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Shh! Buhari didn’t topple Shagari!

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By Emeka Obasi

Those of us who accuse President Muhammadu Buhari of overthrowing President Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983, may not be politically correct. The true story of that coup should be told by Major Mustapha Haruna Jokolo.

President Buhari 

Jokolo, knew everything and I keep wondering why he chose the job of Aide de Camp[ADC] to the Head of State. Well, he was perhaps the most powerful  ADC produced by the military.

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In a widely publicized interview in 2010, Buhari exonerated himself from the plot to bring down the Second Republic.

He said: “The officer corps then decided to make me Head of State. They were sitting in Lagos where Lagos was seated, and I was sitting in Jos where I was commanding a division.

“So they could do their Lagos business because I cannot overrun Lagos from Jos, so it is my colleagues then in the military who decided to make me the Head of State.”

Buhari was named head of the Junta, with Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon as his Deputy [Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters].Maj. Gen Ibrahim Babangida emerged as Army Chief.

Buhari joined the Army in April 1962. Idiagbon enlisted in November of the same year. A month later, Babangida, followed. It did not take long for Idiagbon to be made a Two-Star general since he had Maj. Gens Abubakar Waziri and Muhammadu Jega reporting to him.

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The 1983 coup took the life of Brigadier Ibrahim Bako. His father was Shagari’s friend. He had gone to Aso Villa to oversee the harmless arrest of the president. The mission did not sound friendly to Captain Augustine Anyogo of the Brigade of Guards and Guards commander, Brig. Mohammed Bello Kaliel.

Buhari was not sitting idle on the plateau though. He had earned Shagari’s yellow card for pursuing Idris Debby and his annoying Chadian invaders to the gates of Ndjamena in 1982.

After that, Gen. Buhari, was alleged to have sat down to plot his way to power. This revelation came in 1985 during the trial of Gen. Mamman Vatsa and others, for their role in a plot to oust Babangida.

Major Daniel Idowu Bamidele, while pleading for leniency said he did not report the 1985 coup to military authorities because he had been punished twice in 1983 for going to Buhari to warn him of a coup.

“It is unfortunate that I am being convicted for something which I have had to stop on two occasions,” Maj. Bamidele told the Gen Charles Bebeye Ndiomu led Military Tribunal.

One account, said Buhari also had to save Idowu from retirement later when the Army wanted to sack him based on his detention by the same Buhari.

Many saw Idiagbon as the man who wielded so much power while Buhari chose to do the talking. A few looked the way of Jokolo.

In April 1984, the Emir of Gwandu, Alhaji Al Rasheed Jokolo, accompanied by the Nigerian Ambasaador to Saudi Arabia, Dahiru Waziri, hit the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Initial reports indicated that they arrived carrying with 53 suitcases which were offloaded at the tarmac by Maj. Jokolo, the Emir’s son, who came in a military truck. There was no Customs check. The Customs Area Administrator, Abubakar Atiku, was not on duty.

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At the time, the Buhari government had given the naira a new look and subjected incoming luggage to check. The Customs men on duty, recorded the suitcases in their Station Diary and this caught Atiku’s attention.

Shehu Shagari
Shehu Shagari

On November 8, 1984, Afro beat musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, got a five-year jail term from Justice Gregory Okoro-Idogu  for illegal exportation of 1,600 pounds sterling on September 4, 1984.

There were talks of the Emir importing foreign currencies. Mustapha later explained that there were 50, not 53 suitcases. According to him, Ambassador Waziri arrived with 40 suitcases.

The others belonged to 10 persons that were part of the Emir’s entourage. Mustapha claimed that Finance minister, Onaolapo Soleye, knew there were no pounds and dollars in the suitcases.

The military regime dismissed allegations of importation of foreign currencies as baseless. Atiku was lucky to keep his job, thanks to Mr. Soleye.

Another Prince of Gwandu, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Jega , was the governor of Gongola State. This was eight years after he had been sent to the state as First Military governor by Gen. Murtala Mohammed.

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Buhari,  Jega and Shehu Yar’adua were course mates at the Nigeria Military Training College [NMTC], Kaduna in 1962. Buhari was the first Military governor of Borno State, in 1976.

There could also have been Jokolo’s hand in the posting of Jega to Gongola which was akin to Siberia in the military equation then.

Today, Jega who goes by the name, Ilyasu Bashar, is the Emir of Gwandu following the deposition of Jokolo.

If Buhari was handed over power by junior officers who organized the coup against Shagari, he did not let the deposed president off the hook, even if the punishment was House Arrest in Ikoyi, Lagos.

Shagari’s son, Captain Bala Shagari, was pushed away from the Army. He had enlisted on December 17, 1977 as member of Nigeria Defence Academy [NDA] Regular Course 18.

Some of his mates advanced to higher ranks. Six of them became Major generals: E.C. Nwanguma, A.U. Dambatta, O.Akinyemi, D.E. Atiegoba, U.T. Usman and A.K. Amao.

Prominent course mates are Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar and Hama Bachama, Honest Stephen.

Jokolo arrested Vice President Alex Ekwueme . Buhari kept the Architect in Bonny Camp before relocation to prison. The two politicians were found not guilty by the Justice Uwaifo Panel in 1986. They were released by Babangida.

Ekwueme died on December 19, 2017. Buhari gave him a State burial. Shagari departed on December 28, 2018. Buhari was there to see the family, headed by Bala Shagari.

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This is the first time a President and a Vice President will die under one regime. Jokolo and Jega are still at war over the Gwandu stool. Buhari came in 1983, Shagari and Ekwueme lost their positions. Buhari came again. The elder statesmen lost their lives. That is life, for you.

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