By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Current political developments in Ghana and Nigeria indicate that the former military leaders in both countries have found the civilian leaders as sitting ducks to be easily picked and tormented at will. Ghana has Rawlings doing so and Nigeria has Muhammadu Buhari, although Ibrahim Babangida also came to notice as such some few months ago.
What is it that makes these former military dictators so resistant to and contemptuous toward the civilian leaders chosen by their own people to rule them?
Ghana and Nigeria have many things in common, especially similar experiences as former colonies of Britain. Some might even wonder why whatever happens in one is replicated in the other.
Let’s take just a few. National independence in Ghana (1957) and Nigeria (1960); military coup in Nigeria (January 1966) and in Ghana (February 1966); Aliens Compliance Order in Ghana (1970) and in Nigeria (1983 and 1985); military dictatorship in Nigeria (under Abacha) and in Ghana (under Rawlings); and return to civilian rule under democratization, even if the two countries are still economically unstable.
We are even not talking of the English language as the national official language of both countries or the similarities in the natural resources that sustain both countries (cocoa, gold, petroleum, etc.).
But there is also rivalry between the two countries, especially at the level of sports (soccer, to be precise), where Ghana has over the years proved to be too strong for Nigeria. Some of my Nigerian friends wonder why with a population of close to 160 million, their country cannot raise a stronger soccer team to defeat Ghana (with its population of 22 million). That’s a task to be done, if possible.
In politics, both Ghana and Nigeria have a history of ups-and-downs and turbulent times, especially in the hands of the military dictators who took it upon themselves to judge the performance of civilian governments and boot them out of office at will. Or in the discontent among other ranks who launched counter coup d’états to cause needless destruction to limb and property. In the end, political instability characterized this military intervention in national politics. The economy suffered tremendous retrogression in consequence and social life was disrupted.
Nigeria has its Aguiyi Ironsis, Gowons, Murtala Mohammeds, Obasanjos, Buharis, Babangidas, Abachas, and AbdulSalaams while Ghana has the Ankrahs, Afrifas, Acheampongs, Akuffos, and Rawlingses to point to. These were brutal military rulers who brooked no nonsense but ended up creating more problems for their countries than they thought they were solving when in power.
Those among them who have gone into the life beyond won’t fall into oblivion soon because the effects of their military dictatorship remain as ugly scars on their countries’ body politic. Those of them still living should count themselves lucky that their compatriots are patient, tolerant, and forgiving enough to let them live their lives in comfort—even at the expense of the national economy that they didn’t do much to enhance when they planted themselves in office.
As if being allowed to live their lives in comfort isn’t enough to curb their lust for power, some of them have come to notice as abusing the largesse of the people, tempting Fate to the fullest extent and indicating their desire to return to power, having metamorphosed into soldiers without uniforms (civilians).
I have heard some Nigerians condemn their politicians and wished that a RAWLINGS would emerge in their country to tame them. If only they knew…
In a sense, though, the impact of Rawlings is surfacing there. Even though Rawlings is not physically present in Nigeria to do as those Nigerians wish, there seems to be emerging some political developments that connect with what Rawlings is known for in Ghana—as a malcontent who is all out to undermine his own party and its government. In a sense, the specter of Rawlings has surfaced in Nigeria to create anxieties for Jonathan Goodluck and his government.
There is a manifestation of something Rawlings-like in the former Nigerian leader, General Muhammadu Buhari, who has made utterances to jolt the Nigerian establishment and dared the President to arrest him if he has the guts.
Buhari is reported to have taken a huge swipe at the Jonathan Goodluck administration, making threatening statements and spitting fire in readiness for Election 2015.
Just like Rawlings, Buhari has made serious allegations against the government:
• Nepotism—appointing his own Ijaw clansmen to juicy positions (in the oil sector);
• Corruption—superintending over the fleecing of the national coffers by his appointees; and
• Maladministration—likening the government to the dreaded terrorist group, Boko Haram.
Then, he issued what most would dread to hear—a threat of bloodshed if the government attempts rigging the 2015 elections!! Terrible, horrible, disheartening, indeed!!
Buhari is not a member of the governing PDP and one may grant him the benefit of the doubt that as a high-ranking member of the opposition CPC, he is entitled to his criticisms of a government that his own party will be more than pleased to replace. It’s a matter of political nerves being flexed.
But the matter has assumed a different dimension because of the support from another opposition party, the NPC, which indicates that the problem has assumed a wide dimension and is threatening the Jonathan Goodluck administration’s integrity and public image.
This open confrontation by Buhari re-echoes what Rawlings is doing in Ghana. Both Rawlings and Buhari were military rulers that nobody elected into office or had any control over in their handling of national affairs. They ruthlessly administered their countries and brooked no opposition, criticism, or dissension. Their word was the command that the citizens had to obey without question.
Having left the scene, one would expect them to remain in the backwoods to allow those now with the mantle of leadership to administer affairs; but they have chosen to breathe hot air down everybody’s shoulders. They are insatiable and want more opportunities to bounce back into power.
But the doors are shut tight over their ambitions, which irks them to the marrow. That is why they are restless and restive. The more they try to turn the scale in their favour, the bigger the odds against them become, which they won’t accept.
The more they refuse to face reality and work themselves into these tantrums, the more likely it is that they are only determined to cause trouble as they instigate open dissent and acrimony against the government. Such treacherous conduct breeds tension and instability.
The democratization process may have room for freedom of speech but when this right is abused, it doesn’t only threaten the process itself but it also seeks to destabilize the country, which must not be tolerated.
These former military leaders still control the minds of their lackeys and will seek to use them to foment trouble. They must be carefully watched and brought to book if their actions and utterances so confirm.
The implications of Buhari’s tantrums for Nigeria are dire, especially at this time that the Boko Haram terrorist group’s activities have already endangered national security and engaged the government’s utmost attention. Adding more to it will tip the scale over and endanger Nigeria’s wellbeing.
The fear is that should Buhari’s rabble-rousing be capitalized on by these terrorists, Nigeria will be further destabilized. Other security concerns in the case of the Niger Delta armed resistance groups (the MEND, especially) are not yet off the government’s radar screen completely. That is why Buhari must tread cautiously so as not to inflame passions and throw the country into chaos.
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