Gen Ibrahim Babangida: The best for Nigeria in 2011?

Babangida_20_thumbThe concept of ogbanje or abiku is one that is fast dying out. The Igbo word ogbanje and abiku, its Yoruba equivalent, literally mean repeater. They describe, not just reincarnation in the real sense of it, but in the negative sense. It is a situation whereby a child, normally female dies and reincarnates through its mother to be born to die in almost an endless cycle which can only be put a stop to through the exhumation of the bond with the spirit world, known as iyi uwa by a powerful dibia – native doctor. The sole aim of the ogbanje child is to inflict pains on the family especially the mother and if possible, to destroy her.

It is true that the concept of ogbanje or abiku has today been expanded to include very beautiful ladies and men, and also lunatics and thus providing jobs of exorcism for our modern miracle workers, popularly referred today as ‘men and women of God’. However, one single fact remains that the discovery of the sickle-cell anaemia and the solution to it has taken good care of the concept of ogbanje or abiku. In the same way, some other mysteries like the congenital dreadlocks known as dada have also been demystified as just simple natural hairstyle, not signifying any connections with any spirit or deity, known and unknown as had earlier been construed. Today, many of our men and women wear dreadlocks for fashion.

A few years back, during the Obasanjo regime, the former president of America, George Walker Bush paid a visit to Nigeria. During his speech, he pointed out that he read Wole Soyinka’s poem, Abiku en route Nigeria. He then observed that the African leaders behave like the abiku. Some rule first as military heads-of-state, then ‘die’ to reincarnate as civilian presidents. Some even refuse to die and cling on to the seat of power and rule their countries to death. Omar Bongo of Gabon ruled his country for 43 years and by the time he was forced by death to relinquish power, his son had been prepared to succeed him. It is ogbanje. For 30 years, Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe and has neither refused to die nor to relinquish power. From all indications, he may rule the country to death and die with it. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria was only stopped by the national assembly from perpetuating himself in office through the third term agenda. But before he reluctantly left office after eight years as a civilian dictator, he had taken flesh in his beloved daughter, Iyabo, presently a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. She has been tailored to suit the governorship seat of Ogun State, Obasanjo’s home state. This is abiku.
Some people have also formed a strong hegemony that they continue to appear in one form or another in each government. This has led to the recycling of the offices in the hands of the same people that ruin the country and make money out of it. A septuagenarian minister has just been swept out of the petroleum ministry by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan when he reconstituted the cabinet after he was made the acting president. In the recent attempt to reincarnate and become the president of Nigeria, the former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has swallowed his words during the battle with his boss, former president Olusegun Obasanjo to rejoin the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) after leaving the party to form the Action Congress (AC). If he succeeds, he becomes an abiku in his own cadre.

The Nigerian citizenry is poised to witness the greatest ogbanje of all times in the former military president on Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida as he prepares to take a giant stride. On the 10th April this year, the former military ruler of Nigeria stunned the citizenry by the declaration of his intention to return to Aso Rock as a civilian president. That was during the memorial service of his deceased wife, Maryam in Asaba, the home town of his late wife and the capital of Delta State. IBB, as he is fondly called is not new to the Nigerian politics. From 1985 – 1993 that he ruled the country, he was popularly called Political Maradona. He is said to have taken part in all coups in the country except the ones allegedly against him. His ascent to power was very dramatic. As the chief of army staff of the then Head-of-state, General Muhammadu Buhari, IBB cut short his pilgrimage to Mecca to return to the country to seize power from his boss. He then introduced a new military leadership, addressing himself as president with a glamorous first lady who began a pet project, BETTER LIFE FOR NIGERIAN WOMEN, which was seen as a conduit pipe for draining the taxpayers’ money. She was called names and only canonized at death. It is a popular belief that had IBB not cut short the dreaded Buhari/Idiagbon regime, the country would have been better for it. Today, Nigeria has not moved inches from where the gap-toothed evil genius dumped it before he was forced out of office in August, 1993.

The IBB eight year regime was fraught with so many irregularities. His cancellation of the acclaimed best election ever held in Nigeria, the June 12 Presidential Election believed to have been won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola is one of them. Nigerians and the world in general are yet to be convinced of why the election had to be cancelled. The highest albatross on the neck of IBB may be the mystery surrounding the death of one of the best Nigerian journalists, the pioneer editor-in-chief of the Newswatch Magazine, Mr. Dele Giwa. Giwa was cold-bloodedly murdered on October 19, 1986 with a parcel bomb, an act none of its like had ever been witnessed before and after. Why the Babangida government refused to uncover the mystery of that brutal assassination remains yet another mystery to Nigerians. Why successive governments, both military and civilian have also been unable to solve the mystery of Giwa’s death remains more mysterious. In fact, the firebrand legal luminary, late Gani Fawehinmi never hid his strong conviction that IBB has the key to the solution to Giwa’s murder. IBB’s refusal to appear at the Human Rights Violation and Reconciliation Committee (HRVRC) set up in 1999 by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo and headed by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa complicates issues for him.

The Evil Genius seems to be convinced in his bid to return to the Aso Rock. When many were wondering what he left in Aso Rock that he wants to collect, his response is that, “Seventeen years ago, when I left Aso Rock, I left so many things that I think I should go and bring back. I left for example, the value of Naira. I left again stable price of fuel. I left a whole lot of reforms and I need to get them back. So, there are lots of things that I left behind that I want to go and pick up for the benefit of ordinary Nigerians” (The News Magazine, May 10, 2010, p.10). However, many believe that no matter how IBB may decide to deceive himself, he is not fit morally to talk of returning to Aso Rock. The News Magazine of April 26, 2010 has listed reasons to support this claim. Among them are, IBB’s participation in almost all the coups in the country. Another was his devaluation of the Naira which saw our Naira worse than the Italian Lire. Another reason was his misappropriation of $12.4b 1991 Gulf War Oil windfall. Others were his secret attempts to Islamise Nigeria, the brutal murder of Dele Giwa, cancellation of the June 12 Presidential Election and promoting Obasanjo to take over the reins of power in 1999 (pp. 22 and 23). The Evil Genius seems not to be intimidated by these and really replies to his challengers in these words, “If you call me a thief and you can prove it, you know what to do, not to make noise about it. Go ahead and prove it” (Newswatch, May 3, 2010, p.6)

It is for this that the Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare has raised his voice in a campaign against IBB and his agenda. According to him, “None of these oppressors will rule our nation again. Get your stones ready. Make sure they have rough edges. We shall vote for IBB with stones when he declares” (The News Magazine, April 26, 2010, p.12). Though Ray Ekpu did not mention the death of Dele Giwa in his column, A WALL TO CLIMB, he also enumerated what will be Babangida’s hindrances in his renewed zeal to get back to the Aso Rock. He observed that “… Henry Kissinger was right about power being the ultimate aphrodisiac. In that case, men who taste power – and enjoy its aroma – never ever want to let off; they are in perpetual search for power and more” (Newswatch, May 3, 2010, p.5). Ekpu is of the view that any person intoxicated by power is not in his right senses and this zeroes into what Bakare says that such a person needs to be taught with stones. If IBB has not yet learnt from history, no matter how his towering figure in his Hillview 50-bedroom mansion and his followers may want to intimidate us, we shall refuse that this time. It is not necessarily out of hatred, but out of love that he can’t do what he could not do as military leader and at a younger age in his old age in a democracy with its checks and balances.

One thing the African leaders have not learnt is when enough is enough and thus retire in peace. The immediate past chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission did not know when it was time to bid goodbye and waited till he was shown the way out. It would have been more honourable if he had retired even before the calls for his sack. Again, if the immediate past president had been allowed to resign when it was obvious he couldn’t continue, perhaps his life could have been saved and Nigerians would have been saved this agony of having its president die in office for the fifth time. But Turai hung on in him. The man died. IBB must know that enough is enough. The leadership of Nigeria should not get back to the hands of those who have held the country to ransom. The younger generation should be given a chance to move the country forward as it is in the US.

I have said elsewhere that Nigerian populace is disgusted with the politicians and are now looking towards the church for direction. The religious leaders especially the younger ones should rise up to this challenge to save our people. Pastor Tunde Bakare is a good example and I praise his courage. If Nigeria gets better, it is not only Bakare that will live there and we shall not wait for him to lose his head before we join the battle. As Thomas, the Apostle said to our Lord concerning Lazarus, “Let us also go and die with him”. We are the people that can exhume the iyi uwa of the ogbanje oppressive governments and destroy them to make sure that they don’t reincarnate to inflict pains on Nigerians.

*Rev. Fr. Clement Muozoba writes from Awka, Anambra State.


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