• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Osuntokun, Momodu and the cry of the bereaved


Expectedly, the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) has thrown up yet another round of debates on the personality, actions and inactions of the Daura general. The last time we travelled this road was in 2011, when the man unsuccessfully sought, for the third time, the highest office in the land.

Leading the media campaign against the General this time around are Akin Osuntokun, a former managing director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), and Shaka Momodu, an editor with ThisDay newspapers. The former is also a columnist with the Lagos-based newspaper.

Although there was nothing new in what both columnists are saying, as they are the regular “sins” of Buhari we are familiar with, it has become a duty for some of us to call their attention to the how recent developments have rendered their lines stale and ineffective, if not laughable.

Throwing a jibe at us “bloggers, facebook and twitter youths”, who form a large chunk of Buhari’s support base today, Momodu, in consecutive editions of his ThisDay columns for the first weeks of January, called our attention to Buhari’s high-handedness during his regime. Osuntokun, in a twin article, “Buhari: Which South West?” (ThisDay, 2nd January, 2015) and “Buhari and the Scientific Imagination” (ThisDay, 9th January, 2015), also attempted whipping up the usual ethno-religious sentiments against Buhari candidacy.

First, I find it contradictory how Osuntokun, a well-known Yoruba supremacist as evident in his articles, now has a problem with Buhari, a Fulani and cattle owner himself, speaking on behalf of Fulani cattle rearers as if they are automatically criminals. After all, we have had prominent Yoruba socio-cultural leaders, most notably Bola Ige, who spoke regularly on behalf of Yoruba nation, seeking national positions, presidency in the case of Ige. There was even an Odumegwu Ojukwu that sought to become president of a democratic Nigeria more than thirty years after leading his Igbo nation against the country. Except we agree that some people have monopoly of defending their people, the tagging of Buhari an ethnic jingoist based on this intervention, as Momodu and Osuntokun are trying to make us believe, will not fly this time.

Second, and the most important, Momodu and Osuntokun need telling that the “victims” of Buhari’s “tyranny” had moved on, as some of them, with benefit of hindsight and current realities in Nigeria, have even come out to declare Buhari the right man for the job at this stage of our national life.

The jailing of Tunde Thompson, a journalist, during Buhari’s military regime is one of the points Momodu, Osuntokun and their co-travellers bandy around to remind us of the tyranny of Buhari. But here is what Tunde Thompson himself has to say on Buhari candidature in 2015:

“I believe that a person like Buhari at this time can call anybody to order and some people are afraid of that. The fear of a few people who have plundered the treasuries of this country should not be allowed to hinder our economic progress and political trans¬formation. I think Buhari is humble. How many times did Abraham Lincoln run for presidency of United States? Was it not about 11 times? But Bu¬hari is running for about three, four times and peo¬ple are saying he is too old. He is not too old. Let them go to India, let them go to other places there are examples. I will not like people to use Decree 4 as an excuse to deny somebody, who can help bring discipline through democratic means, to Nigeria, another opportunity of getting to the position of president of this country. I think God is getting tired of the injustice in this country. That is why some of us are seeing the reason to rally round the man and support him” (Sun newspaper, 11th January, 2014).

Yinka Akintoye, a professor and one of the Second Republic senators jailed by Buhari in 1984, in an article written in December 2014 and titled “Open Letter to General Buhari”, after acknowledging the errors made by the General during his brief regime – and everyone knows there were errors, which regime is without one? – concluded by asserting that he knew the General has what it takes to save Nigeria at this point in time.

Lawal Ojuolape was one of the young men that were killed by the Buhari regime for drug trafficking. Ojuolape’s son (@ismaillawal on twitter) has come out to endorse Buhari candidacy.

Second Republic vice president, Alex Ekwueme, who was also detained by Buhari, was recently interviewed by The Sun (published in its 10th January, 2015 edition). When one would have expected such a man to be at the forefront of the campaign against the return of Buhari, the only place Ekwueme made reference to Buhari in that extensive interview was credit for finishing off the Maitatsine terrorist group.

Even the body language of the Awolowo family is that of endorsement of Buhari candidacy. And here are Momodu and Osuntokun crying louder than the bereaved.

Yes, there were errors during Buhari’s regime, but it is uncharitable to dismiss the patriotic gains of the era. One million Momodus and Osuntokuns cannot stop a change whose time has come.

Suraj Oyewole