President Muhamadu Buhari loves Cross River State, a lot! Cross River State was the second state he visited on his campaign trail prior to the election that held early this year. It was not an accident.
That is what he wanted to do. When the President loves you, he doesn’t hide it. If he doesn’t like you, he also doesn’t hide it. He has gone down in history as one heck of a President who loves Cross River to the extent the State became one of the major reasons if not the first, why he was removed from office in a Coup d’etat in August 1985 that brought in Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Let’s take it step by step.
On December 31, 1983, some vibrant, young, senior officers of the Nigerian Army overthrew Alhaji Shehu Shagari-led democratically elected government that saw the first entrance of Major General Muhammadu Buhari, then, the General Officer Commanding, 3rd Armored Division, Jos.
That coup was managed by Muhammadu Buhari, the infamous IBB, one Brigadier Ibrahim Bako, Brigadier Sani Abacha and the venerable Brigadier Tunde Idagbon. Let me be clear early on here that these were the same ‘boys’ who were recurrent decimals in all the coups in Nigeria prior to and including this one that saw Buhair taking the reins of power.
On ascension to power, all of them became holders of key positions at the Supreme Military Council, the highest decision-making body of junta. Let me make another statement here that the members of this group of officers were involved in nearly all the coups in Nigeria.
When Buhari was sworn into office, one of the first assignments he undertook was a visit to Cross River State early in 1984 at the invitation of the then military governor Brigadier General Dan Patrick Archibong who served from January 1984 to 1986. As a side, Archibong died in 1990, three years after his tenure in Cross River State.
Be informed at this point also that Dr. Mike Ogar, a strong APC member from Bekwara LGA served under Dan Archibong as the then Commissioner for Commerce and industry, the tenure that did midwifed the birth of the then Cooperative Bank, given to Akwa Ibom after the division of the then Cross River State into Akwa Ibom and Cross River.
When Buhari visited the Newsprint, folk tale has it that a telegraph was sent to Dodan Baracks, Lagos (of fond memories) instructing for preparations to be made for immediate resumption of production at the Oku Iboku newsprint mill.
Then, the number of the most popular newspapers in Nigeria was about twenty. Of this number, only about six were privately owned, the rest were owned by mostly the State Governments. Of that number, the National Concord and Guardian were two of the most well circulated brands.
Buhari took interest in the media and newspaper publication because never in the history of Nigeria did the country register such level of proliferation of newspapers. In fact, Section 120 of the 1982 Electoral Act established the National Advisory Council (NAC) to particularly advise on the government-own mass media. Actually, the Federal government did not quite own any media house of its own.
What they mostly did was to buy off a majority shareholding in some newspapers of choice and influence them politically. Then, newspapers were owned mostly for political reasons, to be able to influence the civil society mostly where socio-political and economic issues were involved.
Buhari came into power knowing that the media was very powerful. A significant example was the National Concord that was said to have predominantly influenced the second republic election and in fact, subsequently led to the downfall of that same democratic dispensation.
That indirectly means the media facilitated the coup of 1983 that ushered in General Muhammadu Buhari. Some of the newspapers that were in circulation then were the Satellite, Daily Nation, Guardian, Eagle, Okigwe Voice, People’s News, Weekly Democrat(which came in briefly in 1984 but didn’t sustain operations), Trumpet, Echo, Daily News, Advocate, Record, Stamp, Premier, Nigerian Call, Hope, the Daily Times, Graphic, Sun and National Concord.
When Buhari took over however, only three Newspapers sustained operations. These were The Guardian, the National Concord and Satellite. The Satellite was owned by Jim Nwobodo. The National Concord was owned by MKO Abiola. And the Guardian was owned by Alex Uruemu Ibru. It was rumored in fact, that MKO Abiola funded the coup that brought Buhari into power on that fateful day in 1983.
The turning point was with the resumption of operations at Oku Iboku mills. Importation licenses for newsprint materials for these newspaper owners were going to be revoked to enable our indigenous company operate healthily economically. This is exactly the instructions Buhari left with Dodan Baracks for commissioning preparations to start before he even got back to Lagos.
True to his words, a few weeks after he returned from then Cross River State, the lights and the switches were on in Oku Iboku and the first newsprint was rolled out. Operations started. But this was the beginning of more events in the coming days. Shortly after rolling out the long-awaited products from the mill, further importation of newsprint was completely banned.
Following the ban on newsprint importation, the Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing Company (NNMC) targeted a capacity of 100,000 tons of newsprint a year. This saw to the reduction of newsprint import to 17.5% by 1986 and 12.5% by 1987 and by the following year, 1988, there was no more newsprint importation into Nigeria.
Production targeted exports also to earn foreign reserves for the country. So actually, the President, Muhammadu Buhari understands the economics of production and transportation. That is why it did not take him much to understand why he must personally be in Cross River State for this historic event. Sadly, by 1993, production stopped at the mill. This was the time IBB was in power.
The reason was that government had no money to refurbish the production equipment neither would they sustain the purchase of the raw materials required in production. With the closure of the mill in 1993, Nigeria spent over N27B on newsprint import between 1998 and 2002 alone (Makinde, 2004).
Today, that figure stands at N150B. It is worthy of note at this point that the closure of the newsprint mill was for a completely political reason not economic or financial. You will understand that very shortly.
With the revocation of the newsprint import licenses, newspaper houses were all expected to buy from Oku Iboku. But MKO Abiola still imported what was at this point contraband under the auspice that he had already commenced importation under Shagari’s civilian administration’s approval.
Of course, this reason tendered was rejected by the military administration of Buhari and so every single one of the imports was seized by the military regime and the materials shared among those media houses in which the government had a stake.
Recall that MKO Abiola financed the coup that brought in Buhari. Recall that the Head of State decided to stop the importation of newsprint and compelled the patronization of our own products here in Oku Iboku.
Be informed at this point that Major General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was a tight friend of MKO Abiola. All this drama continued back and forth while MKO Abiola covertly plotted with IBB against then GMB to stage a coup in the earliest possible time in order to get rid of his nightmarish accomplice-turned-renegade.
This piece says a lot. Some of the implications of the meanings hidden in this piece are extreme secrets that you don’t want to know. As a matter of fact, now President Buhari is fully guided by this history in almost everything he is doing today, to those of us who understand this history and what it means.
Just to smoothen the conclusion of this complex expose, on August 27, 1985, Ibrahim Babangida overthrew Muhammadu Buhari. Recall that there was not a single bloodshed during that coup. From my standpoint, it was deliberate as long as GMB was not going to put up a fight, no blood was going to be shed.
Recall that last year, President Buhari said (according to media information) that he was aware IBB was plotting to overthrow him. I think he must have been aware – why not?
Remember they had been partners in this coup business since Aguiyi Ironsi in 1966. Buhari did not put up any struggle and IBB did not shed any blood.
MKO Abiola climbed to the apex of his wealth and comfort during IBB’s administration. He had great wealth and security as the best friend to IBB at the time. That closeness of MKO Abiola and IBB was what encouraged MKO Abiola to contest the ill-fated election against Alhaji Tofa on June 12, 1993. The rest is history for the enthusiasts.
Application to Today’s Buhari Visit:
To the President, he is replaying an unfinished script that started way back in 1983 and he doesn’t easily forget where his heart is. He will touch down in Calabar today. He will be involved in the ground breaking and historic event. The twist that nobody may be thinking about is the fact that in 1983, the then governor, Dan Archibong invited Buhari to Cross River for economic and industrial reasons.
Today, Buhari is hear at the invitation of HE Senator Ben Ayade for nearly the same reason, the commissioning of a project that can easily trigger a huge level of revolution in Nigeria. I doubt if the planners of this event took this into consideration nor remember that history is replaying itself here.
The State government needs to quickly revisit its address to the President, Muhammadu Buhari. I dare say anything Cross River asks for, the President will do it. This is because to him, he is replaying a script that not up to five people participating in that event would otherwise have known about or correlated with the 1983 event. Now we all know.
Secondly, the State needs to make a strong point establishing the connectedness of this link to the President directly. If you do that, you are arresting his mental capacities and cuffing his bloated emotions. If you watch carefully, you might catch him expressing those emotions. But I trust my military friends, they know how to pretend and hide what is boiling inside them. He will attempt to hide his feelings.
Thirdly and most importantly, make the President own this project. Make him take it. Make him embellish himself in it. Let him take the glory for this project. Give it to him. And let the State not attempt to share in that temporary elation at all. If the State is able to do this, Buhari, in no small measure will take over and fund this project completely and out rightly.
The State must run its imagination very wildly between now and when Oga arrives. Add anything you can remember to add; anything that can fit into that address paper. Don’t bother if you hand-write it.
Make sure you go there with a million and one items on the check list. Buhari is likely to take on all those issues. This is because he will be more emotionally inclined to associate with Cross River not as a State in which he failed his election but a State with whom he is seriously well-pleased.
Fourthly, Cross River State has lost a lot. I know this one is at the fingertips of the government. Further than that, push the cost back to Oga. This loss is not only Cross River’s lost. Make it the country’s lost.
That is one sure way to make Oga feel the pain. If he feels the pains on this matter, trust me, he will personally take a walk into that UN and collect our Bakassi back.
Don’t sound beggarly. Sound firm, but like a son. At this point, the rest will also be history.
Welcome to Cross River, our Dear President, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari
Long Live Cross River State,
Long Live Nigeria.
Since You Are Here, Support Good Journalism
CrossRiverWatch was founded on the ideals of deploying tech tools to report in an ethical manner, news, views and analysis with a narrative that ensures transparency in governance, a good society and an accountable democracy.
Everyone appreciates good journalism but it costs a lot of money. Nonetheless, it cannot be sacrificed on the altar of news commercialisation.
Consider making a modest contribution to support CrossRiverWatch's journalism of credibility and integrity in order to ensure that all have continuous free access to our noble endeavor.