IDIAGBON: WHERE ARE THE PATRIOTS AND COMPATRIOTS
New Nigerian September 24, Vanguard October 6, Daily Trust October 6,
“It is a pity that Tunde Idiagbon’s regime was destined to collapse, in spite of all its patriotic zeal
and vigour, in words and action”
- Major General
Christ Ali (Rtd)
The above is from a brilliant and intelligent officer of the Nigerian Army who retired as Chief of Army Staff and presently
is the Administrator of Plateau State. It is quoted from his best selling book on military coups and incursion into Nigeria’s
politics with the title “The Federal Republic of Nigerian Army: The Siege of a Nation”
The dilemma of any public commentator, especially our editors, is the fear that some opinion or commentary on a topical
issue may be misconstrued and linked to our electoral process. But luckily enough this piece is not on a gladiator still alive
but in memory of late Gen. Tunde Idiagbon, the former Chief of General Staff, Supreme Headquarters and Deputy to Former Head
of State General Mohammad Buhari. The almost forgotten disciplined and patriotic Nigerian military officer whose quest to
salvage the nation from perpetual negativities was truncated for no just cause and died some years ago unsung.
With his close relationship and having worked directly under Obasanjo and Buhari one may wonder whom between the two
he would have supported in the last election. It should be recollected that the trio participated actively in the Otta Farm
Forum, where issues of national and international importance dominated their discourse. In fact there were speculations that
Obasanjo would have brought in Idiagbon to his government immediately after the 1999 election but for the unnatural death
that began from a sickness in Abuja on his way back to Ilorin
his hometown. He was born on September 17, 1942. He would have clocked 62 years this year if not for the death that took his
life in March 1999 just two month to the swearing in of the President Obasanjo into the first tenure as democratic president.
Though no one would wish to publicly admit the positive side of military government especially when one savours the
beauty of democracy, the regime under which Idiagbon served at the topmost level still remains the most principled, disciplined,
corrupt free and agrarian period of our nationhood. As a brave and courageous soldier who had nothing to hide, he insisted
on coming back home from Saudi Arabia where he was on pilgrimage immediately after the Coup, not minding whatever the new
Junta wished to do with him. But the scared plotters refused to grant his request until some days later.
Even after some years in detention, he could not be pinned downed for committing any offence or crime against the state.
His unconditional release after years in detention was not surprising. He remained reserved and close to God rather than dabbling
into State matters until he died suddenly.
Just as his stern visage would not admit of smiles, so was his administration’s dogged refusal to tolerate corruption,
indiscipline, dishonesty, disloyalty and unpatriotic tendencies. The major victims of that regime were not the ordinary and
innocent masses, whose rights we were told were trampled upon, but the shylock businessmen, drug pushers, armed robbers and
corrupt politicians of the preceding political era.
Of all coups in Nigeria, the Buhari/Idiagbon coup had clear persuasive and convincing justification even though it
were a little exaggerated but the removal of the regime was without any reasonable justification apart from the claim that
they were stubbornly principled which in every sense meant the duo refused to allow others the chance to come and chop
the national cake.
Within just One and Half year, the regime in which Tunde Idiagbon was given a free hand to change the way we think,
got Nigerians to appreciate, perhaps for the first time, the meaning of discipline and honesty in the polity through the War
Against Indiscipline campaign. He was able to instill discipline making for orderly queuing, environmental sanitation, appropriate
market price for goods and pride in our nation through campaigns on Nationalism and patriotism.
The formulation of policies and promulgation of decrees to fight some of the cankerworms like the Miscellaneous Offence
Decree No 20 of 1984 that clamped down on economic saboteurs; the adoption of stricter austerity measures to further revamp
the economy; the deportation of illegal aliens who constituted major criminals and prostitutes in rural and urban areas; the
tackling of smugglers and bunkerers with heavy penalty and confiscation of such goods; the increase in Nigeria’s oil
production quota through a major concession from OPEC; the discipline of untouchable personalities including politicians,
businessmen and traditional rulers for breaking the laws of the land; the growth of local industries through the policy of
substitution of imported raw materials with local raw materials; the back to farm policy that encouraged massive agricultural
food production; change of the colour of the Nigerian currency that curtailed money laundering, inflation and volume of currency in circulation; the public execution
of armed robbers and drug barons which reduced crime rate to the lowest in the countries history and above all the reorientation
of Nigerians to love their country through practical steps and leadership by example. These were what stood that regime out
and constitute a record no one has matched.
Today, years after his demise, nobody, no institution, no government and no group has come out to immortalize his name
for his contributions to our dear nation not even through a brief annual lecture. I learnt that a patriotic group by name
Third Estate is planning to have a programme to commemorate the death of this enviable patriotic Nigerian but they
nurse a fear that the programme may be given a different political coloration.
Nigerians would not bother whatever interpretation it may be given. Let Nigerians, true Nigerians, come out and identify
with the exemplary role played by this illustrious son of ours. Let the Federal Government do something to immortalize his
name, at least we have seen centres and institutions built to immortalize some of our leaders dead and alive. Let his state
do the same. Let’s have an Idiagbon Centre for Discipline and Patriotism. Let us borrow a leaf from the decisive ways
and manner they fought corruption; let’s lead by example and propagate the campaign of loving and staying in our nation
by not jetting out the Andrew’s way; let’s put politics aside and give Idiagbon his due; let’s
also put envy aside, after all even if he were alive he may not have scuttled the aspirations of anyone as he was never interested
in partisanship. The proof is there.