Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine


In defence of Buhari

Your paper is an anti-military one, it has been one since its birth two years ago. It prefers a civilian to a military regime. I also do. We all want to see democracy succeed in Africa. The question is: what happens in a country where democracy is bastardised? Nigerian politicians bastardised democracy. Money was the dominant language during the Shagari regime. The highest post went to the highest bidder. His regime was characterised by intolerable economic conditions and run-away inflation arising from high-scale and deep rooted corruption and mismanagement of the nation's resources.

Buhari's regime might have committed some human rights offences, some civil liberties might have been eroded, but he instilled discipline while Shagari encouraged looting of the treasury.

Talking Drums idolise the Shagari administration. They see nothing good in Buhari but think Shagari has done excellently well. Vice-President Idiagbon has gone home, it shows he is not a coward. Let the other politicians in Shagari's government also go back to Nigeria and face the music.

Olufemi Alafe-Aluko, London.

Generals in court

The on-going court trial of Argentina's former military rulers who are facing charges ranging from robbery to torture to murder, has been described by a learned observer as a 'valuable lesson for the rest of Latin America and the world'.

It is unfortunate that military regimes in Africa, in particular West Africa, are not learning anything from the havoc caused by military adminis- tration in their respective countries, as they continue to intensify their repression and killings with a false view to remaining in power ad infinitum.

The Chinese have a proverb which says that in youth we learn; in age we understand. In the light of this, one can make allowance for the attitude of the young military rulers in Liberia, Ghana and Burkina Faso who want to cling on to power because they are playing with fire just as children do.

But it is difficult to understand why some big generals in great Nigeria, such as General Buhari, stubbornly refuse to learn from the bitter experiences of their deposed colleagues inside and outside Nigeria until they are thrown out of office alive or dead.

In supporting the view of Professor Lambo of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that African leaders be changed every five years or so, Professor Wole Soyinka adds that some African leaders are 'fascist opportunists' and must be exposed (Africa Now, June 1985).

Considering the amount of bloodshed, brutality and corruption which are characteristics of the governments of the 'fascist opportunists' I agree that the learned gentlemen have a point, but I think that it would be ridiculous for a country to have its head of state's head checked periodically for evidence of diminished responsibility when there are thousands of capable men and women in Africa who qualify for the post of president through the ballot box every five years for a constitutional government whose legal and parliamentary systems can take care of any opportunist designs on any member of the government.

Perhaps General Babangida, the new military ruler of Nigeria, whose performance to date in the area of human rights in Nigeria has surprised the world, will prove his maturity and wisdom by announcing without further delay a programme for constitutional rule for Nigeria before the 'people' start demanding justice from him.

Paul Nkansah,
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Senseless detentions in Ghana

I read with great interest the news item 'Fund for Ghana's Detainees' (Talking Drums, September 2 1985). I would like the PNDC government to publish in detail the reason why two barristers and the publisher of the Free Press newspaper are currently in detention.

This marks a dangerous turning point in the political history of Ghana; it makes traditionally tolerant and peace loving Ghanaians shiver and bow their heads in shame, while families of the detainees are being deprived of their sources of livelihood.

Flt-Lt. Rawlings cannot throw dust into people's eyes by blaming "enemies" of the revolution for these senseless detentions. How could this be the situation in all regional capitals in the country that only soldiers permitted to possess weapons which they use to terrorise the people

Tolerance and patience Ghanaians are now stretched to breaking point. We hope the suffering of detainees will not be in vain; let it b us closer together to find a solution our problems.

Ababio Amankwa,
Heilbron W. Germany

Portrait of Rawlings

Jerry Rawlings' order of removal of portraits from the offices in government buildings (Talking Drums, September 9, 1985), is seen as a step in the right direction. Presumably he himself is embarrassed that his portraits which are hanging all over the place, annoying millions of Ghanaians who see it every day.

Perhaps, it has now become clear to the PNDC that they have disappointed the people they claimed they had come to save. Everybody is praying for a military leader to have a change of heart and hand over as soon as possible, for Ghanaians are thoroughly disillusioned.

Ansuh Nicholas, West Germany

Inside Rawlings' Ghana

It is nearly four years since Flt-I Jerry Rawlings raised his voice again from the political wilderness of Ghana. The second coming of the People’s man, was welcomed back to the political forefront with shouts of approval by the people and the hastily organised revolutionary cadres called for blood to flow.

Why the blood flow was called for was not to appease the gods of the blood of Ghanaians who the society and circumstances had corrupted and whose heads Jerry believed should roll as a deterrent to others. However, the crimes intended to be removed by the Rawlings' PNDC still remain with the people. Bribery and corruption have withstood all the rigours of the Revolution. Kalabule exists, currency trafficking goes on unabated. In fact, all the social ills are thriving.

Even though food and essential commodities have reportedly flooded the shops and markets, very few can afford them and so the majority live in abject poverty on the brink of starvation. The one man one house has failed to work, there is still the class struggle and tribalism has reached its zenith. So the question is: in a popular Ghanaian parlance, did we go or did we come?

A tale of two men

A man is a 'number two man' in a regime, he swears by it, threatens hell and brimstone, spits fire, wouldn't smile, wouldn't talk about any successor to his regime, goes on pilgrimage, and while there, he is overthrown and accused of being a tyrant, vindictive and all other terrible things.

The new administration starts releas ng detainees he had jailed, promises respect for human rights and reconciliation to all. What does the man do? He pledges loyal support to those who have overthrown him and begs for permission to return home.

Another man is also said to be powerful in his administration and does everything in his power to ensure his administration stays in power. He is overthrown and those who seize power accuse him of many terrible things, throw everybody they can lay their hands on into jail and threaten death or long prison sentences, declare their contempt for the legal process.

What does the man do? He escapes from the country and from a foreign country, defends his administration and throws an open challenge to those who have overthrown him.

I have no doubt in my mind who the brave one is. Dikko at least has the conviction of his beliefs and has defended his record in office. There is Tunde Idiagbon pledging loyalty to Babangida. Whatever happened to brave soldiers?

Olu Ogunsanya, Ilford, Essex

Those who stand to be counted

If only more people had the courage to put themselves up for elections, even if only to lose. If only more people were willing to subject themselves to what is involved in standing for an election, opening up yourself to public scrutiny, questioning and abuse.

That involves much more than can be said for people who shoot their way in the dead of night into positions of 'leadership'. They do not even know what the people think of them and the rate of rejection they might suffer if they stood for an election.

To my mind, there is absolutely no shame whatsoever in standing for an election and losing. People like Ahmadu Wali of London (Talking Drums, September 30, 1985) who will not dare to run for the position of a dog-catcher in their villages and hang on to military adventurers seek their moments of glory only under military regimes. They cannot take the competition. At least Umaru Dikko stood for elections, what has Buhari or Idiagbon or Ahmadu Wali stood for?

Rachel S. Gambo, London

talking drums 1985-10-07 Nigeria at 25 - A nation in a hurry