Thursday, February 23, 2017

President Buhari And The 20-Month Jinx

By Femi Fani Kayode

Permit me to begin this contribution with an interesting and historically accurate observation made by the Vanguard Newspaper on 3rd February 2015.  
They wrote: "Between 1983 and 1985, Peter Onu of Nigeria was Acting Secretary-General of the OAU. 
“At the 1985 Summit in Addis Ababa, statesmen like Julius Nyerere, President of Tanzania, lobbied for his election as substantive Secretary-General. 
“However, there was a major stumbling block to Peter Onu’s candidature: his Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, was campaigning against him. 
“Buhari claimed: ‘This generation of Nigerians and indeed future generations have no other country than Nigeria.’ 
“But when the crunch came, his allegiance to Nigeria disappeared. In the election of the OAU Secretary-General in 1985, Buhari voted against Nigeria and for Niger instead. 
“He secured the election of Ide Oumarou, a Fulani man from Niger; as opposed to an Igbo man from Nigeria
“By so doing, Buhari became the first and only Head of State in the history of modern international relations to vote against his country in favour of his tribe".
Graphically illustrated and succinctly put, that is the mindset of the quintessential General Muhammadu Buhari for you. Yet even in his triumphs and all his glory he has suffered immense pain and his challenges and travails are legion.
Consider the following. In 1983 he toppled the much-loved democratically-elected civilian President Shehu Shagari in a military coup and became Head of State.
He ruled with an iron fist for exactly 20 months (31st Dec 1983 - 27th August 1985) after which he himself was overthrown in another military coup led by his erstwhile and again much-loved Chief of Army Staff, General Ibrahim Babangida. Thereafter he was detained for three years in Benin City.
Exactly 30 years after he was removed from power in 2015 he was "elected" civilian President on the platform of the APC.
Once again he presided over the affairs of our country for another 20 months (29th May 2015 - 19th January 2017) until he was struck by an undisclosed yet strange and debilitating illness, fell gravely ill, was compelled to formally transmit his presidential powers to the Vice President, was rushed to the United Kingdom where, up until today, he has remained incommunicado and on "indefinite medical leave".

Since then the Nigerian people have not heard his voice or seen him other than being fed with regular diets of pictures of him receiving his close political associates who urge us on a daily basis that he is "hale and hearty" and "getting much better". Sounds familiar?
Let us go back a bit. The first time Buhari came to power he unleashed terror on the people in the name of fighting corruption and several innocent and decent men and women were herded into prisons and detention centres all over the country.
None of them were given fair trials and all were subjected to a level of humiliation and barbarity that had never been witnessed before in peacetime in our entire history.
Criminal laws were applied retroactively and people were executed and hanged based on the application of those laws.
Many were locked up, prosecuted and jailed simply for writing and speaking the truth as long as that truth embarrassed or exposed the wickedness or corruption of members of his Federal Military Government.
Many politicians, dissidents, writers, journalists, businessmen and human rights activists were locked up in inhuman conditions and underground dungeons and consequently fell chronically ill and most of them never recovered from the ordeal.
Many civilians were tried before military courts and, without any credible evidence, jailed for, in many cases, hundreds of years.
On the economic front a chronic recession was ushered into the affairs of our nation and people suffered hunger, poverty, deprivation and starvation.  
Thankfully 20 months later it all came crashing, he was removed from power and sanity was restored.
The second time he came to power he did precisely the same thing as the first only this time it was worse because he clothed his tyranny in the seeming legitimacy of civil rule and in a supposedly democratic setting where the rule of law, at least on paper, was meant to prevail.
Yet the modus operandi, intention, style and objectives were still the same: the decimation of all opposition forces by waging a bogus, vicious and selective so-called "anti-corruption war" which was fuelled and propelled by hate, spite, vindictiveness, pettiness, sensational media trials and the abuse of power and which resulted in the humiliation, denigration, persecution, demonisation, violation of human rights and incarceration of most of his critics and political opponents.
Again his actions and policies resulted in the premature death and destruction of innocent and helpless men and women in some cases and in the reckless and wholesale slaughter of defenceless civilians by his security forces in others.
Once again on the economic front, just as he had done thirty years earlier, he ushered in a period of unprecedented suffering, hunger, hardship, economic recession, poverty and starvation.
And yet again, 20 months later it all came crashing down, he was struck down by the arrow of affliction, he was forced to relinquish power and he was rushed to a London hospital for help and medical attention.
*Femi Fani-Kayode was Minister of Aviation in Nigeria

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