Buhari and the devil’s alternatives
IN seizing power from General Gowon (80), the then Military ruler, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed (1938-76) told the nation on July 30, 1975 that “this Government will not tolerate indiscipline.
The Government will not condone abuse of office.” He kept his word. He retired over 10 thousand public servants including top military officers. He set up a committee that reviewed the performances of all public officers.
At the end of the exercise, only two Ministers were found not guilty, Alhaji Shehu Shagari (90) and Shettima Alli Mongunnu (89). At that time Nigeria had 12 states governors.
Only two of the Governors, Brigadiers Oluwole Rotimi and Mobolaji Johnson were cleared of corruption. Quite a number of public servants, Ministers and Governors had their assets seized.
No one was prosecuted for corruption. In taking over power from President Shehu Shagari, the then Major General Muhammadu Buhari (72) told the nation on January 1, 1984 that “the change became necessary in order to put an end to the serious economic predicament and the crisis of confidence now afflicting our nation.”
He said “the situation could have been saved if the legislators were alive to their constitutional responsibilities. Instead, the legislators were pre-occupied with determining their salary scales, fringe benefits and unnecessary foreign travels, et cetera, which took no account of the state of the economy and the welfare of the people they represented”.
To mark his 100 days in office on April 7, 1984, the then Major General Muhammadu Buhari further told the nation that “we took over from the defunct civilian Administration at the Federal and State levels a financial situation of vast indebtedness.
In fact, the depth and seriousness of the financial predicament of the State Governments and, by implication, of the nation has become clearer and clearer, day-by-day.
The Federal Government had to assist State Governments recently with a sum of over N600 million as loan to enable them pay all arrears of wages and salaries before the end of April 1984”.
At that time he was 42 and still vibrant, resounding and resonant. As a military officer with regimental discipline, he turned to decrees to administer the nation.
He also set up the Recovery of Public [Property] Special Military Tribunals Amended Decree 8 of 1984 which he signed into law on April 5, 1984.
In setting up the Decree 8, he created in addition, tribunals in five zones of the country. The Enugu zone made up of Anambra, Imo, Cross River and Rivers states was headed by Air Commodore M. Muhammed. For the Jos zone which comprised Plateau, Bauchi, Gongola, Benue and Borno states. Brigadier Peter Ademokhai was named as the Chairman. F
or the Kaduna zone made up of Kaduna, Kano, Niger, Sokoto states and the Federal Capital Territory, Navy Captain M.A. Elegbede was named as the chairman. For the Ibadan zone made up of Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Bendel and Kwara states, Brigadier C.B. Ndiomu was named as the Chairman. As for the Lagos zone made up of Lagos State, Brigadier P.U. Omu was named chairman.
Major General Buhari at that time was young, vibrant and patriotically adventurous. On August 7, 1985, he was toppled at 6.00 a.m. via announcement by the then Commander of the Armoured Corps of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier Joshua Dongoyaro.
On that day Major General Ibrahim Babangida took over as the head of state. Major General Buhari was detained for three years thereafter.
He was first detained in a government house at Alagbaka in Akure, where he became my neighbour before he was eventually transferred to Benin City.
On November 24, 1993, General Babangida signed the forfeiture of assets (release of forfeited assets Decree 24) and returned some of the forfeited properties to former governors under General Gowon including Faruk and his wife, Brigadiers Samuel Ogbemudia, David Bamigboye, Alfred Diete-Spiff and Chief Edwin Clarke who served as Gowon’s Minister of information.
The Decree rubbished the anti-corruption crusade of General Murtala Muhammed. In taking over on May 29, 1999 from General Abdusalami Abubakar, President Olusegun Obasanjo set up three panels to probe the administration of General Abdusalami.
The three panels were headed by Dr. Christopher Kolade, Brigadier (rtd.) Oluwole Rotimi and Alhaji Igudu Inua. No one has so far been prosecuted.
But it was understood that the Kolade’s panel recovered some money to the coffers of the Central Government. Now President Muhammadu Buhari is back in power. Fully experienced and cautious.
At 72, having passed through many ordeals, he is now more scrupulous and punctilious. In the last few weeks, the country has been treated with stories of massive looting by the Goodluck Jonathan’s government.
It appears it is the misfortune of President Muhammadu Buhari to head a corrective regime instead of a regime of continuity. Things have to be so bad that he has to step in to remedy a worse situation.
That is the cross he has to carry. To his credit, and in the words of President Barak Obama, “he is a man of integrity” – a befitting testimonial that is very rare among leaders of today’s world.
With eminent and close friends like Major General Mohammed Magoro (rtd.), Major General Paul Tarfa (rtd), Alhaji Mamman Daura, Alhaji Ahmed Joda, Lt-General Alani Ipoola Akinrinade (rtd.), Alhaji Gidado Idris ,the only SGF who served two Heads of State, Alhaji Hayatudeen, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Prince Tony Momoh, Alhaji Sule Lamido Sanusi, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ismaila Issa Funtua, his in-law, General T.Y. Danjuma (rtd.), former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie – his classmate, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, former SGF, Dr. (Mrs) Mallia Zayyad, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and others around him, I am sure President Muhammadu Buhari will never walk alone. • Teniola, a former director at the presidency, stays in Lagos.