Monday 6 July 2015

The Generals Need To Apologise To Shagari - By Owei Lakemfa

Shagari and Buhari

THE National Party of Nigeria (NPN) the ruling party in the Second Republic was disliked by millions of people particularly the youths. It was perceived as the party of the rich. Indeed, it was founded by the ruling class including groups referred to as the  Kaduna Mafia and  MONEY Bags’ Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola was to respond that it was an insult to refer to him as a ‘money bag’ because no bag could contain all his money.
The NPN situation was worsened with the emergence of a reluctant Alhaji Shehu Shagari as its presidential candidate. His ambition was to be a Senator, but other forces dragged him despite his  cries, into the primaries where he defeated by a slim margin, Alhaji Maitama Sule and the preferred ‘mafia’ candidate, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma.

So while, Shagari was virtually frog-jumped into the Presidency in 1979, President Muhammadu Buhari who was elected thirty six years later, pursued his ambition over twelve years through sweat and blood using three different party platforms.
Shagari and Buhari
FilePHOTO: Shagari and Buhari
In comparison to Buhari, Shagari had another serious challenge; his opponents  doggedly CONTESTED his election. Although he won on August 16, 1979, his Supreme Court victory came onSEPTEMBER 26, 1979, giving him only two work-days before his inauguration onOCTOBER 1, 1979. Despite this handicap and his reluctance, he hit the groundRUNNING.
Within two months, he had not only created two brandNEW ministries; Science and Technology, and Housing and Environment, but had his Ministers, Advisers and a number of new Permanent Secretaries in place, all running at full speed. He had also inaugurated a Presidential  Revenue Allocation Committee  headed not by politicians, but a seasoned Economist, Dr. Pius Okigbo. There was also in place, a new Food policy andPROGRAMME to increase production of cassava, maize, groundnut, rice and livestock. This was to be the foundation of the Green Revolution Programmme.
In that two-month period, the Shagari Administration had begun the re-organisation of the NNPC, reversed the car loan policy of the military and the expulsion of student leaders following their 1978 national protests. In that period, it had begun the building or rebuilding of 191  roads including the Benin-Ore Road.
Its ‘Qualitative Education’ Programme including the introduction of the Open University System was in progress. The plan was  to admit 100,000STUDENTS in the first five years.
Needless to state, the National Assembly (NASS) was also up and running with Senator Joseph Wayas as Senate President and Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, Speaker. There were no open disagreements inFILING leadership positions in the NASS and certainly not the physical combats  we are witnessing today.
But Shagari was considered quite slow  in comparison with the pace of work in the opposition Unity Party of Nigeria(UPN)  led by Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo which had five State Governors. The NPN had seven governors, the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) led by Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe had three while the Mohammed Aminu Kano-led Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and the Great Nigerian Peoples Party (GNPP) of Waziri Ibrahim, had two governors each.
Despite Shagari’s speed on education, he was easily outpaced by Alhaji Lateef Jakande, UPN’s ‘Action Governor of Lagos State who phased out the colonial shift system in schools, and was building schools in any space he could lay his hands on including lands belonging to private citizens who were giving no choice in the matter.
Simultaneously, Jakande was grabbing lands wherever he could find to build low cost housing estates for the people, and Shagari countered with aPROGRAMME of building each year, two thousand low income houses in each of the 19 states and Abuja. Today, the houses in Lagos are called Jakande Estates and those in various states, Shagari Houses.
Despite this stiffCOMPETITION, Shagari regularly called summits of political parties where party leaders were consulted. Contrast this with the on-going war of attrition between the APC and PDP. The irony is that while the parties of the Second Republic had ideological, political  and policy differences, those between APC and PDP  is the difference between six and half a dozen.
Sure, there were serious problems including in the economy and  austerity measures were introduced in 1981.  Power supply was epileptic,JOBS IN short supply and hunger, widespread. There were also cases of unpaid salaries across the country. For this, an alert Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC)  led by Alhaji Hassan Adebayo Sunmonu mobilized workers around a programmme; Fight Against Retrenchment  And  Non-Payment Of Wages (FAR & NOW) The NLC also forced states to pay some months arrears as  pre-condition not to disrupt the 1983 general elections.  Many clamoured for change, and debates and struggles went on to build a better country.
Then came martial music on December 31, 1983 with the generals announcing they had seized power. They swept many politicians into prison whether they were guilty or not. Within two years, they had also swept away over a million and halfJOBS, clamped opposition into detention without trial and imposed harsh austerity measures.
In the fifteen years of renewed military rule, the country’s situation degenerated; getting worse as one military regime replaced the other; the coup plotters were so gluttonous, that they ate both the snail and its shell. The generals flew the large Nigeria Airways into oblivion,  ran the Nigeria Railways aground, transformed the refineries into empty shells and sold all the ships of the Nigeria National Shipping Line (please don’t ask me where theMONEY is, perhaps in some numbered Swiss account)
By the time military rule ended in 1999, the country was held together by a thin rope, and millions survived on mere hope. Today, the country is in a worse state than it was in the Second Republic; the politicians of old, compared to their successor  military-politicians, appear like saints. The generals need go and apologise to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, not as aPERSON, but as  representative of the Second Republic politicians who were vilified, brutalised  and demonised. More importantly, they need to apologize to Nigerians for their years of misrule which set the country back by decades.
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