May, 31 2010, 7:05PM

General, my impression of you when I met you early 1985 at NAOWA dinner ceremony held at the officers Mess, Onikan, Lagos, was that of a professional and patriotic soldier, considering the role you played during the Dimka-led coup in 1976. As a young journalist then, I held you in high esteem. My thought changed in 1985, when you betrayed Buhari and Idiagbon, and you took over government from the duo.

Like the barber’s chair, Nigeria swung to another set of military leaders. In your maiden broadcast to hapless Nigerians, you claimed that the Buhari regime was overthrown because of unilateral action and egocentrism. To quote you: “Major General Buhari was too rigid and uncompromising in his attitude to issues of national significance.” A close look at the above statement would suggest a concealed evidence of personality clash.

You cautiously chose a pseudo-populist path, abrogating first the obnoxious Decree 4 that gagged the press, and preached human rights. These actually won you a sizeable measure of public support. Later however, one cannot make any claim of popular support for your administration because of your curious handling of the issue of political detainees and the issue of Nigeria’s membership of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

The April 1990 coup against you and your government by Major Gideon Orkar turned out to be one of the bloodiest in Nigeria’s coup-filled history. At least, I witnessed the battle at Burial Ground in Obalende/Ikoyi axis between the Orkar group and your loyalist. General, before the Orkar coup, there had been widespread public disenchantment about the manipulation of the transition programme.

Early in 1986, you promised a return to civil rule in 1990 by 1987, you shifted the “goal post” of transition by 2years fueling speculations that you were plotting to succeed yourself rule or until death stops you. Your regime’s style of government became personalized and corrupt. You regularly doled out money and other gifts to military officers, traditional rulers, potential opponents, as used in every day discourse “settlement denotes.” The practice whereby the government seeks out critical persons and group and those with a high potential nuisance value and grants them generous state largesse became the major pillar of your government. For example, you made huge financial donations to Nigeria Bar Association, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria etc the hope was that these beneficiaries may become friends of your regime or at least less critical of it.

You implemented policies that raised fears about the possible islamization of the country. In October 1986, you raised Nigeria’s status in OIC from observer to full membership, thereby raising fears among Christians that you wanted to turn Nigeria into an Islamic State. The diminishing impartiality of your government reinforced the intransigence and uncompromising stance of religious bigots all over the country. Open Christian–Muslim conflict was a regular occurrence. General, the Orkar coup was staged against this background. The fact that the soldiers claimed to have staged the coup on behalf of a section of the country showed the depth of the crisis you ignited through reckless policies. Orkar who announced the coup, randomly described your government style as being dictatorial, corrupt, drug baronish, full of evil men, sadistic, homosexually-centered, prodigalistic and unpatriotic.

They condemned your ambition to install yourself as life President, and criticized the creation of the National Guard. Buhari confirmed some year later that a very high-ranking military officer in his government was under investigation for drug and other related matters, shortly before he was overthrown. These grave issues raised by Orkar constitute part of what analysts have described as the National question. My good friend your aide-de-camp, Colonel U. K. Bello died in the coup cross fire and you narrowly escape death. In the coup trials that followed, 69 officers were executed.

Your transition programme, which attracted so much criticisms ultimately tuned out to be a farce, and more than N60 billion was waste on the programme. Not only did you shift the handover date on three different occasions, you made a mess of the democratization project, when you decided to annul the presidential election of June 12 1993, won by Basorun MKO Abiola. The election was widely reported to be the fairest and freest in Nigeria’s electoral history.

The crises that followed the annulment chased you out from office on the 26 August 1993. But before you left, you staged another dangerous coup against the people of Nigeria. Instead of a democratically elected government, what Nigerians got was an assembly of your nominees known as Interim National Government, headed by the Chairman of your Transitional Council, Chief Ernest Shonekan, General, in my subsequent letters, I shall talk on your economic policies, Human rights records and more importantly the death of uncle Dele Giwa, and many more. General, leadership must generate and sustain trust the trust factor is the social glue that keeps a nation cohesive and committed. Ghandi, Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Awolowo, Nyerere etc manifested a number of qualities that established trust. As a self-acclaimed evil genius and political Maradona, the PEOPLE of this great country, Nigeria find it very difficult to trust you again with affairs of this nation. The pages of history are full of heroes who created for themselves roles of glorious valour, which they played at decisive moments. These leaders would continue to live in the hearts of men and women like lilies beside the river. Likewise, the pages of history are replete with leaders who had every opportunity to engrave their names on billboards of gold, but ended up as mere historical footnotes. General, with all sense of humility, you will agree with me that you fall within this category. General, great leaders and heroes are in lamentable minority in our country today, what we have are men of ambitions and self-centeredness who rub salt into the festering wounds of the masses. The trouble with some (of you) self–acclaimed leaders and the billionaires without enterprise among you is that a high amount of ignorant nonsense being traded as a common sense, suffice to say that morality has gone to the dogs. The order of the day is money. It is in that context that we would understand why some people who are after your pocket are clamouring that you are the anointed President come 2010.

Democracy will only secure liberty and development when the leaders are men of virtue, because without virtue, democracy will remain a chimerical idea. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in time of comfort and conveniences, but where he stands in moment of conflict and controversy.” The PEOPLE know where you stand. The battle line is drawn, 2010 is the deadline. The people have taken solace in the great Zik’s statement that, “to fight but very legitimately the il-legitimization of illegitimacies on our land and reduce our opponents to well emasculated political eunuchs, social imbeciles and rustic professional deadwoods and at the end of the day if they have anything to beat at all, it will only be their shadows.” Abiola said, if you are afraid of sudden death, you do not take your father’s title. The day you take your father’s title a lot of people will wish you dead.” Abiola demonstrated the ability; he was not afraid of death. The famous declaration he made on June 11, 1994, as an elected President of Federal Republic of Nigeria was not renounced until he was killed. He did not surrender the sacred mandate freely given to him by Nigerians. Unlike you General who ran away before any gun was pointed on your head. Abiola was hero in life and in death. What a great man, vindicated in death by martyrdom.

General, an adage says if you deceive me once, shame on you, if you deceive me twice shame on me.” How many times have you deceive Nigerians

Olufemi Akinbule Aduwo

National Coordinator,

Rights Monitoring Group