Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Nigeria Through 1985 (Part 1)

By a correspondent

Nigeria, like most African countries, has gone through an eventful year that has seen a change of leadership and a protracted debate on the IMF among other things. This review assesses the past year.
The year 1985 is coming to a close and it is time to look back at some important landmarks with reference to Nigeria through the passing year, hoping that this will serve as an aid to memory and a guide to the future of Nigerians and others who may want to know just that tiny bit more about that country.

For Nigerians, except the handful of Military contractors and agents, the early part of 1985 seemed as the carry forward of the mass misery and persecution of 1984. Early 1985 was for Nigeria a carry- forward of insecurity of all sorts: There was the fear of illegal arrests by the Nigerian Sadistic Organisation (NSO) who had it in their acquired power to pounce on anybody civilian and arrest him or her without a warrant, without charge and without question. Their one and only licence was their identity cards, which could in fact be faked since there was no means of identifying the genuine one. It was a well- known thing that the NSO Boys went to people's homes and demanded payment of large sums of money in return for temporary reprieve from arrest.

If a group of them came and collected, two days later, another team would arrive at your house and ask for the same thing. Failure to pay would be followed immediately by an invitation to you to come with them to the NSO office. There, you would be informed that a letter containing serious allegations of corruption against you had been received. You were then sure to remain for days at the NSO office cells and ultimately to proceed to a local prison - detention! While you were in detention the same NSO boys would visit your wife and propose to her that if she wanted your early release she must oblige in two ways she must produce money and in the evening report to a specified NSO guest house for final interview with their "oga". This, believe it or not, was Nigeria in 1984 and part of 1985 before Babangida's coup.

Fear of the NSO apart, there were other reasons for insecurity throughout the plagued nation. You could be arrested by the police if you happened to have a powerful enemy in any of the Forces and you could end up in detention for an ambiguous charge such as an attempt to sabotage the economy. If you were lucky and were taken to a Lagos court and were not from that part of Nigeria you might as well forget it - you were going in!

On the road you could be stopped by anybody in uniform, it made no difference what kind of uniform he wore after all, uniform was uniform and it was the rule of uniform not the rule of the law that was the order of the day. When so stopped, you could be asked to show your tax receipt. This had become the equivalent of the South African pass book which the Blacks must carry at all times and present on demand. If you carried no tax receipt, forget the fact that you might have one at home, you would be arrested on the spot, fined on the spot and you must pay on the spot! Failure to do so would land you in detention, nobody had a right to question. This, believe it or not, was Nigeria in 1984 and the most part of 1985.

If the demand was not for tax receipt it could be for you to show your receipt that you had paid your levy or State Develop- ment or State Education or this or that Fund. It was irrelevant whether you hailed from that particular State or a different one. What was relevant was your location at the time you met the assessor in uniform. For all you know you could be a traveller from one part of the country to another part. It did not matter.

More than any other factor, it was the consolidation theory that paved the way for Nigeria's salvation from the reign of terror in Nigeria in 1985. Buhari became greedy and wanted to have it all, so that he could bury the $2.8 billion scandal.

If you were a motorist it was worse. You would be stopped at almost every mile, the celebrated road-checks meant to check everything under the sun, ranging from the boot of your car to your wallet. If you had to come out for his face to be checked, just in case Umaru Dikko was in the car and the Jihad was imminent! Sense of insecurity apart, Nigerians spent most of the year 1985 under mass misery and persecution. It was a period in which the nation was totally and mercilessly enslaved. Even those who fed fat under his fraud and counterfraud, even his import licence barons, even his mafia sponsors could not deny that Buhari's administration was to Nigerians what Hitler was to Germans. Idi Amin is to Ugandans or, for that matter, what Botha's rule is to the Africans in South Africa. The essence of government, any Government, is to ensure security for those it governs, to strive to make them happy and to uplift their living standard. The essence of Government cannot be to persecute, terrorise, deprive and agonise the people. Force can never be an acceptable method of govern- ing any people on Earth. Buhari was insti- gated to ignore this fundamental fact by a small clique of dishonest and sadistic people.

Most of the year saw many Nigerians who were earning as little as sixty naira a month being thrown out of their jobs in the thousands for no offence. That was the period when experienced civil servants who had no mafia friends or connections were dismissed or to put it mildly as it was deceptively put to them retired. That was the time clerks were made Ambassadors because they were from the right home towns. It was the time when openly a man called the Head of State did instruct the country's Ambassadors to engage in terrorist activities! He told them to take care of what he called the fugitives.

There is no doubt whatsoever that 1984 and most of 1985 will be remembered by Nigeria as a period of disunited families, a period when people were thrown into ruins as a matter of deliberate Govern- ment policy. It was the period of changing currency in the country. This was an exercise which had aims totally different from the ones dishonestly presented to the public! People were told that the civilians, or to be more correct, the politicians hoarded billions of naira in their houses. At first, after the politicians were hurled into jails, gangs were organised which carried out searches into the politicians houses in order to recover their "loot". How much was discovered, AND where such monies were put, nobody has ever told Nigerians.

The recovery exercise by organised gangs was followed by an exercise which was to underline their true intention. Buhari was advised by his mafia cohorts that in order to stay in power in the style of Gamal Abdel Nasser and Libya's Mu'ammar Gaddafi he had to "consolidate". To do this, first, he must change the country's currency in the highest denom- ination. This would reduce politicians who might have probably hidden some currency notes inside wells to zero. Like- wise it would render the big businessmen who were also supposed to be hiding their money inside wells also a zero level. In short, the idea was to render useless any money held by any politician or business- man outside the Banks. Meanwhile the politicians and big businessmen described or regarded as the politicians' associates were in jail and their accounts in the Banks frozen. The programme was to reduce all possible known opponents to a penniless state.

Unfortunately the entire population got caught up in this exercise and a lot of farmers and villagers who never banked their money lost everything they had saved as a result. They could no longer afford three square meals a day so there- fore the prospects of anyone organising resistance would be NIL. The theory was - as hungry man your first priority would be your stomach not your politics! Added to this, ways and means were devi- sed for their friends to corner all the opportunities of making money. Long after the specified period of changing money in the Banks, some people were still changing old currency through the Banks.

The second plan of consolidation, as suggested by the "experts" and friends of Buhari was that he must get rid of all those who were his "colleagues" in the coup plan that ousted the Civilian Government. The only ones to be left were those whose personal loyalty to him was NOT in question. Buhari tried to imple- ment this by forming an alliance between himself, Idiagbon and Lawal Rafindadi.

It was in 1985 that the three men began to put their plans in action. Buhari, Idiagbon and Rafindadi would concoct a story about the then Chief of Army Staff and deliberately and quietly spread it around. It started in this fairly quiet way until later when they felt sufficiently confident they began to come out into the open. The arrest of Sani Abacha was part of imple- menting the plan of consolidation. Any- body that was seen in the Flagstaff House was marked down as pro-Babangida and therefore anti-Buhari Rafindadi kept the record. At one time a plan was made to get the then Chief of Army Staff out of the country. A visit to China was arranged using remote control. The plan was that when he was out of the country, Idiagbon as Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters would use his "political" seniority to post out all the Babangida loyalists to irrele- vant and totally ineffective positions and move the pro-Buhari officers to strategic positions and locations. It was also planned that while Babangida was abroad, enough mud would have been prepared in Rafindadi's NSO to soil Babangida sufficiently. This would give Buhari and Idiagbon the necessary tool to use. All along Magoro, a Buhari ally (or was he on both sides) was being groomed to step into the shoes of Chief of Army Staff.

Even those who fed fat under his fraud and counterfraud, even his import licence barons, even his mafia sponsors could not deny that Buhari's administration was to Nigerians what Hitler was to Germans. Idi Amin is to Ugandans or, for that matter, what Botha's rule is to the Africans in South Africa.

When the Buhari plan of consolidation started filtering slowly to the ears of Babangida and others in his camp, they did not seem quite to believe it but the evidence kept mounting their telephones were being tapped, they were under full surveillance. Slowly but surely it was unfolding. Buhari set up a probe into the Ministry of Defence, the aim was so clear as to leave no doubt in anybody's mind. It was to get Babangida. It was after his return from a visit to China that Babangida and his loyal officers began to accept the fact that their graves were being dug by the three wicked men - Buhari, Idiagbon, Rafindadi with people such as Magoro on the periphery of the conspiracy. So the persecuted camp in the SMC began to take the matter seriously. They had to move if the tyranny which had already engulfed the civilian popula- tion was not to engulf the Army itself. When it became an issue of gun against gun, tank against tank, deception against deception both camps had some training. So Nigerians were expecting a fair fight, since both boxers had gloves.

More than any other factor, it was the consolidation theory that paved the way for Nigeria's salvation from the reign of terror in Nigeria in 1985. Buhari became greedy and wanted to have it all, so that he could bury the $2.8 billion scandal, so he alone could have the power of life and death as well as the means to enrich those he favoured and to impoverish those he chose.

It was in the 1985 Budget speech that Buhari had the audacity to tell Nigerians and the world as follows: "we are paying our debts and are no longer begging anybody There have been greater improvement in our socio-economic lives. ... greater security, cleaner towns and cities, notably Lagos and Kano, more reliable power supply and telephone services, more drugs in hospitals."

Does the above really require any comment? Perhaps we would give a brief one for the sake of those who may not be familiar with the hypocrisy and pretence that was the embodiment of Buhari..

When Buhari said they were paying their debts and were not begging anybody what in truth was he talking about. He told Nigerians that he was allocating 40% of the 1985 Budget towards paying Nigeria's foreign debt. Even a child could tell you that this was madness! Which country in the world today could raise its finger and say it owes nobody? Britain for example still has debts owing since the Second World War. When Buhari told Nigerians that, he was expecting them to give him three hearty - cheers! But they were no fools of course. There was more to it than met the eye unless he would rather have Nigerians perish than have the country owe anybody! So he was more keen to satisfy those whom Nigeria was owing than the well-being of Nigerians.

• To be continued

talking drums 1985-12-23-30 looking back at 1985