“As an elder statesman and a former ruler of this great nation, one would have expected he exercise decorum and put the interest of the country above any personal ambition”
Major General Muhammed Buhari (rtd), 7th head of state of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (GCFR 31st December 1983-27th august 1985), Chairman Board of Trustee of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). Born December 17th 1942, enlisted into the Nigerian army in 1962 and rose to the rank of a Major General and Head of State.
General Buhari has served in various capacities as a civil servant both in the military uniform and the long flowing agbada. He was the governor of the North Eastern State of Nigeria (August 1975- March 1976), Federal commissioner for Petroleum and Natural resources (March 1976 – June 1978), chairman Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (June 1978-july 1978). Buhari also served as the Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) during president Obasanjo’s second coming.
General Buhari and Major Tunde Idiagbon were catapulted into fame by the successful December 31st 1983 coup d’état that got rid of the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, before he was booted out of office by the General Babangida coup of August 27th 1985 and sent to prison in Benin City.
Those that were old enough during Buhari’s brief tenure as head of state knew what he brought to the table. There were two major schools of thought on general Buhari’s score card. Some were of the opinion that Buhari’s government was the best thing Nigeria needed at that time considering the massive corruption, tribalism and nepotism that was the order of the day under Shagari’s regime. He introduced the death sentence for drug offenders, initiated the War Against Indiscipline, WAI (especially against public servants who came to work late) and installed discipline in the public behaviour of the citizens by even publicly humiliating whosoever is found wanting. Massive campaign was mounted on the mass media against bribery and corruption with various jail terms stipulated for those caught in the act.
In as much as these had some desired effects, his critics were very quick to point out the errors of some of his ways. Like other African dictators before him Buhari was quick in taking drastic measures to silence his detractors. He set up Nigeria’s first secret police, introduced draconian decrees allowing the detention of his opponents for up to three months without trial, curbed press freedom and banned political activities to mention but few. The same politics that he is now bent on using by any means possible to fulfill his ambition.
In the later years after being released from prison in 1988, General Buhari has been prominent in the political arena. He contested the 2003, 2007 and of recent the 2011 presidential polls. Losing to general Obasanjo (2003), Alhaji Yar a’dua (2007), and Dr Jonathan (2011) respectively. His supporters claimed he was rigged out in all cases.
General Buhari has never been more vocal against any government as he has been under the Jonathan’s administration, which under a democratic setup, are one of his fundamental rights, the freedom of expression.
But the problem with democracy is that it comes with lots of responsibilities. As an elder statesman and a former ruler of this great nation, one would have expected he exercise decorum and put the interest of the country above any personal ambition. Buhari should not be making statements that may likely heat-up the polity and incite one part of the country against the other.
The issue of Boko Haram sect is one problem that took both Nigerians and the world at large by surprise. Within a period of three years, the sect has fully entrenched themselves in the minds of Nigerians through spates of mindless destructions, killings and maiming of innocent citizens. The federal government being clueless as usual, resorted to the idea of granting amnesty to the sect members against the outcry of millions of angry Nigerians in order to restore peace and order. Boko Haram as if acting out a pre-written script rejected the government gesture. Their leader Imam Abubakar Shekau came out and told astounded Nigerians that Boko Haram had done no wrong that required amnesty, rather, the reverse is the case. It is Nigeria that required amnesty from Boko Haram! They continued with their normal business of indiscriminate killing of the innocents.
Amongst the past rulers, General Buhari is the most outspoken against the state of emergency. One would have thought that he being in similar situation before, he would be able to analyse the situation based on the facts on ground and devoid of all political allegiance and ethnic sentiments.
In the early 1980s under the regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Buhari, then the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3rd division of the Nigerian army led the army against Chadian rebels that encroached on Nigerian territory. In the same manner, Shagari sent the army to dislodge the Cameroonian gendarme from Bakassi.
Buhari himself, as the head of state and grand commander of the federal republic(GCFR) in February 1984 had to send the army to the northeast to put an end to the Maitatsine uprising which had claimed many lives and destroyed properties over a couple of years.
Paul Chikezie is a public commentator, he writes from Abuja.
Culled from: Universal Reporters