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Thursday, 24 October 2013


Buhari’s overthrow is one of the most dramatic in the history of Nigeria. He was eased out by the same set of officers who propped him into power (a historical parallel with Gowon). The ring leaders of the coup that toppled Buhari included the dudes you know. General Ibrahim Babangida (also known as the Phoenix, Maradona and of course, the Evil Genius) and his brother-in-mischief, the late General Sani Abacha (also known as the Khalifa or the Successor). The two had paranoid fear of Buhari and Idiagbon and the rumour mill has it (I hope one day the government will declassify certain documents so we get to know more) that both generals had been implicated in some scandals. IBB on his own, was linked to some drug trafficking and IMF-related loan plundering, and as a general in Buhari/Idiagbon’s regime, if you are found guilty of these charges, your own don set be that -summary dismissal from the army plus maybe 700 years imprisonment…lol! If you are lucky enough not to have faced the firing squad.

According to the analysis done by Naiwu Osahon, IBB and his clique had to get Buhari and his rigid boys out of the way. They had to shift back their planned day of the coup to August 1985 when news started filtering out that they IBB and co were already pencilled for retirement. They would wait for an inauspicious moment and grab Buhari by the jugular. On the 27th of August 1985, millions of Muslim faithfuls in Nigeria were celebrating the Odun Ileya (Eid el Kabir) and the stern Idiagbon was safely away in Saudi Arabia on Lesser Pilgrimage (Umrah). There was a public holiday and the national mood was festive. No one expected IBB and his boys, or anyone for that matter to stage an ouster at such a period. They were wrong. Instead of IBB to be enjoying fried agbo (mutton) with his beautiful wife and kids at home, he summoned his boys at their various formations all over the country -it was time to make history.

David Bonaventure Mark, now the third most powerful man in the nation by virtue of his office as the Senate President of the Federal Republic was the military governor of IBB’s Niger State at that time and he provided enough cover for IBB during the coup plotting. As the army chief, IBB would visit Niger State on ‘routine inspection tours’, and later, he and other generals would meet clandestinely to hatch their plot on how to remove Buhari. Osahon would also state that IBB and co planned the coup that brought IBB in so as to destroy the evidence of the NNPC’s $2.8 billion that suddenly developed wings and transformed into a peregrine falcon (and punish the whistleblowers). At a point, when Buhari hinted at stepping down and Idiagbon insisted he would take over, IBB disagreed saying the throne was his, citing experience in plotting coups amongst other things. The SMC was divided. To worsen matters, when IBB proposed that Haliru Akilu, just returning from a course from India be made the new head of the Secret Service, Idiagbon spurned his proposal and even went ahead to select a new head for the agency without consulting IBB, who was the Chief of Army Staff. The stage was set for a showdown.

Then the Gloria Okon issue came up, she was arrested at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport with cocaine, and upon being interrogated, she pointed at two top-ranking members of the SMC. Trouble was brewing. While that was on, the late Chief MKO Abiola imported a massive consignment of newsprint (a contraband) into the nation, and Idiagbon had no option but to impound the newsprint worth millions. Again, the Buhari/Idiagbon regime had just made another very powerful enemy (some reports indicate that MKO dropped millions of dollars to fund the Buhari overthrow). As if the turn of events was not bad enough, one Ikuomola was caught while attempting to fly out with a huge batch of cocaine. He was interrogated and in the process, implicated one of the Dantatas, one of Nigeria’s most influential families. Both of them were sentenced to death. Immense pressure was then put upon the SMC by the Dantatas that the sentence be commuted to at least a life sentence.

As you might have expected, the two high-ranking officials of the SMC implicated in the Gloria Okon saga sympathized with the Dantatas. But Buhari and Idiagbon would hear none of that. Idiagbon queried that if the poor could be sentenced to death for drug trafficking, why should the wealthy and affluent be spared? The enemy camp of Buhari/Idiagbon swelled by the day and it got so bad that the SMC was a point completely divided into two camps and Idiagbon had to impose a compulsory leave on IBB, who was also placed under close surveillance. But never underestimate a man with the ways of the wily fox. IBB would later remove the rug under their feet, despite all the close surveillance and wiretapping.

Later on, the King of Saudi Arabia, Fahd ibn Abdulaziz ibn Al Saud would invite Idiagbon as a Special Guest (MKO, Shehu Yar’adua and the Dantatas were said to have arranged the whole thing using their immense influence to convince King Saud to invite Idiagbon, hope you get the whole plan? IBB baited MKO with the promise of his contesting for the presidency in a little while) to the Kingdom. Idiagbon, a man of integrity, was deeply honoured by the invitation, and he would leave for the KSA with a team of his supporters in the SMC, and that included the late soldier-poet, Major General Mamman Jiya Vatsa. With Idiagbon out of the country on Umrah, with his supporters, the coast was clear for the gap-toothed General IBB. It was time to strike. And they struck.

It was the evening of the 26th of August, 1985, a Monday, and the Head of State Buhari had some four interesting visitors. These were Majors Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (Harvard graduate and former ADC to General Hassan Usman Katsina, former governor of the Northern Region and Chief of Army Staff), Lawan Gwadabe, Sambo Dasuki (son of the deposed Sultan of Sokoto, Ibrahim Dasuki and now the National Security Adviser to President Jonathan) and Abdulmumuni Aminu. The five of them watched the nightly news together and after that, they brought out their guns and placed General Buhari under arrest. The next day, 6am, Brigadier Joshua Dogonyaro went on air to list all the evils of the Buhari regime but he did not state that he had been overthrown. It was Abacha who would later do that -in a cold voice.
Later, the putschists would celebrate their success and later met at Bonny Camp on how they would go about selecting a new leader. The meeting was a very colourful one as all the guests arrived in their full combat attire, kitted from head to toe. You can guess those present:

- General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida
Major-General Sani Abacha
Brigadier-General Joshua Dogonyaro
Brigadier-General Aliyu Mohammed (Head of the Military Intelligence)
Navy Commodore Murtala Hamman-Yero Nyako (now Governor of Adamawa State, former Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) and owner of one of the largest dairy and mango farms in Nigeria)
Lt. Col. Tanko Ayuba (Commander, Nigerian Army Signal Corps)
- Lt. Col. Ahmed Abdullahi (Communications Minister)
Lt. Col John Nanzip Shagaya (Commander, 9th Mechanized Brigade, Ikeja, Lagos, later Senator representing Plateau North Senatorial District)
Major Abubakar Umar (Administrator, Federal Housing Authority)
Lt. Col. Anthony Ukpo
NB: Other IBB ‘boys’ included Mohammed Buba Marwa, Chris Garuba, Lawan Gwadabe, Joshua Madaki, John Mark Inienger, Tunde Ogbeha and Ndong Essiet Nkanga. IBB had taught them as an instructor back in the Nigerian Defence Academy or was their superior when he was in charge of the armoured tanks.

Idiagbon, far away in the desert kingdom of Arabia was livid with rage. Against all advice (not even an offer of a lifetime retirement in a posh mansion in the oil-rich nation could convince the Kwara General to stay back), he thanked his hosts and headed back to Nigeria where he was hailed as a hero and courageous soldier. But trust the IBB clique, Idiagbon was immediately arrested at the airport and put under house arrest. Vatsa, who was part of the Idiagbon team to Saudi Arabia came back to meet his friend and old classmate as the new Head of State. Vatsa pledged his loyalty to the new government then tendered his resignation. IBB rejected his resignation and appointed Vatsa the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory. You know the rest of the story.


Immediately after IBB overthrew his chief, he knew the danger of letting him loose or walk around freely. So, without wasting time, IBB’s boys surrounded Dodan Barracks, arrested Buhari and flung him into jail (his personal property was looted), promptly locking him up the very same day he deposed him. His ADC, Jokolo, whom he had sent to the Ikeja Cantonment to act as a sentry got the beating of his life. From the 27th of August, 1985 till the 14th of December, 1988, Buhari would languish in jail in Benin City, Edo State. His marriage would not survive his 40 months of incarceration.

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