Former President of the National Union of Voluntary Paramilitary Organisation, Man O’ War, Prof. Ifeolu Adewumi, says his encounter with President Muhammadu Buhari in 1981 revealed the tribalistic nature of the Nigerian leader.
Speaking in an interview with the PUNCH, the 69-year-old professor of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering, said he met Buhari when he was General Officer Commanding, 2nd Mechanised Division at the Command’s Office in Agodi, Ibadan, Oyo State.
He said : “As Man O’ War officers we did community service in those days. That was the main objective, not to run after politicians or guard any big man as they do today. We looked for what to do in communities and we assisted in terms of security.
” Also, if there were no latrines, we built them; if there were no footbridges, we provided them. Our duties were purely about serving the community.
“Usually, soldiers from the Nigerian Army came to train us. They also took care of our camping materials, food, uniform and others. I recollect meeting General Muhammadu Buhari who was the General Officer Commanding, 2nd Mechanised Division at the Command’s Office in Agodi, Ibadan, Oyo State. That was in May 1981. I went there as the Commander-In-Chief of Man O’ War club in UNIFE.
“I went with other officers in the Man O’ War. When we got there and filled the form to say the commander-in-chief of Man O’ War was there to see him, we waited for about 20 minutes and when he (Buhari) came out, he said, ‘I was told that there is a C-in-C in the Office of a GOC, I think it should be the other way round.’ Buhari is a very humorous person. I got the joke and I saluted him and got up. And he said, ‘Now that we know who is in control, you can come into my office.’
“I went in and introduced everybody and requested for logistic support for Man O’ War. The next thing General Buhari asked me was, ‘How many northerners are in your university?’ I said, ‘Sir, University of Ife is a regional institution in the Western Region, there will be more people from here than from other tribes. In ABU (Ahmadu Bello University), there will be more northerners than other tribes and in (University Of Nigeria) Nsukka, there will be more Igbos there.’
“He said, ‘Okay, okay, how many of you have joined the Army?’ I mentioned a few people, then he asked how we managed our uniforms and I told him. He studied us and said, ‘I am writing my handover note. By the time you come in two weeks’ time, you will meet the person in charge, he will tell you our decision.’
“Two weeks later, we went back and we met General Anthony Hananiya. (He is deceased now. After retirement, he was appointed the Corps Marshal for the Federal Road Safety Corps.) He said, ‘I have bad news for you. By the next time you come, we must not see you in Army uniform, if we see you in Army uniform, we will treat you as impersonators and you know what that means.’
“I tried to raise an objection but Hananiya said, ‘Don’t you know when a senior officer has given an instruction, you don’t go against it? That is an order.’ As the commander-in-chief for all Man O’ War clubs in Nigeria, I told the other commanders to come over to Ife and told them not to use the army green uniform anymore because of our safety and that was why we changed the Man O’ War uniform to the brown khaki that you see today.
On the impression he had about Buhari, he said : “Those three questions he raised painted him as someone who is ethnically biased. I didn’t know he was Fulani or had family members in Niger Republic, but the question he asked about how many northerners were in the University of Ife was beside the point and because of that, he proscribed the release of Army support to Man O’ War clubs in higher institutions.
“The leopard has not changed its spots; it’s those who don’t understand him who think otherwise. He has always been supportive of his tribe and he has demonstrated that by his appointments of service chiefs and other sensitive positions. Nobody has queried him because those around him are sold out one way or the other and cannot advise him that it is wrong to sectionalise appointments.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo will tell you, ‘If you don’t trust other tribes who voted for you, how do you expect other tribes to trust you?’ Also, Buhari had always shown the act of taking care of Nigeriens. If you recollect, as head of state, he voted against the Nigerian nomination candidate at the OAU (Organisation of African Unity) elections and supported a Fulani man from Niger Republic. When the man was pronounced the winner, he went to embrace him.
“Democratically, the President has been in power for six years now. How would you rate his government in the areas of security, economy and education?”
“He came in as a man of integrity and people believed that. In his campaign, he said within months, if he got elected, he would wipe out Boko Haram. I don’t know whether he has wiped out Boko Haram or not, but it took another faction of Boko Haram to kill Abubakar Shekau after so many years. Leah Sharibu is still in captivity because of her faith. What can he point to that he has achieved? Security is our major challenge in Nigeria but can we say we are safe in Nigeria when people can’t sleep well and are afraid to travel within the country?”