I doubt that I am the only one bemused by Babangida’s new-found fatalistic disposition after his son, Muhammed, was arrested by the EFCC a few weeks ago. Suddenly, IBB became a humble man, leaving everything in the hands of God. Hear him:
“The way we looked at it here and within the family when this thing happened was to remind them of the concept of Islam, that God always has a way of testing his servants…He can test you on your own; maybe you can get afflicted with some sickness or something. If He doesn’t do that, he may touch you through your children… He may touch on your wealth. God promised that He will keep on trying us and testing us, just to make sure or to see that we remain steadfast and faithful.”
Ha! Did this come from the same man that played god with the life if his childhood friend, Maman Vatsa, by strapping him to a pole and ordering his firing squad execution? I never could rationalize Vatsa’s execution, even if he were guilty of planning a coup. And here is why: Vatsa, IBB and Buhari grew up together as young boys. They joined the military together as young men, and rose through the ranks together. Their wives were friends and their children were friends. Through Vatsa’s wife, we now know for sure what had been a beer parlor rumor for a long time – IBB was involved in the abortive Dimka coup of February 13, 1976 during which the Head of State, Murtala Muhammed was killed, along with his ADC, Akintunde Akinsehinwa, and the governor of Kwara State, Ibrahim Taiwo. Mrs. Vatsa, a custodian of many military secrets, like most military spouses, has now come out to declare that her husband provided IBB with the false alibi that saved him from culpability (and execution) for that coup plot.
Even if Mrs. Vatsa lied and Vatsa really was involved in the coup, the simple fact that IBB shared such a close friendship with Vatsa is enough to influence IBB to commute Vatsa’s death sentence to life in prison, especially since by IBB’s own admission, he (IBB), Vatsa and Buhari all participated in the 1983 coup that toppled Shagari and brought Buhari to power. I would think that the essence of having the power of life and death over someone is defeated once that power is exercised, since the dead can no longer appreciate the awesomeness of that power.Most Nigerians probably missed a small story published in the now defunct Daily Times, a few weeks before Obasanjo handed power over to Shagari in October 1979. Obasanjo gave clemency to four soldiers who had been in prison for some time for planning to overthrow the Obasanjo/Yar’Adua administration! That was the epitome of maturity and magnanimity. A reduction in sentence goes a long way to reinforce that power of life and death.
The self-righteous indignation that IBB displayed by executing Vatsa will be lost on me forever since, after participating in the Dimka coup (if only tangentially), IBB became a major player in the Buhari coup. He later staged the mother of all treacheries by ousting Buhari in yet another coup. Basically, IBB, with no record of any stellar performance as a soldier except the planning of coups, stabbed both his bosom friends in the back en route to achieving his vaulting ambition to become president.
IBB it was who told Vanguard’s Kola Ayoola in a July 31, 2005, interview that loyalty in the military was “total and absolute.” Yet, as Chief of Army Staff, he led the coup that overthrew his Commander-in-Chief – Buhari. Less than 48 hours before his coup, IBB looked Buhari in the eyes, shook hands with and saluted his friend and Commander-in-Chief with a smile. Had Tunde Idiagbon (the number two man at the time who was reportedly the backbone of the regime) not been away to Mecca on pilgrimage, there very well might have been a stronger resistance to that coup, meaning that Buhari might have been wasted like Murtala Muhammed was. IBB had no compunction about that possibility. All he wanted was power. He selfishly overthrew a government, albeit a military one that actually was headed in the right direction. He became god – almost omnipotent.
And when IBB was god, he did not remember the real God. Now that Nuhu Ribadu and the EFCC have morphed into his Nemesis, the man notorious for his wily character is scampering around looking for a hiding place.
For most of Obasanjo’s presidency, many thought that his much vaunted anti-corruption crusade was a ruse designed to divert attention from the real ills that plagued the Nation. Many thought the corruption fight was selectively waged, targeting only those perceived and real enemies of the president. OBJ’s caustic critics conveniently omit the fact that the EFCC’s fangs reach across party and ethnic lines, with majority of those arrested, tried and convicted being members of the ruling party. Many, including myself, mordantly wondered if the EFCC had the temerity to question personifications of power, greed and corruption (like IBB) about the source(s) of their inexhaustible wealth.
Well, we all should eat crow now. These days, when IBB goes to bed at night in his 50-room villa, one man is on his mind – Nuhu Ribadu – the incorruptible and indefatigable EFCC chairman. Ribadu may be tactless at times. He may even be loquacious once in a while. One thing is clear: he is not afraid of a letter bomb, the type that killed Newswatch founding editor, Dele Giwa. Neither is he afraid of an ambush assassination, the type that killed Kudirat Abiola.
Ribadu has simplified corruption investigation almost all the way to the very rudimentary question: How did you get to be so wealthy? It is such an elementary step in corruption investigation that many veteran investigators forget to start there. Whereas, it may be the only necessary question since most thieves may not be able to get past it. And that is why I love the man so much. The question that Ribadu asked IBB’s son was: how did you get to own 25% shares in Globacom, a multi-billion naira firm, when you have never held a day’s job in your entire short life? It was such a simple question that even the seemingly dippy young Babangida understood.
Babangida must be miffed to high heavens that someone had the audacity to physically contact his son, let alone arrest and ask him such questions. How life changes! “Remember the people you meet on your way up the ladder…” an old axiom says, “…because you might meet them again on your way down.”
The man they call the “evil genius” turned philosophical, saying his children had no reason to steal: “They didn’t have to look for things by hook or by crook… I think we’ve been most lucky and we remain grateful to God for that. We are very fortunate. They have never given us cause for worry. God has been so kind, He shielded them away from some of these things,” IBB said.
He is right. While the children of most Nigerians (even those of many retired 4-star generals) have to work for a living and face the challenges of balancing their checkbooks, IBB’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are assured of eternal lives of grandeur and obscene opulence without breaking a sweat. And all at the expense of the rest of Nigerians, especially the children of the oil-producing areas who are now being maimed and killed in their quest for equitable distribution of the oil money that IBB and his ilk used to pamper their children. And the children of men like Maman Vatsa and Dele Giwa have no father to “shield” them from the vicissitudes of life.
This is why Ribadu’s simple question becomes very relevant. IBB is not the only 4-star general to have ruled Nigeria. Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari and AbdulSalam Abubakar (remember him?) are still alive. Apart from the aforementioned, there are scores of non-president 4-star generals that litter Nigeria’s landscape. How come IBB is the on
ly one enjoying such stupendous wealth, and flaunting it too? Since when has military service become so financially rewarding?
Ours is either a forgiving country, or a forgetful one. For nowhere else on earth could an Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida continue to bestride our Nation like a colossus after the bastardization and brutalization to which he subjected our national psyche. That IBB is still walking freely among decent Homo sapiens is in itself an insult to our collective sensibilities. That he is contemplating running for the Presidency is even doubly so. In a society a tad more decent than ours, IBB would be swimming in near penury and languishing in a dank and dark cell, wishing death would come quickly to end his misery. And in a society a lot more decent than ours, IBB would have since been executed and forgotten.
Unfortunately, Nigerians wake up today to hear IBB making plans to return to the office of President that he so willfully defiled for eight years.
I am trying very hard to write this piece without the vitriol that I feel toward this accident of a guy, but it does not seem like I am succeeding. When I wrote “Babangida: Where Is The Outrage?” and “Babangida: Nemesis is ’round The Corner'” published in March 2005 and December 2005 respectively by www.nigeriaworld.com and www.nigeriavillagesquare.com, I was not sure then that IBB was again really interested in ruling (ruining?) Nigeria. But lately, the man has ramped up efforts by deploying everything in his rustic arsenal in the specific direction of capturing the presidency.
One of his weapons is the demented former Information Minister, Chief Alex Akinyele, whose perpetual dependence on charity from IBB has continually clouded his vision. Akinyele got in front of a reporter’s tape recorder and wondered why so much hues and cries were generated whenever IBB’s name was mentioned. He asked: “Is he the only offender in this country? How many offences did he commit? Those who are doing this to Babangida must be shameless. Can’t they think? Don’t they know that this is excessive?”
Akinyele’s blurred vision foresees a “…spontaneous sympathy for Babangida and condemnation of those that are vilifying him, those who are victimizing him now.”
As I recall, during Akinyele’s stint as Minister for Information in the regime of Babangida, Nigeria witnessed the exodus of more journalists than at any other time. Journalists were hounded and arbitrarily jailed than at any other time. And oh, privately owned newspapers were nearly bankrupted as government created artificial scarcity of newsprints. Media houses that published any remotely unsavory story about government was visited by men of the SSS, ransacked and shut, sometimes for several months. Many newspapers “released” (a euphemism for “sacked”) their staff and those that could afford it maintained a skeletal staff that was placed on subsistence salary. Nigerian journalism operated like that under the Gestapo. I should know. I was a full time staff of The Guardian. So, to have Alex Akinyele open his mouth and offer any opinion on any national issue is abominable.
Babangida surely is testing the waters of Nigerian politics. But he is also testing the will of the Nigerian people. This is not 1985 when he bulldozed his way to Dodan Barracks. And this is not 1993 when he was pressured to “step aside.” Nigerians have had nearly eight years under Obasanjo, during which the military establishment was demystified and the so-called “IBB Boys” cleansed from the barracks.
Babangida will have to tell Nuhu Ribadu what happened to the $12 Billion that Nigeria earned on his watch during the 1991 gulf war when the price of oil hit the roofs. We know that rather than pay off our debts, he incurred more debts with nothing to show for them. He will have to explain how his son became so rich and how he himself became one of the richest men on earth.
Mallam Ribadu also wants to know the nature of the relationship between IBB and Dr. Mike Adenuga, (“majority owner” of Globacom, Conoil and Equatorial Trust Bank) and arguably also one of the richest men on earth? Is it true that he is fronting for IBB?
The wives and children of Maman Vatsa and Dele Giwa still need answers to what happened to their bread winners.
I want to know why he annulled the June 12 elections, about which Bashir Tofa, the man who lost to MKO Abiola, did not complain – a singular act that almost sent Nigeria into another civil war.
He will then explain to the family members of the soldiers on that military plane that went down killing all on board, mostly young majors that were suspected of opposition to his rule.
What happened to the lady known as Gloria Okon? Did she exist? Was she truly Mrs. Babangida’s drug courier? Mrs. Vatsa has now confirmed that IBB dealt drugs. Was Gloria Okon killed by agents of Babangida to suppress the story?
IBB promised last year that he would come out and address these questions and many more “at the appropriate time.” When is the appropriate time? Is tomorrow promised to anyone? I think NOW is the appropriate time. And if he does not come off his high horse and address these issues NOW, it will be the height of heresy if the annals of Nigerian history reflect an Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida on the ballots of 2007.