In the later hours of Tuesday July 3, 1984,
a Boeing 707 jet coated in Nigeria Airways colours, touched down at London Stansted, a tiny airport mainly used by low-budget carriers. Curiously for the airport officials, the huge jet had flown empty from Lagos and was only scheduled to pick up some ‘diplomatic baggage’ from the Nigerian high commission in London. The following morning, while taking a walk outside his then London residence, Alhaji Umaru Dikko, the former minister of transport under Shagari, was kidnapped Gestapo-style by some Israeli Mossad operatives working on behalf of the Buhari regime in Nigeria.
Dikko was then drugged, placed in an unmarked crate and readied for shipment back to Nigeria. But the entire operation would come unstuck after airport officials proceeded to open the crate against the usual diplomatic protocol. On purely diplomatic grounds, it was illegal for those airport officials to open the crate. But they were ‘legally’ allowed to inspect it anyways since the crate in question wasn’t marked as ‘diplomatic baggage’. Apparently, someone in the Nigerian team of kidnappers had goofed and forgot to properly tag the crate.
Umaru Dikko wasn’t the only former official in Shagari’s government who had fled to London after Buhari seized power in ‘83 and began to round up politicians for what he called “large-scale looting of the national treasury.” Dikko himself was said to have stolen around $6 billion in oil proceeds. But like most Nigerian exiles in London, he stayed hidden initially and was largely ignored by the new administration. But when the man started granting press interviews and began to appear rather frequently on the Hausa Service of the BBC in which he was viciously critical of Buhari’s new regime, things became heated here at home. Buhari felt attacked personally. Dikko immediately became a marked man. In the end, the man wasn’t really pursued so hard because he was corrupt. No. Buhari pulled all the stops simply because Dikko dared to criticize him directly and, in the process, he seriously damaged his own anti-corruption efforts. The British government immediately severed relations with Nigeria and refused to cooperate further with efforts to return all the billions in looted funds.
Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is another London exile who has been criticizing Buhari and his new civilian government so viciously since 2015. Once again, the president has shown that he can’t take personal criticism or insults and has pulled all the stops to drag Kanu back to our shores. Although the circumstances of Kanu’s arrest is still a bit hazy and would likely become clearer in the coming days, but at least we now know, according the British High Commission here in Nigeria, that he (Kanu) was neither arrested in London nor extradited by the British government. However, there’s a clear pattern developing here. It seems to me that if you commit an offence whilst Buhari is in power, any offence at all, be it corruption in office, insurgency, kidnapping, rape, mass murder or just regular agitation, you can be ignored or even forgiven outright as long as you don’t go on TV/Radio or march on the streets like Sowore or go on social media and start criticizing the man publicly. Public criticism, especially on social media, is becoming an unforgivable offense in Buhari’s government. Just ask Twitter Shildren and the EndSARS protesters if you doubt this position. The man is still stewing and gnashing his teeth that he didn’t sufficiently ‘deal with’ those protesting youths for daring to criticize his government.
By pursuing Dikko and now Kanu all the way to foreign lands, Buhari has shown that he is fairly capable of going to any length to apprehend all the other troublemakers who are not necessarily living overseas but are still here at home. But somehow, the leaders of Boko Haram and other separatist groups in the north have remained untouched. Is it because they are not on TV or social media all the time criticizing the president? Buhari and his handlers can pretend to be fighting insecurity in the southeast, but we all know that the southeast is not more insecure than the north. The only difference is that those in the southeast are more vocal in their criticism of Buhari.
Boko Haram are still sacking military barracks in the north, seizing arms, killing our soldiers and even attempting to shoot down fighter jets. Killer herdsmen are still roaming the land and leaving mayhem in their wake. Bandits are still raiding towns and villages in the north, kidnapping and killing innocent students with a certain Sheik Gumi acting as their chief spokesperson. Some are still walking around freely and even hobnobbing with some northern Governors. Nothing has happened to any of them.
Some folks who are currently serving in the administration, like Issa Pantami, have variously been accused of aiding and abetting terrorists in the past, but not a single investigation has been launched to ascertain their guilt or innocence. What we mostly get from the Presidency by way of response are those tactless statements that proclaim their embattled friends as ‘not guilty’. Of course, the only thing that all these ‘pardoned’ or ignored characters have in common is their claim to be on the president’s side as part of the crowd of praise singers.