovation is loudest and leave the stage for a democratically and constitutionally elected civilian government. Buhari wasted time on trivialities - now doth time wastes him.

I wholeheartedly welcome the new regime.

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