The Nigerian political landscape has been unable to rid itself of military men despite the 22 years of uninterrupted democracy, NEWSMEN observes.
Last week, a former military head, Gen Ibrahim Babangida took a ding at the administration of President Muhamadu Buhari.
The retired General, who spoke to ARISE TV on Friday, said his regime was a saint compared with what we have now.
“Well, you can’t compare it with the fact on the ground now. From what I read, from analysis, I think we are saints when compared to what is happening under a democratic dispensation,” IBB had said in the interview on Arise TV.
The two Generals have shared history aside from their military careers. In December 1983, the two participated in the coup that toppled Shehu Shagari’s administration.
Following the coup, Gen Buhari became the Head of State, while IBB became the chief of Army Staff. And less than 2 years, the same IBB led the palace coup that toppled Gen. Buhari.
IBB had said in his broadcast after the palace coup that, Buhari betrayed the “initial objectives” adding “Because the present state of uncertainty, suppression and stagnation resulted from the perpetration of a small group, the Nigerian Armed Forces could not as a part of that government be unfairly committed to take responsibility for failure.
“Major-General Muhammadu Buhari was too rigid and uncompromising in his attitudes to issues of national significance.”
Fight against corruption
The then regime of Buhari had embarked on mass detention of politicians from the previous administration, including President Shagari and some notable state governors for different corruption allegations.
Some of the actions taken by the military regime of Buhari included the freezing of accounts of political parties and ‘corrupt’ politicians, slashing of basic travelling allowances (BTA) from N500 to N100.
The regime also introduced the war against indiscipline (WAI) to combat what it considered as “general indiscipline” in the country. Furthermore, the introduction of austerity measures, which included the retrench of several civil servants caused grave dissatisfaction among Nigeria.
The regime on Economy
The military regime of Buhari and the current administration have some similarities when it comes to economic policies and some notable changes.
In 1984-85, the regime focused on Import Substitution, as the cardinal point of its economic policies. By restricting the importation of certain items, it hoped to arrest the growing balance of payment deficit. Instead, the restriction led to high inflation.
The administrative refused the advice of the International Monetary Fund, to devalue the Naira, as part of measures to correct the pressure on the Naira.
While the present administration has adopted some policies, such as land border closure, sectorial interventions targeted at rice sufficiency, the government has struggled to keep the Naira stable, debt continues to rise and the budget deficit is equally on the rice.
Former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido, in an article in 2002, summarised Buharinomics as follow;
” I had no doubt in my mind that the position of Buharism was based on a sound understanding of neo-classical economics and that those who were pushing for devaluation either did not understand their subject or were acting deliberately as agents of international capital in its rampage against all barriers set up by sovereign states to protect the integrity of the domestic economy. I still believe some of the key economic policy experts of the IBB administration were economic saboteurs who should be tried for treason.”
Buhari had in his address after the coup, identified two major problems, “twin problem of heavy budget deficits and weak balance of payments position.”
To achieve cutting the deficit, the administration adopted full austerity measures, including slashing the budget and clamping down on economic saboteurs with the legal backing of the Miscellaneous Offences Decree No. 20 of 1984.
53 bag scandal
The anti-corruption effort of the current administration has been tagged as selective. Former Senator, Shehu Sani even stated that the President uses insecticide on friends corruption allegations and perfumes on enemies.
In 1984, there was the scandal of the 53 bags belonging to the then Emir of Gwandu, that was brought into the country without customs check. The Emir, who was the father of Buhari’s aide-de-camp, Major Mustapha Jokolo, allegedly brought in the bags from Saudi Arabia. The lack of check was against the currency change exercise law by the regime.
The issue resurfaced in the build-up to the 2011 presidential election. Buhari, who was the candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), claimed that bags belonged to Dr. Tahir Waziri, who came in with his three wives and 16 children in the same flight as the Emir.
Buhari had in the same interview said that all questions should be directed to Atiku Abubakar, who was the controller of customs at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
Garba Shehu, who was the spokesperson of Atiku then, blamed the issue on the “bigmanness” of elites in obeying laid down laws.
IBB era in comparison
The Babangida’s administration embarked on the rolling back of austerity measures put in place by his predecessor and instead adopted the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) of the IMF. The policy included the privatization of exiting entities owned by the government.
For many analysts, the privatisation process served as a reward system for loyalists and supporters.
Pelumi Olajengbesi, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while speaking with DAILY POST said the statement by the former Head of State, speaks volume about the state of the present administration.
“The fact that the statement by IBB could not be dismissed outrightly, tells you how sad things are. The level of poverty, the general insecurity and the mistrust of the present administration provided the ground for the retired General to make such a statement.”
Hassan Nurudeen, a development expert, said, “for a man accused of institutionalising corruption to say the military is saint when compared to this administration, then we need self-reflection in this country.”
Buhari as a civil President: corruption, insecurity and economic recession
The present administration has presided over two economic recessions within 4 years and Nigeria is currently home to the largest number of extreme poor people in the world.
Also, the corruption fight by the administration has been questioned by many as lacking in substance, which the president in an interview with NTA defended by saying, when I was still much younger, I arrested governors, I put them under restriction or detention. I told them they were guilty until they could prove their innocence. Eventually, I myself was arrested and they were given back their loots. So, this is Nigeria.”