Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums With Maigani

by Musa Ibrahim

Inside the Buhari SMC

Alhaji Lawal Rafindadi - the ex-NSO Chief has, in a written statement from his cell in Kiri-Kiri Maximum Security Prison, claimed that he did whatever he did with full clearance, knowledge and consent of Buhari and Idiagbon. In fact, he said, most of what he did was the result of directives from these two - his only bosses!

The ex-NSO Director General was invoking the principle of collective responsibility as a defence. The question that arises here is: how collective is this collective responsibility that Rafindadi is trying to put up as a defence for his or their crime against humanity?

Anybody with close ears to the meetings of the defunct Supreme Military Council (SMC) knows full well that the architects of decisions were in truth four in number. Retired Major Generals Buhari, Tunde Idiagbon, Muhammadu Lawal Rafindadi of NSO and Major-General Mohammed Mahgoro. These four were the powers that be in the defunct SMC during its twenty months rule. There were others in the defunct SMC who were known to be neither here nor there. These were the chorus boys, the Yes-men at all meetings! Such were the people Buhari used as his errand boys and sometimes they were assigned to shadow those members who were classified as opposition group. An interesting member of this group was his WAISHIP - Air Vice Marshall Muktar Mohammed, the man who, though he is a known Moslem, was so good at quoting the Bible that he never sentenced any man to 21 years or 210 years without an appropriate quotation from the Bible. In case you still cannot fully recognize the guy, he is also nicknamed "Mr One thousand and four". If, in spite of this extra description, you still cannot identify him then ask in Lagos, especially at social parties.

He is always there!

Regarded by Buhari and his bootlickers as an opposition group within the defunct SMC were men such as Major-General Babangida, at that time Chief of Army Staff, and Brigadier Sani Abacha who, it is rumoured, was once about to be sent to the gallows by Buhari, Idiagbon and Rafindadi. There were others too who, like these two, were unhappy with the way things were going. You may recall what once appeared in the London Observer in connection with the shooting of 42 people in the Military. Buhari was said to be very bitter about the publication and exposure. Britain as well, as the British press were thoroughly abused by the Government news media organs of Nigeria. The writer, at first threatened to give the details, names, ranks etc. all inclusive. But for some reason he later decided not to blow up the issue further - maybe he was persuaded to try and limit the damage. Already relations between the two countries were strained.

According to what subsequently came out between the lines as to what did take place at the defunct SMC meeting, we learnt that Major-General Babangida and his group opposed any hurried judgement. They insisted that the allegation being made against those Military boys must be thoroughly investigated. The boys were accused of planning a coup d'etat. What happened next was that those who were advising and insisting that no blood be shed, unless it was absolutely unavoidable, were blackmailed immediately. It was said by one of Buhari's bootlickers that Major-General Babangida and others, who were trying to save the boys, were themselves suspect. A very childish logic was brought - that unless they were behind the accused persons they would not try so hard to save them. Thus, to suggest that an accused person should be presumed innocent until he is proven guilty was offensive to the gang of four who wielded all the power in the SMC at that time. According to Buhari's law the burden of proof of guilt does not lie with the prosecution. In fact, if we may ask, was there any trial or court- martial, to use the army terminology?

So, if what appeared in the London Observer about those executions is true, and so far nobody has disproved the authenticity of the publication, and if what we have heard about the division of opinion over such a serious matter of life and death within the defunct SMC is also true then the matter cannot be allowed to rest, just like that. If lives were taken away in an unlawful manner and with intent, that is called MURDER, and those who were responsible must be called to answer. This is the only way any civilised society can feel secure. In Argentina today what is happening is an eye-opener. Generals, regardless of whether they were one star or one million stars, were brought to court to answer for atrocities or crimes against human rights and human lives!

Well there the country had to wait for a Constitutional Government before tackling such an issue. If in Nigeria the new President, even though himself a soldier, can break the record and call his fellow officers to answer such charges, he certainly will have given great hope to Nigeria and to the world that no matter how high, a ruler cannot so cheaply take human life without due process of law. It is particularly important that the impression is not given that they will be set free because they are military men.

From day one, when Buhari took over power, Shagari was put under house arrest and no visitor was allowed to see him until this new government came in. It is said that every glass on the windows of the house where Shagari was being held was painted black so that he would not see any sunlight! This was the fate of the man who did not order the arrest of one person out of a population of nearly one hundred million, over which he ruled for four good years! On top of this, there were five political parties altogether and yet no-one went to prison for political dissent. Even the Tai Solarin who is still asking for Shagari to be tried benefited from Shagari's good-heartedness and belief in justice and fair play.

At one time when Shagari learnt that the police had arrested Tai Solarin and were preparing to charge him with sedition, Shagari ordered his immediate release. Thus Solarin enjoyed all the freedom to utter his nonsensical talks throughout Shagari's time in power. But of course we all know that as far as people like Tai Solarin are concerned, Shagari committed one unpardonable offence - he defeated their idol, Chief Awolowo.

Going back to the main issue, it is clear that the stage is now set. President Babangida and the new group in power have made it clear to the world that they care about human rights and the sanctity of human life. This is why the world is beginning to care about Nigeria and people are beginning to show goodwill towards that country. Buhari came in with vendetta on his mind. He first deceived the people that he was honest and had honest intentions. He deceived the press at first and used them effectively to help them achieve his aims. Later when they began to discover his true self, they turned against him and he turned against them with Decree No 4. There and then the marriage ended. So all he could thereafter depend on was Mohammed Lawal Rafindadi of the NSO.

Now, Lawal Rafindadi has made the confession or rather the statement to the effect that Buhari and Idiagbon must share in the blame for the crimes he was said to have committed. This is round one. The next round in our view is that Rtd. Major-General Tunde Idiagbon should be asked to submit his own statement. Round three will be a statement taken from Buhari.

When Buhari seized power he said in one of his statements that "honestly I have never seen a more dishonest government than the one we have overthrown." After twenty months, the general opinion is that his is the WORST government that Nigeria has ever had throughout her history in every respect.

And talking of dishonesty, it is worth asking Buhari a few questions: Buhari was Federal Commissioner of Petroleum and Energy. The story of the missing 2.8 billion dollars from the account of the NNPC surfaced later. Up to this day, the tangle has not been untangled! In spite of bringing back Festus Marinho to re-head the NNPC no clear answer has been given to that question. Are the files too many to disappear or is it the evidence that is too glaring to be covered? Only he knows the answers.

Another question - did Buhari have a foreign account when he was Commissioner or not? In fact, let him tell, even at this late hour, whether or not he has a foreign account operated directly or indirectly! Let him tell the world whether or not the goings and comings in Europe of his top adviser and relative have anything to do with him or his business. It is only fair that Nigerians and the world should know what is beneath the great show of honesty he tried to display. In 1978, when Buhari, accompanied by his relative, travelled to some countries in North Africa, what was it all about? Did they see some people in authority or not and could we know what happened? What, he might care to tell, is the full story behind the so-called Islamic Centre in Zaria? Who financed it and what else happened afterwards?

talking drums 1985-09-30 Ghana Now Inconsistencies and Realities - Miriam Makeba