Friday, 23 August 2013


This piece was published in a pamphlet that was very widely distributed under the title of BUHARI IN THE DOCK. It is being sent to you at the request of someone who had read it and supplied your address.
Tony Momoh
All of a sudden, Buhari is more in the dock about his past than at any other time since he opted for politics actively in 2002.  And so within two or three days, as if people saw fire on the mountain, a fire that must be extinguished, those whose views cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand came firing from the hip.  They had themselves discovered that if elections were held today, Buhari would sweep the polls.  So in fright and panic,  the President  says Gen Muhammadu Buhari, ANPP Presidential flag bearer for the 2007 Presidential elections, cannot overcome his military mindset. The same day, Wole Soyinka holds a world press conference documenting what he regards as the evils of Buhari in undermining civil rights during his tenure as military head of Nigeria from January 1984 to August, 1985.  Ebenezer Babatope had a day before regaled the media on how during Buhari’s regime, Papa Awolowo they all deserted during the time of Abacha had been ‘humiliated’ at his home by military men; and Eniola Bello of Thisday, a few days later, sweated in forcefully pushing the point in his column that Buhari is a Saul that cannot be a Paul.  Eniola’s advocacy for rejection of Buhari drew 46 reactions in which more than 90 per cent announced publicly that the bias so clearly shown in the write-up had won them over to the general.

For those who are not Christians, what Eniola was saying was that Buhari will remain Saul and will never change to Paul.  Saul  was a Pharisee Jew who victimized  Christians and was later forced by powers beyond his control to propagate Christianity and later became an apostle of Jesus, and worked as Paul.  So,  Eniola, Babatope, Soyinka and Obasanjo have suddenly discovered, five full years since Buhari has been stumping the political terrain, that this man is a piece of wood that will remain dry, a dictator who ruled with an iron fist under the military and will do the same under a democracy! Very deliberately ignored is the fact that the object of their sudden venom has a verifiable record of being a team player in every station of life he has rendered service.  Check it out  -- as director of transport and supply in the army; as GOC of three of the four divisions of the Nigeria Army; as Minister of Petroleum for three years; as governor of the north east, comprising six states; as head of state for 20 months; as chairman of the Petroleum task Force; as Presidential Candidate of the ANPP during the 2003 elections when he visited 34 of the 36 states of the country by road canvassing for votes from Nigerians.  And when INEC said he lost, he went to court and fought this legal battle for 30 months tp to the Supreme Court.  The legal literature emanating from that titanic battle is unequaled in the history of Nigeria.  What would anyone demand as proof of walking the democracy highway?

And to think that this shelling is coming from a part of the country that has championed uncompromising principles in making Nigeria a country where every federating unit can be proud to be part of a whole, a posture which made proponent Awolowo a Saul  from 1948 until he died in the late 80’s, that is if we must accept name-calling as one way people see things.  So Buhari should remain Saul  if  you are Saul and not Paul by being honest in what you believe in;  being intolerant of corruption and double dealing; showing public distaste for  cornering the wealth of the community for your benefit and the benefit of your family and friends;  pushing for laws that will protect your greed.. So if by being not Saul  you will join the crowd, who will hesitate to remain Saul?  

But the canons dropping from the West do not take off from that part of the country.  They are being directed from other quarters because those forces that decided that they should give Buhari an opportunity to make good his promise to push through the National Assembly a bill for restructuring this country so that we have viable federating units that would not be going to Abuja every month to beg for allocations that a president can, even if unconstitutionally, withhold,  are the genuine disciples of Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

This pocket booklet is the reproduction of the contribution on page 7 of the Daily Sun of Friday, January 26, 2007 by Chief Duro Onabule who for eight years was the chief press secretary of President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida  (1985 -1993). Duro  was one of the most fearless writers of the 70’s and the 80’s.  He was never reckless and that should be why today, many years after his active tenure as a journalist, his views are still very happily accommodated. For him, the proof of the pudding has always been and should always remain in the eating.

That proof is reflected in his “If General Obasanjo, why not General Buhari?”.  Happy reading.

February, 2007

If General Obasanjo, Why not General Buhari?

If I were the average Nigerian, (without being immodest) I would not be writing today in stout defence of General Muhammadu Buhari, former head of State, who is under seemingly well-co-ordinated criticisms for no other reason than exercising his constitutional and political right of seeking elective public office.  The major charge against General Buhari is that during his tenure, he violated human rights.

Well, I was a victim of that charge because I was detained more than ten times usually over week-ends from Friday till Monday or Tuesday.  My longest detention was for a fortnight for criticisms in my column in the defunct National Concord or for critical editorials of the paper which mostly I did not even write but had to take the responsibility as the editor.  My experiences in detention at Awolowo Road NSO camp were traumatic and yet educative enough that General Buhari (or anybody in is position) could never know or approve what was being done in the name of government.  So I never held it against General Buhari.

Military rule anywhere in the world is an emergency which is not a tea party.  Even in a democratic set up and in a supposed civilized society, human rights are suspended to deal with a prevailing unusual situation.  Just two examples.  Following the declaration of emergency in the defunct western region, the administrator, Dr. Koye Majekodunmi, clamped the star performers led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief S.L. Akintola into detention disguised a restriction.  Also, rather than tolerate anarchy, the British government sent the feuding Irish (either as insurgents or belligerents) into long detention without trial and dignified the apparent violation of human rights as internment, a policy which operated for many years.

Then, there was this incident which should now be judged on its merit.  As the story went, in the build-up to December 1983 military coup, a certain Major Bamidele picked up the information and as a loyal officer, promptly reported to his General Officer Commanding (GOC) Third Division, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, who, as a precautionary measure, sent the poor officer (Bamidele) into guard room.  When the coup eventually took place, General Buhari emerged head of State.

It was a renewed era of retirement/dismissals in the armed forces and public service.  Among those listed for retirement if not dismissal was the same Major Bamidele obviously because of the “stain” of detention on his service record without knowing or bothering to know the origin of that stain.  But General Buhari owned up as the cause of Major Bamidele’s problem or at least that was the implication of General Buhari’s gesture in deleting the officer’s name from those to be removed from the army.  Such courageous and humane gesture could not have come from a devil General Buhari as he is now being wrongly portrayed to be.

When therefore I met President Ibrahim Babangida at Dodan Barracks on September 9, 1985 at his request with the offer of being his Chief Press Secretary, one of my suggestions to IBB on the spot was that nothing should happen to Generals Buhari and (the late) Tunde Idiagbon, an assurance which I obtained.

Then, eight years ago, the same charges currently being levelled against General Buhari were similarly levelled against General Olusegun Obasanjo in a desperate attempt to frustrate his Constitutional right of aspiring to the leadership of this country.  But I almost all alone (on the of National Concord) defended Obasanjo.  I never foresaw that General Buhari would ever face the same fire.  By the way, the very same people who fiercely opposed Obasanjo eight years ago are the choir boys around him today.

Hence, close examination of the charges against General Buhari will show that the man simply took a cue from his military Commanders-in-Chief and civilian prime minister.  One of such Commanders-in-Chief was General Obasanjo and if despite such charges the same Obasanjo exercised his right under the constitution to contest Presidential elections in 1999, why should General Buhari not exercise the same constitutional right to aspire to the presidency?

By the way, we should stop deceiving ourselves with this “chief” title when addressing President Obasanjo.  A military general should be proud of his professional career.  Hence there were General Eisenhower (American), General De Gaulle (French), General Juan Peron (Argentinian), General Moshe Dayan (Israel), General Sharon (also Israel) etc.  We are therefore discussing Nigerian military generals who preceded General Buhari as Nigerian leaders.

General Buhari’s strength (some would call it weakness) is his bluntness, which of all people, South West politicians should even appreciate compared to the trap, if not betrayal, which earned them (South West politicians) the political massacre of 2003.  Buhari said he would tamper with the press.  We (journalists) therefore knew the risk we were taking.  Hence I was detained many times, while Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor were jailed with a retroactive law.  But did Buhari or the army introduce retroactive legislation into governance in Nigeria or was Buhari the first head of State to tamper with the press?

May the late prime minister Tafawa Balewa continue to rest in peace.  The Federal Government in 1964 hurriedly amended the newspaper law stipulating six months jail for publishing “rumour” even if true, a desperate measure to curb the guts of the media especially in view of the prolonged tension generated by the 1962 political crisis in the Action Group/West regional government.  For writing “Even a minister grumbles,” (a piece against corruption), the editor of the defunct Sunday Express, the late Dapo Fatogun, was jailed for six months. Later, the editor of the Nigerian Tribune, the late Ayo Ojewunmi, was also jailed for six months.

After the army struck in January 1966, General Aguiyi Ironsi clamped the editor of defunct DRM magazine, the late Nelson Ottah, into detention quite rightly for publishing a cartoon which further injured the feelings of a section of the country on the fatal casualties of the January 1966 unsuccessful mutiny.  Neither General Ironsi nor his Successor General Yakubu Gowon threatened to tamper with the press.  But Gowon’s regime stopped publication of the Daily Times group for ten days and clamped Alhaji Babatunde Jose, Chairman/Managing Director, Henry Odukomaya, editor of Daily and some others into detention without trial.  Their offence?  Imminent publication of the autopsy report on the unsolved murder of the Chief Medical Adviser, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr, Ademola, younger brother of Nigeria’s then Chief Justice Adetokunbo Ademola.

Dr. Ademola’s mysterious murder at his Ikoyi residence was (as usual in Nigeria) linked to the impending medical report of the cause of the death in a helicopter crash, of the then Chief of Air Staff, Colonel Alao.

Within his short tenure of six months, the late General Murtala Mohammed also got University lecturer, the late George Ohombamu arraigned in a Lagos court for false publication of his (Murtala Mohammed’s) alleged personal assets.  Then General Obasanjo, as military ruler tampered with the publication of NEWBREED magazine.

If all these happened under General Buhari’s former Commanders-in-chief and did not count against General Obasanjo’s return to public office, why should Buhari be singled out for unfair demolition exercise?  What is more, the situation was not different under Buhari’s military and (supposedly) civilian successors.

President Babangida’s regime proscribed Newswatch magazine, closed down the Concord and Punch newspapers. General Abacha’s administration had the distinction of opening and closing the same Concord newspapers.  President Obasanjo’s civilian regime should therefore have had a better record rather than laughably querying General Buhari’s claim to democracy.  Otherwise why was AIT transmission house shut down?  Was the station of Freedom Radio in Kano not closed down? Only lately too were journalists at two Abuja-based publications harassed by security operatives.

It was of course wrong of the Buhari administration to have detained ex-President Shehu Shagari in a house while Vic President Alex Ekwueme was detained at Kirikiri Prison both in Lagos.  For the critics, the insinuation of ethnic favour is there.  We must therefore cite a similar situation.  Four Nigerians were standing trial purportedly for treason.  Since then, two – Dr. Faseun and Gani Adams – from President Obasanjo’s South west have regained their freedom or at least, been released on bail?

Why have the remaining two – Alhaji Asari Dokubo and MASSOB leader Uwazurike – from eastern part of the country not regained their freedom or been released on bail?  If there is any evidence implicating these two, what is holding up their trial?  Nobody should be deceived that in Nigeria, bail for such high profile cases could ever be granted without the knowledge and indeed the approval of the Presidency.

It was also wrong of General Buhari to have suspended two traditional rulers, Emir Ado Bayero of Kano and Oba Sijuwade of Ile-ife.  What has that got to do with Buhari’s current aspiration to the Presidency?  If anything, ordinary suspension of these two traditional rulers should in fact earn General Buhari commendation compared to the humiliation to which civilian leaders and military rulers before and after General Buhari subjected traditional rulers.  Better put, which is milder, suspension or outright deposition?  Now, holding such a charge against General Buhari wrongly created the impression that he was the first and only leader to have committed what is no more than a cultural deviance.

No such charge was made against Papa Awo in 1979 and 1983 to query his suitability to contest presidential elections?  That was notwithstanding the fact that the old man’s administration in the defunct western region was the first to depose a traditional ruler Oba Adeyemi (father of the present Alaafin of Oyo) in 1954, followed in 1958 with the deposition of Olota of Ota.  Northern Premier, the late Ahmadu Bellow followed suit by deposing Sir Mohammadu Sanusi as Emir of Kano in 1957.  Premier Dennis Osadebay of the then newly-created Mid-west region deposed the reigning Oba Erejuwa, Olu of Warri in 1964.

The army was less than a year in ruling Nigeria when the second military governor of the ten western region, Colonel (as he then was) Robert Adebayo deposed Olowo of Owo, Oba Olateru Olagbegi.  That was under the regime of General Gowon.

Return of civilian rule in 1979 was to resume the humiliation of traditional rulers for political purposes, without realizing that the new Constitution not only was supreme but also instantly nullified any other law, State or Federal, which conflicted with the provisions of the Constitution.  The most notable was the Chiefs’ Law Cap.23 which devolved on the component South Western States from the old western region.  Hence, in 1981, the late Bisi Onabanjo, as Ogun State governor, purported to have deposed the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona under the invalid Chiefs’ Law.  Oba Adetona won the epic long drawn legal war to remain on the throne.

In 1982, the then civilian governor of Kano State, Abubakar Rimi, issued a query to the same Emir Ado Bayero of Kano which the latter’s loyal subjects considered an affront to warrant state-wide violent revolt with heavy causalities among whom was one of the governor’s key political advisers.

Intermittent return of military and civilian administrations did not change the situation.  Under General Buhari’s regime, two traditional rulers mentioned earlier were suspended for six months each.  But under the IBB regime, the then military governor of the then Gongola State, the late Colonel Yohanna Madaki deposed the Emir of Muri, gloating in the process that he (the governor) had dealt a heavy blow to feudalism (his exact words).

General Sani Abacha never saw eye to eye with Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki of Sokoto, an opportunity which the then Sokoto State military governor, Brigadier-General Muazu seized to depose the monarch.

The present Obasanjo regime has also recorded its stain in humiliating traditional rulers with the deposition of Emir Mustapha Jokolo of Gwandu by Governor Aliero of Kebbi State.

With all these, how justifiable is it to cite General Buhari as being unsuitable for the Presidency, merely for suspending rather than deposing traditional rulers.

Backdating any law is most unfair especially when such decision involves taking lives.  Therefore, on the surface, the charge against General Buhari on the 1984 Drugs Offences Decree may appear to hold.  But it depends on the circumstances.  In truth, the man who committed the offence before the decree came into force, that is when the offence did not carry death penalty, should have been sentenced to jail term, a position which I took in this column (then) in the National Concord.

However, those who committed the drugs offence after the Decree carrying death sentence came into force deserve no sympathy.  In Cuba, for example, drugs offence carries death penalty.  When therefore the country’s erstwhile defence minister, General Ochoa, a fellow revolutionary was involved in drug trafficking, President Castro carried out the death sentence and replaced him with his (Castro’s) younger brother, who will most likely be the new Cuban President should Castro leave the scene.

What is more, retroactive legislation was not started by General Buhari nor by the army.  Backdating of laws is as old as the first republic especially the old western region with the Chiefs’ Law to stabilize the Olubadan Succession tussle between the government’s preferred candidate and his rival supported by the late Adegoke Adelabu, then uncrowned King of Ibadan politics.

Adegoke Adelabu grabbed the initiative by installing his candidate.  Chief Awolowo’s government was seemingly helpless amidst imminent anarchy and the determination to install the government candidate.  The answer was a Chiefs’ Law making it a criminal offence punishable by long term imprisonment for anybody to install a traditional ruler except a candidate approved by the government, or for anybody to allow himself to be installed a traditional ruler without government’s approval.  The law was backdated to compel both Adelabu and his candidate to give up the battle.

So, it depends on the circumstances.  In that case, for peace and good governance in the land, the government of western region had to act.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be a dangerous precedent as the Action Group had to taste the bitter pill in 1963.  At the end of emergency rule in western region in December 1962, Tafawa Balewa’s Federal Government restored the Akintola regime in the west.  This was hotly disputed by his rival, Alhaji D.S. Adegbenro who headed for the law courts in what turned out to be a vain demand that emergency rule should be followed by general elections.

From the High Court to the Supreme Court in Lagos, Adegbenro lost the battle.  He then appealed to the Privy Council in London which ruled in his favour that the end of emergency rule should be followed by general elections.

In reaction, Tafawa Balewa in 1963 as prime minister, rushed through Parliament an amendment to Nigeria’s Constitution abolished appeals to the Privy Council in London, and backdated the amendment to October 1, 1960.  That nullified Adegbenro’s victory and kept Chief Akintola in power.

Again, circumstances determine some retroactive legislation. In February 1976, there was no treason offences decree but following the failure of the Dimka coup and the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed, General Obasanjo had to promulgate a decree with death sentence for the offence and backdated it.

Those now attempting to crucify General Buhari should go through Allison Ayida’s response to General Obasanjo’s memoirs, NOT MY WILL.  IIn that response, the then Secretary to Federal Government narrated how the verdict of the 1976 coup plotters, not only deadlocked members of the Supreme Military Council but how somebody’s casting vote most unfairly insisted on the execution of an innocent officer, Colonel Waya.

This shows that in moments of emergency, mistakes are human.  To now single out General Buhari for such a mistake is to fault one and gloss over the other.

Even under President Obasanjo’s regime, there were clear-out, cases arising from retroactive legislation.  And this is despite the fact that secion 4(9) of the 1999 Constitution completely renders any law with retroactive effect null and void.  Specifically, the EFCC came into force in 2004 but the same agency has been harassing Nigerians (General Mohammed Marwa, Mohammed Babangida and Mike Adenuga) for offences suspected to have been committed in 2002 or earlier.

Today, some Nigerians are conveniently accusing General Buhari of violating rights of politicians in detaining them after the December 1983 coup.  Were they not these same Nigerians who blamed IBB for releasing allegedly corrupt politicians from detention?

General Buhari is being criticized for not attending meetings of National Council of States.  General Obasanjo returned to public life twenty years after leaving office as a military ruler.  Between 1979 and 1999, how many of such meetings of National Council of States did he attend under President Shehu Shagari, General Buhari, General Babangida and General Abacha?  And was Obasanjo’s irregular attendance of Council of States meetings cited against him to stop him from contesting elections in 1999?

Membership of National Council of States is not only voluntary but also purely advisory.  And when on one occasion, General Buhari attended a meeting of the National Council of States, it turned out that the gathering was a trap to undermine adherents of Muslim religion (especially in the north) in their demand for Sharia Law.  While even from the minutes of the said National Council of States meeting attended by Buhari, published by Secretary to the government Ufot Ekaette, (a Christian) it was clear that Sharia issue was never discussed, Federal Government’s stand on such a concurrent issue as religion was only announced.

General Buhari therefore had to dissociate himself from a decision purportedly to suspend the Sharia Law.  In the Muslim north, Sharia is an article of faith and that does not necessarily make General Buhari a Muslim fundamentalist as being maliciously portrayed.  General Obasanjo regularly amends retreats of Redeemed Christian Church of God and born again groups.  Indeed, Obasanjo publicly canvassed for donations totaling at least six billion naira for the completion of the Christian Ecumenical Centre in Abuja.  Government parastatals like NDDC donated scores if not hundreds of millions of naira.  Does that necessarily make General Obasanjo a Christian fundamentalist?

Or was that cited against him for 2003 elections?  Did General Buhari or any northern Nigeria ex-head of state collect donations for the construction of the national mosque in Abuja?

General Buhari had legal and logical reasons not to collect his national honours when offered by President Obasanjo.  It was a trap set for Buhari who was alert not to fall into such trap.  Here was a man challenging in the law courts the purported but universally acknowledged rigged re-election of President Obasanjo.  For the same man to turn round and collect such apparent Greek gift while the case was still in court would have meant recognition of Obasanjo’s re-election.

Why then would the same General Buhari continue the election petition?  Neither was it Buhari’s fault that the archaic and lazy Nigerian judicial system took more than two and half years to determine an election petition.

A most appropriate analogy is for anybody, criticizing the daylight brazen robbery of choice Nigerian national assets into a gangster group called TRANSCORP, to turn round and buy the shares being baited for Nigerians at home and abroad.  There are still Nigerians with principle.

Military officers never know anything about retroactive laws but civilian lawyers/drafts men showed them (soldiers) the light.

What is wrong with General Buhari for turning round now to embrace the vibrancy of Nigerian Press?  If anything it shows the sincerity, courage and gratitude of such a man who initially probably misunderstand the role of “Lagos-Ibadan press axis.”  But after exposing the widespread rigging of the 2003 presidential elections which enabled him (Buhari) to challenge the legality of the election, he could not hold back his appreciation.

General Buhari most probably could also not believe the “nuclear bomb” employed by the media to destroy the treasonable tenure elongation of the Obasanjo regime.  If General Buhari now senses such patriotism and nationalism as against the erstwhile malicious label of ethnic axis tagged on the same Nigerian press, it is only fair to reciprocate his (General Buhari’s) guts in publicly purging himself.

Finally, there is this political advice especially for south westerners in Action Congress.  They are on the same old path of not making any allowance for any realignment which events may suddenly dictate.  In 1959, Nnamdi Azikiwe was the main target.  In the end, he was offered prime ministership to block Tafawa Balewa from reaping his electoral victory.  Zik, a statesman, rejected the offer.

Again in 1979, the same Zik was the target and by the time Shehu Shagari’s NPN won the senatorial elections, Zik was also baited with an emergency alliance proposal.  It also did not work out.

It can only be hoped that history will not repeat itself.

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