20th September, 2010
Former military leader, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB, on Wednesday at EagleÂ Square, Abuja declared his intention to contest the 2011 Presidential election at aÂ ceremony described as a comic experience.Â Moyo Fabiyi writesâ€¦
With a hired crowd numbering about 7,000 people, former military president GeneralÂ Ibrahim Babangida brought more theatre to Nigeriaâ€™s national politics on Wednesday, 15Â September, 2010.
The theatre hall was the Eagle Square, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. Aside theÂ fact that his home state, Niger, shares boundary with Abuja, the scenario clearly showedÂ that IBB could not muster an average of 500 people from each of the 36 states of Nigeria.
One Prophet James commenced the theatre of absurdity with his opening Christian prayer.Â An Islamic cleric had earlier prayed in Arabic. Gallivanting and demonstrating, ProphetÂ James derailed from his assignment of saying the opening prayer when he started toÂ prophesy that IBB would win the presidential election in 2011.
And to add insult to the injury this prophet had inflicted on Christendom, his guestsÂ especially IBB clearly demonstrated that they did not believe in his prayers. IBB andÂ others around him did not remove their caps to show reverence to God, did not close theirÂ eyes and worse still, they were laughing for the 15 minutes or thereabout that the â€˜manÂ of Godâ€™ Prophet James was dancing about on the podium.
National Coordinator of IBB campaign team and the CEO of Daar Communications, Dr. RaymondÂ Dokpesi, was prancing everywhere with his moves and gestures. He needed nobody to tellÂ him he is not an orator. His welcome address was full of sound and fury signifyingÂ nothing.
The most notable political bigwig at the event and a former President of the Senate,Â Chief Ken Namani, an orator no doubt was the first to speak on IBBâ€™s experience. OtherÂ speakers including Niger State Governor, Muazu Babangida Aliyu were to follow theÂ bandwagon. Nnamani was of the view that IBB has what it takes to make the difference inÂ Nigeriaâ€™s unpredictable political terrain. You may call it a slip of the tongue orÂ whatever, just like the Niger State Governor Aliyu, twice referred to IBB as â€œPresidentâ€Â or â€œMr. President.â€
Delivering a speech, Aliyu admitted that the responsibility of the office of theÂ President of Nigeria was enormous, requiring a combination of competence, intellectual,Â capacity, discipline, individual broad-mindedness, etc, but he did not tell his audienceÂ how much of these qualities his political godfather, IBB, possesses at 69. He will clockÂ 70 next August.
Aliyu, fondly called Chief Servant by his admirers in Niger State, had been battling hisÂ political godfather and other interest groups to secure a second term ticket. HeÂ described IBBâ€™s declaration as a PDP family affair. However, he deserved the commendationÂ of right thinking political pundits for accepting that if IBB could not win his partyâ€™sÂ primary, â€œhe will remain a loyal member of the PDP.â€Â This statement can only come fromÂ somebody who is ready and willing to accept defeat. He ended his eloquent oration byÂ urging the supporters to go back home and register as voters for the 2011 generalÂ elections.
Then ‘Maradona’ himself mounted the rostrum for almost 50 minutes. Initially he wasÂ communicating. But after the first 10 to 15 minutes, IBB became so confused that he wasÂ no longer addressing issues butÂ dancing round salient issues. For example, IBB whoÂ muzzled the press via illegal closure of media houses and disobeying court orders at willÂ during the June 12 struggle, promised to fight corruption by strengthening the EFCC andÂ the ICPC. Can a government fight corruption where there is no freedom of expression?
Worste still, IBB failed to mention a word on June 12, 1993 presidential election won byÂ his friend, Bashorun MKO Abiola who was later murdered in detention. IBB thought he wasÂ making a political point when he asked that a three-minute silence be observed in honourÂ of the late President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua. But his audience hardly observed a 3-secondÂ silence.
What IBB lacked in courage on June 12, his erstwhile image mender and former Minister ofÂ Information, Chief Alex Akinyele tried to make up for. The Ondo high chief pleaded with aÂ Yoruba adage: Bi a o ba gbagbe oro ana, a o ni reni ba sere, meaning if one does notÂ forget the misdeeds of yesterday, one may be left with no friends to play with. With theÂ adage, Akinyele indirectly urged the Yoruba of the South West Nigeria to forget June 12Â or at least forgive his political mentor, IBB. But will IBB himself ever admit guilt whenÂ recently he ordered reporters not to ask him questions on June 12 and the late Dele Giwa?Â Â IBB demanded for three minutes silence (not the traditional one minute) for the lateÂ President Yarâ€™Adua.
But he did not remember MKO Abiola who is much revered by Nigerians. He also convenientlyÂ forgot that during the 1999 elections, the North conceded the office of the President toÂ the South West for the first time in the political history of Nigeria and the two leadingÂ presidential candidates were from the South West. He forgot the man who laid down hisÂ life as a ransom for the present political dispensation.
IBBâ€™s first daughter almost added confusion to the theatre when she almostÂ slumped. Mrs.Â Aisha Shinkafi, wife of the Zamfara State Governor was obviously exhausted owing to theÂ long speech her father, IBB, was making. She almost fell off the podium when her youngerÂ sister and her fatherâ€™s aides supported and moved her off the arena for a few minutes.Â Aisha was resuscitated and she returned to the podium a few minutes later.
Perhaps, the most comical of them all was Dr. Kunle Olajide, one-time General Secretary,Â Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE who was said to be at the event to represent the SouthÂ West. The masters of ceremony and presenters of Goge Africa on AIT, Mr. and Mrs. IsaacsÂ did not mention Olajideâ€™s name. nor did the Ekiti-born spent force introduce himself. InÂ fact, he kept bending his head as if he was hiding his face from someone.
Olajide posited that of all Nigeriaâ€™s rulers, military or civilian, none has benefitedÂ the South West than IBB. But he failed to mention the fact that the same IBB wasÂ responsible for the death of one of the most illustrious sons of Oduduwa, MKO Abiola, whoÂ won the fairest and freest election inÂ Nigeriaâ€™s history.
Now that IBB has declared his intention to contest next yearâ€™s presidential election,Â Yoruba are waiting for him when he comes to Abeokuta, Ibadan and Lagos to campaign.Â Perhaps he does not even need the votes from all the South West states put together.