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Maryam Babangida…. Obituary for the living

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Today, we pause to thank our numerous readers for their contributions and feedback to our column, ‘Letters from Washington’. In a short while, this column will celebrate its two years in print and we would appreciate it if Contributors find time to sign their real names at the end of their commentaries.

We do not want to deal with wolves in human clothes. In the words of late avatar, Zik of Africa, we shall welcome critics both on the pro and contra divide. Debate is our feast and those scientific critiques like the one below will from time to time be allowed space to add value to the system and undoubtedly help in making our word flesh.

For those of you who asked for my personal contact addresses, I can only provide you with the old email address, used when I was writing Sports, for ThisDay Sports and also when I wrote a political column for the moribund Post Express.
Below therefore, we have very rich reactions from two world renowned authors and poets who are on different sides of the Babangida debate.

These two types of feedback, we cannot resist from publishing. For those of you who throw stones our direction, without the courage to say your names, we will ask you to read us to the last lines, before arriving at your conclusions.

Whatever, Professor Chimalum Nwankwo’s, ‘’The Bones of Caesar and the Babangidas”, has demonstrated that, Vanguard was only doing its job of publishing the truth when it beat all comers to publish Maryam Babangida’s interview, ‘’ I’m Alive.’’

When we commented on the ‘’Obituary, for the Living,’’ we were only pointing out, that the office of the First Lady cannot be the same as the Presidency.

Moreover, we were arguing that, whereas, Maryam may be weakened by fate and sickness, the enduring First Lady is still breathing. Who are you to play God?  As we told you in the case of Ribadu, Adokiye Amiesimaka, revolution is not a tea party. Nor is it an escapade for the yellow-livered to be prayed into fruition by a bunch of white-clothed Aladura Pastors.

Revolution is a serious undertaking, and those who come forward to seek changes in a rotten society are never expected to be products or beneficiaries of the same corrupt clime. Most of the time, they are ready to pay the supreme sacrifice to accomplish their noble goals. Patrice Lumumba, Steve Biko, Martin Luther King, Kaduna Nzeogwu, Fela Anukulapo Kuti, Prof. Awojobi, Chima Ubani, Barack Obama, and the last of the Mohicans, Gani Fawehinmi.

The Bones of Caesar and the Babangidas

The good is oft interred with their bones So let it be with Caesar….

Those words are from the great oratorical wave with which the wily Mark Anthony sought to sway the storm of anger which the assassination of the great Julius Caesar generated in the drama of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Anthony was cunningly goading the people toward vengeance.

It was a bare knuckle affair designed with trenchant wit and guile and satire and deception. Anthony did not want the assassins to go unpunished as much as he did not want anybody to suggest that, that was exactly his aim. The great Caesar was like all good men, and we bury them in the end with their goodness forgotten.

Can we say, regarding the billows of taunt and mockery and angry vituperation surging toward the Babangidas in their hour of pain that it is sad that their goodness will be buried, alas, with their bones? Who can successfully argue for the forgiveness of a nation trussed like some helpless mammoth and left tottering toward something dreadful and abysmal?

Who can say convincingly that the Babangidas do not deserve the bitterness hurled by thousands of hapless peripatetic Nigerians toward their present domicile of terminal pain? I really do not know, but certainly there is a lesson now still being scrolled for all Nigerians watching and contemplating this moment of national tragedy, for that is what the present moment is…a national tragedy.

Maryam Babangida appears to have been unilaterally tried without as much as the customary legal benefit of a defense representation, and found guilty by thousands of angry Nigerians from all over the world. No proverbial day in court.
Babangida served Nigeria, how well, we do not know but fear we know. Watching the drama of his abandonment is like watching a drama with a stubborn elastic conclusion. The Orkar coup nearly ended his existence.

He survived. While the nation held its breath in what one Nigerian weekly of that time called 24 hours of madness, the General was holed up somewhere while surrogates and contenders tried to figure out who will be the maker of the nation’s destiny.

While the Earth appeared to stand still, civilian malcontents danced through the streets in premature celebration of the General’s death. But miraculously it almost seemed, he returned to power to the chagrin and frustration and disappointment of his sundry enemies.

The present tragic state of his wife battling terminal illness sadly mimics her husband’s situation. And the great question, whether she lives or dies, is why cosmic forces are putting them through such crucibles. The whole thing is inscrutable but not from the perspective of the people.

Let them go to hell is what the chaotic sentiment collectively opine! Beware of defending the Babangidas in a crowd of Nigerians anywhere unless death is your bosom friend!!! The great irony though lies in the Nigerian capacity to commence the ritualistic self-flagellation and tearing of hairs long after the crime and the fact. Argue over this point after carefully comparing General Babangida’s time with the present dispensation of a most subtle Ali Baba-ism and the new Nigerian leadership anthem of duplicitous sharing and monetization!!!

Here are the charges which one gleans and winnows from the thundering eddies of this tragic moment. As Head of State, the General ought to have been able, with Nigeria’s incalculable oil wealth, to build a great cancer hospital to deal with all cancer victims in Nigeria instead of this privileged effort to escape to California to save his nemesis beleaguered wife.

Perhaps, Nigeria would have fared better if General Babangida had not nullified the democratic election of Chief Moshood Abiola. Perhaps, the living terror of assassinations, kidnappings, and assorted brigandage would not have come to being if the heinous terror with the parcel bomb wastage of Dele Giwa, one of the brightest stars rising out of the blazing dawn of super-stellar journalism in Nigeria was not under General Babangida’s regime.

Perhaps, if the General had shown the lightest love and care for Nigeria’s future and the future of her children, the downward spiral of the fortunes of Nigerian academe would have been easily dyked, along with the flight over the seas of Nigeria’s brightest products.

Perhaps, political scam and graft and brigandage and the smouldering miasma of greed and prebendal excesses and all manners of malfeasance bedeviling the polity may have been averted. Perhaps…Oh , but there are too many perhaps this and perhaps that attendant on the brutally pock marked face and blighted honor of Nigeria if the General had in his time been a little bit kinder and gentler to the fortunes and the pathways available or probable into an almost certain future of glory and greatness.

Alas, so much was left undone that ought to have been done, and so much ought that not to have been done.
Is the unfortunate Maryam part of all that mess? How would these irate Nigerians know? They do not care. In their imagination, feverish with pent-up anger and the pain of incipient homelessness and variegated deprivation and radial national humiliation haunting Nigerians all over the world, they do not care.

They respond to Maryam like bulls respond to red and sharks respond to blood. Greeting the news of a suffering Maryam, on the internet, they howl like carnivores for the kill. To them, Maryam is guilty by familial association and is therefore fatalistically a collaterally damaged bystander or approving partner. How so sad and unfortunate.

And again, how so tragic. Life is a trick, and Time is a callous referee dispassionately uninterested in the twists of fate as human destiny is woven out of an inscrutable design scripted and knit under the cold eyes of pitiless stars…

Professor Chimalum NwankwoCritic and Poet North Carolina A & T State University Greensboro, USA.

Maryam Babangida. Obituary for the living…

My family and I wish her Excellency a swift recovery. She made a great difference in the lives of ALL Nigerian Women, without any doubt at all.

Every historian knows this. I am also happy that you mentioned her Igbo roots. Let it be said loud and clear that she was an Igbo woman. I don’t like the fact that that part of her life and of her relatives has been buried.

Let her take her place with the likes of Margaret Ekpo (who had an Igbo father), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (her sister), Dora Akunyili (another sister), Fumilayo Ransome Kuti, Hajia Sawaba, Queen Anima, etc in the history of Nigerian women who made a difference in our History.

Shall anyone ever forget Better Life in Africa? In the World? No one is perfect. Of course, we can always do more, because there is so much suffering in our nation.

I have read with utter dismay the hurricane of invectives that are flowing from some section of the Nigerian masses. I think these are not necessarily meant for her, for anger against the leadership in a rich country with so many wallowing in abject poverty, can often be misplaced and directed at anyone who has been in leadership.

These kinds of things make one shudder at the depth of mutual hatred and suffering in our nation. But let us see these as indictment on all of us without exception, and ask ourselves where we go wrong each day and how we can help make a better future for these suffering millions, bearing in mind that a hungry man is an angry man.

Prof. Catherine Acholonu


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.