24.04.2015 Feature Article

General Muhammadu Buhari’s Shadow Over Ghana

General Muhammadu Buharis Shadow Over Ghana
24.04.2015 LISTEN

'If you choose correct leadership, there won’t be any need for the military regime. The military came in when it was absolutely necessary and the elected people had failed the country.”

— General Muhammadu Buhari, October 2005.

The history of Ghana and Nigeria are intertwined in many respects. There are many similarities and many differences between the histories of these two nation states. Way back in January 1966, when the Armed Forces in Nigeria staged a coup d'etat to overthrow the civilian regime in that country, Ghana's president of old, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, made an uncomplimentary remarks against the overthrow of Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakr Tafewa Balewa.

A few weeks after, to be precise in February 1966, the military in Ghana also overthrew Dr. Kwame Nkrumah from office. Thereafter a series of military coup d'états became the norm in the two countries. One major difference was that while coups in Nigeria had always been staged by the top military brass, in Ghana the coup makers had always been either middle ranked or junior officers.

One of the enduring faces of the military regime in Nigeria was a fellow who first appeared in the political scene looking like a match stick; a thin senior military officer called Muhammadu Buhari. Today that gentleman was the president-elect of Nigeria. Today, he still maintains his match stick thin profile. In Ghana one of the enduring faces of military regime was a fellow who first appeared in the political scene looking like a pale-faced food starved Somalia refugee of old- junior military officer called Jerry John Rawlings. Today that gentleman is ex-president of Ghana. Today he maintains a profile which resembles that of a Japanese Sumu wrestler.

Following the brutal murder of the charismatic Nigerian military leader, General Muritala Mohammed, General Olusegun Obasanjo was appointed as head of the military junta to see to the transition from military regime to civilian administration. General Obasanjo appointed General Buhari as his petroleum minister, a post he discharged with distinction. General Buhari achieved prominence in his own right when he led a military coup against the ineffective benign democratic civilian administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in December 31, 1983, spotting a stone-faced fellow, Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon as his second in command. The coup d'état of General Buhari took place exactly two years to the date of the coup which brought Flt-Lt Jerry John Rawlings back to power for the second time following the military overthrow of Dr. Hilla Limann's civilian administration.

General Buhari instituted many measures to re-direct the chaotic life of the Nigerians. Prominent among them was the avowed 'War-against-Indiscipline (WAI). He established committees at the work levels and within communities to prosecute his pet project. Indeed, as Deputy Director of School of Management and Vocations of Kwara State College of Technology in Ilorin, I was made a member of one such committees. I still have my badge of honour in my possession somewhere. Despite the high-handedness of his administration leading to passing of some draconian laws, he was seen as a strict disciplinarian and incorruptible. Unfortunately, before his efforts could bear fruit, his regime was overthrown by General Ibrahim Babaginda, the Maradonna of Nigerian politics.

In a way the overthrow of General Buhari could be seen as a setback for Nigerian politics as the next two military regimes which followed that of General Buhari, (those of General Babaginda and General Abacha) only brought chaos and instituted massive corruption into the Nigerian national political and social life in the same way as Flt-Lt Rawlings's military regime wreaked havoc on the national psyche by instituting corruption, mediocrity, nepotism, ethnocentrism and incompetence into national life. While the average Nigerian felt the need for the strict disciplinary code to curb the massive indiscipline in average Nigerian national life, General Buhari introduced, for the first time in the Nigerian life, fear of falling foul of the law and the resultant punishment was always supreme in the minds of everybody.

In my own estimation, there was one unpardonable act which General Buhari committed which might have hastened his overthrow. Three young men were caught for drugs smuggling. At that time there was no law which made such an offence punishable by death. However, General Buhari passed a law which he backdated, (an uncivlised and undemocratic act), got the three young men tried, found guilt, and publicly executed by firing squad. Despite the uncompromising attitude of the Nigerian, and even though numerous criminals had been executed publicly all over Nigeria, these particular executions shocked almost all Nigerians to the marrow. In Ghana's situation, three innocent high court judges and a senior military officer were abducted in the middle of the night of a nationwide imposed curfew under Flt-Lt Rawlings, executed and their bodies burnt almost beyond recognition in what could only be described as a state sanctioned execution.

Now, after almost thirty years of being overthrown by General Babaginda in August 27, 1985 leading to 40 months incarceration in prison, General Buhari after four attempts at the exulted position of the President of Nigeria, has been democratically elected as the civilian President of Nigeria by arguably the most credible free and fair elections ever to be held in any black African nation since independence. Today, despite all the iniquities Flt-Lt Jerry John Rawlings had brought onto the nation, he still enjoys all the freedom of a normal citizen to continue to not only poison the atmosphere around us with his presence but also still continues to spew out effronteries while giving credibility to the most corrupt, incompetent ethnocentric political administration this country has ever known. We cannot wait for 2016 to arrive, Insha Allah!!

Post script: 'When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of people are filled with schemes to do wrong.' – Ecclesiastes 8:11

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By Kwame Gyasi