Despite being imprisoned by the administration of then Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, under the draconian Degree 4 of 1983, journalist Tunde Thompson has declared his support for the former’s presidential bid.
Mr. Thompson said he has forgiven the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and will firmly support him in the forthcoming presidential election.
The journalist was the Guardian newspaper diplomatic correspondent when he was arrested by the defunct secret police, the National Security Organisation, NSO, alongside a former member of the House of Representatives and current chairman of the League Management Company, Nduka Irabor, who was then an assistant editor at the Guardian. Mr. Thompson was sentenced to a year in prison, for writing about the closure and retirement of some diplomatic staff. He told the Sun newspaper that Mr. Buhari did not order his arrest.
He said time has healed any grudge he had against Mr. Buhari adding that he believed that Mr. Buhari arrested them because he was misled.
“But when you look at it now, this is 2015, about 31 years later, I have also reflected on the matter especially when I wanted to do that rejoinder to the comment made by General Buhari that some journalists made some demands, that the demands were not honoured and they started blackmailing them,” he said
“I have seen that time is a healer of certain wounds because people are still asking that the man who jailed you wants to become the president that what do I feel about it? They asked if I would vote for such a man. I want to say categorically that Buhari as the head of state at the time, didn’t order the detention of Mr. Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor.”
He said the head of the NSO unilaterally took the decision to arrest him. He admonished those using his ordeal as election capital against the presidential bid of Mr Buhari to learn to be “charitable” and allow bygone to be bygone since the event happened over 30 years ago.
“He never did. Even Idiagbon did not. It was the head of NSO that ordered our arrest. That was the file my colleague saw when he was brought in to see Rafindadi after I had briefed him. And that was an order that they complied with. Buhari was not responsible for our arrest, so I do not see why at this time, people are trying to make political capital out of what happened in 1984. Apart from that, it was an issue in 2011 election.
“Between 2010 and 2011 people kept saying this over and over again. I think it’s now over 30 years, people should learn to be charitable; they should learn to forgive and let bygones be bygones especially when we know the truth about who did what. I will like to say that Buhari didn’t order my arrest, so I bear no grudge against him.”
Mr. Thompson said his support for Mr. Buhari is borne out of the belief that Nigeria needs a person of his character to truncate the wave of corruption, economic meltdown and impunity that has characterised President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
“Yes, as far I am concerned now and considering the fact that there is an order that the Minister of Petroleum should not appear before the National Assembly to defend her conduct and considering the fact that the Naira had been further devalued. Now listen, in Ghana the Cedi we used to mock, the Rupee we used to mock and the Yen. The Naira is just not there again. We say revalue the Naira but they said they cannot because we only have one commodity,” he said.
“The government has been saying a lot about agriculture. Cocoa provided the mainstay of the defunct western region under Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Groundnuts provided the mainstay of the defunct northern economy under Sir Ahmadu Bello. Have our farmlands suddenly become infertile? We have solid minerals; we have gold in Ilesa. What I am trying to say is that if we look critically, we have other commodities and if they are harnessed we will be able to say we have more than oil,” he added.
He said he believed that if Mr. Buhari became president he would not tolerate sacred cows like is the case under President Jonathan.
“Some even seem to be too powerful. They are sacred cows and they cannot be tamed. Is that not dangerous? I believe that a person like Buhari at this time can call anybody to order and some people are afraid of that.”