IBB at 80: A General haunted by the past, By Law Mefor

Posted by News Express | 17 August 2021 | 850 times

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•Dr. Law Mefor


Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, better known as IBB, is a retired army general and a former military President of Nigeria (1983 to 1993). IBB means different things to different people. The soft-spoken general invokes extreme emotions in people but generally, he is a very likeable person. Largely unpredictable, he once said that deception was a great attribute of a general and lived off it.

During his days in the army and as military president, he elevated deception to an art and used it as a main facade to build his career and survival in the heavily mined Nigeria’s military and military regimes where treachery, coups and counter coups had become the order of the day.

IBB was a master of the game and Nigerians nicknamed him Maradona and Evil Genius for his slippery nature, reminiscent of Diego Armando Maradona, the mercurial Argentine professional football player rightly considered by many as the greatest in the game of football. Diego Maradona was also at the apogee of his fame during Babangida’s rule.

Like IBB, in the field of play, Maradona was also slippery and unstoppable. Maradona was so much on top of the football game that he came close to standing shoulder to shoulder with the world’s greatest footballer ever; Edson Arantes do Nascimento better known as Pelé. But Maradona got his reputation soiled with ‘the hand of God’ infamy and drugs. Maradona came to be seen as ‘hand of god’ for a controversial goal, which he scored on June 22, 1986 in the match between Argentina and England. It happened that during the match Maradona scored the goal with his hand thus beating the goalkeeper Peter Shilton to give Argentina the 1-0 pyrrhic victory.

This singular act, believed to be deliberate and cheating, blighted the otherwise perfect career of the great Maradona, just like June 12 did to the greatness of Babangida. Otherwise IBB had the chance of becoming Nigeria’s greatest leader. He was a most detribalised Nigerian, a Northern Muslim married to a Southern Igbo Christian named Maryam. He was the one who opened up Nigeria to the world and modernised the nation’s economy. He re-calibrated the Naira to make it real and brought development to rural Nigeria.

The gap-toothed general was torn between democracy and dictatorship. He understood that the world was moving towards full democratization and military dictatorship was no longer fashionable. Apart from setting up S. G. Cookey’s Political Bureau in 1985 to produce the blueprint and roadmap for the nation’s democratization process, he set up the National Electoral Commission and put a leading Political Scientist, Professor Eme Awa, in the saddle and later, Awa’s student, Professor Humphrey Nwosu.

A believer in two-party system, IBB rightly saw that one sure way to compel Nigeria’s wayward political class to come together and move away from tribal and other primordial sentiments, was to put in place a two-party system. IBB thus decreed a two-party system, Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC), into existence and built ultramodern party secretariats up to Local Government level to ensure the effective take off of party politics based on a two-party system in Nigeria.

Unexpectedly, the new political order worked perfectly, perhaps to the surprise of IBB himself. Elections held from bottom up. Using the novel Option A4, Elections held in the Local Governments and States, and presidential election between the SDP’s Moshood Kashimawo Abiola and NRC’s Bashir Othman Tofa also. The results were startling and incontestable.

Using the novel Option A4, Abiola trounced Tofa to the point of winning Kano State, the home State of Tofa. NEC was announcing the results as they arrived from States and Nigerians were in jubilant mood and IBB’s transformation of Nigeria into a unique and exemplary democracy in Africa and perhaps in the world was to be crowned in a matter of hours.

Just then, the Maradona in IBB showed up at the crossroads and the man of history who was primed to make all the difference took a damning detour away from glory. The Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) , propelled by the then Chief of Army Staff who also later became head of state General Sani Abacha, suddenly became worried about a court order obtained against the election by the Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) , which was established on purpose by Arthur Nzeribe. The court order was given by then Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Dahiru Saleh.

Humphrey Nwosu was curiously summoned to the Villa and the process of annulling the election had kicked in and in the next 24 hours; IBB announced the annulment of June 12 Presidential Election. The rest, they say, is history.

In that singular act IBB deviated from the pathway that would have made him a George Washington, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela or even our own Nnamdi Azikiwe and like Maradona’s ‘hand of God’ goal, controversy began to dog IBB’s path to the present-day.

There is a dividing line where a mortal crosses over to become immoral and join the pantheons of gods. Like Maradona who chose ‘the hand of God’ goal and took solace in drugs when a little more effort could have tipped him into that realm only fitting for extraordinary men and women, IBB, too, fell short of that glory.

Sometimes, one wonders what Nigeria would have become if Abiola had become President of Nigeria with his heart of gold and pro-masses lifestyle. One wonders whether Nigerians wouldn’t have gone cap-in-hand to beg IBB to succeed Abiola after his term in office, if the former did like Vladimir Putin of Russia who handed over to Dmitry Medvedev and took power from him again in due course.

One wonders what Nigeria’s democracy would have become if Humphrey Nwosu had been allowed to perfect Option A4. One wonders where development would have reached today without the annulment of the June 12 presidential election.

Great leaders make great nations. Singapore emerged from Third World to First owing to the extraordinary leadership offered by Lee Kuan Yew (aka LKY), a Singaporean statesman and lawyer who served as Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. That was the level of leadership provided by General Ibrahim Babangida to Nigeria but fell short when he departed from the path of immorality to make his bed with the rest of African leaders by annulling the June 12 presidential election, which would have transformed him into immortality and a living legend.

•Dr. Law Mefor is a Senior Fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; Tel.: +234- 905 642 4375 E-mail: drlawmefor@gmail.com; follow me on tweeter:@LawMefor1.


Source: News Express

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