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The Sun News On-line | national news


Over my dead body " I ll never forgive Buhari, says Umaru Dikko
Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Time may never thaw the frosty relationship between Second Republic transport minister, Alhaji Umaru Dikko and General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) with the former having sworn never to forgive the ex-military head of state.

Former president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari in whose cabinet Dikko served as minister and chairman, Presidential Task Force on Importation of Rice, gave the indication in an interview in last weekend s edition of Weekly Trust.

Shagari had had his four-year second term tenure as president terminated within three months on December 31, 1983 with the coup d etat, which saw Buhari emerging as head of state.
Buhari, now a convert democrat and candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in the last presidential elections, had ruled with an iron-fist, clamping many of the politicians ousted from power into detention for several months.

Alhaji Dikko who escaped into exile had his father and son arrested by Buhari whose agents also abducted the former minister in London, drugged and attempted to smuggle him back into the country to answer corruption charges.

Dikko, who absolved himself of wrongdoing, had since nursed bitter feelings against Buhari over his ordeal. Not even on account of the Islamic faith which the duo share would Dikko be persuaded to reconcile with Buhari, Shagari revealed during the interview. The interviewers had asked Shagari whether he felt resentment towards Buhari over the 1983 coup just like some members of his cabinet, especially Dikko and he drew a parallel.

According to the former president, while he would not blame anybody for his misfortune, Dikko was quite a different character and was entitled to his own opinion and approach. "Umaru Dikko is a different character. I have tried to convince him, but he just would not accept this kind of thing. He has got his own reasons for being bitter, which are not the same as my own."

To underscore Dikko s resentment, Shagari recounted the story of how he (Dikko) snubbed Buhari at a formal gathering and his (Shagari s) intervention could not even dissuade the ex-minister.
"Some time in Abuja, during a conference, there were all the former Heads of State and myself seated together and Umaru Dikko came in. There was Zik, Obasanjo, General Gowon, myself and the next person was Buhari. So Umaru Dikko shook hands with everyone but when he came to Buhari, he passed him by. So I called him and said

Umaru, shake hands with Buhari, but he said

No, I will not. I said

Umaru, you are a Muslim, but he still refused, replying:

I agree I am a Muslim, but even in the Holy Qur an, there is a Surah (chapter) that begins without Bismillah (In the name of God). And he refused to shake Buhari.

Later in the afternoon in my hotel room, he (Umaru Dikko) came to see me, and as we were sitting, General Gowon came in. As Umaru made to go out and leave the two of us thinking that we wanted privacy, General Gowon stopped him saying he wanted to speak to him (Dikko). General Gowon told Umaru that, he was disappointed with his (Dikko s) conduct earlier in the day when he snubbed Buhari. Gowon was all the more annoyed with Umaru Dikko because he (Dikko) even disregarded my admonishing him by appealing to his sense of religion. But do you know what Umaru Dikko said to General Gowon? He said,

it was deliberate, sir. 

The former president described Dikko as "very stubborn," adding, "he (Dikko) once said to me (Shagari) that if Buhari had done to you what he did to me, you will never shake hands with him.
"I said I know, but you should forgive him (Buhari). But he said

no, he (Buhari) too does not forgive. He is still at loggerheads with Babangida.

"He reminded me that when they (Buhari regime) were looking for him, they arrested his father and son, wondering the offence the two committed to earn the regime s arrest. He still went on to tell his ordeal when an attempt was made to smuggle him in a crate. In the end, he concluded he would not forgive him."

Shagari also fielded questions on a number of other national issues and how he was living in retirement. He described the late General Murtala Muhammed s regime as reckless, citing the regime s handling of the civil service at the time.

"Before they (Murtala) came, the civil service used to be a safe haven for people interested in hard work, in serving your country diligently with pride. But once it became obvious that one can be thrown out at any time without ceremony, then it became a different civil service, which does not have the joy for the workers it used to have. So many were thrown out of the service without any probable offence. They even got to asking people to recommend those to be dismissed and invariably they recommended people they did not like because those dismissed did nothing wrong."

Assessing the Buhari regime, Shagari said Gen. Buhari had a better chance than the late General Muhammed because he stayed longer and was focused. The former president noted, however, that Buhari was deliberately harsh on the people during his reign as military head of state and he became unpopular.

To him, Buhari was deliberately chosen by the coup plotters who ousted the civilian regime, to lead "because they wanted him to be harsh and therefore unpopular so that they could throw him out. So they used him and when he served his purpose, he was thrown out. He was used and dumped."
Shagari, a minister in the First Republic also recalled how was tipped off on the eve of the January, 1966 coup and had informed the Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who told him not to worry. According to the ex-president, Balewa ignored the information about the coup threat because of the tendency for people in top positions to develop deaf ears after having been inundated with reports, which turned out eventually to be scare-stories.

"Today, somebody will tell you something is going to happen and it does not happen and tomorrow the same thing and nothing happens. So as time goes on, you tend to disbelieve everything even if it is the truth. And even if you agree about something, some people will come and tell you to disregard the report. So you find that you don t know who or what to believe or not to believe. So that is why leaders most often tend to be stubborn outwardly."






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