2007 Trial Balloons

by E. Terfa Ula-Lisa Esq

Persons who have knowledge of the crude practice of politics in Nigeria would know about ‘flying balloons’ by would-be politicians. Politicians without any vision or articulated agenda would hire some of their goons to test the waters to see if it is safe for them to venture out. These hired hands would then travail the landscape trumpeting the perceived virtues of their shadowy master. Part of the charade is that the shadowy master would pretend as if he is a reluctant bride being wooed by the wishes of ‘his people’ to contest elections because he is the only messiah. Usually the selling point is the ‘sterling personality’ of the reluctant bride for the position of President based upon his experience and understanding of the Nigerian system. Fallacy number one assumes that experience in the Nigerian decadent system would qualify you for good governance. Fallacy number two assumes that we want to continue with the old system that ran Nigeria into the ground.


Recently in the papers, we have been reading about the friends of IBB, who have used every opportunity to tell us that there has never been any person with brains like IBB and as such he should be the only one to rule Nigeria, again. I must concede here that IBB has been reported to say that he is not contesting. But because of his antecedents when he was in office, we have a right to disbelieve his every utterance. Certain-not-too-intelligent persons had hinted that in the new year we would be hearing from them why IBB wasted his opportunity to have his name written in gold in the annals of Democratic Nigeria. If IBB was that brilliant, surely he had eight uninterrupted years that he pretty much did with as he pleased. What legacy did he leave behind besides June 12 and what is commonly known as IBB Spirit, a deliberate system of bribing and corrupting the restive soldiers to perpetuate himself in office. IBB institutionalized corruption in government and elevated it to an art form. Maybe that is why he was given the Grand Commander of the Order of Niger (I would love to know what criteria were used to measure his achievements). If it were in other countries, he would be in jail and not strutting about pretending to be a statesman.


In reading this fellow’s article I must give credit to the thought that the people have a right to select or elect whoever they please at every election. However, I must also add that democracy does not begin and end at electing officers. This whole debate on the internet is democracy in action. Examining the merits and demerits of a candidate’s agenda, and suitability for public office is also democracy. In reading Mr. Olawole’s paper, however, after the rigmarole around the history of our adventuresome military, I came away with the impression that either the writer is very naïve, or he does not know a thing about IBB, or is a ‘hack writer’ who has been hired to do a PR work for IBB. As a trial attorney, in argument, you are allowed leeway to lay a ‘foundation’ for the major point you want to make. I may have missed the point, but I do not see the relevance of the story of Yar’Adua to why IBB should be President of Nigeria. My impression from the article is that the writer is peeved that the so called Civil Rights Activists are opposed to IBB’s candidacy and are saying so. They have a right to say so too, and to demonstrate why, just like IBB has a right to campaign if he wishes to.

Mr. Olawole says:
The ironic lesson here is the ease it takes a military despot to be transformed into a civilian democrat and the apparent difficulty of the so-called Nigerian democracy activist to embrace democratic principles. Is democracy only for a certain class of Nigerians or is an elective office a no-go area for some classes of Nigerians?

While not speaking for Campaign for Democracy, I dare to answer the first question that democracy is meant only for a certain class of Nigerians, those who are believers in Democracy. Regarding the second question above, I would say from the Webster’s (10th Ed.) Dictionary meaning, despot (fr. GK despotes, master, lord, autocrat) cannot be a democrat. While CD can only articulate a view and be persuasive about it, IBB actually twice banned a whole set of persons by the fiat of a military decree from contesting elections in Nigeria. Some democrat!

Olawole goes further in his alocutus:
Almost every Nigerian of voting age is aware of the atrocities committed by the various military leaders who had unleashed their autocratic reigns on our nation in the past. IBB was just one of them and it will be unfair to single him out for “punishment”.

Such fallacy in argument. It is like saying Anini was a notorious armed robber in my days at Uniben. He was an infamous robber that terrorized even the police, but because there were many other armed as well as pen-robbers at that time, he should have been allowed to contest elections to rule the then Bendel State.

I disagree with Olawole in his open admiration for IBB that he smashed the stereotype about every military man being a dunce. I must say as an aside that I do not believe that every military man is a dunce. But IBB acted as a dunce; otherwise he would have had a free ride back to Asorock already if he had handed over power to Abiola. The issue of the fear for his life did not occur when he reportedly disarmed Dimka after a coup broadcast when guns were blaring. Why would he thereafter be purportedly held hostage by his boys who fed from his palms? Remember that we are writing about the Supreme President who could dissolve the PRC and fire his Vice-President at will.

The Civil Rights Activists had to run for their lives to print their papers in secret and to form an opposition at the risk of their lives. Even Mr. Olawole conceded the carnage IBB wrought to the commonweal in the following words:
By annulling the June 12, 1993 presidential election as won by Chief M.K.O. Abiola, IBB’s case could easily be compared to a man who labored to build a magnificent edifice and soon turned around to pull the same structure down with his own hands.

The resultant political impasse that enveloped the nation in the aftermath of the unfortunate annulment generated… Many imported items were left to rot away in the nation’s seaports, several contracted business obligations could not be met and the financing banks could not get back their funds. Consequently, many businesses folded up and some banks simply went under. Millions of people got laid off from their jobs and the economy has not recovered since then. The consequence of the same “June 12” debacle was manifest in the political and social structures, which were all pulled down in the aftermath of the annulment.

How bad can it get before you say the man was a disaster in governance. This man’s name should not grace the face for a newspaper except when they report that he is being sent to jail. Activists are giving Democracy a boost when they tell you boldly why you should not allow certain persons rule us. The enlightened call it ‘voter education’ or ‘civic responsibility’. The reason persons like Gani are not in government today is because some of the Nigerians still think like Mr. Olawole. That is why they need to be educated to enable them make informed choices. If there are allegations of wrong-doing too, it should bar them from holding office especially if it relates to past abuse of office. That is how a democracy runs. Even if IBB is devious or clever, what are his views on anything? Can anyone tell?

Furthermore, the only way to make IBB atone for his past evil deeds (another Olawole phrase), is not to encourage him to contest elections (although it would be nice for some other reasons to see him try). The way to make him atone is found in our Criminal and Penal Codes. He belongs in jail period. A time has come that Nigerians, all over the world, should decide that they are no longer going to allow poli-looters whether in khaki or agbada to control their collective destiny. Persons who are making forays into the political arena flying kites and balloons and testing our forgiveness index and our collective gullibility should train their men to answer tough questions because we shall be asking them. And if the press is afraid of them, we shall set up our own presses and websites if we have to. We are in the majority from whom much was looted. We understand through his friends that IBB Intends to lay bare his soul early this year in preparation for 2007 (again, while he has stated that he is not contesting, he has not denounced nor asked them to stop polluting the electoral air). Here is a sampler of what questions to expect.


I sincerely hope IBB is not offended that I am starting from the Ivory Tower (since he never attended one although there are many in Nigeria and he has had enough time since 1993 to attend one). That was a side bar. Since the brain power of any nation is the Universities and subsequently the Think Tanks that feed off the research centers, how can someone who despised the university system with a passion fix it? How can someone who used the police to clampdown, shoot and maim students understand what 0-1-0 feeding system did to the brains of Great Uniben or Abuzites? How can someone who used tax payers’ money to fly to Germany and France for headaches and ‘radicolopathy’ know how Unilag University Teaching Hospital turned into a mere consulting clinic. Highlighting the importance of the educational system to a modern state to the Militicians would be like describing a snow mound to a Desert Tuareg.


Everyone rightly vilifies Sani Abacha regarding Human Rights Abuses. No one remembers his mentor and C-in-C, IBB. The press so soon forgets all that time Dele Giwa was arrested and questioned about his articles as a seasoned journalist. The press now laps up every uttering of IBB from his 50 bedroom hilltop mansion and so soon forgets about the hounding and closing down of Tell Magazine, of Newswatch, of Tempo, of The News, of The Guardian, of the Punch; the arrest and terrorist detention as hostages of relatives of journalists. If the Nigerian Press has forgotten because of brown envelopes, Babs Ajayi has not (read his interesting piece of 12/19/03 on Nigeriaworld.com). I certainly have not forgotten. There are so many instances of Human Rights Abuses I want to mention, but I must move on.


When you are a military dictator, we cannot ask you certain questions. But when you want to contest elections as a civilian with the intention to be elected President, certain questions can be asked as in, ‘did you ever smoke pot?’ (A la Clinton). I know that a cross-section of Nigerians grappled with this question in their pepper-soup joints and beer parlors. We would just love to know, to hear from the horses’ mouth. Gideon G. Orkar, a fine soldier from the middle-belt, whom IBB executed publicly, called his government, a government run by ‘drug-dealers’ and ‘homosexuals’ and went boldly to his death. Before we jump to conclusions, we are all curious to hear from IBB, what he has to say. All the accounts of the man Gideon said he was not flippant with the lip, that he was intellectual. Most say he was very good as a soldier and a person. Yet, his coup- day broadcast was strange, very strange. Why would a junior officer say that of his C-in-C in public?


The Oputa Panel was instituted after the manner of the South African Model of the Truth and Reconciliation Panel. Everyone in the legal profession in Nigeria and beyond agree that there are very few legal minds in Nigeria in the caliber of the respected retired Supreme Court Justice, Justice C. Oputa. Yet our dear old IBB would not appear before him willingly to testify. Not even the summons of the court would he subject himself to. As a licensed lawyer, I know that you have the right to go to court to sue and to seek any relief inclusive of an injunction to prevent some court process against you. You may do that within your rights and play the system because you have the means to venue-shop, but to all who know a little about the law, you are like one ostrich burying its head in the sand. Yet, IBB’s friends insist that he is the one with the solution to our problems which include the wanton abuse of the legal system. Let us assume for the sake of this paper, that I sue and succeed on the merits that IBB does not qualify to contest elections in Nigeria, what would he do? Go to a different court to get a different ruling to counter my suit or join me on the issues. By inference, all the ‘alleged coup plotters’ he executed should have formed their own tribunals to try and execute IBB for coup plotting himself.


The overriding question IBB’s friend would have to provide answers to would be: What is he coming to do? What does he stand for? Should he contest to just give them new jobs and play primitive chess with the masses again? Since 1993 what has IBB done to improve himself? Did he go back to school? Has he now got any training in Economics, a Law degree, MBA in Management or other training to convince us that he has now mastered new models and systems to enable him fit into the 21st Century? At least OBJ went to jail. Is IBB the role model I want my son to emulate? The press should do these sorry fellows a favor. Ask them about their blueprint or road map for success. It would not suffice to say that the political party would articulate the policies. The chief Ideologue of the political party should be the presidential candidate. If a person cannot articulate his party’s goal, he has no right to pretend to be a leader worthy of a vote. The press should ask, what would you do to generate revenue, how would you do it? What do you think of corruption transparency and accountability in government? What do you think of terrorism? Were you corrupt or transparent and accountable in government? Do you or any member of your family have any foreign accounts? What would you do to return the looted funds stashed in foreign banks to Nigeria? Think on these things.


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1 comment

Anonymous May 24, 2005 - 1:25 pm

pls i want to join IBB'S Campaign team. how can i achieve this aim?


sammieckhold@yahoo.com. pls connect me.


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