FORMER military ruler, Major General Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday defended some of the most controversial actions of his regime and ac¬cepted responsibility for them.
Gen. Buhari, who is the presi¬dential candidate of the main opposition party, the All Pro-gressives Congress (APC), said that his military regime took those actions to clean up the country and restore dignity to the citizenry.
The Buhari junta, which was in power between 31 December 1983 and 27 August 1985, attract¬ed criticisms for executing drug convicts with retroactive laws and for jailing journalists under a decree that made it an offence to publish a report that could embarrass the government, whether true or false.
The military regime ex¬ecuted Bernard Ogedegbe (29), Bathlomew Owoh (26) and La¬wal Ojuolape (30) for dealing in drugs. The case of Owoh drew particular global attention be-cause at the time the offence was committed, the maximum punishment in the country’s legal code was six months imprisonment. The Buhari government enacted a De¬cree 20, which had a retro¬active effect and carried the death penalty.
Also, under Decree No. 4 of 1984, the Buhari mili¬tary government jailed two reporters, Tunde Thomp¬son and Nduka Irabor for publishing reports that it considered embarrassing to government officials.
His question-and-answer session with the Al Jazeera television, went thus:
People accuse your lead¬ership during that regime of cracking down on civil rights, of executing people who had not committed cap¬ital offences.
We said we suspended parts of the constitution and we made laws before we sent people on trial. So, we accept responsibility for whatever opinion and whoever is ex¬pressing it. The question of executing people was about people dealing in drugs. We said cocaine and associated drugs were not developed or produced in Nigeria. People who want to make money at the expense of health, lives of people go to the countries that produce these substanc¬es and make Nigeria a tran¬sit camp for drugs, destroy¬ing Nigerian communities and extend the destruction even to developed countries just to make money. We were concerned that if people want to make money, they should go out and work hard and make money, not to go and bring drugs, sell it and destroy our youth, sell it and destroy other countries just to make money. We made the law, that whoever did it should be executed. Let him go and make the money else¬where, not in Nigeria. The second accusation that you made on the trampling on human rights is about the Nigerian Press. We said we cannot stop the press from criticizing people or institu¬tions. But please, let them have investigative journal¬ism. Let them try and verify facts before they accuse government of offence and others of misdemeanor to spoil their names and repu¬tations. We never held any secret tribunal. The tribu¬nals, six of them throughout the country, we got the intel¬ligence community, Navy, Army, Air Force, Police, national security organisa¬tions, to form the investi¬gative panel that based on documentation, people were charged, military tribunals, they were tried. There was nothing secret about it.
You’ve managed to attract the support of fairly significant political figures in Nigeria. Wole Soyinka the widely internationally ac¬claimed writer and former President (Oluse¬gun) Obasanjo, former President (Ibra¬him) Babangida. They’ve all come out very strongly against the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan and thereby support your candi¬dacy. But nobody has come out with a real endorsement of Muhammadu Buhari as the right man and the perfect man to be the President of Nigeria.
If people don’t like Buhari’s face for what he did as a military Head of State, let them join either the ruling party or any of the mushroom parties and vote against me and persuade their constituencies to vote against me. It is as simple as that. I keep maintaining that Nigerians will be amazed how physically Nigeria can be secured if people are allowed to choose whoever they want to represent them as members of leg¬islature, as Governors and as President. We will be amazed.
Can I, with respect, put to you another criticism that is levelled against you, Gener¬al Muhammadu Buhari and that is: You are a very popular figure in the North but that popularity doesn’t extend beyond. You’ve been accused of being the leader of the North, and somebody who doesn’t extend that appeal to the other parts of the country. In fact, you’ve been accused of not really respecting the diversity of Nigeria. What would you say to that?
Source: daily Times


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