Countrymen and Women,
In 1984, I criticised the repromulgation of a decree that was meant to protect public officers and punish journalists that published any material that would embarrass the government. I say ‘repromulgate’ because a decree of the same name had been enacted to try Dr Ohombamu who had published in his Spark magazine some material that the military regime of Murtala Mohammed/Obasanjo regime thought unfairly undermined the effort of the regime to tackle corruption in the public service. The decree was repealed in 1979, being listed as one of the laws that were not consistent with the operation of a democracy. The decree came back as Decree 4 of 1984 on the return of Nigeria to military rule in December 1983.
I told journalists to disobey the law insofar as it provided for punishment of journalists even when they published the truth. I was then General Manager in the Daily Times. I was to write another criticism of BUHARI in my Point of Order column in the Sunday Vanguard of July 1, 2001 (pages 246 – 249 of volume 1 of my Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary). The title of the piece was Buhari’s Gaffe. I had written on his alleged call on Muslims not to vote for Christians. I was to discover that what I took BUHARI to the cleaners for was a mis-reporting of an event by a journalist who neither spoke Hausa nor was at the event. But the harm had been done and as at the time of writing I was not aware that the Rev Father Hassan Kuka had investigated the matter and produced a report which said that the General spoke Hausa at a book presentation in Sokoto and advised voters to vote for only those who have a conscience, who know God and would keep the promises they made when they asked the people to vote for them. Believe me when I say that every time I read that piece in my book, I feel ashamed that I wrote from ignorance. And this happens when we do not take time to investigate the subjects of our pontifications. Facts will continue to be sacred and comments free. But it is tragic if we are derailed by opinions that are presented as facts on which we base our comments.
It is a different matter however if there is an interest to protect in tackling an issue. BUHARI is a legitimate target for arrows and other missiles from stables opposed to his party. But it helps to be armed with facts when you tackle an adversary. When I had to work with BUHARI in 2003 because my community asked me to do so for reasons that are not relevant to this presentation, I had some issues to be resolved and I wrote to him asking for an interview. I went to Abuja with two journalists I knew were not friendly. We had the interview in a two bedroom service apartment. That was our first shock. He had no house in Abuja! The interview was conducted in one of the two rooms, in his bedroom. We grilled him for five hours, asking a total of 49 questions ranging from the toppling of a democratically elected regime, the promulgation of Decree 4 and the jailing under it of Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thompson, through the allegation of missing money in NNPC and 53 suitcases allegedly brought into the country by a traditional ruler, the execution of druggists under a backdated decree, to the trial and jailing of politicians for hundreds of years for corrupt practices. We did not send him the questions. We shot from the hip. The questions and answers were published in a book titled MANY QUESTIONS AND BUHARI’S ANSWERS. It is out of print but if you are interested, I have reproduced the book on my website www.tonymomoh.com. You can visit it and read our findings and make up your mind whether General Muhammadu Buhari is the Butcher some of us on this forum assert he is.
Published in Nigerian World Forum