12th October, 2010
A resident of Brooklyn in New York walked one day to his car and what he saw made himÂ mad. Someone had stolen visible parts from his parked car! At home another day and stillÂ hurting from the theft, the man heard a knock on his door. To his amazement, a junkieÂ from the neighborhood stood outside offering to sell back the very same items snatchedÂ from the car!
The man slammed the door on the thiefâ€™s face! Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, himself a junkieÂ (yes, a power junkie), is hardly different from that thief. After presiding over grandÂ political theft in Nigeria many years ago, he has returned, offering the fruits ofÂ larceny to a country still bruised from his misrule. Like the man in Brooklyn, we shouldÂ simply shut him out! And show the world that at 50, Nigeria has matured enough to discernÂ good from bad leaders! Unfortunately, not everyone is immune to IBBâ€™s snake charms. ManyÂ have fallen under his spell, making him believe he can still fool Nigerians.
Babangida is quite bold with his fantasy to (mis)rule Nigeria again! Here is a man who atÂ his age should be focused on helping the younger ones do better than heâ€™s done in life.Â But no, IBB would rather get back on the political stage to reclaim glories he neverÂ really had! How can the younger generation ever flourish when people like him keepÂ getting in the way? It is a testimony to his incompetence that up till now Babangida hasÂ not been able to groom political successors. He would rather insult us with more falseÂ promises and devious politicking designed to accentuate (and capitalise upon)Â ethno-regional divisions in Nigeria. Those now falling for his fairy tales shouldÂ carefully review his record in office to avoid being fooled again.
What a scandal! The magnitude of IBBâ€™s atrocities against Nigeria is matched only by theÂ level of impunity that characterises his demeanor today. It is as if he believes he canÂ get away with murder! I was there as a reporter when his military regime changed the lawÂ in Lagos State to stop the late Gani Fawehinmi from privately prosecuting Babangidaâ€™sÂ minions for Dele Giwaâ€™s murder. It is no stretch of the imagination to surmise that thoseÂ foot soldiers were acting on Babangidaâ€™s orders. The facts are there in the historyÂ books, including Giwaâ€™s last words to his son Billy, to remember that the deadlyÂ parcel-bomb came from the then militaryâ€“President Babangida. Fear drove many people intoÂ silence after Giwaâ€™s assassination. But not the late Fawehinmi who bravely fought againstÂ an illegal government bent on covering its tracks.
What of the June 12 issue which Babangida cannot wish away? How about the millions whoÂ were deprived of their votes? What is their compensation? To have the same man who stoleÂ their votes many years ago now presenting himself for election? Unthinkable! That isÂ adding insult to injury! What a nerve! The assault on our intelligence is astronomical!Â Imagine a thief who has robbed you blind coming back to ask you to appoint him as aÂ guardian of whatever is left of your plundered house? Would you agree? The shockingÂ reality is that many Nigerians would, and are embracing this ludicrous notion.
Make no mistake about it â€“ what happened to the votes of Nigerians on June 12 was armedÂ robbery occurring on the political arena. It was enforced by the gun, not unlike aÂ stickup at a bank or on the streets. The majority of Nigerians voted for a specificÂ candidate. Disregard the reservations you may have about that candidate (and I have quiteÂ a few since I worked for him many years). Fair is fair: the man won, to go by allÂ legitimate estimations. The natural course of action would have been to swear in MKOÂ Abiola as the civilian president of Nigeria then. But did that happen? No! IBB hadÂ presided over an elaborate scheme to dupe Nigerians. People complain about 419ers, butÂ the biggest of them all has been Babangida. He scammed many into believing he was sincereÂ about allowing a thriving civilian democracy to succeed him. Maradona had succeeded inÂ dribbling into the hearts of those that embraced his trickery.
Even after the elaborately contrived false transition to civil rule was revealed to be aÂ mirage after Sani Abacha took over power, many still did not see through Babangidaâ€™sÂ schemes. Today he has praise-singers who are falling over themselves to get a share ofÂ the considerable loot still under his control. Some may object to my use of the wordÂ â€˜lootâ€™ in the previous sentence. To them I say: give me a break! What is the salary of aÂ general in Nigeria? What is the salary of a president or an ex-president? Total it allÂ up, and tell me if you can maintain a private jet (and other extravagant displays) onÂ that income? You say his in-law gave it to him? Oh yes, youâ€™ve convinced me. NOT!
We know he did not invent some great contraption for which he is getting ampleÂ royalties. We know he didnâ€™t create some superb software, or discover great treasuresÂ buried undersea. So, where does his wealth come from?
We all should challenge Babangida to prove that he is not like the junkie in Brooklyn whoÂ stole something and has now returned with what he stole, offering it back at a price toÂ the people he stole from. The price of Babangidaâ€™s offer is the presidency of Nigeria. IfÂ enough of us agree to his price, then his dream of hoodwinking the country again wouldÂ come true. Is that really what you want?
â€¢Fred Gbeare writes from Lagos.