Pat Utomi Reveals How Buhari Stopped Ekwueme From Becoming President

Former presidential aspirant Professor Pat Utomi says President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Major General, denied Alex Ekwueme the chance of becoming Nigeria’s President by overthrowing the President Shehu Shagari administration in 1983.

Ekwueme was the country’s vice-president at the time, and Utomi believed if Buhari had not toppled the then civilian, Ekwueme would have been president in 1987.

The revered economist, who was Special Assistant to Shagari, said Nigeria would have been a better nation if the military had not taken over governance.

In a recent interview, Utomi, while recalling the events then, said, “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 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.”

Source: ThisDay
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