The age question: Between Buhari and Deng Xiaoping (2) By Charles Onuaiju


Muhammadu Buhari

The national outpouring of emotions following the death of the widely beloved Zhou Enlai, again forced Deng into the political wilderness as he resigned from all his official positions. The ‘gang of four’ led by Chairman Mao’s wife has successfully linked Deng Xiaoping with the public demonstrations of millions of mourners, who thronged Beijing to pay last respects to the former premier and which the highest party echelon, the politiburo stuffed with the ‘gang of four’ has declared as counter-revolutionary after manorvering the ailing chairman Mao to approve.

However the death of Mao Ze dong on the 9th September and arrest of the ‘gang of four’ on October 6th, 1976 prepared the way for the return of Deng Xiaoping and his assumption of preeminent position in the country’s leadership. At the historic turning point in the fate of China, the 3rd plenary session of the 11th central party committee in 1978, Deng Xiaoping launched the policies of “reform and opening up to the outside world, which was in fact, the formal endorsement of the lively discussions at the central party work conference held from November 10 to December 15th, two years after the death of Mao Ze Dong’s and the arrest of the “gang of four”.

At the plenum, Deng honed the frame work that the “criteria for truth would be practice” and urged for seeking truth from facts. From 1978 ‘Deng’s moral high ground and political sagacity accumulated in the twists and turns of his long years within the party and government impacted on the success of the reforms he instituted. Deng Xiaoping was no policy wonk nor a micro-manager, but a great helmsman, who inspired his compatriots and charted a broad framework of reform, and laid a road map to China’s contemporary prosperity and preeminence in the world. A combination of incisive historical awareness of the then China’s harrowing condition, having personally endured the travails himself, a profound patriotic sentiment to fix the country and a robust vision to stir the country in the direction of her manifest destiny animated a partially-deaf 74 year old Deng Xiaoping to launch his country from redoubtable chaotic basket-case to its current status as the universally acknowledged driver of the global economy.  Having snatched the title of the largest manufacturing nation in the world from the United States, it is  now the  second largest economy in the world, following closely only to the U.S.

In our clime, it beats common sense how such a historical personal encounter with all aspects of our national life, including in the army and other strands of our political and administrative branches in which General Buhari has played actively in the past more than five decades would turn to a political disadvantage. The over 50 years of General Buhari’s public service has been reduced to religious fundamentalism by the political hacks, who have failed woefully to point at any single mark of a religious zealotry in the many theatres of our national life that he operated, including the highest office of state.

Combing his stomp speeches and taking them out of context to push the claim  of religious zealotry is banal when the overwhelming evidence to support the charge, would have been to point to the practical mark of his fundamentalism in all the key state institutions that he operated. If no single former or serving soldier in the Platoon he commandered, no cabinet minister in his government either where he was governor in the North East region in the 1970s or the federal government he led between 1984-1985, or any one from the petroleum ministry he headed or the NNPC he chaired, have raised issues of religious discrimination, let alone persecution, then Nigerians must see the peddlers of religious fundamentalist nonsense as desperate rear guards bent on strapping the country to perpetual bankruptcy and ensuring it is a mere heap of loose sand.

As Deng Xiaoping, a revolutionary soldier, devout Chinese Patriot and astute reformer was abused and detracted at every point in his career, so has General Buhari been serially maligned, persecuted but with Deng’s triumph at 74 years old which marked the turning point for China, is Nigeria similarly on the brink of a pleasant beginning? Last year, Indians plucked out a former governor of the state of Gujarat and top leader of the former Hindu extremist BJP , the 60 years old Narendra Modi in a watershed election landslide and labelled him India’s Deng Xiaoping. So far Modi, who pledged he would reduce govenrment and improve governance,  has not disappointed.

For a badly fractured country wrecked by corruption, indiscipline and insurgency, much like the cultural revolution that threw China into chaos from the middle of 1950s to most of the 1970s, Nigeria is in desperate need of a Deng Xiaoping figure and the Katsina-born General who is also the presidential candidate of the APC in the March 28 election fits the bill.