I have over the years noticed with great embarrassment as a Nigerian a serious historical inaccuracy which our mass media continue to carry on the question of voluntary military handover of government to civilian government.
In short, our eminent compatriot, General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) is constantly and consistently referred to as the “First African military leader to voluntarily handover government to a democratically elected civilian government.”
One of the latest of such embarrassing error or inaccuracy was by Jide Ajani, Deputy Political Editor of the Vanguard.
He stated as follows in his report captioned, “Obasanjo – for President: Ultimatum for a four-star general” (Vanguard: 6 November, 1998; page 9): “General Matthew Okikiolakin Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo, the former Head of State and Commander-in-Chief, and the first African leader to voluntarily hand over the reigns of governance (sic) to a democratically elected civilian government…”
This is far from the truth. General Obasanjo (rtd) was not the first to do so. He was in fact the third African military leader to do so.
The first was General Akwasi Afrifa of Ghana, who in 1969 voluntarily handed over government to the democratically elected Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia of the Progress Party, after the military overthrow of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah on 24 February, 1966.
This was good ten years before General Obasanjo handed over government to Alhaji Shehu Shagari on 1 October, 1979.
To further buttress my correction I quote from Barbara E Okeke’s book, 4 June: A Revolution Betrayed, page 12: “Ghana’s first military government kept its promise to return the country to civilian rule in 1969.”
And going further back to the records: On 13 January, 1972 Col. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong overthrew Dr. Busia, for being autocratic, repressive, intolerant of opposition (a crime he himself articulated against Nkrumah). He was also accused of being clay-footed on “moral revolution” and mismanagement of the economy. Read more