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Does Buhari like democracy, and does he deserve to govern in one (since he overthrew the Shagari government in 1983)?

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    Answer: YES

    While the December 31, 1983, coup ended the rule of Shagari’s National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the overwhelming view of the Nigerian populace at the time was very welcoming of the military’s intervention.

    The Shagari regime had in four years run the economy badly and turned Nigeria into a civilian, dictatorial “one party state”.(1) Hence, it was no surprise that when “news of another coup reached the public, there was jubilation. People drank, danced and sang all over the country that the decadent, corrupt and directionless politicians had been wiped off the face of Nigeria’s political life. People called for ‘military rule for ever’. Others called for war on politicians, the execution of legislators, ministers, governors and top party men. Yet many remarked that ‘unless we do like Rawlings (who killed corrupt Ghanaian rulers in 1979), Shagari and his men will come back'”.(2)

    Just before the 1983 elections, fear pervaded the land as senior NPN officials went around “boasting that there were only two parties in Nigeria – NPN and the Army”.(3) And even inside the other “party” (The Military), fear of the NPN wasn’t unfounded. The “police was equipped with Armoured Personnel Carriers, reinforcing suspicions that the NPN was not merely maneuvering to sustain its political ascendancy, but was also preparing to bully its way through the August 1983 elections, while furnishing itself with alternative defence in the event of a direct conflict with the armed forces.”(4)

    Having now overseen a wholesale rigging of the elections across the country, with attendant bloodshed and violence by a Police Force doing the bidding of the ruling NPN, some of the Army’s leaders ousted the political class to prevent a bloody cleansing of the stables by junior officers. Such was the rot in the polity.

    Buhari himself was later ousted by a palace coup in August 1985. After years of house arrest, and the eventual fall of the Soviet Union in the late eighties, he became a convert to the idea of liberal democracy.

    The following image is a news report from The Times of Saturday, January 7, 1984.

    Lagos honeymoon for soldiers and civilians

    REFERENCES:
    1. ‘Season of Anomy’, Editorial, The Guardian (Lagos), 24th August 1983
    2. Falola T, Ihonvbere J, ‘The Rise and Fall of Nigeria’s Second Republic’ (1985), p 228
    3. Falola & Ihonvbere (1985), p. 226
    4a. The Guardian (London), 11th January, 1984
    b. T.Y. Danjuma, The Guardian (Lagos), 20 July 1986
    [Both cited by Othman Shehu, Chapter 8 on ‘Nigeria’, in ‘Contemporary West African States’ (1989) by Cruise O’Brien and Others, pp 134-135]

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