Legacy of Pains

by Tunde Ali

“…lend me your ears, the evil that men do lives after them.
The good is oft interred in their bones” – William Shakespeare, “Julius

Shortly before the termination of the second Republic by the military junta headed by the duo of General Muhammad Buhari and late General Tunde Idiagbon on the eve of December 31 1983, the late elder statesman, leader of the Unity Party of Nigeria and its Presidential candidate -Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo sounded a warning of impending economic and socio political catastrophe on the nation; in his public letter that was addressed to the then elected president, Alhaj Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari.

In the said letter, the late sage wrote: “My dear Shehu, … the ship of our nation is sailing fast across a huge rock, and unless you as a leader courageously and swiftly take action to stop and redirect it to a safe shore, the result will be catastrophic, the magnitude of which has never been recorded in the annals of human history…” Papa aired his view as a concerned citizen of the Republic. But the National Party of Nigeria led government under Alhaj Shehu Shagari neither listened to the voice of reasoning nor ponder on the words of wisdom that was articulated by this illustrious son. Consequently, the “prophetic statement of Prophet Jeremiah” began to manifest. The socio-political and economic structures of the country ‘cracked’ and began to disintegrate.

Policies such as quota system and federal character were politically imbued to accommodate mediocrity and tolerate indolence. Politicians sort political office to benefit themselves as opposed to improve the lots of the electorates; the gap between the “haves” and the “have-not” became incrementally widen. Political insensitivity became apparent so much so that the National Chairman of the ruling party (NPN) late Chief Meredith Adisa Akinloye naively underscored Nigerians level of poverty, when he said “nobody is seen eating from the dustbin”. It was the same Chief Adisa Akinloye who first celebrated wealth in the country. He openly declared a party to celebrate his One billion Naira worth in 1982. Champaign drink was specially produced in France in his name to mark the occasion.

Thus by 1983 when the set of shameless individuals that held public office were booted out by the military juntas, corruption, inordinate ambition, intolerance of divergent political views especially from political opponents, deportation of legal citizen had already been established as a legacy of the inept regime of the first executive President – Shehu Shagari.

The bloodless military intervention headed by General Muhammad Buhari and late General Tunde Idiagbon gushed out the corrupt civilian regime and restored a new self styled corrective administration, at least in principle. Unfortunately, this well intentioned administration with his draconian tentacles was short lived. No thanks to General Ibrahim Babangida’s palace coup. However, before its demise, the regime had started sanitizing the political environment by holding the public office holder accountable for their stewardships. Those who were found guilty of abuse office were rewarded with long term prison goodies. The socio problem of drug trafficking was uncompromisingly confronted to a stand still. The peddling and baron Thomas that doubted the commitment of the administration on drug war paid randomly. War Against Indiscipline (WAI) was introduced to re-orientate the citizens on sense of decency, good behavior, patriotism and nationalism. National debts were being addressed. Buhari/Idiagbon stood shoulder-to-shoulder against the West and especially Ronald Regan government who wanted to use Nigeria as a drug dumping ground to raise funds to further facilitate the destabilization of Daniel Ortega’s government in Nicaragua as a result of his Marxist ideology. The regime refused to borrow money from IMF and the World Bank; they frowned at devaluing Naira currency. As the citizens were adjusting to a new socio-order that was meant to rebrand the collective psyche and create a stainless niche for the Republic, a martial music announced the success of another palace coup, and the reconstitution of the nation’s governing body under the new military president (first of its kind) – General Ibrahim Babangida.

Though Buhari/Idiagbon’s regime was short lived, it was regarded as one of the best military regimes the nation ever had. However, the regime bequeathed the nation a legacy of high handedness, suppression of Press freedom- Decree 2 and Decree 4, Manipulation and maneuvering of 22 brief cases filled with U.S dollars purportedly imported from Saudi-Arabia, etc.

General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida – the one and only maradona Military President and an unparalleled self acclaimed evil genius mounted the leadership. It need be said that IBB will possibly remain controversial until he come open and answer many posers that have been shot at him by different individuals, groups and organizations. His unwarranted silence is tantamount to hiding under the piles of smokes. Such behavior can only last a short while. Nigerians requests and deserves the truth while the general is above the soil. But if the general continues to delude himself in euphoria of invincibility, when he become old, and age impairs his cognition or possibly died; his lieutenants, associates or boys will posthumously unveil and answer the questions that the general had for a long time ignored about himself and his regime. Chief Duro Onabule – IBB’s Press Secretary’s revelation during his 70th birthday celebration will mark the beginning of many insiders outburst.

While in office as the Military President, IBB legitimized his regime with the abrogation of Buhari/Idiagbon’s unpopular Decree 2 and Decree 4. He undo everything that Buhari/Idiagbon did to achieve a better Nigeria. He initiated a promise to return the government to the civilians. He established Political Bureau to fashion out an acceptable and congruent political direction for the country. He created DFFRI for rural development and integration, and established MAMSER for economic reconstruction and social justice.

As the President continues to romanticize with the candor of office, he lost focus or possibly his true self began to manifest. The erstwhile abrogated Decree 2 was revisited in style. One investigative journalist who was reportedly having and about to publish some implicating information about IBB was killed through a letter bomb. The victim (Dele Giwa), before he opened the letter disclosed to Kayode Soyinka (with whom he was eating breakfast at the time of the incident) that the letter was from the president. This was the first time a parcel bomb was used as an instrument of death in Nigeria political landscape.

IBB wasted monumental natural and human resources in his failed promise to return the power to the civilians as promised at the inception of office. While the president and his chosen cohorts continue to enjoy the opulence of office, IBB obtained IMF loan, devalued the Naira, carved out Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) for the country. The SAP almost “sapped” lives out of the citizens; until the ‘prodigal’ raised his nose and pleaded with the regime to ensure that its SAP program have ‘human face’.

In 1991, IBB finally authorized the National Electoral Commission (NEC) under Prof Nwosu to conduct election. The election was described as free and fair even till this date. Unfortunately, the evil genius overcome by his satanic agenda overruled the peoples’ voice and choice. He nullified the election result. His reason was that the elected president late Chief MKO Abiola was not popular within the military brats. Another school of thought speculated that early disagreement between IBB and MKO on the whereabouts of ($13.1 billion) petroleum windfall which the country gained during the “operation desert storm” of 1990 was the basis of IBB’s revenge in nullifying t

he 1992 presidential election result. The money was said to have been kept in Simbiat Abiola’s (MKO’s wife) foreign bank account before she died.

By the time the evil genius was forced to step aside; he had become lousily corrupt and has successfully, entrenched the institution of corruption in the fabrics of Nigeria politics. Many progressives, outspoken individuals, and radicals were silenced with money and or positions. The likes of Comrade Uche Chukwumerije, Prof. Jerry Gana, Dr. Bala Usman etc had compromised their age long identity and mortgaged the trust of the masses. Professor Wole Soyinka who was sweet talked into serving in the regime finally noticed the administration’s double standard and gracefully bowed out of the Road Safety Corps. Dr. Tai Solarin was not that lucky, but the people knew who and what the “conscience of the nation personified”.

The interim regime of Earnest Shonekan was too short to make any significant impression short of maintaining the status quo. The calculation of IBB and his Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFRC) was to substitute the peoples mandate (MKO Abiola) with the Military’s choice (Earnest Shonekan), but the people stood their ground, confronted the injustice and insisted on their choice.

The Military government’s game plan created a tense political situation in the country. A brake down in laws and order almost ushered in a state of nature. This gave an opportunity to the military cabal – late General Sanni Abacha to strike. He disbanded the Interim National Government, and declared himself the new military Head of State.

Late General Sanni Abacha was reported to be highly respected in the Nigeria Armed Forces especially in the areas of coup planning. Unfortunately, it is on record that he was the only Head of State who did not pass his Psc examination (Pass Staff College, Jaji). There was no evidence that he had any higher education. He governed with instinct and relied mostly on the advice of sycophants. His regime implored naked use of force; it was repressive, brutish and nasty. General Abacha sat over a government that lacks direction and visionary blurred. His was an extension of a vigorously corrupt government of IBB.

On his watch, economy maintains its pathway to collapse, lives and properties were unsecured, opposition members who are willing to compromise were rewarded with money and political positions, for instance: Chief Ebenezer Babatope (Minister for Transportation), Alhaji Lateef Jakande (Minister for Housing), Abubakir Rimi (Minister for Communication), Dr. Olu Onagoruwa (Attorney General & Minister of Justice) etc, other opposition patriots who refused to compromise were threatened, harassed, intimidated and sometimes killed in cold blood.

Compatriots such as Pa Rilwane, Chief (Mrs) Suliat Adedeji, Mrs. Kudirat Abiola were murdered by the dastard regime. Chief Abraham Adesanya, Chief Alex Ibru among others were lucky survivors of the “terminator”. Chief MKO Abiola the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1992 election was detained indefinitely in prison for demanding and asserting his popular mandate. Corruption transitioned to an unimaginable height. National Treasury was looted with effortless ease, and the boots were safe in foreign bank accounts.

By the time nemesis caught up with the master terminator, Nigeria economy was already in shambles. The government has successfully instilled the culture of fear in the hearts of the citizens. Its function of protection had switched to witch-hunt. Life was almost worthless, as the critics of the regime were killed daily without justification. Such were the legacies of General Abacha to the extent that when he died the nation jubilated and hived a sigh of relief.

General Abdul Salami succeeded late Abacha. He had severally denied the desire to rule Nigeria, but at the call to duty, he stepped up with courage and accepted the mantle of leadership. He promised to return power to the civilians. He did not pursue any different agenda aside from maintaining the status quo of his predecessors. Poverty continues to spread across the board, National Treasury continues to suffer undue pilferage, Chief MKO Abiola was killed, security of lives and properties was at its lowest elb. But in 1999, General Abdul Salami unlike IBB, honored his promise and handed power over to a democratically elected government under the leadership of the erstwhile general and former head of States -Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

As a democratically elected president with executive power, Chief Obasanjo began to put structures in place. He attempted to address the inherited problems of previous administrations as well as protecting the interests of those who put him office. While IBB as a president doubled up as the Defense Minister (possibly to prevent coup), OBJ doubled up as a Petroleum Minister (possibly to bail himself out of insolvency). OBJ, in the tradition of his predecessors ran a pretentious government that openly condemned corruption but was neck-deep in same. He came into Aso-Rock out right broke, but by the end of his second term in office, the Balogun of Owu had amassed so much wealth that he did not only built houses on the real and reclaimed lands, he had also built estate of mansions on the rock in Abeokuta, Ogun State a replica of what IBB did in Minna, Niger State. I think with this edifice, OBJ had finally provided the evidence of his corruption which he challenged anybody to provide when he was confronted with corruption allegation during a BBC “Hard-talk” interview in London on March 20, 2009. Otherwise OBJ should explain to Nigerians whether he forgot to declare his Ibara-Estate in his Asset Declaration Form as mandated by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria before he declared his candidacy and contested for the office of the president in 1999.

President Obasanjo’s record of social justice was manifested by his government’s complicity to allow the suspected killer of Chief Bola Ige to contest Senatorial election while in incarceration. The suspected murder did not only win election, he became a chairman of one of the committees in the House of Senate.

As if that was not enough, Chief Obasanjo initiated a scheme to insult the integrity of Nigerians when he decided to extend his term of office, as opposed to the stipulation of the constitution. He was vehemently opposed by all well meaning Nigerians both home and abroad. Some of the people who confronted and challenged his inordinate drive suddenly became his enemy and were vilipend with the instrument of the state. Ironically, OBJ who repeatedly echoed being born-again to whoever want to listen at inception of office, gradually melted same into oblivion as he became more comfortable with the girth of office. One would have expected a born-again (not against) who was rescued from the shadow of the valley of death to initiate state policies that will address the injustice of man to man, and transition the masses from the region of dry land to the station of abundance. But once again, he screwed up and merely repeated the painful history of 1979.

The incumbent president Shehu Yar’Adua was reportedly lorded over the nation through a maneuvered election (selection). A conspiracy school of thought argued that OBJ imposed the sickly Ahmadu Bello University Chemistry lecturer on PDP. OBJ was said to have believed that the frail health teacher would not survive the hussy-pushy tension of the presidential campaign; and if the man (Yar’Adua) should die in the course, Baba Iyabo can justifiably re lunch his 3rd term bid and extend his stay in office. Alas his calculation was wrong and hypothesis faulty.

Two years in office, President Yar’Adua has no record of tangible social, political or economic achievement. His 7 Points Agenda was a failure. As he continues to shuttle between a community based Wiesebaden Hospital in Germany and King Fahd Hospital in Saudi Arabia searching for cure of whatever ailment h

e suffers, his associates and cronies continues to recklessly pilferage the state treasury with impunity. Little could one wonder then that Nigeria continues to suffer economic degradation and political insensitivity. Security of life and property receives no attention. The road and transportation system continues to deteriorate. Education standard continues to decline, Infestation of the nation’s tertiary institutions with gangs and gang related activities were alarming. The health system collapsed and the nations hospitals degenerated to mere consulting clinics, Police Department become a symbol of corruption, Power and electricity remains nightmare. Environmental pollution was monumentally increased, the dream and hope for a bright and promising tomorrow began to dim as never before.

With these prevailing circumstances, how much more can we as a nation, tolerate and allow the carelessness of our political leaders to stratify us as a wasted generations? How much more can we continue to pretend that all is well, when the people that are trusted with political authority continue to oppress and suppress our collective psyche? How much more can we as a nation remain complacent in our frustration and allow the instrument of terror (fear) to overtake our conscience and human dignity? How much further can we lack in the midst of plenty? In the 49 years of our collective travails as a nation, if pains, panic and poverty are all that our leaders can show as a proof of their leadership, then its time to vote them out en-mass. Its time to stop selling our votes but vote with our conscience and elect new and good intentioned individuals who would use the state resources to improve the welfare of the citizens.

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