Nigeria Matters

On Babangida’s Malapropisms

Apart from being widely known as the dictator under whom corruption became state policy in Nigeria, retired General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, erstwhile military “President” of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is also infamously known as the invalidator of the “freest” and “fairest” democratic election in Nigeria’s political history, the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, widely believed to have been won by the late business mogul, philanthropist and “pillar of sports in Africa”, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), who defeated Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC).

Sadly, 25 years sequel to the larcenous truncation of the popular will, as vociferously expressed by Nigerian at the polls on June 12, 1993, IBB has continued to stir the hornet’s nest. His recent babbles on Channels Television programme, ‘Roadmap 2019’, which have woken up the slumbering phantom of June 12, are minute fractions of his several goofs and tomfooleries since unceremoniously “stepping aside” in the heat of a crisis that pushed the country to the precipice of balkanization. IBB seems to find it fanciful pricking the emotions of Nigerians whenever it suits him by constantly re-opening the visceral sore of one of the darkest periods of their history.

Contrary to IBB’s supposition in the said Channels Television interview that he had tarried in writing his biography since he vacated Aso Rock because of his conviction that nobody would read it due to preconceived notions about him and his role in the June 12 brouhaha, Nigerians have actually been waiting for 25 years for the chief character in that political tragedy to come forth with his own account of the events that culminated in the stealing of the people’s mandate via military fiat. They want to know how they lost the opportunity to join the committee of truly democratic societies. Such a testimonial would be a bestseller any day as it would provide a bird’s eye view of the gory events of an era that unarguably remains one of the darkest in the country’s history. Nigerians have never stopped blaming IBB for truncating their march to a new democratic era. As the Commander-in-Chief during that dark age of the country’s history, who had it within his powers to let justice reign by doing the needful, they see him as the chief architect of that tragic national calamity, his denials notwithstanding.

Also, in the Channels charade, the retired General further rubbed salt into an already festering sore by claiming that the supposed public misconception about his role in the June 12 saga did not affect his relationship with Chief Abiola; that contrary to popular belief, they maintained a very cordial relationship throughout the crisis. One wonders what the basis of this so-called cordial relationship or friendship between IBB and the victim of Nigeria’s greatest electoral fraud was, if it was not based on the understanding between both parties that the election would be revalidated and the Presidential tiara handed over to the presumed winner of the polls. For all I know the relationship between IBB and Abiola throughout the period in retrospect was extremely adversarial; a no-love-lost relationship between a treacherously calculating chameleon and a hurting friend.

Another very sore point of the interview was the arrogant demeanour of the former President who, rather than being apologetic to Nigerians for his serial crimes against them, had the temerity to harangue them for daring to criticize, instead of giving him credit, for annulling the June 12 election. IBB’s malapropism qualifies him as a case study in self contradiction; a man with a Jekyll and Hyde complex; a split personality in free fall; a confused rabble-rouser in every sense of the word. If not, how would one describe the mindset of a leader who wants Nigerians to give him credit for organizing and annulling the freest and fairest election in their country’s history? His puerile doublespeak portrays him as a man   with a warped mindset; one in an advanced stage of senility.

However, regardless of IBB’s vain attempts at obscuring the indelible facts of history – concerning the ignoble role he played in the most stunning electoral coup of the 20th century – through subterfuge, arrant lies and choreographed denials in the media, the fact remains that Nigerians need full closure, by way of full disclosure, of the true events of June 12. IBB owes that debt to Nigerians. Some of the questions Nigerians want answered include, but are not restricted to: Why was an election which was adjudged free and fair by both local and foreign observers annulled by the same administration that had expended much efforts and resources in organizing it? What were the forces that were too powerful for a seating military strongman to overrule? Who are the “we” IBB keeps making references to whenever he discusses issues relating the June 12 debacle? These are just a few of the legion of questions IBB must answer. His answers should either be in book form or in form of verbal testimonials in the media – print and electronic – just like his most recent blabs on Channels Television. His continued denials and buck-passing will only prolong matters.

Without sounding too extreme, no other former Nigerian dictator owes Nigerians more apologies than IBB, a narcissistic maximum ruler whose sadistic inanities pushed Nigeria to the brink of implosion; an incarnation of Old Nick – a pseudonym for the devil – himself whose infamies are yet to be rivaled by any  Nigerian dictator, dead or alive. It is in his best interest to cast of the kimono of denial he has been appareled in since his unceremonious fall from power, own up to his despicable crimes, apologize to Nigerians and beg for their forgiveness. Only then would there be full closure on the matter of June 12.

ON KEYAMO’S APPOINTMENT AS BUHARI’S CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN

The news of the appointment of Mr. Festus keyamo, Lagos-based lawyer and civil rights activist, as Director, Strategic Communications of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Campaign Organization, has elicited mixed reactions from across the country and beyond. With his new portfolio, Mr. Keyamo, one of the country’s fieriest civil rights activists, would be expected to help sell the candidacy of the President for the 2019 Presidential Polls at both the party and national levels.

Methinks that most of the questions generated by Mr. keyamo’s appointment are largely moral – not legal – in tilt, since he has his rights, which are fully ensconced in the Constitution, to free association, thought, conscience and expression. They spring from emotional convictions within the civil populace that a man who has been one of the leading lights of the struggle against the political establishment should not meddle in the murky waters of politics with it attendant negative multiplier effects.

From a practical standpoint, by becoming PMB’s spokesperson, Mr. Keyamo will have to defend all the present administration’s policies – good or bad. He would be enamoured with the daunting task of rebranding the President’s image. This formidable task has the tendency of making him compromise on his previous anti-establishment posturing. His anti-corruption antecedents are well known, as he has been in the forefront of its actualization, but one wonders how he intends to convince Nigerians that the President is the messiah they have been waiting for. At the party level he doesn’t have much work to do as the President is guaranteed nomination as the incumbent. The main challenge will be at the national level where he would be expected to sell Mr. President’s candidacy to the public.

In all, my greatest fear for Mr. keyamo is that just like what happened to Dr. Reuben Abati, the Fiery newspaper columnist whose vitriolic attacks on the political establishment won him fans from across the country and beyond, but who ultimately became a villain when he accepted to serve as former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s spokesperson; Chief Bola Ige who contaminated his spotless image and ultimately lost his life when he accepted to serve as Minister of Power and Steel under President Olusegun Obasanjo; Mr. Tai Solarin whose tenure as the Chairman of People’s Bank under military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s Jackboot regime almost ruined his impeccable credentials; and several other members of the civil society who were tainted by their romance with the political establishment in the past, Mr. Keyamo risks muddying his shimmering records by accepting to become the official Goebbels of PMB’s second tenure bid. The outcome of this new romance has the tendency of ruining the sparkling reputation he has spent years laboring to build.

One of the major challenges stalling Nigeria’s transition from a democratizing to a thriving hub of popular governance is the absence of a clear-cut demarcation between the civil and political societies. It is a problem that is as old as Nigeria itself. Unlike in western democracies where there is a clear demarcation between the civil and political societies, that of Nigeria is fused. This creates a quandary of loyalty for some of the arrowheads of the anti-establishment movement in Nigeria who ultimately meddle in the murky waters of politics. (This is a topic of discussion for another day). Mr. Keyamo is obviously in that sort of quandary. Anyway, let’s see how it pans out.

INVASION OF SENATE CHAMBERS

The recent invasion of the Senate chambers by an unruly mob purportedly sponsored by Senator Omo-Agege, APC, Delta Central Senatorial District, and subsequent stealing of the Mace, the official symbol of that hallowed chambers, is not only appalling, but shameful. That a motley crowd of touts, amidst the supposed tight security at both the entrance and inner recesses of the house, could easily gain access without molestation is a cause for serious concern.

Apart from being a monumental national embarrassment, the invasion is also a blunt reflection of the porosity of our much maligned security establishment – a constantly re-occurring decimal in these parts.  The rhetorical question is if the country’s security operatives cannot secure the National Assembly, a crucial arm of government, from external penetration, how can they protect the common man on the streets? For a country currently involved in wars with irredentist groups such as Boko Haram et al, one is befuddled that we still operate a stone-age security system that cannot provide basic security for Nigerians. Imagine how disastrous the outcome of the security breach in retrospect would have been if the infiltrators were Boko Haram suicide bombers on their usual bombing sorties; imagine the colossal body count that would have emanated from such a major security breach.     

Sadly, as is the usual tradition, those who should know better, rather than approach the incident from an objective standpoint, with a view to re-organizing the security arrangement in the National Assembly and other arms, agencies and departments of government throughout the country, in order to prevent a future reoccurrence, are busying themselves searching for scapegoats. Rather than chasing shadows where there are none, the pertinent questions that should be animating the minds of the leadership of the senate and eggheads of the security unit at the National Assembly are: How was it possible for a group of unauthorized persons to gain entrance into the hallowed chambers of the Senate and steal the symbol of its power, the Mace? What was the standard security arrangement on ground? How are people screened before being allowed into the chambers? Who is in charge of security? Who were the officers on duty on the day of the incident? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current security arrangement? What is the way forward?

Arresting and prosecuting Senator Omo-Agege and his supposed hirelings is not a bad idea, if it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that they are culpable for the breach, although I see that as a pathetic attempt at damage control by the authorities. The head is already off; there is no need to cry. Please let’s do the needful to avoid a future repeat of this shameful sham!

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