General Buhari and “Defence of Democratic
Struggle" in the Past--Obasanjo/Atiku Campaign is Right: A Rejoinder to Muhammad
Professor Omo Omoruyi, mni
The frequent question being asked and discussed
is whether General Muhammadu Buhari has any faith in democracy? In the essay by
Muhammad Jameel Yusha'u of Bayero University, Kano in gamji.com, he took issue
with the statement in the Obasanjo/Atiku Campaign Organization that questioned
General Buhari’s contribution to the democratic struggle until he showed
interest in the nomination of the ANPP to contest the presidential election.
In the Obasanjo/Atiku Campaign advertisement published on Wednesday April 2,
2003 in the New Nigeria it was said:
Quote one statement General Muhammadu Buhari
made in “defence of democratic struggle” in Nigeria
before he declared interest in the presidency
and win 50,000 naira.
The operative phrase ought to have been
construed as “defence of democratic struggle”. That struggle would have been in
terms of activity or action that he took to further democracy and not speech
after democratic process has been restored in 2001. What the Obasanjo/Atiku
was asking would have been interpreted in two ways.
GENERAL BUHARI AS A MILITARY DICTATOR: NO
FAITH IN POLITICIANS
What did General Muhammadu Buhari have in
mind when he terminated the democratically elected government of President
Shagari and placed many Nigerian politicians in detention in December 1983?
Did he know that many politicians died as a result of his action? One would
also want to know what he did when he had opportunity to give to the Nigerian
people as a military Head of State a democratic order? Why did his colleagues
overthrow him? Why did his colleagues call him a dictator?
General Buhari never answered these questions
during this election other than to say he had no regret for what he did in the
past as the military Head of State.
GENERAL BUHARI UNDER GENERAL ABACHA: AIDED
As a retired General what did he do when
other retired Generals spoke out at critical periods when the rights of
Nigerians were violated with impunity? What did General Buhari do during the
period when Nigerians were denied their democratic rights in 1993 from the
annulment of June 12, 1993 Presidential election?
One would also want to know what General
Buhari did when General Abacha was sustaining the annulment of the June 12, 1993
presidential election? What did he do when General Abacha was scheming to make
himself the President for life through self-succession in 1998? Nigerians know
that he was one of the greatest beneficiaries of that regime. It is only in
Nigeria that a former Head of State should take a paid job from his former
junior officer. It is only in a military regime in Nigeria that that could
take place. There is no evidence that he ever made any speech on politics when
he was in the service of General Abacha.
BUHARI’S SPEECH IN 2001 NOT, A DEFENCE OF
I am surprised that Muhammad Jameel Yusha'u
decided to quote the statement credited to General Buhari on November 24,
2001. The period of the democratic struggle is not during the period from 1999
to 2003. The process was in place in 1999. Jameel Yusha'u is therefore wrong
and Obasanjo/Atiku Campaign advert is right.
He cited the speech Buhari made at Kaduna
under the auspices of the Centre for Democratic Research and Training, Mambayya
House, Bayero University, Kano. The title of Buhari’s speech was “Military
Class, Political Class and Good Governance in Nigeria” and the date of the
lecture was November 24, 2001. In that speech Buhari said as follows:
While it is true that over the years, the military
in its effort for transition to democracy, has done quite a lot of
political engineering and performed neck-breaking brinkmanship, it has left
the economy virtually untouched
by any major transformation.
He went on to name the various areas of
structural problems in the economy that the military ought to have addressed.
He then blamed the military for problems of the economy owing to the
“disproportionate stay in office” of the military. He then proffered a
solution to the Nigerian problems as follows with a question. “In
light of all these, what then is the way forward for Nigeria? He was
posing this question in November 2001 when the problem he was referring to was
in the past when he was in office. Read Buhari’s solution.
Without any hesitation, I will say the
answer to this question
is “Democratization” And perhaps we have no choice, because
when its time comes, democracy descends in unstoppable wave.
Muhammad Jameel Yusha'u then said “What a
defence of democratic struggle? Defence of democratic struggle! What kind!
Haba! How Yusha'u could call that a contribution to the defence of democratic
struggle beats my imagination? I feel ashamed that the Center I founded at
Kano as part of the Centre for Democratic Studies was associated with
half-baked analysis of he relationship between the perennial economic crisis and
There is no question that in the past when
Buhari had opportunity to put his stamp on the democratic transition he
failed. This period I am referring to was when he was the military head of
State, December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985.
BUHARI’S BELIEF IS THE QUESTION AND NOT
Jameel should know or ought to have known why
people are questioning of Buhari’s democratic credentials and beliefs.
Nigerians are still talking of the General Buhari, as a military Head of State
and what he did to destroy what Obasanjo left behind as also a military Head of
State. Nigerians are asking what he had in mind after he took over the elected
civilian government in December 1983.
One needs a believer in democracy to bring
about democracy. Buhari in the past before he became the candidate of the ANPP
was not a believer. Yes he dealt mercilessly with elected officials as common
criminals. What people failed to discuss up till now is the belief or attitude
of the General to democratic life. Did he believe in it? How can one embark
on the defence of democratic struggle if one does not believe in it?
FROM MY NOTES AS A
DEMOCRACY WATCHER IN 1983/1984
In reacting to the claim of Jameel Yusha'u
that he had found a quote from Buhari as an example of Buhari’s defence of
democratic struggle, I reached for my notes during his tenure as the military
Head of State. I happened to be a democracy watcher during his period as the
military Head of State.
I indicated elsewhere that after the coup of
December 31 1983, I went back to the University. I renounced partisan politics
and committed myself to the goal of reforming politics.
As a friend of General Babangida, the then
Chef of Army Staff during the period of Buhari, I was very interested in what
Buhari and his team were doing to reform politics since junta that overthrew the
elected government found it bad. As I used to tell General Babangida during my
visits to him in Lagos, it was not enough to put politicians in jail;
politicians wanted to know what the military junta was doing to reform
politics. This was my interest then and became my preoccupation when IBB took
over from him. General Buhari was an unmitigated disaster in the cause of
democracy. Yusha'u should not qualify for a kobo for the speech of Buhari that
OBASANJO/ATIKU CHALLENGE WAS ABOUT HIS RECORD
Muhammad Jameel Yusha'u, in searching for
“quote” of “one statement Buhari made in defence of democratic struggle”, I
could not find any. If any, there are quotations confirming the description of
Chief MCK Ajuluchukwu that Buhari was a tyrant before 1999 and a complete
opposite of General Obasanjo. Let me take readers through some of my notes.
THRUST JANUARY 1984
No mention of democratic transition in his
program, which he said was "to revive the
Nigerian economy by efficiently exploiting and harnessing all available human
and material resources in order to improve the quality of life of all
Buhari went on to name ten items in furtherance of
the above. None of these ten items had anything to do with democratic
transition program. It was in this context that the domestic and international
media started to ask him as soon as when it became apparent that Buhari was not
interested in democratic transition. It would appear that Buhari’s lack of
faith in politicians was what governed Abacha’s conduct later.
Nigerians and Muhammad Jameel Yusha'u should read
Moment of Truth: Collected Speeches (London, Federal Government
BUHARI SPEAKING TO THE WORLD WAS SILENT ON
General Buhari was asked a question at a World
Press Conference that he organized to tell the world and the Nigerian people the
cornerstone of his policy and in fact his belief on January 5, 1984, few days
after taking power. The news reporters knew Nigerians and their craze for
politics. For something about democratic transition not to be said in the
statement by the new military strongman, they thought something was missing.
After listening to General Buhari read his policy
statement, the newsmen noted a complete omission of the democratic transition
program. One of the newsmen had the courage to ask General Buhari the pointed
question, maybe wanted to know if it was an omission in his announced program
not to have said anything about a return of power to elected civilian
government. Listen to what Buhari had to say: "We haven’t discussed the
question of a return
to democracy in the SMC (i.e. the Supreme Military Council)."
Muhammad Jameel Yusha'u can check this out from
Daily Times of January 6, 1984.
General Buhari had another opportunity to say
something about democracy in another interview and his reply was negative.
Follow this dialogue:
Do you see the military as providing a relatively brief caretaker
administration or is the military
back to power for the foreseeable future?
Answer (Buhari): In the Supreme
we have not considered that question. I think the major problem we have
is how to revive the economy of the country, ensure discipline at home
and respect abroad.
After that, we will think of what to do next.
TO BUHARI, DEMOCRACY IS A WASTE OF TIME
In a banner headline in the
Financial Times of London, General Buhari was quoted as saying:
“We have no time to Waste”
What that meant was that he had no time for
what politicians do, meaning with politicians and democracy. Here is the
interview he granted the two journalists, Michael Holman and Patti Waldmeir from
Financial Times of London that led to the banner headline.
Question: So if one was looking
a little way ahead and envisaging a return to civilian rule, it
would be under the 1979 Constitution?
Answer (Buhari): No. What we will put
to Nigerians may be a different system, to which in the
first instance they will agree or not agree.
General Buhari did not say how that process would
be developed and what form the system would take. Most seriously was that
General Buhari did not say how long his economic miracle would take to
materialize. This was why the newsman asked him again,
Question: Do you have a timetable?
Answer (Buhari): No. What we are
trying to put across
is to make Nigerians understand how much
we are in trouble, economically.
Buhari has a low value in what politicians
do. This was why he defined the Nigerian problem as economic and called what
politicians do as “haggling and squabbles in the following answer:
If we can get that message across,
then Nigerians will be prepared to work hard
and allow the government to pull the country
out of the economic mess. After that, they can if they like resume
their haggling and squabbles.
He ended: "But for now we have no time
no time to waste, only time to work hard. We have to see it through.
Maybe I will call the attention of Nigerians
especially Muhammad Jameel Yusha'u to the report of the interview General Buhari
granted to the Financial Times can be found in or crosschecked from
Daily Times (Nigeria) of March 7, 1985. It is clear from the above
that General Buhari had no clear conception of what democrats do. He called
what democrats do “haggling and squabbles”, which to him is time wasting and
does not contribute to the resolution of the economic mess that the country was
Jameel, you failed the
test set by the Obasanjo/Atiku Campaign organization. It is obvious to them
and to Nigerians that General Muhammadu Buhari made negative contribution to
democratic struggles before he declared his intention to contest the highest
office in the land. You are therefore not entitled to the 50, 000 naira
earmarked for the person who could find the quote. There is none.
I am not saying that that
does not mean that General Buhari could not be one of the born-again democrats
that litter every corner of Nigeria.