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Could Nigeria Ex Military Leader Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida be serious ?

Babangida_20I have not been consulted this time even though I was part of a middle-belt group which the General invited, among others, for “consultation” before his stepping aside in 1993. The General under Nigeria’s constitution has the inalienable right like any other Nigerian, – not disqualified by the rules – to aspire to any political office. By the same token all Nigerians including me reserve the right to express their opinions as to the acceptability and competence or otherwise of all those who seek to rule over them in a democratic setting. Indeed it has been the failure of those Nigerians with the capacity to express their rights of objective criticism that has foisted as leaders at various levels simpletons, the light fingered, and even the fanatically insane. The crisis of development and the near failed-state status of Nigeria today is the outcome of this collective failure to strictly audit those who became leaders in Nigeria.

Three Generals namely, Gowon, Obasanjo and Babangida ruled Nigeria for 9, 11 and 8 years respectively. These three, therefore, have between them ruled Nigeria for the total of 28 years or 56% of 50 years since independence in 1960. A common denominator which characterizes their years in office is plentiful petrodollars, but how can each of them be said to have performed.

Gen. Gowon can be said to have secured national unity and integration by his post civil wars policies of “no victor no vanquished”, his Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction as well as the NYSC programs. Before then, Gowon had laid down the political and administrative structure (12 state structures) of Nigeria upon which subsequent developments have taken cue. He can also be credited with establishing Nigeria’s basic economic, social and artistic infrastructure including: roads, bridges, electricity and energy, universities, colleges, and polytechnics, hospitals and the new Federal Capital city of Abuja, the National theater and FESTAC 77 among others. Gen. Gowons failure was reneging on his promise to hand over to a civilian administration.

General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd.)

General Obasanjo is credited during his first tour of duty with successfully handing over to a civilian administration in 1979. During his second tour, albeit under U.S pressure, he established the anti graft agencies of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). However, his most outstanding achievements remain the ushering in of the mobile phone revolution and the procurement debt relief and forgiveness for Nigeria from the London and Paris clubs.

Obasanjo failed with respect to organizing free and fair elections, infrastructure development such as power, roads, etc, his utilizing the anti-graft agencies selectively against perceived opponents and his sit-tight-attempt to have a third term as president. Obasanjo’s place in Nigeria’s history as villain-in-chief has however been assured by his imposition of an ailing Yar’adua as president in 2007.

With respect to General Babangida his, administration was strong on initiation of institutions, policies and programs but weak on strengthening them, policy implementation and sustainability. For instance, Mass Mobilization for Social and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DIFRRI), National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND), National Directorate for Employment (NDE), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nation Board for Community Banks (NBCB), National Republican Convention (NRC), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), Commercialization and privatization programs and many more are some of the examples of institutions, policies and programs initiated by the Gen. Babangida.

However, like Gen. Obasanjo’s EFCC and ICPC, Gen. Babangida’s NDLEA which has survived and thrived may also have been established under pressure from the USA. At the time, Nigeria had become the drug hub of Africa, and Nigerian leaders and their lackey’s were indeed the drug barons. I suspect that NDLEA was established as a compromise to save Nigeria from the kind of treatment which the USA meted out to Panama and its then leader Gen. Noriega. Luckily for the country NDLEA, except in a few instances, has largely served the objectives for which it was established. The BPE, NERFUND, Commercialization and Privatization as institutions, policies and programs respectively have also survived.

The shine has however been removed from these initiatives as they were largely perceived as used by the General and his cronies as avenues for dispensing undeserved favors and patronage as well as means for legalizing the mass plunder of our national assets and patrimony in the name of privatization. These apart, all other institutions, policies and programs of the Babangida era have been scrapped, have crumbled or simply collapsed under the weight of their irrelevance, inefficiency, corruption and non-viability. Spectacular among which are: SDP, NRC, MAMSER, DIFRRI, NACB and many more.

General Babangida’s failures in the political and economic realms are even more puzzling given the relatively more favorable and unfettered environment in which he led Nigeria. His transition to civil rule program was just last week described by the Nation Newspaper’s Dele Akinola as “the longest running failed state project in recent global history.” That program becomes even more of a moral burden on Babangida and his boys given the monumental waste of time and resources which the building of NRC and SDP party offices across the nation, funding the operations of the two parties, and banning and un-banning of candidates at will represented. Indeed had this mad – scientist experiment not ended with the annulment of the fairest, freest and most credible election till date, the killing of Chief Abiola and Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’adua and setting up of the disastrous Interim National Government (ING) led by Chief Shonekan, history may have been kinder to Babangida.

On the economic front, we have already noted the General’s privatization program as legalized plunder. But most disturbing was Babangida’s failure to utilize the first Gulf war oil money wind-fall to, modernize Nigeria’s power, roads and rail infrastructure or improve its foreign reserves or reduce its high debt profile by paying up its debt to the Paris and London clubs. That none of these happened, and that the money was “fritted away on non priority

Ex-President Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo

projects” not beneficial to the economy as posited by the Okigbo investigation panel leaves Babangida’s economic and financial record severely tainted. There is not much that IBB or his apologists can say to mitigate his culpability in this respect. Also, given the claim of his regime’s “elevation of corruption to a major state policy” nothing favorable can be said about the general.

With respect to the personality and character traits of these three Generals, once again Babangida tops them from the bottom. If one is to be charitable IBB and Obasanjo can be ranked the same, yet Obasanjo with all his legendary braggadocio, infidelity and treachery to me comes a distant second, when compared to IBB. The Nation’s Newspaper Deputy Editor on IBB’s character trait is instructive when he says that he is “a leader whose trademark is saying what he would later deny and denying what he will later say.” While Owei Lakemfa of Vanguard says that “but we all know that as part of his instinctive nature of deception, whenever Babangida talks about peace, he would have sounded the bugle for war.”

In my opinion, Gen. Babangida’s personality traits are in consonance with his leadership style of governing by deception, subterfuge, treachery, backstabbing, booby-traps and non-predictability. The general has indeed not helped the perception of his person and character by crowning himself the grand master of these negative attributes, styling himself as the “evil genius”, the “Maradona of Nigerian politics” and “Machiavelli-in-chief”.

Gen. Babangida has the unenviable distinction of being Nigeria’s leader when a prominent journalist was killed by parcel bomb the first in our history. This killing coincided with the maturation of drug trafficking in Nigeria and the mystery of the death and or disappearance of an apprehended drug courier Miss. Gloria Okon in police custody. He also holds the record of detaining the highest number of journalists at any one time, and shutting down more magazine and newspaper publishing houses than any other regime.

With respect to the annulment of the elections of June 12 1993, very few Nigerians are aware of the fact that Gen. Babangida had appointed and sworn-in a tribunal specifically to hear petitions on that presidential election. The tribunal was under the chairmanship of a justice of the Supreme Court Justice Babalakin now retired. Gen. Babangida’s perfidy was at its highest when he proceeded to annul the same election for which the tribunal was set up two days before it was due to start sittings. In the recent past, Gen Babangida made a mockery of the justice Oputa panel on truth and reconciliation by not only refusing to appear before it but by placing all available legal obstacles to frustrate its work. The Gen. had to avoid the Oputa Panel because he could not afford to be question under oath as that will finally exposed his culpability on several fronts such as the Dele Giwa, Gloria Okon, Gen. Vatsa’s, the Gulf war wind-fall, and the June 12 elections among others.

In the last few months while past leaders, men of honour, goodwill and patriotism and integrity rose in support of the then Vice President Jonathan Goodluck to assume presidential powers as Acting President, Gen. Babangida characteristically did not stand up to be counted.

These character traits explain why Gen. Babangida finds it hard or impossible to take a clear and an unequivocal and principled stand on any issue. Whether the issue, be that of the IMF loan, SAP, number and structure of political parties, candidates at elections, trial and execution of suspected coup-plotters, nullification of fair and free elections. Babangida’s motives and justification for any of his actions and decisions in the issues mentioned above have up till today remained mysterious. This obscurantism has also characterized IBB’s acclaimed leadership abilities because there are no concrete and verifiable criteria which he or his apologists can proffer as his leadership assets.

Most Nigerians are mesmerized by the illusion of IBB’s grandeur, charisma and presumed leadership abilities which to me are inconsequential. Nigeria’s situation today requires incontrovertible and concrete proof of a leader’s intellectual, physical, moral, mental and psychological abilities. Nigerians should no longer accept illusive, obscure, undefined and unverified claims to leadership abilities as has been the case with the General Babangida. It is time Nigerians knew the why, of any individual’s leadership aspirations, the what he intends to achieve and the how he intend to achieve his declared intentions for the country. We can ill afford a leader whose style is that of dithering, prevarication and concealment. Democracy has no room for these and it would be foolhardy for Nigerians to think that IBB can be born again at this stage of his existence.

It is now agreed by all that Nigeria requires strong institutions and the rule of law i.e. a mature political culture but not strong leaders. In this regard, Babangida is neither strong nor the person who can build our institutions or strengthen our laws. His multiple failures in governance, institution building and entrenching the rule of law, his moral standing and credibility spring no doubt from his intrinsic nature and character. Never one to be strong on any issue, his, it is to leave us wondering while himself wondering without direction. Otherwise, how do you explain his introducing the federal character principle into Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution and his being adverse to its application today.

If, as portrayed above, Babangida failed in the many fronts described as an unfettered military dictator within a much more favorable economic regime, what are we to expect from him in a much tighter, civilian and democratic setting where compromise and complex horse trading are order of the day? A culture which a general and a dictator is deeply averse to, and in a world just recovering from a major economic recession no one should expect miracle from the General. If Babangida himself or any of his apologists have fresh facts and logical arguments contrary to these given above, I am open to reconsider. For now, my conclusion is that Nigeria does not need IBB at this point in time.

Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC and CEO of Portia Web Solutions. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websits. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.

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