Though Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon is dead, I personally wish that Nigerians would remember the days of these two patriotic heroes as they made indelible mark in the chronology of Nigeria military governments. Their love for the state of Nigeria transcended power for personal aggrandizements. It was to fix the nation. Now, President Buhari is the only surviving one and he has promised Nigerians that his administration will rescue the nation from the circle of political mendacity or venality.
President Mohammadu Buhari would always be remembered as a rare courageous leader, an intuitive charismatic leader whose ethical and moral disposition was reflected in his transparency, and trustworthiness. President Buhari is a man who leads by examples and not by hypocrisy. His desire for a prosperous Nigeria would be recorded in the annals of Nigeria history. President Buhari’s performance in government in 1983 will continue to earn him the title of the most patriotic, discipline, and selfless head of state Nigeria has ever produced beside Murtala Muhammed. President Buhari’s influence on Nigerians in 1983-85 will continue to reverberate in the minds of those who witnessed it. The following are just a recap of President Mohammadu Buhari’s accomplishments among others in 1983-1985.
Before Idiagbon and Buhari took over government in 1983, Nigeria had disintegrated into lawlessness and complete impunity. Corruption among Nigerian public officials had rendered the nation into a state of economic squalor. The nation’s resources were handled with absolute recklessness. The government of Shehu Shagari had created a group of Kleptocratic corrupt and heartless elements whose goals were to plunge the nation into a state of economic demise. Between 1979 and 1983 Shehu Shagari had put Nigeria among the most indebted countries in Africa. The nation was indebted up to a colossal sum of 50 billion dollars and inflation had risen to 40 percent. In addition to hardship created by politicians the nation was engulfed by high level of insecurity. There was a radicle Islamic insurgence called Maitatsine Islamic sects that were operating from Gombe state at the time. The government of Shehu Shagari could not contain this vicious and dangerous Islamic fundamentalist. The nation was in complete disarray. The price of commodities had skyrocketed to an unbearable level which created terrible hardships for Nigerians. While Nigerians were languishing in abject poverty, politicians were smiling to banks with Ghana must go bags full of monies and some who could not trust the banks decided to stack them in their houses. That reminds me of a commissioner in Bendel State who died in his sleep with his head resting on a pillow case loaded with money. As the economic and social lives of Nigerians continued to crumble, Shehu Shagari’s controlled NPN government was clueless on how to control the massive social anomalies in the nation. Among the members of Shagari’s inner circle was Umaru Dikko. He was minister for transport, Chairman of task force for the importation of rice and personal adviser to Shehu Shagari. Umaru Dikko had inflicted unprecedented damage on the nation’s economy by diverting billions of dollars met for the importation of rice to his private accounts in London and other European nations. That same Umaru Dikko would later proceed to humiliate Nigerians by postulating that until Nigerians have started to eat from the gutter he would not concur to the fact that the nation was facing economic problem. “Until I see someone eating out of the gutters before I believe there is poverty in Nigeria.” – Umaru Dikko. It was at the height of this madness that drew the attention of the military boys led by Buhari/Idagbon to take over in 1983. At the presentation of President Buhari’s speech, he struck the mind of Nigerians with a powerful statement and here was the extract “Fellow Nigerians, finally, we have dutifully intervened to save this nation from imminent collapse.
We therefore expect all Nigerians, including those who participated directly or indirectly in bringing the nation to this present predicament, to cooperate with us. This generation of Nigerians, and indeed future generations, has no country other than Nigeria. We shall remain here and salvage it together. May God bless us all. Good morning”-President Mohammadu Buhari. That speech was not only a clear commitment on the part of his government to bring back the glory and integrity of the nation but it also reminded Nigerians that in order to accomplish that, it must require a collective responsibility. In the course of Buhari’s government, Nigerians would come to understand that he was genuinely committed to his speech by implementing some aggressive economic reforms. He was determined to salvage the nation from the forces of evil that manifested on the platform of Shagari’s government.
The first thing Buhari did was to establish what was popularly called WAR AGAINST INDESCIPLINE. This institution was primarily set up to correct and deals with the mess that had been created by Shagari/Ekweme government. As Buhari/Idiagbon flung into action by arresting corrupt politicians, Nigerians were beginning to see the light and hope at the end of tunnel. While he focused on finding solutions to social economic wreckage created by Shagari, he did not undermine the security of the nation.
A ban was placed on fundamentalist Maitatsine Islamic sect and all the Islamic insurgence that were operating in Gombe state at the time were dispelled and swept out of existence. About 146 members of the sect were arrested and their leader was reportedly killed. Politicians were arrested and tried and those who were found culpable of crime of public embezzlement were punished by various degrees of jail terms. Prices of commodities were stabilized by dismantling criminal activities within the trader’s inner circle. That criminal activity was in regards to deliberate holding of commodities by traders in order to create scarcity with the sole purpose of inflating prices. Within few months Buhari/Idiagbon had started to pay back the debt they inherited from Shagari/Ekweme government. Nigerians were mandated to display and maintain acceptable level of orderliness in public places. Environmental sanitation was part of Buhari/Idiagbon agendas and therefore Nigerians were also obliged to engage in cleaning habits both in public and their private homes. As Buhari embarked on a massive economic recovery, public officials were adjured to refund to the state all the monies they had stolen from the nation. Umaru Dikko was immediately declared wanted to face public prosecution for his contribution to the nation’s financial debacles. Haven sensed the impending danger from the military tribunal; Umaru Dikko carefully sneaked out of the country and declared himself a political refugee in Britain. He subsequently became the nation’s number one public enemy. As Nigerians clamor for Umaru Dikko’s return from Britain, Buhari and his compatriot, Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon were prepared to bring justice for Nigerians. They were not perturbed by Umaru Dikko’s self-exile under the refuge of the queen of England. These two gentle-men were determined to bring Umaru Dikko back to Nigeria dead or alive to face trial. The Israeli national intelligence agency Mossad was recruited to locate and bring Dikko back to Nigeria. The rest would be history as Umaru -Dikko would later be found by the British security agents motionless packaged like a consignment in a crate at Heathrow Airport ready to be shipped to Nigeria where a group of military juntas were waiting to receive him. His departure was few minutes away when by a stroke of luck he was rescued by the British custom agent. This was to be the happiest day in Umaru Dikko’s life. Umaru Dikko would later remain a wanted man in exile for dissipating the Nigerian economy. Without any condition Umaru Dikko was later granted amnesty to return to Nigeria in 1995. Umaru Dikko, a man whose track record is known for his fraud, embezzlement of public funds, and with absolute disregard for the welfare of Nigerians would later be appointed the Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party.
He died in 2014. However, as the news of Umaru Dikko’s kidnap and escape flutters the air, Buhari and Idiagbon moved on with their undaunted effort to reclaim what the politicians had stolen from the nation back. It was reported that some former politicians including ministers, governors and local government chairmen were holding large amount or sum of stolen monies in their houses and in other to render those monies useless; Buhari/Idiagbon implemented a method. They did this by reprinting the naira note and modifying the features. The public was given a time frame to withdraw their old naira notes from the bank and re-change it to the new ones. The amount was limited to 5000 naira and any amount greater than that would have to involve an affidavit explaining the source of the money.
Politicians and the underworld criminals were caught unaware. This was a trap the rogues did not expect. It affected majority of them who later became wretched and poor just as they were before they went into politics. Buhari/Idiagbon meant business and they were determined to reclaim the dignity of Nigeria back. Petroleum product was extremely crucial during the short period of Buhari/Idiagbon government. Before then some criminals in conniver with unscrupulous politicians had engaged in oil bunkering. But when Buhari came into power he promulgated a decree to include death penalty for anyone found with the illegal acquisition of petroleum products. He appointed Professor Tam David West as the petroleum minister and today Tam David West still remains the best Petroleum minister Nigeria has ever produced. According to Theodore Roosevelt “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” That was exactly what Buhari did. All members of his cabinet were driven by a common goal to salvage the nation from the web of economic servitude and social injustice though their good intentions would suddenly be cut down by a criminal mogul called Babanjida who is now the God father of PDP.
Now, his intentions to come back as the President of this great Nation as finally come to pass, President Buhari is more than ready to rescue the nation from the circle of political mendacity or venality. I pray that God Almighty will see our dear President through. Amen