By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
ON the eve of the 33rd anniversary of the military coup that removed him from office as military head of state, Nigeria’s transformed leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, was yesterday locked in a meeting with officials of the country’s major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The meeting with the leadership of the PDP and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC was significant. It was a major step for a man who as military head of state, and as a civilian president, had been accused of inflexibility in his policies and persuasions.
Indeed, yesterday was the first meeting between Buhari and the PDP, a party which had “demonised” him since 2002 when he initiated his political adventures. He is perhaps today, the only president since the advent of the Fourth Republic not to have a special adviser in Inter Party Affairs.
But what has changed in the personae of the Nigerian leader?
It was 33 years ago today that three middle level army officers, Majors Abdulmumini Aminu, Lawan Gwadabe and Joshua Madaki strolled into Dodan Barracks, Lagos and effortlessly arrested Major General Muhammadu Buhari during the Sallah Holidays. The decision of the military high command to effect the change in leadership had been blamed on intransigence.
As Brigadier Joshua Dongoyaro told the nation the following morning, August 27, 1985, in a nationwide broadcast, the Buhari led military government had been seized by a cabal that refused to give heed to counsel and refused to be contrite in its failures.
Dongoyaro had said:
“we could not stay passive and watch a small group of individuals misuse power to the detriment of our national aspirations and interest. No nation can ever achieve meaningful strides in its development where there is an absence of cohesion in the hierarchy of government; where it has become clear that positive action by the policy makers is hindered because as a body it lacks a unity of purpose.
“The Nigerian public has been made to believe that the slow pace of action of the Federal Government headed by Major-General Muhamadu Buhari was due to the enormity of the problems left by the last civilian administration. Although it is true that a lot of problems were left behind by the last civilian government, the real reason, however, for the very slow pace of action is due to lack of unanimity of purpose among the ruling body; subsequently, the business of governance, has gradually been subjected to ill-motivated power play considerations.”
Ahead of the 2015 presidential election, the PDP made it a campaign issue that Buhari has not changed. However, the foibles of the Goodluck Jonathan administration and the makeover attempts of the APC machine caused Nigerians to look the other way.
It is noteworthy that the challenges that have recently gripped the nation; to wit, insinuations of marginalisation of some sections of the country, allegations of nepotism and dithering procrastination by the government have caused a resurrection of those issues that the coup plotters claimed compelled them to strike exactly 33 years ago today.
It is thus remarkable that on the eve of that anniversary that President Buhari was reaching out for the first time to his traducers in the PDP.
However, his assertion yesterday at the meeting with the PDP leaders that opposition does not mean hostility, enmity or antagonism could send wrong signals of a man still stuck in his old ways.
However, it was reassuring that in the same breath the president asserted the relevance of opposition in projecting a vibrant democracy. That assurance and his readiness to open his ears to counsel is the prescription that will sustain his legacy and the country’s democracy.
Yesterday’s meeting came in the wake of the nationwide euphoria of the president’s recovery from ill-health. For a man who in his own words had never been this sick and had passed through the valley of the shadow of death, only an enchanting legacy of statesmanship and excellence in statecraft can be his goal now.