Why I Won’t Vote for the Generals by Dele Momodu

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pendulum By Dele Momodu, 04.03.2010

Now that General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) seems to have made up his mind to challenge fate, I think he should be told the home truth which is a scarce commodity in these parts. In his usual style of dropping coded hints, he chose Abeokuta, the home town of his former best friend, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, to fly the latest kite of his political ambition. The occasion was the pre-birthday gathering of friends of Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel. As much as I admire IBB’s charms and charisma, I seriously believe he does not have much to offer at this time and age, nearly 20 years after quitting power, or stepping aside.

I have had series of hot arguments with a few of our mutual friends who swear by his name, and have convinced themselves that only him can rescue Nigeria from the political logjam he got our country into when he annulled Nigeria’s freest and best election in 1993. I have told them IBB would definitely fit the role of a quintessential kingmaker but not the King again. What else does he want to prove except to equal or surpass General Olusegun Obasanjo’s number of years in power? Simply put, it can only be an ego trip.

There is nothing new or original in their avowed stance and abject fixation on IBB’s return to power. They are rigidly convinced that IBB has the magic wand to whip all the warring gladiators into line. They want us to believe that he’s a born-again leader, and has new ideas about how to fix Nigeria. One of their popular songs is that the man is now committed to building a true Federalism in Nigeria. Promises and promises as usual. Why can’t he join hands with others to achieve these noble ideals, I have asked our friends countless times.

They insist he has to do it himself for maximum effects and results. I wish I could be as fanatical about this otherwise great Nigerian as much as these guys but I cannot. IBB has an attractive persona no doubt. On the two occasions we’ve spoken this year on phone about the sad death of his gorgeous wife, Hajia Maryam Ndidi Babangida, he left me in no doubt that he’s a snake-charmer. IBB is that smooth.

But we should see issues beyond the personal. Friendship should never take precedence over matters of national importance and our collective well-being. We’ve gone this route before in 1999 as we allowed ourselves to be studiously regaled by the same tricksters who had persuaded themselves that only General Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) could lead Nigeria out of the doldrums. But I was never convinced. It was always obvious that IBB was playing games when he went out to invite OBJ back to power, when as a matter of public knowledge everyone knew they were never the best of friends. IBB’s motive was crystal clear, even to the blind. The idea was to lay a solid foundation for his eventual return to power. And he found a willing partner in OBJ. It is doubtful if OBJ would grant him that indulgence today.

In fact, I was so enraged by the hypocrisy of their concoction in 1999 that I went all out to support Chief Olu Falae, the famous economist and banker. I had a clear vision about the charade that was being packaged as our elixir for good governance and accountability that I undertook the task of flying at my expense to Vienna, Austria, in search of a good Vice Presidential candidate for Chief Falae. Nigeria was blessed with many accomplished icons that were capable of rebuilding our nation but we were always saddled with the worst materials in the name of political expediency and permutations. My conviction then was that Nigeria would fare better if we could have a sound economist like Chief Falae, and a brilliant engineer like Dr Rilwan Lukman as President and Vice President respectively.

I was convinced that Nigeria could make do with technocrats in power for a change. There was no doubt in my mind that the combination of Obasanjo, a retired Army officer, and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a retired Customs officer, would most probably spell doom for Nigeria. I met Dr Lukman at his OPEC office in Vienna where he was President but could not persuade him to venture into partisan politics. He believed that members of the Nigerian Mafia had a hand in the second coming of Obasanjo, and there was nothing anyone could do at that time to stop them. I returned to Nigeria a sad man.

In no time, Obasanjo became the President of Nigeria as predetermined, and eight irreplaceable years wasted away at the speed of light. Still we saw no signs of redemption. Obasanjo tried his best, to borrow the popular cliché of his acolytes, but his best was not good enough to repair our roads, to give us constant electricity, to keep our university students in school, to give us drinkable water, to prevent our presidents being flown abroad for medical treatments, to keep our airports squeaky clean and efficient (except during the brief stint of Dr Kema Chikwe, which soon collapsed thereafter), to guaranty the security of lives and properties, to create mass employment and give us abundant food and so on.

As if that was not bad enough, OBJ’s apotheosis fell flat when he conducted the worst election ever in the history of Nigeria in 2007. Not only was the election disgraceful, most of the candidates were abysmally poor. They did not represent the best Nigeria could offer. Corruption stank to high heavens. The conmen had laid their landmines in preparation for another cycle of unreasonable experimentation and servitude.

Sadly, Nigeria has been an abattoir in the hands of these military men and we have been the guinea-pigs and rabbits in their political laboratories. I have been told by those who should know that come what may, IBB is very ready to take the plunge this time around. And the name of the United States of America is being dropped all over the place as part of the conspiracy to bring IBB back to power. I wonder at what stage IBB and America became such Siamese twins that one cannot do without the other, and what has changed since those years when IBB and the United States engaged in cat and mouse game. I doubt if there is much America can do to force IBB on Nigerians if the people decide he’s not their choice.

There are many salient reasons I’m reasonably convinced IBB is about to embark on a misadventure. The first is that age is no longer on his side, and the conditions which made the re-emergence of OBJ possible in 1999 have changed. Nigerians have seen the futility of endless musical chairs and relay races by the Army Generals. If they were that brilliant and efficacious, Nigeria would have witnessed substantial progress in the hands of these self-appointed messiahs.

All the Generals who want to return to power in Nigeria have enjoyed their fair share of the national cake. When they had absolute power, they could not use it to change Nigeria for the better, like Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings did in Ghana. How would they be able to turn Nigeria around in their twilight years when they’ve all made untouchable friends and have mellowed down with age?

IBB is fast approaching 70 and he must be losing his agility and mental alertness like all mortals do at that age. He has already passed the retirement age for civil servants and should be content with enjoying a blissful time as a pensioner and grandfather. As I told our mutual friends, IBB cannot afford a complete demystification of his myth as Nigeria’s most charismatic and influential former President. Jumping into this fray may open up old wounds and a Pandora box for which he’s yet to fully atone for his sins of commission and omission.

There are people of the Gani Fawehinmi school who are warming up to come all out to ask what happened to former Newswatch Editor-in-chief, Dele Giwa, who was murdered clinically, and with military precision, by a letter bomb, with no clue whatsoever as to who did it till this day. It is one murder that will continue to haunt our nation.

IBB would even have to come out clean about the terminal mistake of annulling the 1993 Presidential election after it was obvious Chief Abiola was coasting home to a monumental victory. He would have to avoid the unhelpful rigmaroles he’s subjected us to these past 17 years and say precisely why he took such a destructive decision. He would have to go on all fours and plead for mercy and forgiveness and avoid the swagger of a remorseless man. That unfortunate and unpatriotic act has caused Nigeria so much anguish for which we are yet to recover.

IBB will be a hard-sell to most Nigerians, not because he’s not a likeable or personable character, but because our nation has moved beyond going to the graves to exhume political corpses. Even the ones that were recently resurrected by Acting President Jonathan are still butts of jokes everywhere. None of them would have stood the chance of sailing through in a free and fair contest but they were selected by the godfathers.

If the sponsors of IBB’s comeback bid are day-dreaming of another rigged election like they did in 1999, 2003 and 2007, Nigerians are now better equipped to resist and rebuff them. If they think this is a joke, they should wait and see the type of technology and physical mobilization that are available to be fully deployed in the next few months. The world has advanced beyond imagination since that era of free-for-all rigging and so has Nigerians learnt to adopt the new digital revolution.

IBB is not the only retired General who’s planning to contest the next Presidential election in Nigeria. Also warming up is the weather-beaten former military ruler, General Muhammadu Buhari. His biggest minus is that his ceaseless ambition to stage a spectacular comeback is beginning to take its toll on him. Buhari was not his spritely self when I saw him recently at the THISDAY Awards in Abuja. The wrinkles lining up on his face were signs of battle fatigue. He’s been mercilessly pummeled by friends and foes alike.

There are many who would readily vouch for his integrity, but incorruptibility is not the only prerequisite for attaining power. On previous attempts, Buhari was not able to muster enough resources to make appreciable impact at the polls. He even went to court the last time, but returned home defeated. His political party (ANPP) has since been decimated by the ruling party PDP, and the man himself is on the streets like an orphan in search of adoption.

His past as a military dictator is also an albatross. It would be difficult for many Nigerians to forget and forgive his draconian laws. He ruled by awesome decrees, and detention camps were filled to the brim. There are no signs yet that he has shed the toga of ruthless dictatorship. An attempt at forming a mega-party with Atiku Abubakar, and others, has failed as expected. These politicians are victims of unbridled ambition.

The third General who’s suspected of still nursing a Presidential ambition is Nigeria’s most outstanding spook, Aliyu Gusau, who recently bounced back to power as National Security Adviser. The highly respected gentleman and officer of no mean achievement is suffering the same fate as the other two, especially in the area of age. These guys are getting too old to tackle the vicissitudes of life in Nigeria. What Nigeria desperately requires are new kids on the block, those who have the tools of modern power, and understand the new ways of life.

At 50, Nigeria cannot continue to be a slave of the past. It is time for a rebirth. And we have the men and women who are waiting to take charge and take the world by storm. It is not too late for IBB and company to enter the new train and discard those locomotive engines.

Source: http://www.thisdayonline.com/

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