If there is anyone that I would least expect the never-ending accusations by the Minister of Information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, for the failure of the past and current administrations in the country, is the Nigeria’s finest Head of States and an Africanist, late General Murlata Mohammed.
In an interview on a national TV on April 26, 2021, the minister accused the former leader of causing the current challenges the country is facing with his coup that overthrew Yakubu Gowon administration.
As a young man in his early 30s and based on what I read about the former head of state, I will like to shortly remind or, better still, enlighten Lai Mohammed about the late head of state’s indelible marks, though he is human with intrinsic flaws like any other human.
I have read same views with Dr. Bala Muhammad of BUK that of all the former heads of state and even the current leaders in Nigeria, I come to cherish Murtala Mohammed the most. His courage, focus, brazenness, righteous anger, strength of character, bellicose nature, passion and ability to take the bull by the horns and do what needed to be done, no matter whose ox was gored and no matter what the consequences were, was exemplary and outstanding.
In these era of cowardice, guile, deceit, double standard, subterfuge and political correctness, Murtala would not have found much pleasure or joy and neither would he have been fully appreciated.
I want Lai Mohammed to know that Murtala Mohammed worked for economic prosperity, which greatly improved the quality of life in Nigeria. His administration style proved highly adaptable, which enabled wide-sweeping social and economic reform, while consistent pursuits during his reign centered on highly centralised government, authoritarianism, federalism, national federalism, and pan-Africanism.
Murtala Ramat Mohammed, initiated many changes during his brief time in office: he began the process of moving the federal capital to Abuja (which Lai and co are enjoying), addressed the issue of government inefficiency, and, most importantly, initiated the process for a return to civilian rule, which his successor Olusegun Obasanjo made it into reality that saw the administration of late Shehu Shagari assumed office.
Murtala set up the price control board, ensuring that prices of essential commodities came down. Traders who refused to cooperate had their warehouses or shops forcefully opened and the items sold to the public at the control prices.
Nigerian markets were flooded with essential commodities like milk, frozen beef chicken, beverages, detergents which most people had in their homes. It was a period Nigerians would not forget in a hurry, let me pause and ask Lai Mohammed did he know what is happening in markets today?
Murtala Muhammad initiated a comprehensive review of the Third National Development Plan. He was determined to reduce the money supply that had been swollen by government expenditures on public works.
Part of his zeal to ensure Nigeria became great Murtala Mohammed also announced that his government would encourage the rapid expansion of the private sector into areas dominated by public corporations. He reappraised foreign policy, stressing a “Nigeria first”.
Under him the concepts and art of ‘’self-discipline’’, ‘’self-denial’’, ‘’immediate dispatch’’ and ‘’low profile’’ for public office holders was introduced and firmly entrenched.
His purging of corrupt elements in the civil service were far-reaching which had enormous consequences though many believe that in this regard he went too far.
Nigeria’s foreign policy under Murtala, throughout the 200 days that he was Head of State, was a sight to be seen. It was Nigeria at her proudest and her best.
It was during his period Nigerians could boast of having Africa’s strongest army and her most outstanding and best- educated middle class.
Nigeria was big, strong and powerful and when Nigeria spoke the world listened. When Nigeria sneezed Africa literally caught a cold. It was during Murtala when Nigeria was regarded as the Giant of Africa.
The information minister had before now accused former president Goodluck Jonathan, former President Olusegun Obasanjo of many challenges, could this last accusation of Murtala be part of the list of those accused to have caused Nigeria’s challenges?
I am pondering on who will be next to be accused of being responsible for Nigeria’s challenges. I hope the next will not be Tafawa Balewa or Sir Ahmadu Bello Sardaunan Sokoto of blessed memories.
Or, could it be that what former aviation minister Femi Fani-Kayode is saying about Lai Mohammed even before the 2015 election that “Lai is a liar” is coming to reality? Nigerians can well judge here.
Bala, an Abuja-based broadcast just, writes via [email protected]