Why We Over Throw Shagari’s Govt In 1984 – Buhari (SEE DOCUMENTS)

LAGOS DECEMBER 27TH (NEWSRANGERS)-In a letter dated January 6, 1984, and addressed to the then UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, Nigeria’s incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, then a Maj-General, listed reasons that necessitated the 1984 coup in which he emerged the Head of State.

The bloodless coup which upstaged the democratic government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari was in the words of Buhari “received with widest acclaim”. According to him, the coup helped to stave off an inevitable uprising and revolution. He described the coup as a “patriotic rescue operation.”

A careful review of the reasons listed for the coup showed that all the symptoms of failure that necessitated the coup are still alive today after many governments spanning a period of 36 years.

In his justification of the coup, Buhari told PM Thatcher that “when the last military administration voluntarily handed over power to civilians in 1979, it was with very high hopes for the future.”

In direct indictment of Shagari government, the Customs, the police and other public officers, Buhari wrote:

“However, so soon after the handing over, in both the Administrative and Legislative organs of government, a myriad of public functionaries embarked on a systemic circumvention of the checks and balances entrenched in the constitution.

“Pervasive corruption combined with moral and financial indiscipline to ensure that millions of naira were stolen from the national coffers and stacked away in banks inside and outside the country by many unpatriotic citizens actively aided and abetted by certain unscrupulous foreign associates.

“What was left was quickly dissipated on loaded contracts and over-invoicing of imports designed to allow generous kick-backs to government and political party functionaries. Approved and correct procedures were systematically undermined and the normal functioning of government machinery deliberately perverted for personal gains.

“Individuals were becoming increasingly apprehensive of their personal security and the future seemed to hold little hope for improvement in the status quo. The majority of public functionaries, at all levels, freely engaged themselves in irregularities with impunity since those at the top and supervisory grades were themselves known to be involved in corrupt practices and impropriety.

“Visitors to our country were regularly confronted by nauseating and ugly sight of uniformed Customs officials and policemen taking gratifications without qualms and so brazenly doing so.

“Incompetence in the management of national resource led the nation to accumulate huge internal and external debts and to run into serious balance of payment difficulties. Government was fast losing its ability to pay for the goods and services contracted or needed. The national economy tottered dangerously on the brink of collapse. Numerous industrial undertakings are at the very moment on the verge of total collapse and many had been forced to close down for lack of raw materials. Thousands of workers had lost their jobs and the sceptre of large scale retrenchment has already appeared.”

The letter chronicled other woes that defined the Shagari government including insecurity. Part of the letter stated that “hired assassins and marauders were openly beginning to practice their trade in broad daylight. Perpetrators of corrupt practices resorted to arson to cover their trail, resulting in callous destruction of several expensive public buildings and even loss of lives.”

The Buhari letter 36 years ago showed that nothing has changed in the country’s leadership and value orientation. All the ills that plagued the Shagari government have continued to wax even bolder all through the years including under the present civilian government of President Buhari.

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