3rd June, 2010
When IBB came to power on August 27, 1985, it looked like a biblical story when God sent Moses to free the Israelites from the captivity in the land of Egypt. His coming was to save the country from the economic charade and entrench a reliable and sustainable political order.
The military took over the civilian government on 31 December 1983. It did so because that government had ruined the economy of the country, generated national dissension and instability and had engaged in massive rigging of election with the attendant violence and insecurity of lives and property in the country as was the case early in 1966 when military entered the political arena for the first time in history of Nigeria. It seemed therefore as if our leaders did not learn a lesson after 13 years of military rule, than to mismanage the economy of the country in a more damaging fashion, rig election in a more brazen manner and cause widespread disaffection among the generality of Nigerians on an unprecedented scale. IBB overthrew Idiagbon/Buhari regime for reasons he said to be too rigid in attitude to national issues, refusal to listen to reasonable advice, unemployment issue, and abuse of the peopleâ€™s fundamental human rights, etc.
Conscious of its mandate and determined to redress the imbalance between the levels of development of the urban and rural areas, the Babangida regime established the Directorate of Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure, DFRRI. Unfortunately, not every borehole sunk by DFRRI contained water. Furthermore, not every road constructed by it was tarred. In addition, not every community benefited from its multiple programmes.
The IBB administration also created the National Directorate of Employment, NDE, aimed at combating the daunting problem of unemployment at all levels. Although the directorate had succeeded in putting many Nigerians on the path of productive engagement and self-reliance, it did not succeed due to poor administration. The Peopleâ€™s Bank aimed at giving loans to small scale entrepreneurs was riddled with corruption and malpractices. Perhaps the most significant of the Babangida administration was the economic reform which was encapsulated within the framework of the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, aimed at permeating the entire fabric of the society after he inherited an economy that was riddled with structural ambiguities. This SAP was, among other objectives, designed to bring into fruition a substantial deregulation of our import and export practices, facilitate easier access to the foreign exchange market where the exchange of the naira was determined by the interplay of the market forces, and enhance increased private sector participation in the industrial sector.
The programme lacked proper implementation to meet the initial objectives. The unprecedented devaluation of the naira erodedÂ the purchasing power of Nigerians and entrenched in its wake an era of untold hardship and deprivation. It took demonstrations and destruction of property for the government to appreciate the harshness of the bitting economic situation. Government introduced relief measures to cushion the effect of the difficult economic policies but they remained at best palliatives as they proved incapable of improving the lot of the people in any substantial way due to the ever diminishing purchasing power of the average worker and the increasing pool of the unemployed.
As we all know, the duty of the military is not to rule but rather to defend the country against any foreign aggression. That is why in the 1990s Europeâ€™s totalitarian regimes and imperial systems collapsed one after the other. Africa was not left out in the struggle for freedom and democracy. In Benin Republic for instance, demonstrations had crippled the 17 years military regime of former President Mathew Kerekou to usher in democratic governance in 1991.
Here in NigeriaÂ phased programme for the withdrawal of the military from government and the orderly handing over to an elected civilian government was on the way with the inauguration of the National Electoral Commission with Professor Humphrey Nwosu as Chairman. In order to assist the commission to carry out its programme on schedule and without difficulties, an electoral decree was promulgated to give legal force and effect to the National Electoral Commission and its activities. IBB assured Nigerians of a stable third republic in 1993. However, things went wrong and many Nigerians pointed fingers at the Babangida administration for being unserious about handing over power to an elected civilian government.
For example, a day to the June 12 election a pseudo organization challenged the election in Kaduna High Court but it was overruled by the Abuja High Court. The NEC Chairman, Professor Humphrey Nwosu in his patriotic manner conducted the election which turned out to be the freest ever in the history of this country but was annulled by IBB after it was presumed won by the late MKO Abiola. Up till now IBB cannot tell Nigerians what compelled him to take this action. But some honest Nigerians are coming out to tell the truth. One of such is Professor Humphrey Nwosu himself. At the recent conference on free and fair election held in Abuja of which he was the chairman, Nwosu told Nigerians that the June 12, 1993 election was annulled by IBB because of division among the army officers. He said that one section was in favour of the election while the other was not.
IBB cannot tell Nigerians he was not aware of the disgruntled elements that challenged the election in the Kaduna High Court. If he says otherwise he is not true to himself and to humanity. The truth is that IBB did not want to leave power. If not why did he annul the June 12 election?Â Did he know the consequences of annulling this freest election?Â I am sure he did not for if he knew he shouldnâ€™t have done that. The fact is that the election would have taken this country to 40 years ahead than where we are today. IBB plunged this country into the calamityÂ we are still witnessing today. The true of the matter is that the whole economic mess we are passing through today as a nation was caused by the Babangida administration, whether you like it or not. Is this the man who wants to rule again after 17 years of stepping aside?
His intention to rule was initially presumed to be speculative but it is now a reality based on reports in some of our dailies. For instance in P.M.NEWS published on Thursday, April 15, 2010, he said he will run even if he did not get PDPâ€™s ticket. It is a shame on IBB for him to even think about contesting for Presidency with all the atrocities he committed during his eight years of mis-governance. Yet some people are organising themselves into groups to campaign for him because of ignorance and poverty. Recently, we heard about one of such groups in Anambra State. How can a reasonable person give support to such a man who had contributed immensely to the countryâ€™s economic woes?
It is the beauty of democracy as a Nigerian for him to contest in the election to test his popularity against other contestants you will say. Agreed. But Nigerians should rise against his candidature and stop him from contesting in 2011 election because he is dangerous to democracy. He should explain to Nigerians why he cancelled the June 12 election and who killed Dele Giwa. The truth of the matter is that IBBâ€™s time is over politically. He should go and continue to spend the huge sum of money he made during the Golf war in 1990.
â€¢Suleman wrote from the Faculty of Arts, Dept. of Modern European Languages, Unilag.