Those who were young (men-about-town) in the 80s will remember the 1979 hit track by McFadden & Whitehead, titled Ain't no stopping us now. The lyrics goes thus:
Ain't no stopping us now!
We're on the move!
Ain't no stopping us now!
We've got the groove!
And if you ponder and reflect on the political journey of President Muhammadu Buhari, right from 2003, when he threw his hat into the ring, till now, there have been spirited attempts to stop him. It got to a head in the build up to the 2019 elections, when a pernicious confederacy was put together, all to stop Nigeria's inexorable march to greatness. It failed, resoundingly.
On Wednesday, May 29, 2019, President Buhari will take oath for second term in office. Millions of good Nigerians will be delirious with joy, but some other significant minority would be in 'sifia' (severe) pains. Why? Ain't no stopping Muhammadu Buhari, he's on the move! The man will get his groove, and evildoers will be in trouble.
The combat between light and darkness, evil and good, has been an eternal one. Some people love darkness more than light, because it is under the cover of darkness that they thrive, luxuriating in their evil acts: grand larceny, plunder, killings, and others. So, they will never love the Mai Gaskiya (the honest man), and would do everything to stop him, or pull him down.
The efforts to stop Buhari have been robust, pulsating. After a reputation of honesty and probity as military governor, petroleum minister, member of the Supreme Military Council, his colleagues found no one better to wear the diadem as military head of state than the ramrod straight man from Daura. And he began to reset the foundations of Nigeria, knocking sense into the heads of the corrupt and those prone to indiscipline. It was no longer business as usual.
But the dream run lasted only 20 months, before they truncated it. The landlords of Nigeria struck, and stopped Buhari. Up in smoke went probity and accountability. Discipline flew out through the window. And we went back to a place worse than square one.
The man came back as a reformed democrat. He sought to be president in 2003, 2007, and 2011. But those in mortal fear of righteousness in high places banded together, and stopped him. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had perfected the art of elections manipulation, and they used it to the hilt.
However, in 2015, there ain't no more stopping Buhari. A massive coalition for change was built around him, and good Nigerians stood up for the champion. Did he live happily ever after? Not on your lives! The adversaries went after him. Ran, pursued, and attempted to overtake. All sorts of things, physical and spiritual, were thrown at him, just to get rid of the man who would not steal, and not allow people to steal.
A debilitating illness came. And for most of 2017, the President was receiving medical attention, both at home and abroad. Instead of goodwill and prayers, they were rejoicing. We've finally stopped him, they gloated. But did they? Could they? Not if God was still alive.
Ain't no stopping Buhari, as in August 2017, he got back his groove. His health rebounded, and he resumed work fully.
But would Pharaoh desist from pursuing Israel? No. He was destined to perish in a watery grave, so he pursued Israel into the sea. They formed what they called a coalition, vowing that they would stop Buhari from winning the 2019 elections. This was after letters had flown around from the master letter writer, virtually commanding the President to dismount from the horse. That letter writer thinks he's the landlord of Nigeria, as anybody he moved against never survived. He felt he could enthrone and dethrone leaders at will. But the Yoruba people say it's the day that the witch kills twins that she stops eating meat. The letter writer bit more than he could chew, and it stuck in his throat. He formed a political coalition, it collapsed right in his face. He first adopted a political party to use in his bid to unseat the incumbent, then in act of utter confusion, he abandoned that new party, and went for candidate of the PDP.
The same man he had spent the past 10 years destroying, writing volumes and volumes of verbiage against, he now attempted to sell to Nigerians. Were we fools?
See the grand conspiracy by those who called themselves 'Atikulators.' They included former presidents, some retired military top brass, disgruntled senior civil servants, business people, preachers, and the elite, generally. The sluice gates of free funds had been slammed shut, and they were unhappy. As dolorous as King Lear at his worst.
The letter writer mobilized the international community, feeding them with misinformation and disinformation. Fulanization. Islamization, and other creepy concoctions. He was already addressing the PDP candidate as "my incoming President." Oh, how so very easy to build castles in the air!
Marabouts, witches, wizards, and false prophets masquerading as pastors, bishops, and archbishops also joined the fray. They began to spew falsehood, which they attributed to God. He that sits in Heaven just laughed at them, and held them in utter derision.
All those who were on the wrong side of the law joined the conspiracy. Ex-this, ex-that, who had abused their offices, and were being made to answer questions, crept under the umbrella. They knew if their man won, their cases would die natural deaths. So, for them, it was a matter of life and death.
They came with spurious political permutations and calculations. Votes in North-west and North-east would be shared. They would sweep North-central, where they had spent the last two years trying to demonize and de-market Buhari and his political party. South-west would also be shared, and then, they would win South-east and South-south wholesale. It seemed foolproof on paper, particularly when you also throw in massive vote buying, hacking of all the hackables, and a complicit judiciary as Plan B. They were already planning how to sell Nigeria, and tell the poor to go to hell.
But they didn't reckon with the staying power of the poor and the downtrodden. They are people who know where their bread would be buttered, and where their future happiness lay. In their millions, they trooped out to vote for the honest man. They chose light, instead of darkness. At the end of it all, about four million votes separated the men from the boys.
The man left holding the short end of the stick went to court, claiming some servers from George Orwell's sugar candy mountain, gave him victory. It's within his democratic rights. Ain't no stopping Buhari now, he's on the move!
In recent weeks, banditry, killings, murder and mayhem have suffused the length and breadth of the country. Everything appears orchestrated, choreographed, to achieve certain ends. The law enforcement agencies are pointing fingers in certain directions. But Nigerians want them to do more. Pull in the evildoers, and let them face the law. That is what President Buhari tells them at each Security Council meeting, too. And we will get there. Soon and very soon, because we've got the groove. When the ram runs, its testicles dangle furiously from side to side. But no matter what, the testicles can never fall off. Nigeria will remain united, despite all machinations of the evil ones.
In that song by McFadden & Whitehead, you have these lines:
There's been so many things that's held us down,
But now it looks like things are finally comin' round.
Yes. Things are coming round for Nigeria. We will get to where we are headed. Our fair havens, land flowing with milk and honey. The crooked and corrupt won't ever stop us, nor would they rule us again, and the wealth of Nigeria will be used for the good of Nigerians. Ain't no stopping us now, we're on the move!
By FEMI ADESINA, Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity
In The Spotlight
Finally, June 12 as a historically iconic date is official. It is no longer a mere symbol of what could have been. It is now encoded as a take-off date for the resurgence of the democratic experience in Nigeria.
And the credit goes to President Muhammadu Buhari, a man whose comrades-in-arms, led by Ibrahim Babangida had, in a streak of authoritarian madness, vitiated the peoples’ will in 1993. Whenever the injustice of June 12 is remembered, it will always be said that Buhari was the man who righted that wrong. History will be kind to him in this regard. But June 12, known euphemistically as the 26-year old pregnancy and national albatross, which has haunted the trajectory of Nigeria’s precarious democracy, can only get final closure if, and when Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar tells Nigerians why he kept Abiola to die in detention while other political prisoners were released.
Without doubt, Nigerian democracy has come a long away. Most Nigerians who are old enough to remember the significance of June 12, hailed the decision of the Buhari administration to recognize June 12 as Democracy Day. Whether it was an obligatory atonement emanating from genuine contrition, or an expedient after-thought contrived for political reasons, Buhari’s conferment of the national honor, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on Abiola, and his public apology to his family were acts of nobility and magnanimity.
Viewed as an act of statesmanship, the apology and multiple honors granted Abiola underlines the move towards appeasement, reconciliation and national unity. Buhari claimed the reason for the double honor rightfully granted the late Abiola was not “to open old wounds but to put right a national wrong.” To assuage the feelings of Nigerians and “recognize that a wrong has been committed,” the president made his offering: “This retrospective and posthumous recognition is only a symbolic token of redress and recompense for the grievous injury done to the peace and unity of our country. Our decision to recognize and honor June 12 and its actors is in the national interest. It is aimed at setting national healing process and reconciliation of the 25-year festering wound caused by the annulment of the June 12th election. I earnestly invite all Nigerians across our entire national divide to accept it in good faith.”
The travails of the prevailing democratic order make imperative the interrogation of what June 12 called Democracy Day is all about. Do Nigerians really appreciate what democracy means? Are Nigerian politicians making democracy worthwhile or perverting its content and process? Undoubtedly there are many Nigerians who have stories to tell about the great men and women who participated in those stirring events that culminated in the final stage when Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn-in as the third elected president of Nigeria. Perhaps the most significant actor in those events of 1998 and 1999 was Gen. Abubakar, the last serving soldier to hold the office of Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
Gen. Abubakar was known among his colleagues as a rigorously apolitical soldier. He joined the nascent Nigerian Air force in 1963 but crossed into the army in 1966, a move that proved to be quite fortuitous. He was a member of the military tribunal that tried and condemned the soldiers who staged the Gideon Orkar coup of April 22, 1990 - the bloodiest attempt to topple IBB. After that event, Abubakar faded from the news. In the wake of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Nigeria was grip by crisis. Abubakar played a significant role in installing Gen. Sani Abacha in power in November 1993. When Gen. Oladipo Diya fell suddenly in 1997, it was Abubakar’s turn to rise in the byzantine politics of the Abacha court. He became Chief of Defence Staff and Abacha’s de-jure second-in-command.
But Abubakar was not a favorite of the Abacha court. He had an uncanny ability not to betray his emotions and would rarely volunteer any comment during meetings. His trademark poker face like a ventriloquist confounded even his most ardent critics and detractors. After the arrest of Diya and the generals in the fake coup of 1997, many of the top generals who survived were falling over each other to deify Abacha. They knew Abacha wielded absolute power of life and death. Abacha’s sudden death in 1998 changed the power geometry in Nigeria forever. The military announced Abubakar as the new Head of State. In an unprecedented twist, the Chief Justice brought out the tattered 1979 Constitution to swear-in Abubakar as new military ruler. The five political parties that had hitherto unanimously nominated Abacha for President collapsed like a pack of cards. Chief Bola Ige had famously described the five parties as “the five fingers of a leprous hand.”
When Abubakar took office, he had to clear all the old files pending on the late Abacha’s desk. In one of the files, there was a letter addressed to Abubakar awaiting Abacha’s signature. The letter demanded Abubakar’s compulsory retirement which was to be announced on the date Abubakar was sworn-in as Head of State if Abacha had survived to that day. The irony was not lost him. He knew his offence. He had refused to wear the Abacha loyalty badge that many generals were wearing. He had told those who cared to listen that his loyalty was to Nigeria and not to an individual. Abacha died. Abubakar survived.
But Chief Abiola, the presumed winner of June 12 did not survive. By the time Abubakar took power, Abiola had been in detention for four years. He was kept in solitary confinement and seldom allowed to see the sun. The circumstances in which Abiola was being detained were surreal. Then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, was one of the last people to see him alive. Annan described how Abiola was watching the England-Argentina World Cup match on television without the sound when he entered the room. When Annan asked the guard to turn up the sound, he was told this was not possible.
When Annan greeted him, Abiola asked: “Who are you?” On hearing he was the UN secretary general, Abiola was overcome with emotion and kissed his hand. “What happened to the Egyptian [Boutros Boutros Ghali]?” he asked. Annan explained he had taken over the position in January last year. Abiola had no idea that the Pope had visited Nigeria and had pleaded for his release. He had only heard the day before Annan’s visit that Abacha, had died. He had been almost completely isolated from the world for nearly four years. Abiola said he had been allowed a radio in prison for his first month, but in mid-1994 was cut off completely. His guards refused to talk to him and he had stopped trying to get information from them. He had no newspapers and was only given two books - the Bible and the Qur’an.
Gen. Abubakar had asked Annan to get a written assurance from Abiola that, if released, he would not immediately declare himself president as a result of the 1993 elections. Abubakar feared massive disruption, with Abiola being hailed in the south, while the northern Hausa controlled the army. He wanted Abiola to support a period of transition until new presidential elections in which he and others could compete and Annan said Abiola appreciated much had changed since 1993 and he did not want to come straight out of prison into Aso Rock. But he was apparently reluctant to give a signed undertaking. Instead he opted to meet Abubakar and give his word. Instead he died on July 7, 1998.
Although many seem carried away by the prospects for national reconciliation, which the recognition of June 12, exemplifies, the deeper import of the injustice of the Babangida regime would be lost if the country doesn’t muster the courage to exhume and resurrect what certain quarters consider a fossil of Nigeria’s political history. Abubakar must tell Nigerians why he kept Abiola in prison, until he collapsed and died after drinking tea during a meeting with two US envoys –Thomas Pickering and Susan Rice. The US diplomats, who travelled with Abiola to a nearby hospital and watched as doctors tried to revive him, said Abiola was in a poor state of health after four years of brutal imprisonment. “He had some record of hypertension,” Pickering said. “Both of his legs were swollen and he showed them to us.”
For the record, upon taking office, Abubakar received a delegation of Afenifere, the Pan-Yoruba group led by Senator Abraham Adesanya. The meeting ended in an upbeat note as Abubakar promised to release Abiola and other political prisoners. Days later, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, Kunle Ajibade, Chief Bola Ige, Mrs. Chris Anyanwu and Gen. Diya were all released. But Abiola remained detention. Even more shocking, there was no change of circumstances as Abiola remained in the same solitary confinement where Abacha’s Man Friday, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, had consigned him.
Yet there was no apparent reason why Abiola was not released with the other prisoners of conscience. Abiola’s claim to power had been weakened by the destruction of the political structures that supported his mandate. The political parties, the national and state parliaments and elected executives were all gone. What sort of negotiation could be imperative that could not be done with Abiola as a free man? By the time of his sudden death, neither Abubakar nor any agent of his government had volunteered to see Abiola, talk less of negotiating with hm.
Gen. Abubakar delivered on his promise to return Nigeria to democratic rule in 1999, and for that the country owes him a debt of eternal gratitude. But he also owes the country an explanation why Abiola was still kept in detention after many of the leading political prisoners had been release. It is one secret he must share with Nigerians, 26 years after the death of the man who paid the ultimate price for the current democratic dispensation that Nigerians have enjoyed for the past 20 years. Until Gen. Abubakar breaks his deafening silence, June 12 as Democracy Day will remain a mockery of justice and atonement.
The continuous silence of Gen. Abubakar speaks to an unwillingness to confront the monstrosity of that great injustice, and constitutes an act of violence to the collective memory of Nigerians. Feelings might be assuaged, and emotions dissipated over June 12, but Nigerians in their minds and hearts remain open to revisiting this vexing national question of why Abiola was never released. The clamor for national reconciliation transcends the recognition of June 12 and if genuine honor is to be accorded to what June 12 symbolizes, Abubakar must address the hovering controversy; there must be investigation of persons or institutions; who were willfully culpable in the atrocities of the military junta. The assassination and unexplained disappearance of pro-democracy activists, journalists, human rights lawyers; the brutal murder of perceived enemies of the junta and the wanton destruction of property and deliberate incapacitation of opponents must now be brought to light.
This is an opportunity for all such acts of injustice hanging on Nigeria to be addressed, and all found guilty must face the lawful consequences of their actions. As a first step towards atonement, there should be a roll call of honor of all the victims of June 12, dead or alive. Most importantly, there is need for the dramatis personae, including Gen. Abubakar to come out and offer an unreserved apology to Abiola and other victims of June 12. This is necessary for them to make personal atonement and seek inner peace for the injustices perpetrated. Atonement and reconciliation are volitional for the attainment of peace; it can rarely be done on behalf of another, especially when the perpetrators are alive. The successful foreclosure of the June 12 controversy will only be complete when Gen. Abubakar tells Nigerians why he allowed Abiola to die in detention. The country deserves to know the truth.