A former Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd), has given insight into why he remained a Major General rather than promote himself to the rank of full General while he reigned as Nigeria’s Head of State between December 31, 1983 and August 27, 1985.
Speaking in Zaria on Friday at the presentation of the books, “Nigerian Military in Politics, 1966-2011″ and “Politics of Transition to Civil Rule In Nigeria”, Mr. Buhari said rather than promote himself after getting to power, he was more concerned with how to rebuild Nigeria and enthrone a regime of justice , accountability and transparency.
He said he also believed the fact that his colleagues in the military asked him to lead the country did not make him the overall general of the armed forces.
“It was the conviction of our regime that, being the Head of State and Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, it does not mean that you are the overall General,” Mr. Buhari, who spoke on military incursion in Nigerian politics, said.
“My ultimate goal as at then was to ensure the integrity, justice, equity, accountability and transparency in the system. That was why I did away with unnecessarily promoting myself to General.”
Apart from Major General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, who ruled Nigeria between January 16, 1966 and July 19, 1966 (when he was killed in a bloody military coup), all other military predecessors and successors of Mr. Buhari were full Generals.
No matter their ranks, they were quick in promoting themselves to General on assumption of office as heads of state.
From Yakubu Gowon (August 1, 1966- July 29, 1975) who became head of state while he was lieutenant colonel, to Murtala Muhammed (July 29, 1975 – February 13, 1976), Olusegun Obasanjo (February 13, 1976-October 1, 1979) Ibrahim Babangida (August 27, 1985-August 27, 1993), Sani Abacha (November 17, 1993-June 8, 1998) and Abdulsalami Abubakar (June 8, 1998- May 29, 1999), whose ranks ranged between Brigadier and Major General before getting to power, all Nigeria’s military leaders left or were forced out as Generals.
Mr. Buhari was asked to take over as head of state in 1983 after officers, led by Ibrahim Babangida, toppled the administration of the democratically elected President Shehu Shagari.
For the about two years he was in power, he broke tradition by refusing to promote himself to the rank of General. It was as Major General that his regime was sacked by dissident officers, again led by Mr. Babangida, in 1985.
Mr. Buhari was then detained in Benin till 1988.
But less than two years after getting to office, Mr. Babangida promoted himself to full general. That tradition of self-promotion continued through Mr. Abdulsalami, who retired as General in 1999, after handing over power to Mr. Obasanjo, who had a second coming as civilian president.
Back to the books presentation, Mr. Buhari, who unsuccessfully contested for the office of president in 2003, 2007 and 2011, said past military regimes were dogged by corruption and abuse of office.
He said the military had no place in politics but that past interventions were due to the failure of politicians to respect the rule of law and avoid “corruption and lack of accountability”.
The chairman of the occasion and former Secretary-General of the defunct Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Aliyu Umar, described the books as important resource materials in the study of Nigerian politics.
“The two books are reflection of the present Nigerian political scenario,” he said.
The books were published by Nuhu Ramalan, the head of political science department, Federal College Education, Zaria.