Words have always failed me in attempting to describe Ibrahim Babangida, former military ruler. This writer in Punch on September 5 has done it more brilliantly than I would have ever imagined or attempted.
WHEN he hurriedly departed from power 17 years ago, he left behind a broken country; its people in stifled rage over his irrational and inexplicable nullification of the freest election ever conducted in Nigeria. He had ceaselessly dribbled the entire nation while denying repeatedly that he had a hidden agenda as was then alleged by the now late Alao Aka-Basorun.
Again and again, he tinkered with the very foundation of the country and experimented with abandon any, and every kind of theory of governance with uniformly disastrous results. His experiments in this opaque style of government failed spectacularly and in the end he left in place a functioning anarchy. Nor did he realise when to stop the dribbling runs and so scored an own-goal.
That singular misadventure in all his years in power left in its wake a sado-masochist, who sought to complete the mindless rape of the country as we knew it. On Aug. 27, 2010, it was 25 years since he violently seized power from Mohammadu Buhari and negatively altered our lives forever.
About 14 days ago, I read in THE PUNCH, an advertorial seeking the support of Nigerians for this thoroughly discredited soldier in contesting the presidency. It was signed by the evil genius himself. He assures Nigerians that ‘we‘ can do it again because ‘we‘ did it before! Do what really? As an individual, Babangida evokes within me a series of very negative emotional reactions all of which have marinated in vitriol since his ignominious departure from power.
He compromised every institution of state and undermined civil society organisations. His Structural Adjustment Programme; Movement for Social Mobilisation; Directorate of Foods Roads and Rural Ifrastructure; Dutch Auction; Modified Dutch Auction; Option A4; Organisation of Islamic Conference; the government-decreed political parties, one a little to the right and the other a little to the left; dictatorship; plutocracy; diarchy; the reforms in the civil service and the politicisation of the Armed Forces did not survive his tyrannical rule.
Instead, they worsened the polity across the board and at an immense cost physically and socially. All of it was a ruse, which the then military president carefully calibrated to keep the people busy while the lion devoured the flock. The mentality was of a vampire guarding a blood bank.
Worse, very weighty allegations levelled against his regime in the coup-day speech by Gideon Orkah in April 1991 have never been addressed by this Minna-born bully who speaks English with an amusing accent. Nor has he ever shown any faith in the country‘s institutions. He subverted its people and their judicial system when he refused to appear at the Oputa Panel in 2000.
Before then, of course, he had subverted the constitution by annulling a nearly flawless election. He abdicated his responsibility to the people of Nigeria, acted in cahoots with the discredited military establishment to endanger our collective security and therefore imperilled our future. With great aplomb, he claimed to know those who would not succeed him, an indication that the result of the 1993 presidential election was known before the vote.
Today, he immorally seeks power by becoming a candidate in another election. It is not surprising for many have often made the fatal error of crediting him with a lot of intelligence. What he has in abundance is animal cunning, a gift for conniving in unholy darkness, for springing the ambush of the predator, in the brutal contest for the attainment of power.
The end-product is a man who would not tell the truth if the lie will serve him just as well. Consequently, his antecedents show him up as psychologically unsuited for the office of president in a democratic and plural society. He is the ultimate anti-democrat who now seeks power by democratic means. That is much the same way that Adolf Hitler legitimately won power but the world saw to what use that power was deployed.
Besides his duplicitous and untrustworthy nature is the pretence to godliness. He would frequently lace important public statements with phrases like Insha allah and Alhamdililah, but it must be evident to all that this is one individual who, despite wearing a toga of religious piety, worships only at the altar of his image.
If he succeeds this time because of our collective personal failings to recognise evil when we see it, Nigeria would have begun a certain journey on the path to irreversible decline. At 69, this slayer of Mamman Vatsa, Gideon Orkah and countless other military officers is well past his prime. Even at his best, he brought much odium and suffering to the people of Nigeria despite having been at the helm for one sixth of Nigeria‘s entire 50 year history.
At his age today we can expect that he will sell the entire nation to a consortium of shady characters, coup plotters and dubious businessmen who will denigrate Nigeria to the level of Haiti. That he succeeded before in drawing rings around us is not surprising, but that he succeeded so regularly and so spectacularly is what is truly astonishing.
The ordinary Nigerian is able to withstand what his latest adventure represents. However, the vehicle he seeks is a dangerous political party that wants to win power at any cost. It is perhaps the most irresponsible political party on the African continent. The largest? Can it claim to come even close to the African National Congress in South Africa in ideology, in size or in organisational skills? Or to the rigorous discipline of the MPLA in Angola?
He had a golden opportunity to become a genuine African hero and he simply bungled it. To this day, his regime remains an exemplar of arbitrariness and immense corruption, a symbol of government by attrition, the very one which brought brilliant economists into the government while its principal officers sauntered into the barn and asphyxiated the economy. His incredulous response? Why has the economy not collapsed?
So if he thinks he is a symbol, it is mostly of what? It will be a sorry return to the politics of a failed past which conspired with emergency intellectuals and imported ideology to negate our natural aspirations to grow physically and economically as expected of the youthful population that Nigeria is blessed with. In societies where the rule of law is upheld to the letter, this non-performer should have been in jail and in those promoting revolutionary law he would have been summarily executed.
But this is Nigeria where anything is possible including the truly bizarre. Nothing is ever the way it appears to be ordinarily, but in the hands of professional politicians such as this re-entrant into presidential politics, who ceaselessly profiteer from power, the cloak and dagger approach to important matters of state would as expected attain a more violent coloration.
We have endured enough bloodshed in this country following the end of the Civil War, enough violence, enough uncertainty and a disproportionate amount of all this is traceable directly and indirectly to Babangida. If the question arose about whether he should be given another chance, even if to improve on his rather sordid record, my answer would be overwhelmingly no.
Sadly, this poorly educated soldier – he does not hold a degree or even a diploma – tells the world that the youths of Nigeria are incapable of leading the nation because of their poor education. Most youths in authority today are much better educated than he is.
Dr. Ikhisemojie writes in from Eyiowuawi Street, Palmgrove, Lagos, via email@example.com