By Ochereome Nnanna
NIGERIA is fortunate that Babangida has chosen this moment in our history to grant an interview to the BBC saying the young generation lack the education and experience to lead Nigeria.
We are glad that the processes for the selection of the presidential candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have not even kicked off. It would have been terrible for us if Babangida had won the presidential ticket of the PDP. Then, we would entertain the fear he might become the president of Nigeria in 2011.
This interview alone has disqualified Babangida from contesting the presidency. Forget about what he did in his eight years in power as a military president, especially his annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential polls. It can be argued that Babangida and his cohorts have paid some form of reparation by bringing Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to occupy Aso Villa for eight years, at least to heal the slap in the face of the Yoruba.
Even though it was not done the way some Yoruba would have loved it, the fact is that the righteous anger of the people of the South West has lost some of its bite because Babangida proactively championed the cause of ceding the presidency to the South West in 1999. The chances are very good that IBBâ€™s supporters in that section of Nigerian will be emboldened to campaign for him in a manner they wouldnâ€™t have dared if that placation did not take place.
Babangida said the â€œyounger generationâ€ are incapable of leading Nigeria. By â€œthe younger generationâ€ I will assume, based on Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that members of the age bracket being referred to are those aged 40 years and above.
Chief Anthony Enahoro and Dr S. G. Ikoku became legislators when they were in their middle twenties. Nigeriaâ€™s late Premier, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became the Prime Minister at 48 (about the same age as Obama). Col. Yakubu Gowon and Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu became the heads of state of Nigeria and Biafra at 32 and 33 respectively. Gowon was just a little over 40 when he was overthrown.
These were the founding fathers of indigenous rule in our country. Under them, Nigeria moved in leaps and bounds and became a frontline player in the Third World. These were the youth in action. Obasanjo was elected president at 62 and presided over utter chaos for eight years. The instability that Babangida sowed as military president continued to ripple through the OBJ years. And now, Babangida wants to return as President at 70!
During his time in power, one of the books ghosted in his name by the likes of Dr Tunji Olagunju, was a compilation of his speeches romantically entitled: For Their Tomorrow We Gave Our Today.
This suggests that Babangida and fellow travellers in power â€œmade sacrificesâ€ for the young generation of that time. More than 17 years later, Babangida is now saying that the people they sacrificed for do not have â€œproper educationâ€. In other words, the Babangida regime failed to raise future leaders to take over from them. Why then should we hand over Nigeria back to such a self-confessed failed leader?
It is not true that the younger generation lacks leaders to repair the damage that Babangida and his generation of civil war winners and booty sharers wreaked on Nigeria. Acting President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s three months of doing the right thing has already started transforming Nigeria.
All he needs to do is follow up and stay the course. During his second tenure, Obasanjo used younger men and women and was able to reposition the economy. The Charles Soludos, Nasir El Rufais, Nuhu Ribadus and even our controversy-courting, sister, Dora Akunyili, showed what the younger generation can do.
The Nigeria of 2011 and beyond does not need old political dinosaurs like Babangida who, in the BBC interview, showed that on top of everything, he is crassly ignorant of basic current affairs. The story of Barack Obama can be recounted by any brilliant primary school pupil. Babangida alleged that Obama got his experience from being a member of State House of Assembly and House of Reps! I wonder what his BBC interviewer was thinking when Babangida made this Bakin Zuwo kind of gaffe?
In his eight years in power, Babangida created an image of himself as the intellectualistic type. He surrounded himself with some of the most brilliant professors in our universities. His everyday speeches sounded like lectures, and he dared to model himself as a military leader who had come to teach Nigerians how to practice genuine democracy. Shorn of his professorial hirelings, we now see a naked emperor!
May we ask Babangida where his â€œnew breedâ€ politicians have gone to? He banned and unbanned many old breed political leaders to give way to the new breed. If there was a genuine grooming of the new breed, by now they would have gotten enough â€œeducationâ€ and â€œexperienceâ€ to meet Babangidaâ€™s expectations. His new breed project had nothing to do with raising a new generation of leaders. It was a ploy to get experienced politicians out of the way to enable him build up his structure for a life presidency.
In the same vein, his planned return has nothing to do with lack of capacity in the younger generation to lead. Babangida wants to be president again because the post-war order where Nigeria was divided among a few war winners is beginning to fade. Yarâ€™ Adua and Jonathan were not part of that order.
Babangida has exposed himself early in the game. The ball is in the court of Nigerians.