By Afolabi Akinbola
Some were of the view that the what we saw as a whirlwind on 31st December 1983 sweeping away the inept Shehu Shagari government out of power was an aberration have been proven right after all. Nigerians thought they were witnessing the nadir of governance with inefficiency, lack of compassion and unconscionable looting of the national coffers by the political elites that constituted the Shagari gang; sadly, it was the beginning of a national decay and descent into the abyss. Ibrahim Babangida, a ubiquitous recurrence in this tragic tale gave ‘The News’ magazine an interview long after he fled the scene of his calamitous tenure where tellingly he said that Major General Muhammadu Buhari who was installed as Head of State on 31st December in place of the inept Shagari was in everything but name a mere figure head at the capricious whims of the then Supreme Military Council—the highest decision making body in the land.
A majority of the people saluted the military for its patriotism in getting rid of the corrupt NPN and its corrupt counterparts in the other parties. The late brigadier Bako the only casualty. With the benefit of hindsight, the real power was in the hands of the unsmiling and outraged brigadier of apolitical and dour visage: ‘Tunde Idiagbon. Discredited politicians were selectively jailed improbable terms of imprisonment; the capital punishment was given and sometimes carried out retroactively for drug pushing; ‘Andrew’ was prevailed upon at the airport not to ‘check’ out and leave a sinking ship; counter-trade was introduced to stave the importation of non-essential goods and an ‘essential goods’ facilitator and notorious wheeler-dealer was crated in his self-imposed self-exile and nearly flown to face swift military justice at home. Nigerians were compelled to forgo their unruly habits and made to queue in banking halls and bus stops.
A bottle of a champagne sample in the name of the NPN chieftain, Chief Meredith Akinloye to mark his birthday was on public display as a proof of the frivolity of the NPN. In all this and other populist gestures, Major-General Ibrahim Babangida, the chief of Army staff was bidding his time for a fatal own goal and national calamity.
On the 27th day of August 1985, a palace coup took place with the help of misguided subalterns and Buhari was eased out of power when Idiagbon was conveniently away in Mecca for the lesser hajj. A Saudi offer of exile for the No 2 man was rebuffed on the grounds that he had done nothing wrong at home. He returned and was promptly put in an indefinite detention. Babangida styled himself ‘President’ to fulfil his life ambition. He had the best man at his wedding executed for a pseudo-coup and assumed dictatorial powers. The Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) which replaced the SMC became a rubber stamp and corruption became a ‘directive principle of state’. It was his firm belief that every Nigerian has his or her price and he was prepared to ‘settle’ his compatriots.
His transition programme was insincere and ended in an annulment that left the nation on the precipice. His ultimate successor had been justly demonized for his atrocities. There could have been no Abacha without Babangida, and the latter could not have thrived without Buhari and a significant enabling environment for both to practilize their nefarious activities
After the reintroduction of ‘democracy’ in 1999, Obasanjo as usual reaped where he did not sow. His martyrdom under Abacha gave Nigerians the hope that he would have turned a new leaf in prison and right the wrongs that military rule had wrought. He proved to be a huge disappointment. Corruption thrived despite the selective efforts of the crime fighting agency—the EFCC. 16 billion Naira went down the drain in plunging the nation in perpetual darkness; the president and his vice were throwing brickbats in public on who is more corrupt! The roads were decrepit. An attempt to elongate his tenure was defeated by Nigerians and a threatened legislature despite a jamboree splurge of largesse to all those who could make this come to pass.
His designated successor was not physically fit for the high pressure demands of the office. He died in office despite the despicable efforts of the cabal surrounding the unfortunate Yar’Adua. Obasanjo’s scheming to elongate his power died with the man who was the junior brother of his deputy when he was fortuitously brought to power the first time around after the assassination of Muritala Mommamed in 1976. Goodluck Jonathan succeeded his late boss and power also went fortuitously to the south south to the chagrin and indignation of ‘holy’ north. He outsmarted them with a second term, but his tenure was at best tentative as he failed to forcefully assert himself. Corruption did not diminish during his tenure and the security situation worsened with the depredations of the Boko Haram mainly in the north-east. He fell out with his mentor and appeared clueless in all the ramifications and indices of governance. The people were desperate for a change at all costs. A friend texted me that a goat would win the 2015 presidential election as the people became fed up with sixteen years of brazen robbery by the ruling party and the all too willing connivance of elites of all parties.
The clamor for change was taken advantage of by the APC—a cobbling of parties with different ideologies. The sole aim was to get rid of the PDP. The PDP had grown complacent in their 16 years in power. The APC made vague promises which the people were willing to believe. Their flagbearer had been rigged out of the presidency thrice by the rigging machinery of the PDP and shenanigans of the Supreme Court. Now was their time. Most people believe that that there is a conjunction between the man and the times. Those old enough remembered the first coming of Buhari in 1984 and the draconian policies he espoused to rid the nation of perceived parasites. They were not privy to his relatively easy ouster by his chief of army staff and the few tears in the rank and file of the army for his deposition.
But there is no denying the fact that he enjoyed what was tantamount to a cult following in the north. Coupled with the undisputed political sagacity of Tinubu in the south-west, the election was over before it commenced. Fairweather politicians were absconding the PDP and there were notions of relocations if the party in power was unhorsed. Unconfirmed reports said that Jonatan had taken solace in the bottle and resigned himself and his seemingly doomed party to its fate.
That Jonathan conceded victory to the coalition was inevitable. Nigerians were at first worried that it took Buhari nearly six months to cobble a cabinet. The cabinet was to be charitable mediocre. Those who enabled the APC victory were amply rewarded with ministerial and other board appointments. But Buhari’s personae was apparent despite his perceived personal integrity. Security and other appointments which were the sole prerogatives of the Presidency were lop-sided and skewed in favour of the north, especially his home region. His seeming lack of realpolitik was signalized by Olusola Saraki who after defecting from the PDP to the APC defied his party to make himself the senate president with the help of the PDP and renegade elements in the APC; he succeeded in making Ikweremadu the deputy senate president as part of the noxious deal. More worrisome was the president’s health. He had to go to London for medical attention severally. His minders could not hide the fact that age was not on his side and the various gaffes he committed was clear proof of this.
Meanwhile, it was business as usual for the Boko Haram. The so-called cattle herders destroyed the source of livelihood of farmers in the country with impunity and there was an in—your face attempt to take over all the water resources via the so—called RUGA. This was an intolerable insult to the south. The increasing insecurity in the land lad to the formation of ‘Amotekun’ in the southwest. The insensitive policies of the administration led to the ‘unity’ of the southwest for the very first time in their history.
Enter the #EndSARS movement with the initial aim of putting an end to the frank stein extra-judicial body created by the federal government to fight criminalities plaguing the nation. The amorphous body was made up of youths who were the main victims of the inequities perpetrated by the anti-robbery squad with absolute impunity. All entreaties for the reform of the anti-robbery squad fell on deaf ears. The movement soon expanded its demands and exposed the existing fault lines in the nation which would be exploited by the federal government.
It spread like wildfire across the land because deep-lying and built-in injustices are being questioned. Sooner than later, the movement will be hijacked by natural and federal sponsored miscreants who will make a nullity of the ‘gains’ of the movement.
But there is no denying the uncomfortable fact the very reason for the existence of the nation has been questioned by youths and the denouement of their audacious critique is in the womb of time.
But things will never be the same again.
Mr. Akinbola, an historian and public affairs analyst, writes in from Ibadan, Oyo State. Telephone: +234 806 487 2142
You want to share a story with us? You want to advertise? You need publicity for a product, service, or event? Contact us on WhatsApp – +234 803 3018 881