LATE MAJOR-GENERAL TUNDE IDIAGBON was Born on the 14th of September 1943 as Babatunde “Tunde” Abdulbaki Idiagbon, the stern military general grew up to become Nigeria’s most egalitarian leader. He was first commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Nigerian Army in April 1965 after he had bagged his Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics from Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul (PMA Kakul), Abbottabad, Pakistan. It is worthy of note that the many successes which later characterized the life and times of Late Idiagbon took root from this sound footing. A degree in Economics at a time when colonialism was winding up in Africa and indigenous people were faced with the challenge of development was not only timely but divine. This military officer, who understood the need for adequate education as prerequisite for effectiveness in public office, also undertook other enriching courses at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos and International Defence Management Course, Naval Postgraduate School, U.S in 1981 and 1982 respectively.
His rich resourcefulness explained why in October 1979, he was appointed as the Director of Manpower and Planning at the Army Headquarters. That is, after successfully serving as a Military Administrator of Borno State (August 1978 to October 1979). No wonder his capacity to handle the enormous responsibility of serving as the de facto Vice President to General Muhammadu Buhari was seamless.
In the history of Nigerian politics, since the first military take-over of January 1966, no Vice President is as popular as the late Tunde Idiagbon. The only other popular Vice President is of course, Atiku Abubakar. And his popularity is for obvious reason –his face off with his principal, Obasanjo. Whereas the former’s popularity hinged solely on his stern disciplinary approach, policy foresight, administrative nous and the integrity of his personality. He was responsible for initiating, announcing and implementing many of the government’s policies under Buhari viz: a) The five phases of the War Against Indiscipline b) Currency change and currency exchange rate policy c) Import substitution industrialization policy d) Go back to Land Programme e) Foreign policy; to mention but a few.
From the above, it is clear who was Nigeria’s leader between December 1983 to August 1985. Although, General Muhammadu Buhari occupied the position of Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, he was a mere front. No wonder his true nature could not be known by Nigerians. His intelligent deputy did not allow him the leverage to display his nepotistic tendencies which are now the hallmarks of his administration.
Unfortunately, when shopping for an alternative candidate to replace the incumbent in 2015, Nigerians were quick to remember the period 1983 to 1985 without linking it to the mastermind. They erroneously assumed that the period’s greatest beneficiary was also the brain behind the golden era and Buhari was elected to much fanfare and aplomb. However, the words of George Santayana have come true, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. History has been repeated unwittingly by ignorant Nigerians who are its poor students.
For instance, in 1985, the then Nigeria’s Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari preferred a Fulani Muslim from Niger Idi Omaro, to be Organization of African Unity’s Secretary General as against his Country man Dr. Peter Onu, an Igbo Christian. This singular act alone pointed to the fact that the current president lacks the credentials to lead the most populous Black Country in the world, with its attendant heterogeneity. Not to mention the fact that he possesses only the First School Leaving Certificate. It is even disheartening to recollect the fact that over twenty years after he left power (1985-2015), he withdrew to his village and never took steps to build his capacity and familiarize himself with current trends in international politics and economy. Yet Nigerians saw in him a worthy messiah to rescue the country from the brink. Sadly, his much heralded second coming has been fraught with indecision, lies, wanton destruction of lives and property, escalating poverty and unemployment levels and above all, nepotism of the highest order.
With Nigeria visibly heading towards the precipice, it is expedient to consider Kenneth Timmerman’s position in “The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq”, in order to draw similarities. “By the time Saddam took over as President of Iraq in 1979, he had concentrated power in his hands. Key positions in the military, the security apparatus, and the party were filled from a pool of …his family or his clan. It was a repeat of the tribal system of government that had ruled the Arab world for generations; and it was one of the dark secrets of his regime that Saddam tried to hide beneath a blanket of rhetoric about socialism and revolution”. Timmerman wrote his book in 1992, yet it amply captures the current situation in Nigeria as though the author had the country in mind. The President’s poor economic policies, irresponsible borrowing, mindless corruption under his watch, nepotism, and other glaring failings are covered under the blanket of Mr. integrity, fighting corruption, technically defeating Boko Haram and so on. Regardless of the great promises the APC led government made in 2015, Nigerians have been left frustrated by the poor handling of government business under this dispensation. It is obvious that the “Change” brought about by this government is indeed, an abysmal one. Only a certain section of the country is been favoured at the collective’s expense. Most Nigerians today are not sure of surviving the next day due to killer agents in form of hunger, diseases, herdsmen attacks, Boko Haram, Kidnappers among others who are daily on the prowl, country-wide.
Therefore, the picture painted above of President Muhammadu Buhari’s current administration does not in any way correlate with what obtained between 1983-85. Although many people would argue that military regime is different from democracy, it is instructive to note that the comparison is necessary because it is the same individual who has acted under two different dispensations. And to see even the armed forces fare woefully under his watch in their fight against insecurity despite being a decorated general only confirms the truism that Late Major-General Tunde Idiagbon actually made Buhari who Nigerians thought he was. With him on his side, he was feared and revered at the same time. Without him, the man’s struggles are not only telling but also ridiculous.
For the avoidance of doubt, incumbent Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, a Professor of Law, is a learned man well abreast with modern techniques of governance. Notwithstanding, his position within the current democratic set-up greatly undermines his capacity. The so-called ‘due process’ which is nothing but bureaucratic bottle-necks, places the Professor at a disadvantaged position. This is not however, absorbing him of blame entirely. The reason been that in developed democracies, a man of his standing would have resigned in protest. Because his boss is superintending over the worst government ever in the history of Nigeria. And to discover that a learned Professor of his caliber is a co-pilot of such a misadventure, history will indeed, not be kind to him.
Quite unfortunately, on the 24th of March 1999, the indefatigable Tunde Idiagbon passed on to eternal glory at the age of 56. This colossal loss has robbed the country of something very vital, constructive evaluation of the man Buhari. Supposing his former deputy were to be alive, it is pretty obvious that with unwholesome happenings in the country right now, he would have made a public statement, in the same vein as Generals Obasanjo, Danjuma, IBB and others. Thereby letting Nigerians into the exclusive world of President Muhammadu Buhari. In his absence, the country only continues to wallow in the anguish of its wrong choice made in 2015 and long with eagerness for the faint hope of ‘changing the change’ in 2019.
Nande, Tersoo. Programme Assistant/M&E Officer. Justice Development and Peace/Caritas Advocates. Bompai, Kano-Nigeria.