Pat Utomi, a political scientist and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, has said Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), now President, toppled Shehu Shagari’s government in 1983 to prevent the late Alex Ekwueme from becoming President.
Utomi, who was Special Assistant to Shagari, stressed that Nigeria would have been a better country if that military coup didn’t happen.
Recalling events under the former president, he told Thsday, “I dealt with the frustration of the system and I kept talking about the permanent secretary that worked with me – every day I’d not sleep at night working on what we could change in the system to make it work for the Nigerian people. Once I began to talk to the PS, he’d say: ‘you know if you do this you’ll step on the toe of the minister of that.’
One day, I said to him: ‘Mr. PS is there anything that’s possible to do?’ My point is one of the great lessons from my experience was a decision that I made then that I’d never go back into public life without critical enough mass to make a difference.
“This was the reason when President Yar’Adua asked me to join his cabinet and I told him I couldn’t give him advice, because but I didn’t want to be a token. To his credit, President Yar’Adua said to me that I’d make a greater difference inside than from outside and I said okay find seven good people and I’d be pleased to be the eighth and then he threw it back at me and said I should find the seven good people and come with them. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough.
The view I hold about what we’ve been through the years can be found in an interview I gave to the New York Times, January 8, 1984. In that interview, I said Nigeria would one day feel sorry that they had thrown the baby out with the bathwater (as many rejoiced over the coup led by Gen. Buhari that ousted the government of Shagari). I think any living Nigerian with brain will know that Nigeria would have moved further ahead today if that coup didn’t take place on December 31, 1983, although – in my view – I was convinced that the coup was done to prevent Dr. Alex Ekwueme from becoming the president in 1987.”