Young people today below age 40 may know nothing or little about the late Gen Tunde Idiagbon, president Buhari’s second in command during his military rule from 31st December 1983 to 27th August 1985, a regime which lasted barely 2 years and was cut short in a military coup.
Serving as Chief of Staff, Supreme Military Headquarters at that time meant Idiagbon was what we call the vice president today in our democratic grammar. It is believed that he was the face and actual propeller of the Buhari administration then. From managing government’s administration and instruments, it was he who formulated, introduced and implemented policies of the Buhari military regime. One of such popular and broad policies was the War Against Indiscipline, touching the; economic, ethical and environmental soul of the nation.
Does it mean that Buhari played no role in his own government? No, he actually played his part, just that it pales in comparison to that done by Idiagbon, and this is not necessarily bad in itself. Though some may ask why he then took the risk of removing the democratically elected administration of Shehu Shagari if he knew he would do little. The open answer will be that he came to right the wrongs in the country by his mere presence as the head of state.
It is this same reason of correcting the ills of the Nigerian society that made him shoot repeatedly his shot of being elected as the president of Nigeria for so many years until he finally got it in 2015 and has been there till this moment.
President Buhari is one man who has definitely had the fortune of friendship in his lifetime. Maybe for the charm of character or just providence he always has people who render to him maximum loyalty and sometimes efficiency, like Idiagbon. Actually every big man in Nigerian parlance receives an overdose of loyalty from subordinates and friends because of what they have to offer materially.
It is not a total cordial situation though for Buhari as it seems he has a fair share of love and contempt from the Nigerian community.
Why is there even the question of someone like Idiagbon for Buhari today? One of the main reasons is that he is not a very proactive person or leader, his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, was not either, maybe a little more than Buhari though. It might be that Buhari is like a prince who ascends to power with good intentions and thinks that those around him will also be good or catch and implement his vision. He is like the technical director of a football team who is not the coach but will oversee the administration of the club to ensure that there is optimum performance.
Today, scanning through a list of members of Buhari’s administration to find another Idiagbon is quite a herculean adventure. It is even easier to find the Idiagbon replica among the supporters of president Buhari on the street than in the corridors of power; the drawback for the masses on the streets is that they have no portfolio.
Ordinarily, it should have been easy to just point at Vice President Osibanjo and say he can wear Idiagbon’s shoe based on what he has done in the past and since he’s officially the next to the president, but the conditions today are not as they were during the military era. In the military era, there was order and discipline, even though they were not saints.
Also, in the past the corruption and social complication of society and its institutions were not as pronounced as they are now, and the edge which strong men had over strong institutions is not as sharp as it is today. It means that today, it will take more than a combination of say Obama, Castro, Mandela and Martin Luther to reverse the rot in the system.
Another thing to consider is that in government administration, whether military or democracy, there are usually no overlapping of functions across board, except that in military rule, it was easier for Idiagbon to carry out oversight functions. It means that Idiagbon could overlap into ministries with just a simple decree.
On a light note, those who come close to being Buhari’s active men today are his media aides. The likes of Garba Shehu, Femi Adeshina and even the minister of information, Lai Mohammed. But they can’t do much because of the limitations of their positions and ministry responsibilities. So they must remain more reactive than proactive except they become creative. As their positions imply, they are just the amplified mouthpiece of the president.
Looking for Idiagbon through a list of president Buhari’s formal and informal officials might require that we name them one by one and do a quick analysis of their works so far, but that may not be pertinent now. Is it in search of someone like his trusted and able military deputy that Buhari relieved the ministers of power and agriculture of their job? This may not be the case as it took 6 years in coming.
A Brother Like Amaechi, A Friend Like Malami
The minister of justice Malami and the minister of transpotation, Amaechi are unarguably among the most active officials of Buhari’s government. In carrying out their duties they have modeled a description and differentiation of loyalty and patriotism; theirs will make for a good case study in the humanities on relationships.
Malami with his good dress sense in fitting blazers and matching neck ties has not hidden his zeal to serve, though people have questioned if he is an attorney of the federation or of the government. For him the administration can do no wrong as he has come out time and time again to defend policies and actions of the government; from his stance on grazing to the twitter ban and many more.
Yet he could be said to be altruistic and shunning bigotry in the role he played in the probe of corruption in the EFCC under Magu, except if the motive behind it is found to be selfish and vindictive. He has also worked vigorously for the cancellation of the nation’s many debt.
For Amaechi, his modus operandi has been more of action than talk. He too has been a defender of this administration, but it has not hindered him from carrying out his responsibilities as a minster. The Lagos – Ibadan railway which he began and completed is worth continuous commendation for him, for it is no mean feat in Nigeria to begin and finish a project as big as that under one government. Recently in an interview with Daily Trust, he called out leaders in the country and warned them of the need to play developmental roles in the country and not abdicate their duties to the president alone. His call is even more interesting because it transcends party lines.
For President Buhari, it is encouraging for him to know that he has a loyal brother in Malami who will go the extra mile for him, and a patriotic friend like Amaechi, who will work with him and for humanity too.