Retired General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) broke his silence last weekend on the rising Arise TV network. Ms Ngozi Alaegbu travelled to Minna, Niger State, to interview IBB inside his mind-boggling edifice. Living reclusively in obscene opulence in the city near Abuja since beating a forced hasty retreat from the national political scene post-June 12 Babangida must have considered it auspicious making himself heard again. The big man does not need any introduction to anyone conversant enough with his ‘Maradonic’ political exploits in power decades ago.
Gen. Babangida rose to national prominence in the middle of the 80’s when he deposed a dictator in power at that time, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, (himself a coup plotter who had overthrown a democratically-elected government of the late Shehu Shagari). He ruled Nigeria guilefully for eight odd years. He made name for himself by bastardising the promised democratic processes and institutionalising corruption. During his giddy years ‘settlement syndrome’ became a favourable ‘weapon’ with which the opposition were compromised.
A master of political perfidy Babangida was demystified and taken to global infamy by June 12, a presidential poll he organized and turned to a national tragedy after the winner and the loser had emerged. His criminal annulment of the result of the free and fair election won by the late Bashorun MKO Abiola led to chaos and loss of lives. Abiola lost his life (assassinated) while fighting for the mandate Nigerians freely gave him.
General Babangida is better described as a crafty bloody militrician, a professional coup plotter who excelled in his military career through perfidy, graft and shady dealings. Officially he had acknowledged himself as a ‘Maradona’ and ‘evil genius’ but IBB is certainly more than that. He was inordinately ambitious and treacherous! Like the late Argentine soccer legend, Diego Maradona, who mesmerized and dazzled the global soccer community with his football talent Babangida dribbled the opposition until June 12 arrived with a bang and confused and consumed him.
He died militarily and politically after perfidiously spending billions of Dollars on a bogus transition scheme and taking Nigerians for a fraudulent democratic ride. IBB was an enemy of democracy, free press and freedom. A mass murderer he orchestrated the Ejigbo fatal plane crash that killed scores of promising officers! He killed Dele Giwa, the great investigative journalist, with a letter bomb! He committed a good number of atrocities that ordinarily he ought to be docked and jailed like the incarcerated former South African President, Jacob Zuma.
Featuring exclusively on Arise Television the ‘evil genius’ never disappointed. A hard look thrown his way indicated that he is indeed getting nearer to the grave. Yet as he joined the Octogenarian club he looked graceful in his old age. He spoke his mind without fear or favour.
Generally he spoke about the presidential poll slated for 2023. He talked about the massive corruption in the system, present and past. He bared his mind on the agitations rocking the nation championed by the detained Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Ighoho. He answered questions concerning June 12, democracy and the Nigerian present condition.
On June 12 the retired dictator was in his best treacherous element. He declared that the controversial annulment of the Abiola victory was based on the fact that if it materialised there would have been a violent coup d’etat and more instability in the polity. He admitted that pressure was mounted on him by civilian and military elements to cancel the election. What he never told us was why he left the late Gen. Abacha behind as he retired the senior officers in the eve of his departure from power.
On the agitation for both Biafra and Oduduwa Republics the General predicted failure for the efforts saying that Nigerians did not believe in secession. He never told us when he conducted a referendum to arrive at such imbecilic conclusion. IBB made it clear Nigerians cherished their nation prefering to remain one yet what he failed to appreciate was that those supporting Ighoho or Kanu are Nigerians and not foreigners.
Nigerians may be a happy people in love with peace but when the system is broken then something better ought to give!
On corruption in the system Gen. Babangida scored his highest point. He declared that he was surprised seeing those who stole billions walking free and enjoying their loot! He claimed that he fought corruption better than what ‘Mr Integrity’ is presently doing! He hit the bull’s eye when he claimed that those that served under him could be seen as ‘saints’ compared to the Buharists and ‘Buharideens’ presently in power.
On the general elections slated for 2023 the General never minced words calling for a new generation of leaders. He said he would go for a President 60 years or below as compared to the present old men running Nigeria aground and ruining her prospects for greatness. By that singular declaration Babangida must have had Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu in mind. Atiku has never hidden his intention to contest the presidency yet again come 2023 despite the fact that he is getting older and older. Ditto Asiwaju Tinubu whose official age is put at 69 but romours are flying about that he must have doctored his age!
Even sixty years IBB suggested is not good enough. Nigeria needs desperately a young man in his early or late 40s to take over power post-Buharism to knock sense into the senseless system. Africa remains a hopeless helpless continental case because it is brimming with youths but led by gerontocrats. In contrast Europe is an old continent of old men and shrinking youth but governed by young men. Take Emmanuel Macron of France, Justin Trudeau of Canada and Scott Morrison of Australia for examples.
Gerontocrats in power from Abidjan to Abuja, Conakry to Yaounde. Alassane Ouattara, Muhammadu Buhari, Alpha Conde, Paul Biya they are all holding sway; they represent what is wrong leadership-wise in mother Africa. But President Ouattara of Ivory Coast is an exception in terms of service delivery and world-class competence. A great achiever and big dreamer he has effortfully transformed his country in a space of a decade after a protracted political crisis that saw the economy devastated.
Unlike his Nigerian counterpart he is never in the habit of blaming his predecessors for whatever problems or challenges leadership or money could solve. As an economist and patriot he had used a wide global network and connections to attract investors guaranteeing steady power supply and security of lives and properties.
In the end Gen. Babangida has no moral, patriotic or democratic lesson to give to Nigerians. Himself, the late Gen. Abacha, Obasanjo and President Muhammadu Buhari are the major problems of Nigeria. The earlier they joined Abacha in hell the better for our collective survival as a great nation under God or Allah!