Buhari Vs IBB: Finally the defining moment – By Louis Odion, FNGE

GMB

“…I
found out that some officers were spending money. I asked, ‘Where did they get
the money from?’ They said it was from the Military Intelligence fund… Later,
I learnt that General Aliyu Gusau who was in charge of intelligence took import
licence from the Ministry of Commerce, which was in charge of supplies, and
gave it to Alhaji Mai Deribe. It was worth N100,000, a lot of money then. When
I discovered this, I confronted them and took the case (to) the army council…
I said if I didn’t punish Aliyu Gusau, it will create a problem for us… So I
said General Aliyu Gusau had to go. He was the chief of intelligence. That was
why Babangida got some officers to remove me.”


With the
foregoing account, President Muhammadu Buhari has sensationally reopened a deep
wound the nation has nursed for the past 31 years. In disrobing the Daura-born
general in the palace coup of August 27, 1985, his failings listed by erstwhile
comrades included arrogance, inflexibility and emptiness.

Louis Odion


In the
December 2015 edition of The Interview magazine, General Ibrahim Babangida had
dismissed the notion that there was an ulterior motive other than the catalogue
of transgressions read by Brigadier Nimyel Dogonyaro in the dawn broadcast
announcing Buhari’s ouster.


Asked if
the coup was prompted by the fear of imminent censure by the Buhari
administration, Babangida stated: “Do not forget that I was one of
Buhari’s closest aides. I was the Chief of Army Staff. So I had an important
position, an important role to play within that administration. I don’t think
it had to do with a memo.”


But in
the conversation published in the current edition of wave-making The Interview,
not only did the president dismiss IBB’s theory as false, he laid bare the
acute moral bankruptcy of those who brought his reign as military head of state
to an abrupt end. According to him, the desperation of a few tainted generals
to evade justice, rather than national interest, inspired the regime change
then. And in what could perhaps be described the most pointed challenge in
recent history, he dared Babangida and Gusau to controvert him: “Let him
(General Babangida) repeat his own story. Aliyu Gusau is still alive.”

IBB


Buhari’s
revelation only adds to the existing and by far more salacious myth of Gloria
Okon often whispered in informal public chat. Back then, the media had reported
the arrest of one Ms. Gloria Okon while allegedly trying to smuggle hard drugs
out of the country at a time the no-nonsense Buhari regime had imposed capital
punishment on such. In fact, same law had already been invoked retroactively to
publicly execute some Nigerians for attempting to smuggle heroine.


So,
naturally, there were fears that Okon would be next on the death-row. Then, a
twist. The rest of the suspenseful drama is already meticulously captured in a
documentation by the nation’s leading legal historian and consistent human
rights crusader, Richard Akinnola. It turned out that the suspect was
reportedly only a courier for a powerful figure in the sitting military
administration.


Soon
afterward, the nation was told the suspect had suddenly dropped dead in
custody! But in reality, the real Gloria Okon was said to have been smuggled
out in a high-stake conspiracy while the corpse of someone’s else was presented
as hers. The then commander-in-chief smelt a rat and set up a panel to unravel
the mystery. It happened that before the panel could submit its report, power
had changed hands at Dodan Barracks! End of inquiry. A year or two later, the
real Okon was reportedly sighted at a high-society soirée in London, attended
by the glamorous spouse of a key figure in the government of the day!


Another
account, though unsubstantiated, states that it was the general who arranged
the escape from custody of the real Gloria Okon who later found himself
ironically being implicated in a subsequent coup plot and was eventually
executed alongside other convicted co-conspirators. A further twist was brought
to the narrative with the claim that it was in an attempt by a Lagos-based news
magazine to piece all these dark happenings together into a thriller cover-story
that eventuated in its chief editor being bombed to death one Sunday morning in
Lagos. This October marks the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination of
star journalist Dele Giwa.


While
circumstantial evidence may weigh heavily in public opinion, it is less
admissible in the court of law. So, for now, in the absence of cogent proof,
the Gloria Okon story will, at best, still be entertained as merely
speculative, if not entirely fictitious.


But with
Buhari’s weighty salvo in The Interview, IBB, undeniably a key player in the
nation’s political history in the past four decades, has undoubtedly now been
put on the spot, from where there seems no easy escape. Silence is sometimes
romanticized as golden. But not in the present circumstance. How the self-styled
military president explains the weighty charge may now effectively define his
place in history as either an unacknowledged saint or the ultimate patriarch of
grand larceny.

IBB and Abiola


Well,
there is no doubt about Buhari’s motive for revealing a dark secret. Time is
said to be the greatest healer. But it is obvious Buhari will carry the
bitterness of 1985 to his grave. Attempts by some do-gooders to reconcile them
over the years have only achieved cosmetic results. Deep down in Buhari’s heart
is the hurt from the pain of losing power and the trauma of his subsequent
ordeal in custody. For instance, when Buhari lost his mother, IBB refused to
allow him one last opportunity, even if on compassionate grounds, to see her
remains before burial. Just as another account says that the
“irreconcilable differences” that led to the collapse of his first
marriage to Safinatu arose from how she chose to comport herself around his
traducers while he was languishing in solitary detention in Benin.


Tellingly,
Sambo Dasuki currently at the centre of $15b arms fund scam was part of the
team that physically seized Buhari from his residence on August 27, 1985 and
would end up as one of the influential “IBB boys” who wielded
enormous power between 1985 and 1993.

Late Dele Giwa


But any
allusion to Buhari’s ancient malice will hardly provide any back-door for IBB
to escape scrutiny here. For at issue is the question of public morality. Could
it be possible that the nation was deceived and taken for a ride then with the
quest to protect the illicit transaction of a few greedy generals falsely
presented so seductively as a patriotic intervention to defend national
interest?


From
Buhari’s sketch of Gusau, the caricature that emerges is that of a buccaneer, a
profiteer ready to barter public trust away for material gain. It gets more
disturbing considering that he is easily regarded today as the most influential
player in the nation’s intelligence community in the last three decades during
which he was recycled as national security adviser by successive
administrations.


It is
open secret that the Zamfara-born general directed single-handed the drafting
of Olusegun Obasanjo by the military establishment to becoming the
president-elect in 1999 on PDP’s platform. Going by this damning testimonial of
his one-time boss, how are we now to believe the stated value deficit did not
also corrode all Gusau’s later engagements in public office? Worse still, here
is a man who could have ended up as elected civilian president in 2007 and 2011
having put up a strong bid in the PDP primaries.


Taken
together, in case IBB prefers to shy away from Buhari’s categorical claim that
graft was at the bottom of his overthrow in 1985, the Minna-born general risks
having his reputation further cemented in infamy as one who formally
inaugurated sleaze as the cornerstone of governance in the nation’s history. If
corruption has now morphed into a humongous industry today, some historians
have always identified the man fondly called Maradona as the one who provided
the seed capital decades ago.

Mamman Vatsa


Such
reading is based on empirical proofs. His rise in 1985 is seen as signposting
not just the shift in the character of national politics, but values as well.
As months rolled by, every thing the nation had held high was cheapened. No
measure was considered too extreme nor institution too sacred in the ensuing
orgy of contamination. Even in music, vulgarity became the new lyrics as
fast-tempo beat gradually displaced meditative sound of old that placed more
emphasis on philosophical messages.


In social
space, the culture of “settlement” supplanted the tradition of due
process. Ostentation replaced modesty.


In the
academia, violent cultism soon overshadowed the chivalrous exuberance of what
used to be known as student confraternity as might became valorized over right.
Outside, philistinism flourished as some palace intellectuals formed a cult
around the crafty general who seemed to prefer the ill-fitting apparel of a
philosopher-king. Just as the state clamped
  down on “undue radicals” in the varsity
classrooms intent on “teaching what they are not paid to teach.”


At a
personal level, IBB was quick at prefacing any commitment in the public with
the chant of “Insha Allah”, but his deed later often reflected a
willful betrayal of that solemn invocation. He was never in short supply of
great fanciful ideas. But lacking personal disciple, whatever he planted with
the right hand was soon subverted with the left as cronies were issued blank
cheques to plunder such undertakings.


By the
account of now late Pius Okigbo, foremost economist, a staggering $12.8b of the
1990/91 oil windfall could not be accounted for under IBB.


Where the
cultural damage inflicted on the nation is perhaps most deep and enduring is
politics. In a fevered bid to clone a new generation of actors in his own
grotesque image with little or no ethical grounding, the national landscape was
soon besieged by monstrous creatures. An affliction that has in turn haunted
the nation till date as it became fashionable to play politics without
principle, with parties seen merely as a make-shift vehicle to capture without
fidelity to any ideology.

Aliyu Gusau


As the
genetic re-engineering continued in Babangida’s derelict lab, the test-tube
babies that mutated were laughably christened “new-breed politicians”
to be engaged in what at the time became the longest-running transition
programme in modern history, guzzling estimated colossal N40b (when naira was
still strong) by the time it finally unravelled in the June 12 crisis of 1993.


Actors in
Babangida’s political roulette were banned, unbanned and re-banned in a manner
that defied logic nor accord respect to human dignity.


But, as
events later revealed, behind all the chicanery of eight years was Babangida’s
incestuous desire to parlay the entire transition programme to his own
coronation as civilian president. By the time he was forced to surrender power
in August 1993, Babangida left the nation in the cusp of chaos.


In
summary, IBB’s eight reign set the nation on a ruinous course from which she is
yet to recover. A cardinal sin for which he is yet to atone, let alone show any
remorse.

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