Babangida: Insensitivity Carried Too Far

by Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

The sun rises in the East and sets in the West; Adolf Hitler declared a costly war on the United States on December 11, 1941; Saddam Hussein invaded and annexed Kuwait on August 2, 1990 and sparked off international crises that left his country in ruins; Ibrahim Babangida annulled in June 1993 what is widely regarded as Nigeria’s fairest and freest election and plunged his country into needless, disastrous crises that consumed many precious lives and invaluable property.

Also, the belief is yet to diminish that under his regime (1985–1993), corruption became free, fair, transparent and effectively institutionalized, and the economy, despite huge earnings from oil exports, was successfully grounded. These are abiding facts that will always be with us.

In his favour, there is this perennial, seductive belief out there that IBB is a moving huge bag of money. This bag, though, horribly stained and very unattractive to people with any sense of decency, contains billions of naira and has very generous holes ready to “drop” at any time. And so as rotten meat easily attracts numerous flies, so does this moneybag draw hordes of greedy followers any time there are some hints in the air that it might “drop.”

Now, Babangida knows this very well, and has learnt to always fully exploit it to unleash the false impression that he enjoys some popularity in Nigeria. But show me single individual following Babangida any time and singing his praises on housetops and I will show you a man motivated by raw greed striving to get his own slice of the fabled Babangida billions. And that is why Ibrahim Babangida, the self-confessed evil genius of Nigeria, could muster the effrontery to say in public that he wants to rule Nigeria again.

It is easy to see that Babangida is, perhaps, more interested in sustaining the debate raging around him today than ruling Nigeria again. He appears unduly excited that Nigerians still take him serious enough to deploy energy and time to discuss him and his obnoxious ambition. At the end of the day, this may just be all he intended to achieve.

But let’s not be too optimistic, however, because Babangida is seeking to actualize his ambition through a party famed for its disdain for the feelings of the populace and whose determination to always allocate political offices to anointed candidates despite the verdict of voters at the polling booths has become legendary; a party where one man can sit in his house and choose a presidential candidate and impose him on the party and the whole country.

Already, Babangida has paid a useful visit to Ota Farm where this formidable “Kingmaker” holds court, and must have extracted assurances of support from him. I am sure he may have also had very useful discussions with other sworn enemies of Nigeria’s progress who do nothing else than sit in their bedrooms and plot the perpetual stagnation of the country. They, too, must have given him their word, hence the revolting confidence he is radiating today.

And, moreover, Babangida has the large heart and deep pocket to seduce the countless jobless ‘prominent’ Nigerians scattered across the country whose political clout in the face of a confused and self-emasculated populace cannot be easily dismissed. These, too, must have underlined their assurances to impose him on Nigerians despite the bitter resentment the mere mention of his name still evokes across the country today.

Babangida will be 70 by 2011. This, certainly, is not an age to advertise the kind of insensitivity and remorselessness that he is flaunting today. It is only in Nigeria, where successive rulers are always too guilt-ridden to investigate the (mis)deeds of their predecessors in office that characters like Babangida with huge, unresolved doubts around them can walk the streets freely and even talk of ruling the country again.

No doubt, many Nigerians would be interested to know what Babangida has been doing since he lost power 19 years ago to accumulate the boundless wealth that funds the incredibly lavish lifestyle he and his family members are leading today. Well, this is Nigeria where no questions are ever asked about the sources of wealth of persons, especially, the mighty and very influential. And while other nations are deploying their best brains to achieve progress and development, we are only content here to continue recycling expired drugs and fielding our diversely challenged and parasitic tenth elevens, while those with genuine visions, sound character and sterling commitment to steer the country out of the woods are edged out with filthy billions. What one finds most annoying is the feeling of helplessness among the impoverished citizenry!

That is why Babangida in his recent BBC interview could dismissively say with “bold face” that he has “seen signs that [younger people] are not capable of leading this country,” and that is why he is stepping forward “to help them … [because] a country like Nigeria cannot be ruled by people without experience.”

And why does he think the younger generation is not capable? “…They [were] not given the proper education, that is why!” Yes, Babangida said that!

What an insufferable insult! Well, what can one say? We deserve all the insults we get from the likes of Babangida, because instead of ensuring that a heavy searchlight is beamed on his eight years of mindless misrule and the source of his current boundless resources, given the kind of morally bankrupt regime he is believed to have supervised, Nigerians outside a lunatic asylum, I mean supposedly sane human beings, are rather running after him for the clearly contaminated crumbs that might fall from his bottomless pocket.

By the way, what kind of “education” and “experience” is Babangida laying claim to, and what did he use them to achieve in Nigeria except boundless and very costly crises and monumental decay?

It is difficult not to find Babangida’s exaggerated view of himself very revolting.

Here was a man who came into power when the exchange rate was (by his own admission) N4.5 to a dollar (but the truth is: N1 to $1.004), but when he was forced out of power, the dollar began to exchange at N22.3.

Till today, Nigerians are yet to get any convincing explanation from him on what happened to the $12.4 billion realized from the Gulf War Oil Windfall which allegedly developed wings under his watch. His era would proudly take the credit for the undue glamorization of corruption flourishing in Nigeria today and the successful removal of the stigma that used to be associated with it.

Under him, a wasteful and fraudulent transition programme was brazenly prosecuted which despite the billions it gulped led to nowhere because it was meant not to.

If Babangida failed Nigeria woefully in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when he was younger and stronger, in 2011 when he would be 70, his second coming would spell greater disaster for the country, and only a people who hate themselves so irremediably can sit still allow that happen to them.

Babangida should just retire to his palatial palace in Minna and leave Nigerians alone to pick the pieces of their lives which he helped immensely to shatter. This country has simply suffered enough from the endless mischief and unparalleled insensitivity of unrelenting power mongers.

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