How Buhari humiliated Awolowo, other Yoruba leaders – Babatope

  • Saturday, January 13, 2007 - Punch Nigeria
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Chief Ebenezer Babatope, a stalwart of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, in this analysis, reacts to the interview granted Sunday Punch on January 7, 2007 by Chief Ayo Adebanjo on the current romance between some South-West leaders and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, in spite of what he calls the latter’s humiliation of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and other political leaders in the past.

It is no longer news that some respected leaders of political opinion from the South-West have expressed their interest and support for the General Muhammadu Buhari presidential ambition. Notable among these leaders are Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Chief Olu Falae, of the Democratic Peoples Alliance and Uncle Tunji Braithwaite, the leader of the Nigeria Advance Party (NAP).

Chief Adebanjo, who never speak with his tongue in his cheek, expressed in an interview with the Sunday Punch of January 7, 2007 the support of his group for the Buhari ambition. Chief Adebanjo had said inter alia: “The first is that we will get somebody who can deal with the PDP menace. All what we are doing is to gather relevant forces together... There was an agreement with Buhari to effect the restructuring of Nigeria into real Federal System and also guarantee the autonomy of the ethnic groups.”

Let me say from the onset that the South-West leaders, who have expressed support for the Buhari ambition have every democratic right to do so. Freedom of choice and freedom of expression are essential features of democratic traditions. Let me also state that these leaders are credible leaders judging by their antecedents in Nigeria’s history. It is my position, however, that they can speak for themselves and their political organisations. They cannot, with respect, commit the good people of the South- West zone to a blind support for any candidate in the coming 2007 presidential elections.

Let me also make it very clear that Gen. Buhari is a free Nigerian citizen with the inalienable right to contest for any political position of his delight. In politics, however, every participant or candidate must answer to his life deeds and actions.

When the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, a.k.a ‘Bros Kongi’, cautioned the South-West leaders on their enthusiasm for a Buhari Presidency in Thisday publication of January 4, 2007, he was speaking the minds of many Nigerians who know the truth about Gen. Buhari and his ambition.

Nigerians are a politically volatile people. It is the strength of our socio-political existence. Nigerians have shown from their history that tyranny can never succeed here. It is equally a known trait of Nigerians that they have a forgiven spirit when they see repentance in the actions of any of their erring sons and daughters.

Gen. Buhari once ruled this country after the coup of the ‘Beret’ Generals on December 31, 1983 for 20 months. While he has defended some aspects of his rule with all the emphasis at his command, he has refused till this day to offer simple apologies to Nigerians on the tragic and sadistic consequences of his military autocratic rule.

A few days after he assumed power, a manhunt for the political actors of the second republic was ordered by his regime under his supervision. Many politicians at that time either died in detention or carried scars that they still nurse from their long prison incarceration till this day.

Three days after he assumed power, an invasion of Papa Obafemi Awolowo’s house at Apapa, Lagos was ordered by the Buhari-led military regime and the space that Papa Awolowo used in his house for Christian worship was desecrated by the invading soldiers sent by Buhari and his men. Papa Awolowo remains till this day one of the builders of modem Nigeria. He, along with Sir Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Papa Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe had led Nigeria to independence from British Colonial rule on October 1, 1960.

Though Gen. Buhari did explain in later that the invasion of Papa Awolowo’s house at Apapa had been carried out by a soldier he described as “a fifth Columnist in our regime,” other actions from Buhari in the same year (1984) did prove conclusively that he and his regime had been uncharitable (with respect to his person) in their treatment of one of the founders of this country.

Though Papa Awolowo was not detained, it is, however, true that Gen. Buhari’s regime stationed soldiers at Ikenne, the hometown of the late sage, throughout his rule. It was to intimidate the old man. This, however, never dissuaded Papa Awo from speaking out his mind on national issues whenever he felt he should do so.

When Papa Awolowo was asked by inquisitive Nigerian journalists about his impressions on the Buhari military regime, a few days after the coup, Papa had replied “the omens are still bad.”

When the Buhari military headquarters that some governors of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) led by Papa Awolowo in the second republic had confessed to obtaining kickbacks while in government, Papa Awolowo in a press conference, refuted the claim and told the world the truth about the distortion of Buhari and his men inside Dodan Barracks. The result of Papa’s press conference was a dispersal of detained politicians to remote areas of the country and a total cancellation of visits by relations of these detained politicians for the duration of the regime. Gen. Buhari impounded the official passport of Papa Awolowo and denied the old man visits to his doctors at Mayo Clinic, Rochester Minnesota, USA for the years he ruled Nigeria. Papa Awolowo’s passport was only returned to him with courtesies by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida after the coup of 1985 that had ousted Buhari from power. Babangida had sent Lt. Gen. Aliyu Mohammed Gusau to return Papa’s passport with apologies from the Nigerian Armed Forces.

Many of Papa Awolowo’s lieutenants were incarcerated by the Buhari regime for no just cause. The late Papa Adekunle Ajasin, who as the governor of old Ondo State never spent one thousand naira from his security vote throughout his rule, was detained at old age for several months by the Buhari rule. All entreaties to get the old man released from prison failed.

The late Chief Olabisi Onabanjo, the Aiyekoto himself, was picked up from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital three days after an operation by security operatives during the Buhari rule and sent to Bauchi prison. The late Professor Ambrose Mofolorunso Alli, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, Uncle Bola Ige, Chief Dele Ige, Dr. Wale Idris, Dr. Femi Okurounmu, the late Ganiyu Dawodu, the late Chief M.C.K. Ajuluchukwu, Chief Mrs. Osomo, Prince Yemi Adefulu, the late Alhaji Agbabiaka and myself were sent to long incarceration by the Buhari terror rule.

Within six months of the Buhari-led military administration, Papa Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade and the highly respected Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero were all dealt with by the Buhari regime. Though not detained, these traditional rulers were virtually restricted to their palaces and their passports seized. The Buhari regime was to later state that the measures were imposed on the traditional fathers as a result of a reported visit to Israel.

Chief Solomon Lar, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Chief Jimi Nwobodo and some other prominent politicians of the second republic who were detained by General Muhammadu Buhari are alive to confirm the fact that sometime in 1984, security operatives from the Gen. Buhari military stable had visited detained politicians in their various prisons to ‘brief’ them on an alleged plan by Papa Awolowo; Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade; and the UPN leaders to effect a coup in Nigeria before the December 31, 1983 military putsch and declare a Republic of Oduduwa. The detained politicians were told that the alleged Awo-led coup was meant to exterminate political leaders who are not of the Yoruba stock.

Gen. Buhari is now being painted as a lover of the Yoruba nation. This is, however, possible but not visible to many judging from what is known about the man and his ideas when he was the Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund, established by the regime of late Gen. Sani Abacha. Only a few areas of the South- West saw signs of the PTF operations and these were due to the unrelenting efforts of Chief Akpata (Secretary to the PTF) and the late Chief Rufus Giwa. Chief Tayo Akpata’s pro South-West stance is not accidental. He comes from a family with long held progressive tradition. His brothers: the late Senator Olu Akpata (a close friend and ally of Papa Awolowo) and the late Bankole Akpata a.k.a ‘Bankie forever’ (former aide of the late Pan Africanist Osagyfo Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana) and himself (Tayo), had contributed immensely to progressive opinions in the country.

I have not written the above to deliberately smear Buhari with my personal feelings against him arising from what he did to me when he was in power. I have written the above to let the world know some of the facts of history that surround a former military ruler who is now being presented by some of our leaders as being one of the most committed democrats our dear country has ever seen.

It will be wrong for me not to admit that despite the crude tyranny of the Buhari regime, he (Buhari) is a man who is without doubt strong willed and committed to the anti corruption struggle. It is, however, worthy of mention that Buhari, who wants to govern Nigeria as civilian president, has refused since 2003 elections to recognize the Federal Government headed by President Olusegun Obasanjo. Since 2003, Buhari has refused to attend all meetings of Council of State called by President Obasanjo. Buhari’s refusal to attend these meetings has been anchored on what he called his frustrations over the conduct of the presidential election of 2003. Thank God that he attended the last Council of State meeting over the census results. This is, however, for understandable reasons.

Let me humbly submit here that despite bitterness over the 1979 elections that had led to Alhaji Shehu Shagari becoming the President of Nigeria, there was never a time that Papa Awolowo had shunned all the meetings called by Alhaji Shehu Shagari between 1979 and 1983.

When President Shagari honoured Papa Awo with the award of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Papa was there with his wife, Mama (Mrs.) Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo to receive it. Papa Awolowo made all of us to understand that Alhaji Shagari was de facto and dejure President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Papa Awolowo stated his stand in the following words: “If I refuse to honour President Shagari’s meetings, it is not he (Shagari) that I will be insulting. It is Nigeria that I will be insulting. I will never want history to record me as having insulted Nigeria.”

This is very instructive indeed. Though there are now many ways of judging who a progressive is in Nigeria, it is strange that Buhari is being rated a progressive while Governor Umar Musa Yar’Adua of Katsina State is being denied his past as a progressive because he (Yar’Adua) belongs to a camp not embraced by some of our leaders.

Very soon, God will open the eyes of all Nigerians to the fact that Governor Umar Yar’Adua has been a part of the Nigerian progressive family for long. He was one of the young men that participated in the 1977 All Nigerian Socialist Conference held in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, under the auspices of Movement for People’s Democracy” put together by the late Comrade Ola Oni, the late Dr. Akin Fadahunsi, the late Bala Usman, Dr. Omafume Onoge, Dr. Akin Ojo, Comrade Laoye Sanda, the late Muhammadu Tukur, Egbon Baba Omojola, Edwin Ike Madunagu, the late Dr. Bade Onimode, the late Josiah Sunday Olawoyin, Professor Femi Odekunle, Bassey Ekpo Bassey, Arthur Nwankwo and myself.

Umar Yar’Adua was a known member of the Mallam Aminu Kano led Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) during the second republic. He was very close politically to the late revolutionary historian Comrade Bala Usman.

As a senior lecturer at the Kaduna Polytechnic, the leftist leaning of Umar Musa Yar’Adua was known to all the students who passed through that institution at that time.

It is, indeed, interesting that it is Gen. Buhari, who is now the political darling of some leaders who in their history have been dogged fighters of the progressive movement in Nigeria. It is the Nigerian people who have the final say with their votes on who they will want to see as their president after the President Olusegun Obasanjo led adminstration. No matter what is written by me and others, the people will by the grace of God express their choice of who their rulers should be with their votes in the April 2007 elections.

If it is the wish of God and the good people of Nigeria that Gen. Buhari will be the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, so be it. No one can alter or challenge the supreme will of our maker.

We must, however, let ‘The truth be told’ (apologies to author MUFFET). By the grace of God, Nigerians will pronounce their verdict soon.

Judgment is, however, not ours. The final judgment of events lies with God. God bless Nigeria.

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