Talking Point

May 19, 2021

Joshua Dogonyaro’s coup speech and Muhammadu Buhari’s style

Joshua Dogonyaro’s coup speech and Muhammadu Buhari’s style

By Rotimi Fasan

First, a disclaimer to potential blackmailers, opposition (read ‘wailers’) hunters, and would-be mind-readers who read meanings into and impute motives to other people’s words: Nigeria is best governed as a democratic state and the only civilised and acceptable way to change a non-performing government, for now, is through an election. The military in politics is part of our problem and is a past that we must not return to. That said, the point also has to be emphasised that Nigeria’s existence as a united entity is negotiable. There should never be a time when discussions about and around that subject are foreclosed on Nigerians. To see things otherwise is to leave room for the worst form of mind-closure, one that admits no error is its own validation and is accountable to none but itself.

The foregoing warning should be a timely reminder to Nigeria’s pseudo-patriots whose current presence at the corridors and control of the levers of power has deluded them into thinking that they have more stake in the Nigerian project than others they have deliberately side-lined and over whom they believe they could exercise power at will. Perhaps I should add, not just as a mere addendum but a matter of grave importance in view of the centrifugal tendencies that the exclusivist parochialism that the Buhari-led government has engendered, that no degree of separatist agitation, fragmentation, or devolution of power along ethnic, religious or other sectional lines can bring about a sense of oneness and belonging among Nigerians within a separate nation be it Biafra, Oduduwa or Arewa, where cardinal principles of fairness, equity, and justice are lacking. Once the letter and spirit of these principles are enshrined in and operationalised by our Constitution, Nigerians would be at peace.

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Lt. Gen. Joshua Nimyel Dogonyaro, a former Chief of Defence Staff, was the initial face of the August 27, 1985 putschist that ousted the 20-month-old regime of then Major General Muhammadu Buhari. The Buhari junta had sacked the Second Republic civilian administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983. Joshua Dogonyaro was a Brigadier-General as that afternoon he announced the end of the Buhari-Idiagbon regime. A member of the famed Langtang Mafia of the Nigerian military, Dogonyaro passed away in his home state of Plateau last week at the age of 80. May he rest in peace.

But the focus today is not on Dogonyaro, the man but rather the speech he delivered on behalf of his ‘colleagues and members of the Nigerian Armed Forces. That speech has re-emerged in the media in the wake of Dogonyaro’s passage. It was no doubt one of the most prescient and objective diagnosis of Muhammadu Buhari’s persona and an apt prognosis of the modus operandi of his government. Forget the fact that Buhari’s successor, Ibrahim Babangida, went on to make a hash of Nigeria’s transition programme, Dogonyaro’s coup speech, delivered on behalf of the Babangida junta, foreshadowed most of what Nigerians, including the wife of the President, Aisha, have had to say about President Buhari’s uncommunicative ways.

This rigid approach of Buhari’s (what Dogonyaro in his speech twice calls ‘stubborn’) is what one of his two media aides and spokespersons, Femi Adesina, a member but outsider-player of what is today known in government-speak as ‘the presidency’, calls the President’s ‘style’ in his increasingly flippant takes on serious issues of governance. Witness his recent comparison of the Nigerian tragedy of insecurity and state failure to the fortunes of Manchester City, a British football club! Yes, Femi Adesina may be a member of Buhari’s ‘presidency’ and may often speak and sign off on releases in the name of the shadowy cabal, but he is clearly a marginal member of that inner sanctum of power mongers that apparently initiates most of the inept, nepotistic and one-sided state policies; acts for and takes major decisions in the name of the President.

But enough said! Let us turn now to Dogonyaro’s speech and see what it tells us of Buhari, his government, and governance style ala-Femi Adesina. Be reminded that the ‘declaration’ in the speech came from Buhari’s own colleagues, some of whom were his associates from their early days in the Army if not childhood friends. This is neither a wailers’ lament nor PDP sour grape rebuke. The likes of Ibrahim Babangida, Shehu Umar Dangiwa, Lawan Gwadabe, and company must be enjoying a chuckle or two at the expense of Nigerians, saying to themselves: ‘We warned you!’ I urge you reader and other Nigerians not to take my word for it but to read that coup speech in full to learn more of Nigeria’s present leadership dilemma.

A major grievance of the junta was the slow pace of development or what it calls ‘progressive changes’ after the enthusiasm with which Nigerians had welcomed it in 1983. The reason for this slow pace of progress, the speech says, was because a ‘small group of individuals misuse power to the detriment of… national aspirations and interest’. The government was characterised by ‘an absence of cohesion’ and ‘lacks a unity of purpose’. The speech goes on to say that: “The Nigerian public has been made to believe that the slow pace of action of the Federal Government headed by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari was due to the enormity of the problems left behind by the last civilian administration.” But the speech countered that “the real reason, however, for the very slow pace of action is due to the lack of unanimity of purpose among the ruling body” as a result of which governance had “gradually been subjected to ill-motivated power play considerations”. It observed that: “Any effort made to advise the leadership met with stubborn resistance and was viewed as a challenge to authority or disloyalty”.

Years after its 2015 victory, the Buhari administration obsessed with the Goodluck Jonathan administration, blaming it for its unproductive, slowcoach style. And just as Dogonyaro’s speech tells us of his 1984 regime’s side-lining of the Supreme Military Council in favour of a select group of individuals, how soon after he became president did Buhari ostracise the likes of Bola Tinubu and Bukola Saraki, among others, who aided his victory in favour of ‘the cabal’ led by his late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and Mamman Daura, his deceased nephew?

What did the in-fighting among this kitchen cabinet say for coherence: Kyari versus Munguno, Lawal Daura versus Ibrahim Magu and Magu versus Abubakar Malami, and now Rotimi Amaechi versus Hadiza Bala Usman, etc? And the spin masters, touting Buhari’s impartiality, say the President does not know most of his appointees.

How could he where ‘the presidency’ has taken over?

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