Why IBB Believes He Can Still Fool Nigerians

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A resident of Brooklyn in New York walked one day to his car and what he saw made him  mad. Someone had stolen visible parts from his parked car! At home another day and still  hurting from the theft, the man heard a knock on his door. To his amazement, a junkie  from the neighborhood stood outside offering to sell back the very same items snatched  from the car!

The man slammed the door on the thief’s face! Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, himself a junkie  (yes, a power junkie), is hardly different from that thief. After presiding over grand  political theft in Nigeria many years ago, he has returned, offering the fruits of  larceny to a country still bruised from his misrule. Like the man in Brooklyn, we should  simply shut him out! And show the world that at 50, Nigeria has matured enough to discern  good from bad leaders! Unfortunately, not everyone is immune to IBB’s snake charms. Many  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 at  his age should be focused on helping the younger ones do better than he’s done in life.  But no, IBB would rather get back on the political stage to reclaim glories he never  really had! How can the younger generation ever flourish when people like him keep  getting in the way? It is a testimony to his incompetence that up till now Babangida has  not been able to groom political successors. He would rather insult us with more false  promises and devious politicking designed to accentuate (and capitalise upon)  ethno-regional divisions in Nigeria. Those now falling for his fairy tales should  carefully review his record in office to avoid being fooled again.

What a scandal! The magnitude of IBB’s atrocities against Nigeria is matched only by the  level of impunity that characterises his demeanor today. It is as if he believes he can  get away with murder! I was there as a reporter when his military regime changed the law  in Lagos State to stop the late Gani Fawehinmi from privately prosecuting Babangida’s  minions for Dele Giwa’s murder. It is no stretch of the imagination to surmise that those  foot soldiers were acting on Babangida’s orders. The facts are there in the history  books, including Giwa’s last words to his son Billy, to remember that the deadly  parcel-bomb came from the then military–President Babangida. Fear drove many people into  silence after Giwa’s assassination. But not the late Fawehinmi who bravely fought against  an illegal government bent on covering its tracks.

What of the June 12 issue which Babangida cannot wish away? How about the millions who  were deprived of their votes? What is their compensation? To have the same man who stole  their votes many years ago now presenting himself for election? Unthinkable! That is  adding insult to injury! What a nerve! The assault on our intelligence is astronomical!  Imagine a thief who has robbed you blind coming back to ask you to appoint him as a  guardian of whatever is left of your plundered house? Would you agree? The shocking  reality is that many Nigerians would, and are embracing this ludicrous notion.

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Make no mistake about it – what happened to the votes of Nigerians on June 12 was armed  robbery occurring on the political arena. It was enforced by the gun, not unlike a  stickup at a bank or on the streets. The majority of Nigerians voted for a specific  candidate. Disregard the reservations you may have about that candidate (and I have quite  a few since I worked for him many years). Fair is fair: the man won, to go by all  legitimate estimations. The natural course of action would have been to swear in MKO  Abiola as the civilian president of Nigeria then. But did that happen? No! IBB had  presided over an elaborate scheme to dupe Nigerians. People complain about 419ers, but  the biggest of them all has been Babangida. He scammed many into believing he was sincere  about allowing a thriving civilian democracy to succeed him. Maradona had succeeded in  dribbling into the hearts of those that embraced his trickery.

Even after the elaborately contrived false transition to civil rule was revealed to be a  mirage after Sani Abacha took over power, many still did not see through Babangida’s  schemes. Today he has praise-singers who are falling over themselves to get a share of  the considerable loot still under his control. Some may object to my use of the word  ‘loot’ in the previous sentence. To them I say: give me a break! What is the salary of a  general in Nigeria? What is the salary of a president or an ex-president? Total it all  up, and tell me if you can maintain a private jet (and other extravagant displays) on  that income? You say his in-law gave it to him? Oh yes, you’ve convinced me. NOT!

We know he did not invent some great contraption for which he is getting ample  royalties. We know he didn’t create some superb software, or discover great treasures  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 who  stole something and has now returned with what he stole, offering it back at a price to  the people he stole from. The price of Babangida’s offer is the presidency of Nigeria. If  enough of us agree to his price, then his dream of hoodwinking the country again would  come true. Is that really what you want?

•Fred Gbeare writes from Lagos.