Former President Ibrahim Babangida’s emergence as a presidential candidate caused quite a storm when the news broke through the media that he is in the race. His critics might see his political ambition as a tragic perfidy, but Babangida’s has to be toasted for weathering the populist hell-raising abuse of most Nigerians. The crucial opposition against Babangida’s political aspiration hinges on his deficient moral capital. For the first time in this nation’s embattled political transition, knowledgeable Nigerians have not allowed cringing amnesia to form a bar on their collective memory of Babangida’s earthly sins. Writers, commentators, pundits and even Internet bloggers all sang from the same hymn sheet and chorused on Babangida’s scandalous antecedent. They laid out his sins for those who have eyes to see and for those who have ears to hear.
Opposition against IBB’s comeback is huge but also is the vociferous minority who worship at his altar. These urbanized, educated and reasonable IBB’s acolytes and henchmen have a sort of primordial recollection of his greatness. They possessed documented memory of IBB’s earthly achievements during his eight-year dictatorship of Nigeria’s manifest destiny. IBB’s aristocratic hauteur and charismatic confusion aside, what matters to his supporters is that the man alleviated their poverty and settled them through his wonderful but unprecedented settlement orthodoxy which he created during his rule. These wunderkinds are aptly called ‘Babangida’s children’ and are the current moles in the military, banking, media, business, ministries, House of Rep and the National Assembly. To his clamorous fans, IBB’s claim to the creation of paradise could be located in the completion of the Third Mainland Bridge, relocation to Abuja, MAMSER, DFFRI, WAI and most important of all, the unrestrained ‘lootacracy’ through Ghana-must-go bags perfected to a Newtonian perfection during his regime.
However, his vainglorious doings, self-promotion, dark charisma, magnanimity, generosity and even democratic credentials met a huge collision in June 12 annulment of Chief MKO Abiola’s presidential victory and the assassination of Dele Giwa. His irruption into infamy, which manifested in his denial of Abiola’s biggest achievement, cleaved this nation into warring tribes of implacable proportion. By the erasure of Abiola’s triumph, IBB brought this nation to the precipice of anarchic combustion of social disaster and irreversible national disintegration. Luckily for this nation, the plot of his Machiavellian genre only thickened but tragedy was averted. IBB escaped the mob’s jungle justice but had to contend with the blunting of his democratic and moral credential until date.
It had been said in this column that the Nigerian political universe is neither ruled by logic or enlightenment. Rather, personality, money and infantry mentality claim more robust roles than their rational counterparts in integrity, genuineness of purpose and fairness. As we seek to bludgeon IBB with all his blunted integrity and fairness through documented re-visit of his deplorable and ugly legacy, the Minna infantry warlord seems to be saying, to hell, bring it on!
A politically decrepit IBB fears no retribution of his past wrongs, reverses and bestial tyranny. As a result of that IBB then had to capture this nation’s remorseless advocacy of his right as a citizen of Nigeria to contest any elective office as enshrined on ‘his’ constitution. Rather than slink into shadows of Minna skyline, IBB corralled the media, settled the ‘settleables’ and joined a party, no, a coven of despoilers of this nation’s commonwealth. His Eolithic instinct that thrives on mayhem and chaos finds a veritable staging post inside the Northern hegemonic distemper. The Northern hegemonic distemper that is achingly selfish has since morphed into a confederacy against President Jonathan, his personality and his presidency. IBB’s new political calculation has proven his political ambition to be ersatz and crudely bifurcated. Today, IBB is in the race and is also a focus of boundless curiosity. All the vehemence, clenched-fisted reaction and brackish comments against political ambition are all falling out of touch with his pulses and his ‘Maradonic’ calculation of Nigeria’s political barometer of which he is a devilish player.
IBB may be beset by irritating squalls some of which are his own making if not choosing, but above all, his presidential bid may soon acquire all the aura of an inspired genius when the Minna infantry General begins to drop his reserved sortie in order to create a pathway from the enemies blocking his presidential vision. Then his political intuition will natural gravitate into realpolitik and IBB, the masterful, if ignoble practitioner of the dark art of political manouvre may once again prove to be a grandmaster. Babangida may not make the history of which one dreams, but he could turn the dream of others into nightmare.