Sometime ago, I published an article titled: ‘An Exhausting Ibrahim Babangida‘ – in it, I argued that the former military president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was best served to offer his services to humanity globally – as a statesman, if he could be so considered. In essence, my attempt was to dissuade him from running for the coveted office of the president of Nigeria. As events have turned out – I have been unsuccessful in my attempt. Even though, Mr. Babangida has not formally announced his candidature. It seems certain that he’d run for the office. However, his response that only God could stop him from being the next Nigerian President as a response to an apology requested by the Nobel Laureate, Mr. Wole Soyinka and internecine stance of the Methodist Prelate, Mr. Sunday Mbang is an indication he has no use for my advice.
Let us be clear about the man’s ambition. He has the constitutional right to seek the office for which he aspires. That is a truism. The contention for others is that they equally possess constitutional rights. But, they would not attempt mobilising for the office on such rights. The argument is that the country deserves a better candidate than them; and most certainly than the gap toothed former military dictator.
If the argument progresses from constitutional rights, it becomes bare when divination inflames our choice of who governs our nation – come 2007. Mr. Babangida quite rightly, as it is, the preserve of idle minds evoke providence even in a matter in which he has worse antecedents than many millions of fellow denizens. It is not only that he sees himself as the choice of the people as their next civilian president; he is daring enough to suggest his ambitions cannot be sabotaged by mere mortals. We, the electorate are the mere mortals; and we are reminded of our handicap in the use of our votes. On the one hand, it may well be that he perceives himself as the favourite of divine selection – where we exercise votes in elections. So, why go through the use of plebiscites: when we can all head for our places of worship to await the angels emblazon the skies with the man’s name as their celestial choice? If the premise upon which divine selection were adjudged is based on the aftermath of a leader’s governance – it would be easy to accept leaders whose governance improved lives as divine choices. A leader who has no plans for the development of a nation often uses the subterfuge of his divine choice.
There two weaknesses in the proclamation of the former military president. Firstly, its arrogance through a veiled pretension of humility cuts through as an overreach for the ruling party mechanism, of which he is a member. What the former military president has advised the nation in essence, is that regardless of any checks and balances that the ruling party constructs to ensure fair-play at electing its presidential candidate – such is a waste of resources and time. He is the party’s choice ahead of its selection. And, only God can stop him. That is somewhat, rich – is it not? The reason being – God may override such mechanisms to elect anyone else – even a better candidate. Mr. Babangida is God’s choice – in the estimate of his supporters and the man himself.
That is a complex argument. However, the basic tenet of what the man believes remains. It is nothing but a strong appeal to the core belief and emotions of our people. As a people, a greater majority of us do not believe in the wisdom that God imparted in the establishment of political party rules and constitutions. The breach of the same, however, through corruption to elect the wrong man, who in turn claims he is a providential choice is easily acceptable. Such exposition only confirms the sophistry of Mr. Babangida and his supporters.
The second weakness is sad for us as a nation. The former military president seems to foster himself upon us as a fait accompli. His rights so to do are not as certain as he pretends. To overlook determining our future with choice of a better candidate than Mr. Babangida is to accept that we cannot reason with the former military dictator and his supporters. We can and must do. We must seek to contrast the failures of his last governance and remind him and his supporters mostly in the words of William Jefferson Clinton – the 42nd U.S President to the 2004 Democratic convention. Mr Babangida must appreciate the success of our democracy depends on provision of good jobs, good schools, health care, safe streets, a clean environment and a prosperous Nigeria devoid of corruption. We all want our children to grow up in a secure Nigeria as a part of a peaceful world. The difference between the former military president, his supporters and antagonists is simple. Why give another chance to a man whose government failed when he had maximum power? There is merit in that argument because it is embodied in a desire to bring a positive change to our politics. It is not about arguing whether Mr. Babangida is good, bad or fit. It is about choosing the person, who can build a safe, prosperous Nigeria – which we deserve.
The years ahead for our nation should be of enormous opportunities – to create millions of high paying jobs for our unemployed graduates and establish a nation where we can celebrate our religious differences – because our common heritage and humanity matter more.
To build a progressive nation – we must make the right choices. Mr. Babangida is not a good or a right choice. We deserve a president who is truthful and would not turn prevarication into an acceptable social norm. The choices to be presented to his supporters, electorate and machinery of both his political party, polling agents of the State and the police are simple. This assumes the next general elections with the three known aspirants shall neither be free nor fair. Ergo, the rigging of it can only be effected by the apparatchiks of the highest bidder – be they working for the State or the ruling party. But such as receive blood money should also remember that the excitement and enrichment of five pieces of silver contrasted to a nation that may not reach its potentials – if the former military president were the choice of 2007 – is grave. Those willing to ignore Mr. Babangida’s years in government possibly prefer the nation to continue its macabre dance. That is a choice within their rights. But for the rest of us – we must exercise another choice – even, if we cannot match dollar for dollar in the same campaign. There is a need to enlighten Mr. Babangida’s followers that the largess from him could never equal their natural expectations of what the nation owes each citizen. A shilling from him, though may provide immediate gratification as it did in his previous administration – it would never bring comfort because it is a currency lost in rehabilitating our collapsed infrastructure. His largess to a few is denial of access to all. This is the reason for his rejection.
It is must not be assumed that the rejection of Mr. Babangida is because he is disapproved in a geographical section of the nation. This is a puerile argument, which I do not subscribe to. The distinction is not in personal disapproval or rejection. It is in the essentialities of the person to be next president of our nation. There are too many faults of character as a leader in Mr. Babangida. The faults are not to be wished away in such statements as: “lessons of mistakes of the past have been learnt”. Those mistakes, which have provided lessons for the maximum leader drove many citizens to untimely deaths and out of their beloved nation in search of survival. If this is the future Nigeria that his supporters want – Mr. Babangida must remain their choice; but not for the rest of us.
It is the abhorrence of the wrong attributes of the person to become the next president that others are occupied with. Keeping Mr. Babangida out of the office must not be presented as a personal vendetta. The survival of our nation ought not be reduced to such a level. If we cannot reason with the man and his supporters that his previous term in the office did not take the nation to greater heights – we fail. Perhaps, the resonance of the sine qua non for Nigeria to survive is to depart from all previous administrators that have grounded the proverbial ship of the nation. If the man can understand such essence – his supporters looking forward to lucre in government will be neutered.
As the supporters of the former military president are organising the man’s campaign, it must be established that their choice, which is different and honestly held is fundamentally different to meet future challenges or for the country to play its role in a world that considers their man as corrupt. Do you remember the furore when Colin Powell before his appointment as US Secretary of State declared American Intelligence on General Sani Abacha as a very corrupt man? At that time – little was known of what Mr. Abacha had done to the Nigerian Treasury. I am the first to admit that Mr. Babangida has never been indicted of purloining state funds. Pity, the opulence he displays in the midst of abject poverty does not rebut the rumour about his finances. Such opulence is a reason why he must not be a choice of contemplation for 2007 elections.
It seems to me that the supporters of the man believe his role is the continuation of an aborted concentration of power and wealth in the hands of those who embrace the political, economic, and social “settlements” of the man. Thereby, leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves in the confusion of his policies, which to him are good when announced and cancelled whilst being implemented. Since most Nigerians are seeking better existence with their skills and savings – providing Mr. Babangida as an accepted face of that choice is a mistake.
In closing, as a nation – we are not faced with many choices in who becomes our president. However, ponderability that Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida is not the best choice is simple. If we seek a nation, which produces leaders that must not be emulated or trusted – then we must allow his choice. If we seek a leader who is not ashamed to live opulently in a grand house where citizens of the nation he governed are reduced to abject poverty – Mr. Babangida must remain our choice. If we seek a commander-in-chief that will once again destroy the team spirit essential to every modern military might – Mr. Babangida must be our choice. If the office of the president is open to a man that would waste funds on political experimentation – our choice must remain Mr. Babangida. If we seek to experience closure of Universities and accelerate brain drain – Mr. Babangida is our choice. However, if our resolute is for a change of direction – we should seek Mr. Babangida to assist the nation to elect a man or woman without his qualities; and one to whom he can serve as an elder statesman or maybe – Kingmaker. And, whilst serving as a Kingmaker – he must promise never to conduct himself as another Balogun of Owu.
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