An Open Letter to Lai Mohammed on Late Murtala Mohammed

By Alhassan A. Bala

If there is anyone I would least expect the minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to accuse in his never ending blame game on the past leadership of this country for it’s failure is Nigeria’s former head of State, late General Murlata Mohammed – an Africanist per excellence.

In an interview on a national TV on 26th April 2021, the minister accused the former leader of causing the current challenges the country is facing due to the coup that overthrew the Yakubu Gowon administartion.

As a young man in his early 30s and based on what I have read about the former Head of States, I will like to enlighten the minister of information and culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed about the remarkable strides of the late head of State even though he is also human with intrinsic flaws like anyone else.

I have read some views by Dr. Bala Muhammad of Bayero University Kano (BUK) which agrees that of all the former Heads of State and even the current leaders in Nigeria, Murtala Mohammed is the most courageous, focused, brazen, and righteous with a strength of character, bellicose nature, passion and ability to take the bull by the horn in doing what needed to be done, no matter whose ox is gored and no matter what the consequences are, making him standing out as being exemplary and outstanding.

In this era of cowardice, guile, deceit, double standard, subterfuge and political correctness, Murtala would not have found much pleasure or joy doing what he does 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 administrative style proved highly effective, which enabled wide-sweeping social and economic reform, while consistent pursuits during his reign centered on highly centralised government, 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 His 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 brought into reality seeing to it that 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.

As 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” mantra.

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?

As I am imagining who will be next to be accused of being responsible for Nigeria’s challenges by the Minister, I hope the next will not be Tafawa Balewa or Sir Ahmadu Bello Sardaunan Sokoto both 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 lier” is coming to reality? Nigerians can well be the judge at this point.

Alhassan A. Bala is an Abuja-Based Broadcast Journalist and can be reached on [email protected]

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