Thirty-one years after he was ousted from power as military head of state, President Muhammadu Buhari has come out to explain why the group of officers led by former military president Ibrahim Babangida toppled his government. He didn’t mince words neither was his reason far-fetched – it was corruption – the scourge he’s addicted to combating, he pointedly said.
According to him, the IBB junta sent him packing because he had wanted to probe them for alleged corruption. The president, who reportedly spoke to The Interview Magazine said the then Head of Military Intelligence, Aliyu Gusau, was allegedly involved in some sharp practices and he had recommended his sack from the military leadership because he did not want his anti-corruption war to appear one-sided as it appears today.
Unfortunately, that move, according to him, later cost him his job as Gusau, Babangida and other officers (who had borrowed leaf from him as the chief beneficiary of the 1983 coup), ousted him as head of state. Today, Buhari is still fighting his curious corruption, largely believed to be selective even when the entire country is fast drowning in economic recession and the regrets of hopping on a directionless change train. Well, that is Buhari’s account of what happened in August, 1985.
A quick rewind to the other account: when IBB and others too took over power, they also gave reasons why they struck. Their excuses included that Buhari lacked the gravitas to run a complex country like Nigeria because of his sectional tendency and that he was merely fighting both the real and imaginary enemies at the expense of practical development.
They claimed he feigned to know all the problems of the country as well as the solutions to them, whilst he was far away from such intellectual credit in terms of capacity and ability to think through policies and clinical execution. Say whatever – those excuses as espoused by the IBB junta are largely seen as relevant today as they were in August of 1985, when they struck. This account too, even if many could not relate with it then, a lot can now.
The most unfortunate thing about Buhari’s ouster is the fact that he allegedly had an inkling he was going to be removed, invited Babangida and confronted him with the facts, yet, he allowed for himself to be removed. That, without much ado, says a lot about Buhari’s ability to lead. He could not save himself. Perhaps, he had lost face with all that mattered in the military hierarchy.
In any case, of what good was the military interregnum to the political and economic evolution of the country? Nothing more than a cankerworm that ate up the good of the past, the promises of the present and nearly decimated the hopes of the future of an auspicious people! Buhari too, therefore, cannot extricate himself from the rots of the past. Ousting an elected government is no less corruption, whatever the grounds for doing so and that remains a fact of Buhari’s record.
Thus, telling the story 31 years after changes nothing. Besides, he is telling his story now that he is in power; IBB too told his when he was in power. What more, there could be a third account after he also leaves office. What is expedient now is that both accounts are subject to different interpretations, depending on who is looking at what. But that is not the pressing matter for now; it is rather sheer distraction, completely extraneous to matters arising.
What is urgent and crucial now is that Nigerians are suffering because of an economy in technical recession. President Buhari should deploy to work fast and stop advancing unproductive excuses. It will be two years soon that he assumed office.