By Femi Aribisala
ON Friday, 23rd August, 1985, the military government of Major-General Mohammadu Buhari decided to place me under arrest. My crime was that I wrote, among others, an article entitled: “Counter-trading Nigeria’s Future” in the National Concord, exposing the government’s scam of diverting public funds into private coffers through barter-trade with Brazil. A man by the name of Benson Norman was sent from the State Security Services (SSS) to my office to get me. Not finding me, he left a note that I must present myself unfailingly at the SSS office at 15 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi Lagos the next Monday morning. However, on Sunday, 25th August, 1985, Lateef Aminu came first thing in the morning to my house to inform me that the government of Buhari/Idiagbon had been overthrown. For this reason, I am fond of telling people that God brought about a change of government in Nigeria just because of me.
Under the Buhari/Idiagbon regime, once you ended up at 15 Awolowo Road, you may never be heard of again. Decree Number 2 of 1984 empowered Tunde Idiagbon to arrest and detain anybody indefinitely without trial and without legal reprieve. After Buhari was overthrown, Mohammadu Gambo opened the prison doors of 15 Awolowo Road on public television, revealing people in various stages of undress and malnutrition that had been kept in the dungeons without trial by Buhari’s hound-dogs.
As self-imposed Head of State, Buhari had no regard for human rights. Immediately he seized power, he announced that he would “tamper with” the press. Soon, the infamous Decree Number 4 was promulgated which made even the publication of the truth a punishable offence. Under this cover, Buhari jailed innocent journalists, including Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabo. He abolished civil liberties, promulgated retroactive decrees enabling him to kill Nigerians through jungle justice, proscribed civil society organizations and professional groups and exercised “absolute” power.
This same Buhari would now have us believe that he has gone through some metamorphosis and has become a democrat. I am sure you will forgive me if people like me don’t believe him. Buhari is not, has never been, and will never be, a democrat. Only in Nigeria would a man with his track record, who came to power through a military coup that illegally overthrew a democratic government, now be acclaimed as a democrat. It is on record that Buhari’s military regime is the only one in Nigeria’s history that failed to promulgate a programme for return to civilian rule. Facts and fiction So what exactly qualifies Buhari as a democrat today? Precious little! There is nothing democratic about forming and joining political parties just in order to be the presidential candidate. Little wonder then that Buhari’s parties have a short shelf-life. Buhari wanted to be Nigeria’s head of state once again. He can no longer achieve this through the barrel of a gun. The only route now open to him is through the democratic process. That is the reason he now conveniently fashions himself as a democrat. It is merely a means to an end; no more, no less.
Buhari’s reputation as an anti-corruption crusader is also a myth. As head of state, he did not make any dent in Nigerian corruption. All we got was a cosmetic “war against indiscipline.”
The counter-trade scam happened under his watch. Rather than deal with it, he sent his hound-dogs after nonentities like me who dared to expose it. That scam was no different, in scope and scale, from the petroleum subsidy and other corruption scandals that have since plagued Nigeria.
The Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) that Buhari headed under Abacha was also a citadel of corruption. While Buhari himself might not have enriched himself, his cronies and those who worked under him did so handsomely.
OPINION EXPRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND NOT NECCESSARILY THOSE OF THE EDITORS AND PUBLISHERS OF PROCYON NEWS