“It ain’t the things you don’t know that cause all the problem; it’s the things you think you know that ain’t so.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 117).
NOTE: Where necessary, I will provide the names of living witnesses to back up any claim made here to substantiate my point.
President-elect Muhammadu Buhari
I have never met the President-elect Buhari in my life. There were two occasions when we could have met; first in 2011, when he ran for president and I worked with his campaign team part time; the second, last year after he clinched the nomination as the candidate of the APC. It was providential that we never met; otherwise I could not have written that first line. On the two occasions, he changed his plans suddenly and there was no meeting. But, I first knew of General Buhari in January 1984, a few days after the coup of December 31, 1983, which first brought him to power.
It was a most painful experience – at first. I was spending the Yuletide with my in-laws at Akure when the radio and television in the beer parlour changed to martial music to announce the change of government. Suddenly, even thoroughly drunk patrons of the beer parlouir turned sober. Without saying goodbye, everybody jumped up and ran home.
Further announcements came soon enough. Political office holders were ordered to report to the nearest police station. Some ran away; among who were Chief Adisa Akinloye and Alhaji Umaru Dikko, the Transport Minister in Shagari’s government. But, most reported as instructed. Among them was Chief Sanu Sobowale, our “Daddy” (my eldest brother who brought me up when our father died well under 60, I was last born), who was the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General under Governor Lateef Jakande. They were immediately placed in detention and their bank accounts were frozen. I was 39, at the time, and Daddy and I were still struggling with the maintenance of the families of one brother and two cousins, whose fathers had died. Suddenly, I had all the families on my lap at a time when young men were enjoying themselves. God knows, I woke up every morning heaping curses on Buhari. But I also grew up quickly. Daddy had only me to take care of when our father died. I had over thirty people hanging on my earnings. Economising and setting priorities became a second habit; next to finding a second source of legitimate income.
Matters got worse when he introduced Decree 4, which made telling the truth a punishable offense for journalists. I wrote my first letter to the Editor of Guardian protesting the outrage. Then, I vowed to get into the media and face the military tyrants. But, the chance did not come until 1987 but that needs not delay us here. In 1987, I started writing for the VANGUARD on Mondays on Marketing and Economics. However, before 1987, my views of Buhari had changed. What changed it?
First, contrary to the lies told by the PDP and other columnists, it was the Tribunal which jailed people, not Buhari. Second, of the twenty-one Governors on trial, belonging to NPN, NPP, GNPP, UPN, and PRP, only two governors were completely exonerated. They were Chief Adekunle Ajasin and Lateef Jakande. All the rest, Hausa/Fulani, Igbo, Edo, Tiv, Ebira were jailed WITHOUT DISCRIMINATION regarding ethnicity, state or religion. Alhaji Jakande, Dr Alex Ekwueme, and Tokunbo Ajasin are my living witnesses. Commissioners, and Ministers, found to be innocent were also released. Our Daddy, as well as all the Commissioners in Lagos State, except one, were released with a letter confirming that he had been investigated and found blameless. Dr Ekwueme and Alhaji Shehu Shagari, President and Vice-President were also exonerated. Granted, all had been detained for several months, but, for me (and I believe for Tokunbo Ajasin) it was a source of pride to us that our heads of family had undergone the severest test for integrity and had passed the test in flying colours. The day Daddy came home with that letter was the day I forgave Buhari. He had given my family something we can be proud of for the rest of our lives.
The other person whose imprisonment could have made me to hate Buhari for life was Chief Bola Ige. I can state authoritatively that I knew Bola Ige before his wife and children and this is why. Bola Ige and our Daddy were admitted to Ibadan Grammar School the same year and they finished the same year. My family lived in Zaria at the time and Bola Ige’s family at Kaduna. Among their classmates, Daddy was “Zaria boy” while Ige was “Kaduna boy”. They were the best of friends. In our house Uncle Bola, as I called him, was known as the man who spoke in strange tongues. He spoke Yoruba, Hausa and English, all of which we understood. But he and Daddy also lapsed into another language which sounded like gibberish to others and me. It was later when I was admitted to Igbobi College that I knew the language was LATIN. Ige was fond of saying to Daddy “This your small brother is more brilliant than both us”. That was a great compliment coming from the brightest student in his class.
For obvious reasons next to our Daddy’s case I was deeply interested in Ige’s case, who at any rate was a lawyer already. When Ige was sentenced, I had to go and read the entire verdict delivered by the Tribunal to believe that he deserved the sentence. And to some extent, he did. I also read the verdict on Onabanjo, who was a colleague of Ige and Daddy from the Action Group days in the 1960s. And, I was satisfied that he too deserved the sentence. I was sad but satisfied that justice had been done….