What Are All the Complaints About Ibrahim Babangida?
Okechukwu E. Asia
Boston, MA, USA
When you put together Diego Maradona, Christian Chukwu, Segun Odegbami, Muda Lawal, Adokie Amasiemeka and four stars, you get General Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria’s former president.
His critics call him Maradona for his mastery of Nigeria’s political landscape, some call him Christian Chukwu for his methodical approach to contain his enemies, and others call him Segun Odegbami for his superb calculation on beating his enemies at their own games. Many call him Muda Lawal for being very cautious of his environment, while friends call him Adokie Amasiemeka for knowing how to perfect his games and slip through his opponent’s best defense and cause some havoc. But whatever you call him Ibrahim Babangida is a man of many traits of character. His military training has served him very well in piloting through the slippery terrains of Nigerian political landscape.
There is a serious political movement across Nigeria and abroad to ensure Ibrahim Babangida’s victory in 2007 presidential elections in Nigeria. In the forefront of this movement is the Nigerian Project, whose membership is caught across sections of Nigeria – Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and minorities all joining forces to help elect Ibrahim Babangida in 2007.
In 1999, Nigerians voted enmasse to elect Obasanjo to the office of the president. That election, as we all know now turned out to be a bad omen for Nigeria. Nigerians have been suffering since then. Suffering from economic deprivation, social humiliation, academic backwardness, political embarrassment, corruption, insecurity, police and military brutality, government sponsored assassinations, military invading of our villages, official freedom of speech gag order, presidential rudeness and innuendos, out of control governors and ministers, ego massage party officers, official thievery, uncontrollable fall of our currency, official sponsored tribal and communal clashes and the list go on. Nigerians have never had it this worst throughout our history. We have endured six years of hell in the hands of President Obasanjo and it will continue until 2007.
In 2007, Nigerians will have another chance to elect a seasoned politician with superior and unquestionable military experience and background. The man who during his first outing as president provided Nigerians opportunities to grow and advance, to look inward and believe in their destinies again. Ibrahim Babangida has through his many developmental programs, some successful and others not so successful, proved that Nigeria can tap into and develop its many resources and make meaning out of them. As the architect of the second tier forex market, he not only changed the way importers do business he changed the way foreign exchange can be wisely used to make goods and services available at reasonable costs in Nigeria.
He understands the concept of democratic principles; either you belong to the left wing or right wing political divide. So he helped to create the two party systems, which worked well during the 1992 general election. He presided over the only free and fair elections recorded in the history of Nigeria in 1992. Although, that election was subsequently annulled due to some circumstantial technicalities that besieged our polity that period, which led to Ibrahim Babangida’s infamous “stepping aside”. Since then many have blamed Babangida for all the problems that besieged Nigeria. Even problems that have been there since independence have somehow been connected to Babangida. All the killings committed by rouge police and military personnel have been connected to Ibrahim Babangida. He has been chastised by those whose personal interests were not served by his administration, especially the people of the Southwestern part of Nigeria. The Yorubas have till this day opposed to Babangida’s rights to freely exercise his political freedom and continue to chase his shadow. Even when the man on the top is one of their own they still blame Babangida for Obasanjo’s failed and schizophrenic government.
They complained that Babangida annulled the election of Abiola. But I don’t see them complain about the election results of 2003 that Obasanjo annulled. Obasanjo annulled the results of the elections in the Southeast, South-south, Southwest, and North-central to produce the infamous faked and adulterated results for his party-PDP. I don’t see them blame Obasanjo for all the assassinations that took place under his watch. Nigerians experienced more official corruption and political assassinations between 1999 and 2005 than at any time in our nation’s history. Obasanjo should be held responsible for those assassinations. Today nobody has been convicted of any of the killings. When Babangida become president again, the Yorubas will blame him for all those murders including the murder of Chief Bola Ige. The so-called Obasanjo’s war against corruption is nothing but a charade of incompetence. This s elective war on corruption only points its gun at the people who happen to be on Obasanjo’s bad book. The Baby-Doc EFCC (Economic & Financial Crimes Commission) has shamefully become a stooge of the president’s lets-harass-the-fool syndrome. Who is kidding whom?
Some people argue that all former military officers should be banned from active politics and the office of the presidency be rotated among ethnic groups in Nigeria. This suggestion is laughable. There are more than 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria, and if each ethnic group serves a minimum of four years, then you do the calculation how many years it will take to rotate back to the original tribe. What these people are actually advocating is quota system for the office of the president. This idea will effectively kill the entity we know today as Nigeria. As to banning former military officers from active politics, I think this is pathetic and undemocratic. Democracy is government of the people for the people including those officers who have served our country honorably.
The people have the power to vote for or against them in an election. If the people’s vote is stolen as in the case of 2003, it is the duty of the people to rise and overthrow that illegal government. And if the government, which we voted for, become destructive of our collective interests and failed to perform we either recall that government or vote them out in the next election. If Nigerians are unable to exercise these natural democratic rights, they have themselves to blame and wallow in abject silence and self-destruction.
At this early stage of our democracy, the person who occupies the office the president must be a person with proven ability, strong military background, intellectual awareness, patriotic, civil discipline and temperament, and strong leadership qualities. Geographical birthplace should not be considered when choosing our president. The field should be open to all to come and play. Let us not waste our time arguing about quota system for the presidency instead we should put our energy to orienting our people to the intrigues of democratic politics. It will serve our country well.
This time Nigerians are looking for a serious, strong and effective leadership, corrupt-free society, revamping of our educational system, building and rebuilding our crumbed infrastructures, building new roads and bridges, injecting accountability into our society and rejection of nepotism. Whether it is Babangida or someone else, we need a president for all Nigerians who will save us from drowning in our heartless and faceless democracy.
Okechukwu E. Asia
Boston, MA, USA
Real Beauty is My Aim - Mahatma Gandhi