General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) needs no introduction in Nigeria and elsewhere around the world. As a professional coup-plotter who overthrew another coup-plotter (now President, Muhammadu Buhari) he had ruled the most populous black nation for close to a decade culminating in a chaotic transition that saw an epilogue on June 12, 1993 when a new President (the late Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola) was elected. But a controversial annulment of the popular mandate followed suit leading to deaths and destruction of properties.
Gen. Babangida and his military gang (including the late Gen. Sani Abacha and others) conspired to deny Abiola his electoral victory thereby throwing the entire nation into anarchy; fire and fury. In the end Abiola never lived to tell the story as he was assassinated by the state conspiracy theorists led by the ex-Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Bashorun Abiola had died inside the Abacha gulag weeks after his nemesis, Gen. Abacha himself kicked the bucket in a controversial fashion. Reports had it that an Indian imported prostitute had delivered a ‘love’ apple to the dictator and upon eating same breathed his last!
Love him or loathe him Gen. Babangida remains an enigma even in his retirement and old age. He comes across our collective consciousness as a benevolent dictator, an ‘evil genius’ who betrayed our trust and failed woefully to midwife democracy. That, more or less, is to his eternal damnation!
Yet, the chicanery and state terrorism associated with the June 12 epochal electoral event would forever define or redefine his legacy long after his exit from the land of the living. IBB came, saw but never conquered anything! Corruption, settlement syndrome and manipulation of the judiciary conquered him instead.
He was consumed by his crude management of power and the privileges that came with it. Having tasted power IBB never wanted to relinquish same!
If Babangida had dutifully handed over power to the late Abiola who won the presidential poll by a landslide (even if the military reactionary forces led by the late Abacha) had killed him as a result he would have become a national hero, living or dead. Today, he lives in obscene opulence in his palatial mansion in Minna where life is sweet and plentiful!
Sometime ago Gen. Babangida (who likes pontificating on issues of statecraft beyond his comprehension) was once quoted as saying that the next President post-Buharism should be a relatively young man under sixty years old. Now, given this reported position of his, something in tune with the national mood of the moment, it is baffling to see Babangida receiving the old brigade politicians in his Hill-top Minna ‘paradise’.
The former Lagos State Governor and leading contender for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) frontline presidential hopeful, Atiku Abubakar, had all visited the Minna ‘mecca’ where they paid homage to the old soldier asking and receiving his blessing for the 2023 presidential battle.
More ‘lilliputians’ in the race (Dave Umahi, Pius Anyim, Dele Momodu etc) may well fly or travel down to the Niger state capital city, sooner or later, to confer with the glorified ‘power-broker’. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo equally receives potential candidates but Tinubu and his mob may not be welcome in Abeokuta for obvious reasons.
What is going well for Babangida remains his personal organization and capacity for bridge-building. Unlike the incumbent President who had done incalculable damage to the socio-economic fabric of the nation IBB believed (and still believes) in our unity, social justice and political engineering, no matter how toxic his version.
However, it must be said that given what Babangida did during and after the June 12 electoral ‘revolution’ of Nigerians by murdering democracy and indirectly aiding and abetting the ‘liquidation’ of the acknowledged winner it must be considered an insult to our collective sensibility for anyone to try to give any relevance to IBB in this present or future presidential perspective.
For all we care Gen. Babangida is not a democrat! Nor can we describe him as a friend of democracy. His treacherous atrocious antecedents present us a perfect image of a serial coup-plotter, looter and enemy of democracy. His opinion, therefore, does not mean anything to democrats and patriots as we labour to radically alter the trajectory of our dear nation come 2023.
If Nigeria were to be a nation operating strict rules and regulations as they concern graft and grand larceny the Babangidas among us would have been made to answer for the crimes and atrocities committed while in power. And such convocation would have necessitated imprisonment. But here we are, impunity reigning supreme and criminals lording it over decent patriotic folks.
Gen. Babangida remains an enemy of democracy, yesterday, today and tomorrow. So any decent democrat would not want to be seen around Babangida seeking advice or wooing him for his support. Those doing so, going to Minna Hilltop Mansion built with stolen funds, to pay homage or seek presidential blessings from IBB must be told that the presidential poll of next year will not be decided by the Babangidas of this world.
The election would be decided by valid votes of Nigerians, majority of whom are sick and tired of the shenanigans of the Babangidas of this challenged great nation. Gen. Babangida must leave Nigeria and Nigerians alone to decide their future come 2023.
What we need in 2023 after the expiration of the Buharian presidential pestilence is a young brilliant mind as President and not the Atiku/Tinubu generation of failures. Fortunately our nation is not in short supply of such patriotic young modern intelligent character capable of changing the national narrative for good; one detribalized true Nigerian capable of uniting our divided peoples, improving the economy, creating jobs and making the rule of law prevail.
General Babangida may claim to be a power broker but the truth is that power does not flow from Minna or Abeokuta but from the ballot box. Let those visiting him and seeking his advice or blessing refrain from giving IBB the ‘honour’ he does not deserve!