Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Countering Nigeria's political problems

By Omo Kehinde Onakunle

Nigeria, like other African countries is shaken from time to time by violent political upheavals which sets it back in terms of development and continuity. The latest palace coup is the background for this analysis.
The elephant is so ashamed of its appearance that it hates going near water and, if forced in, will deliberately muddle the surface in order to avoid seeing the reflection of its ugliness.

Nigeria, the metaphoric elephant, has all the peculiarities and massive resources that make a nation great but lacked one vital ingredient - resourceful and divine leadership. Since the collapse of the first civilian government, the country has been hurled along, though reluctantly, by one military junta after another. And the attendant wave of conflicting interests, social upheavals, political instability and economic destabilisation have never since then left the shores of Nigeria.

The late President Nkrumah of Ghana once said to the then Colonial administrator, during the intense heat of Ghana's freedom fight, "Please go back and tell Britain that we are ready for full self-government now; anything short of that will be unacceptable to us...

He concluded, "We are in earnest, our eyes are red and we shall not rest until we have attained full self- government for the people of this country, this year."

Yes, he did it, Ghana was subsequently liberated from colonial oppression and consequently a massive and spontaneous wave of national independence swept through the whole of Africa, Nigeria formalised her independence shortly after Ghana's.

Ghana's triumphant entry into the free world was seen as the need that grew eminently to strengthen the resolve and self-determination of freedom fighters all over the world. Thus, Dr Nkrumah became the God- father of the freedom fighters and the country became the beautiful garden and the powerhouse of Africa. Ghana was the pride of all Africans then.

But as fate would have it the Khaki boys were not satisfied. They ousted him. And Nkrumah's economic and political scaffolding which hitherto the Great and Glorious Ghana had been supported began to disintegrate and crumble down like a pack of cards. Nigeria has a similar catalogue of woes.

Early January 1983, New Year's Day to be precise, Lagos city was dark and quiet and cars glided through the streets. Minutes later the 100 million people of Nigeria were told by one army officer that the civilian government had been ousted in a bloodless coup.

The news of the Khaki coup was received with mixed feelings within the intellectual circles in the country. In fact, we all knew it to be a temporary aberration; a temporal remedial junta. When the dust of the coup settled many of us were flabbergasted to see the populace making a song and dance about it. Never before in the history of military coups d'etat in Nigeria has a junta inspired so much support and understanding.

In a space of less than two years, the junta unleashed an unthinking and indiscriminate assault on the press, the judiciary and the populace. The junta confused structural backwardness with moral turpitude. It prepared itself more for life governance of the country rather than a reassured attempt to find out what went wrong with the ousted civilian regime. The situation recalls the old tag: Obi solitudinem facunt pacem appellant - "where they make a desert, they call it peace."

The Buhari junta turned a deaf ear to the suffering cries of millions of Nigerians wallowing in abject poverty. Never before has a junta switched so rapidly from messiah-like position to barbaric authoritarianism.

Dissatisfaction and discontent grew within the rank and file. Mounting of double standard, tribalism, parochialism and negligence became commonplace. The Buhari junta turned deaf ears to the suffering cries of millions of Nigerians wallowing in abject poverty. Never before has a military junta switched so rapidly from being in a Messiah-like position to barbarous authoritarianism. In a space of time the Buhari junta succeeded in turning people's erstwhile support into hatred and revulsion. It is as though a group of much-loved nuns in charge of an orphanage had suddenly turned around and started murdering the children.

Rumours of another inevitable tribal war were rife when the latest Babangida military take-over occurred. I was not at all surprised that Brig. Joshua Dongoyaro blew the whistle on Buhari's game.

One prominent columnist once described history as a journey from known to the unknown, sometimes dull and challenging but with move- ment always sustained by a series of jolts, sometimes from individuals or groups and sometimes from events. Such jolts help society to pause, re- define and re-order her goals.

There is no doubt that former President Shagari presided over an incompetent regime but definitely a military dictatorship is no better alternative. Military boys see political leadership as a means of enriching their pockets and fostering their inordinate ambitions.

Buhari's press relations were nothing to write home about. He once categorically said to a London Financial Times correspondent that he saw no need for the existence of a free press in his scheme of things. Unemployment was astronomical, starvation was rampant. To all these Buhari turned deaf ears.

There is only one country that could prevent another inevitable tribal war and that is Nigeria herself. Were the new leaders to behave magnanimously and untribalistic to all and sundry, then perhaps it is still not too late for her to save herself from the imminent holocaust.

Brigand nations never survive forever. If the whole world turns against them. Hitler never grasped this fact, General Buhari never grasped it either.

Buhari and his second in command, Gen. Idiagbon, are almost the exact carbon copies in miniature of Mr Hitler and Mr Goering. They are equally short-sighted and no less bloodthirsty.

We had the skirmish political trials inspired by Gen. Buhari. Some eminent politicians were convicted for crimes against humanity and particularly financial and economic mismanagement.

It is tragic and ironic that now only a few months later, Gen. Buhari and his cohorts should themselves be qualifying for the same treatment.

talking drums 1985-09-09 Rafindadi's N.S.O. Empire exposed