Pendulum: President Buhari: From Deification to Demystification

By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, let me make a quick confession in my epistle to you today. I truly, and sincerely, pity and sympathise with President Muhammadu Buhari and his family, even if it seems the subject of my pity and sympathy does not appear to care about his legacy or what the future will record for him. I will explain in a jiffy. If you’re addicted to social media like me, you will understand and appreciate the origin of my pity for Buhari and his family. Any mention of Buhari instantly elicits venomous attacks and blistering derision. The last time I witnessed anything of this nature was in those draconian days of the Abacha regime. And it is much worse this time around because of the multiplicity and proliferation of social media platforms. Even if President Buhari is totally oblivious to these vicious attacks, his family must find it hard to swallow these bitter responses to anything Buhari. However, someone told me the Buhari family might not know how terribly bitter the people of Nigeria are against their patriarch because they leave a sheltered, cloistered existence. Well, if you are ensconced within the gilded cage of the Aso Rock Presidential villa in Abuja, it is possible that you’re not likely to know what is going on outside “the walls of Jericho.”

Unfortunately, Buhari continues to act like a victim of some demonic attacks that makes it impossible for one to consider sensible and reasonable options. Many of his decisions are so bizarre that you begin to wonder what propels him. I will find time and space to discuss this theory as we progress.

Not many people would ever have a second chance to amend and rectify their previous mistakes in life and turn a new leaf. Buhari had been Nigeria’s Head of State from 1984 to 1985. The coup speech that brought him to power was delivered by Sani Abacha. It had identified, dissected, analysed and corrected the intractable problems of Nigeria and came up with the correct verdict that was tagged “War Against Indiscipline!” For this reason, it is important to reproduce the Abacha speech, and I do so below:

“Fellow countrymen and women, I, Brigadier Sani Abacha, of the Nigerian Army address you this morning on behalf of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

You are all living witnesses to the great economic predicament and uncertainty, which an inept and corrupt leadership has imposed on our beloved nation for the past four years. I am referring to the harsh, intolerable conditions under which we are now living. Our economy has been hopelessly mismanaged. We have become a debtor and beggar nation. There is inadequacy of food at reasonable prices for our people who are now fed up with endless announcements of importation of foodstuffs. Health services are in shambles as our hospitals are reduced to mere consulting clinics without drugs, water and equipment. Our educational system is deteriorating at an alarming rate. Unemployment figures including the undergraduates have reached embarrassing and unacceptable proportions. In some states, workers are being owed salary arrears of eight to twelve months and in others there are threats of salary cuts.

Yet our leaders revel in squander mania, corruption and indiscipline, and continue to proliferate public appointments in complete disregard of our stark economic realities. After due consultations over these deplorable conditions, I and my colleagues in the Armed Forces have in the discharge of our national role as promoters and protectors of our national interest decided to effect a change in the leadership of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and form a Federal Military Government. This task has just been completed.

The Federal Military Government hereby decrees the suspension of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979 relating to all elective and appointive offices and representative institutions including the office of the President, State governors, federal and state executive councils, special advisers, special assistants, the establishment of the National Assembly and the Houses of Assembly including the formation of political parties.

Accordingly, Alhaji Shehu Usman Shagari ceases forthwith to be the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. All the incumbents of the above-named offices shall, if they have not already done so, vacate their formal official residences, surrender all government property in their possession and report to the nearest police station in their constituencies within seven days.

The Clerk of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, within two weeks, render account of all the properties of the National Assembly. All the political parties are banned; the bank account of FEDECO and all the political parties are frozen with immediate effect. All foreigners living in any part of the country are assured of their safety and will be adequately protected.

Henceforth, workers not on essential duties are advised to keep off the streets. All categories of workers on essential duties will, however, report at their places of work immediately. With effect from today, a dusk to dawn curfew will be imposed between 7pm and 6am each day until further notice. All airways flights have been suspended forthwith and all airports, seaports, and border posts closed. External communications have been cut. The Customs and Excise, Immigration and the Police will maintain vigilance and ensure watertight security at the borders. The area administrators or commanders will have themselves to blame if any of the wanted people escape.

Fellow countrymen and women, the change in government has been a bloodless and painstaking operation and we do not want anyone to lose his or her life. People are warned in their own interest to be law abiding and to give the Federal Military Government maximum cooperation. Anyone caught disturbing public order will be summarily dealt with. For avoidance of doubt, you are forewarned that we shall not hesitate to declare martial law in any area or State of the Federation in which disturbances occur.

Fellow countrymen and women and comrades at arms, I will like to assure you that the Armed Forces of Nigeria is ready to lay its life for our dear nation but not for the present irresponsible leadership of the past civilian administration. You are to await further announcements…”

Majority of Nigerians were happy and jubilant that the Messiah had arrived finally who would instil the fear of God in our corrupt and profligate politicians. Nigerians were ready to endure any hardship as long as it would lead the country to its Eldorado.

Unfortunately, the honeymoon did not last long before it was dealt more than a body blow and the house of straw that the military adventurers had built collapsed like a pack of cards. The hypocrisy of a government that promised so much but delivered so little was soon exposed. Its worst offense was its rabid and undisguised nepotism. Just imagine sacking a democratically elected government and clamping virtually every actor from one part of the country into detention. Many were tried in kangaroo manner and awarded impossible sentences some of which amounted to many lifetimes, many hundreds of years. It was soon obvious that this neurotic and schizophrenic government was on a vengeful mission to punish some targeted persons and tribes. Laws were made to be enforced for some and to be broken by others. Deposed President Shehu Shagari, a Northerner, was kept under house arrest while Dr Alex Ekwueme, the Vice President, an Easterner, was subjected to indignity and excruciating pains in a maximum-security prison. The hatred against the Igbo, long since established, was further cemented in concrete.

Buhari and his fearsome partner, Brigadier Babatunde Idiagbon, ruled by decrees, some of which took effect retroactively. And people were killed under such laws, mainly Southerners. The real economic saboteurs escaped justice while those who had no godfathers languished in most wicked detentions. It was a government of “do as I say and not as I do.” It was only a matter of time before the chickens would come home to roost. This happened in August 1985, when the military struck again, and the speech read by Joshua Nimyel Dongoyaro adumbrated and also elucidated on why Buhari had to be sacked. The “DOGONYARO COUP SPEECH” follows below:

I,  Brigadier Joshua Nimyel Dogonyaro, of the Nigerian Army, hereby make the following declaration on behalf of my colleagues and members of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
Fellow countrymen, the intervention of the military at the end of 1983 was welcomed by the nation with unprecedented enthusiasm. Nigerians were unified in accepting the intervention and looked forward hopefully to progressive changes for the better. Almost two years later, it has become clear that the fulfilment of expectations is not forthcoming.
Because this generation of Nigerians and indeed future generations have no other country but Nigeria, we could not stay passive and watch a small group of individuals misuse power to the detriment of our national aspirations and interest.

No nation can ever achieve meaningful strides in its development where there is an absence of cohesion in the hierarchy of government; where it has become clear that positive action by the policy makers is hindered, because as a body it lacks a unity of purpose.

It is evident that the nation would be endangered with the risk of continuous misdirection. We are presently confronted with that danger. In such a situation, if action can be taken to arrest further damage, it should and must be taken. This is precisely what we have done.

The Nigerian public has been made to believe that the slow pace of action of the Federal Government headed by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari was due to the enormity of the problems left by the last civilian administration.

Although it is true that a lot of problems were left behind by the last civilian government, the real reason, however, for the very slow pace of action is due to lack of unanimity of purpose among the ruling body; subsequently, the business of governance has gradually been subjected to ill-motivated power play considerations. The ruling body, the Supreme Military Council, has, therefore, progressively been made redundant by the actions of a select few members charged with the day-to-day implementation of the SMC’s policies and decision.

The concept of collective leadership has been substituted by stubborn and ill-advised unilateral actions, thereby destroying the principles upon which the government came to power. Any effort made to advise the leadership, met with stubborn resistance and was viewed as a challenge to authority or disloyalty.

Thus, the scene was being set for systematic elimination of what, was termed oppositions. All the energies of the rulership were directed at this imaginary opposition rather than to effective leadership.

The result of this misdirected effort is now very evident in the country as a whole. The government has started to drift. The economy does not seem to be getting any better as we witness daily increased inflation.

The nation’s meagre resources are once again being wasted on unproductive ventures. Government has distanced itself from the people and the yearnings and aspirations of the people as constantly reflected in the media have been ignored.

This is because a few people have arrogated to themselves the right to make the decisions for the larger part of the ruling body. All these events have shown that the present composition of our country’s leadership cannot, therefore, justify its continued occupation of that position. Furthermore, the initial objectives and programmes of action which were meant to have been implemented since the ascension to power of the Buhari Administration in January 1984 have been betrayed and discarded. The present state of uncertainty and stagnation cannot be permitted to degenerate into suppression and retrogression.

We feel duty bound to use the resources and means at our disposal to restore hope in the minds of Nigerians and renew aspirations for a better future. We are no prophets of doom for our beloved country, Nigeria. We, therefore, count on everyone’s cooperation and assistance. I appeal to you, fellow countrymen, particularly my colleagues in arms to refrain from any act that will lead to unnecessary violence and bloodshed among us. Rest assured that our action is in the interest of the nation and the Armed Forces.

In order to enable a new order to be introduced, the following bodies are dissolved forthwith pending further announcements: (a) The Supreme Military Council (b) The Federal Executive Council (c) The National Council of States. All seaports and airports are closed, all borders remain closed.

Finally, a dusk to dawn curfew is hereby imposed in Lagos and all state capitals until further notice. All military commanders will ensure effective maintenance of law and order. Further announcements will be made in due course. God bless Nigeria…”

Buhari and his team had instantly fallen from grace to grass and slipped into oblivion. It would be the gracious and merciful hand of God before redemption finally came for Buhari, 30 years later. General Ibrahim Babangida immediately stepped in and quickly endeared himself to the people of Nigeria…

From 1985 to 2015, Buhari went into irrelevance and insignificance. But he quietly nursed the ambition of returning to power one day. He and his handlers were eventually smart enough to repackage him as the last saint standing, and the only man capable of returning sanity to Nigeria.

He realized this dream, eventually, in 2015, with huge adulation and great expectations. The rest is history. Except for his acolytes, the popular consensus is that Buhari has failed spectacularly, a second time for that matter. What a tragedy? It would have been better if he remained in our fantasies as the Messiah that never was, instead of coming back to haunt and disappoint us. A man who was once deified and worshipped is now completely demystified. And the end is nigh!

Really tragic!

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