The age question: Between Buhari and Deng Xiaoping (1) By CHARLES ONUNAIJU

To match Interview NIGERIA-BUHARI/The world’s most success­ful social reformer Mr. Deng Xiaoping, who took his country from the backwater of social chaos and economic meltdown to steady modernization and unprecedent­ed prosperity actually assumed preemient leadership position of the Peoples Republic of China at the age of 74. From 1978, when he turned 74 years old, having been born in 1904, Deng Xiaoping was to play decisive roles in reshaping the destiny of the world’s most populous nation for the next 14 years, retiring in 1992 at the age of 88 years.

He died on the 19th of february, 2007 at the age of 93. His path to power was turbelent, typifying the trajectories of his own nation’s fate to greatness. He has joined the communist party of China, which has been founded in 1921, while in France, where he has gone to in the 1920s under a stu­dent-worker programme. After the French authorities considered his political activities along with other Chinese students incompatible with their status and sought to arrest him after arresting some four others, Deng fled to Soviet Union, where he enrolled in the Sun Yat sen university affiliated to communist party of the Soviet Union, founded after the triumph of the October socialist revolution in 1917.

Deng returned from the Soviet Union to China and immersed himself in the work of the party and after the Peoples liberation Army has been founded, as the military wing of the communist party of China, he was drafted to the 7th red army unit in Guangxi, where he received military train­ing and engaged in battles. He participated in the long match, after the communist forces have escaped the encirclement and po­tential annihilation by the nation­alist forces of General Chiang kai Shek and embarked on a tortous six thousand miles trek that last­ed slightly over a year to arrive in a safer haven in northern China. Throughout the trek, Deng who contracted typoid fever and made the trek “half on horse back and half on foot” was in charge of propaganda to sustain the moral of the troops.

Following the victory of the party after the civil war and the establishment of the socialist Peoples Republic of China on October, 1st 1949, Deng’s pro­file rose considerably that by 1956, he has become the General secretary of the party and a key figure in state administration. However, Deng’s dexterity in practical question of state ad­ministration exemplified in his famous refrain that “it does not matter if a cat is black or white but as long as it catches a mice, it is a good cat; drew the suspicion of the ultra-leftists gravitating around Chairman Mao; wife, Ji­ang Qing later to be identified as the “gang of four.” Nonetheless, Deng’s robust ideological insight to China’s distinctive practical challenge resonated with the then widely adored premier of the Peoples Republic of China, Zhou Enlai, whose distinguished life as a revolutionary, spanned from student days in Japan, Britain and then, France, where he has met with Deng Xiaoping. Pre­mier Zhou Enlai did all he could, to protect Deng, but he, himself was also a target of the ultra lift­ist hot heads. By 1967, Deng has been successfully hounded by the ultra liftist that he was stripped of the party posts and by 1969, he was banished to a rural commu­nity in Jiangxi Province where he was to engage in manual work and re-education, consisting in a supervised one hour study of chairman Mao’s writing on daily basis. Deng returned four years later in Beijing and was restored to both party and state functions as vice premier.

But his detractors and ideo­logical foes, who have preyed on chairman Mao’s anxieties that the revolution he has given all his life were about to suffer rever­sals, prompting him to launch the cultural revolution which they used as platform to witchhunt opponents as “right-wing devia­tionists” and “capitalist roaders”. Actually they were not yet done with Deng as they bid their time to liquidate him politically, hav­ing constantly questioned his ide­ological fidelity to Maoism and by extension, Marxist-Leninist theory.

General Buhari shared similar fate of political freeze and per­sonal humiliation when some of his collegues in the Armed forces Ruling council overthrew him in a palace coup, accusing him of high-handedness. Unlike Deng, he was locked away in solitary confinement, while no charges were ever brought against him. General Babangida who took over in the palace coup, drove the country through a costly transi­tion to civil rule that culminated in the infamous annulment of what is still considered the most credible election till date. The practice of ‘settlement’ a euphe­mism for corruption took a life of its own under the Babangida junta and has blossomed into elite past time especially under the current regime.

After returing to Beijing in 1973 and becoming deputy pre­mier, the deaths of Premier Zhou Enlai in February, Zhu De, field marshall of the Peoples liberation Army in July and Chairman Mao Zedong on the 9th September 1976, marked a turning point for Deng Xiaoping and his country too.