BABANGIDA’S declaration of intent for 2011 presidential election is nothing new and so should not surprise anyone. He, himself, had said whilst in power, that he read a lot of Niccolo Machiavelliâ€™s The Prince. Machiavelliâ€™s maxim is: “An able Statesman out of work, like a huge whale will endeavour to overthrow the ship unless he has an empty cask to play withâ€.
IBB registers himself to me as someone who loves power and the appurtenances of power and so cannot afford to distance himself from power – and cannot have enough doing as a “kingmakerâ€. He must always be politically relevant His real intention about power was manifested when against the decision of the Supreme Military Council, he adopted the title of President and eased out his critic, General Domkat Bali.
When IBB entered the stage in August 1985, he received thunderous ovation not because the people knew what he was capable of doing but because the masses desperately wanted a change from the draconian regime of Buhari and Idiagbon.
To whet their appetite, he released, from incarceration, hundreds of political detainees, abrogated the obnoxious Decree 4 with which the government tried to gag the press. IBB became the toast of the people. The question then is, why was there an audible outcry against IBBâ€™s return in 2007 as it is now mounting against his 2011 project?
Perhaps the answer lies in his antecedents, governance style, profligate lifestyle, excessive love of power, his war against the press and human rights societies, utterances of his friends and cronies in his defence. Just recently IBB threw the challenge to Nigerians to prove that he stole while in office.
Ironically, no one ever called IBB a thief until his friend and former Minister of Information, Chief Alex Akinyele in an interview with Hazzan Ibrahim asked the pertinent question: “Who was that man who ever had the chance to rule this country and did not loot?â€(Nigerian Tribune, Tuesday 12, August 2003 page 15).
Even a fool would reason that if someone close to IBB could say this, it simply meant that he knew that his friend did just what others before him did and should therefore not be crucified for this. In an interview by Oluokun Ayorinde of
The News published in vo1.22 No.25 of 28 June 2004, Professor Akin Oyebode said: â€œBecause he has a 50-bedroom house at Minna, he thinks the world is his oyster.â€ IBB did not steal but at that time a Director General hardly earned N4000.00 a month.
If the total earnings of IBB as a public officer were computed, he could not have made enough money to build a 50-bedroom edifice. Where then did IBB get the money with which he built his mansion? Akinyele further said: â€œThose who are able, for now by way of experience, fmancial stamina, etc, are virtually men of the military.
When they are not in the military they are former ministers likeÂ me; you know so many of these former ministers during the IBB, Abacha, Buhari administrations are the people who for the time being, for the sake of Nigeria, are virtually viable for leadershipâ€.
What Akinyele said could mean that if you served the nation under any Military regime, you were bound to become stupendously rich. If we reason beyond this, it could also mean that those under whom they served must be superlatively rich themselves because it is not possible to make other people rich without first helping yourself. Nigeria Tribune of Monday 1 September 2003 page 12, published an article by Feyi Bakare in which the writer claimed:
â€œThe World Bank. has reported that 50 per cent of national expenditure was financed from a dedicated account maintained and known only to General Ibrahim Babangidaâ€. If a President personalised the resources of the nation, he could not have done so without the desire to corner a large chunk of it. No one ever accused IBB of stealing but we know he is very wealthy and his wealth could not have come from his legitimate income as a salary earner.
In its May 24, 1993 issue entitled “Babangidaâ€™s Methods and Tactics”, The News identified major ingredients of methods and tools with which IBB navigated through the tempestuous Nigerian political terrain to include inter alia: deceit, blackmail, intimidation, flattery, cronyism, divide and rule and settlement. I must quickly include trickery, propaganda and manipulation.
His frrst dose of deceit was the N2.8 billion IMF loan for which he appointed Abubakar Abdullahi, a former NIDB boss to coordinate its debates. Given the stringent conditionalities prescribed by lMF, Abduliahiâ€™s report rejected such loan.
IBB in response said: â€œWe have decided to face the challenges of reconstructing our economy, not through an lMF loan but the determination of our people to make all necessary sacrifices to put the economy on the path of sustained growthâ€. IBB was hailed by all and sundry as ~u(listening person. On 1, October 1985, IBB proclaimed 15-month economic emergency period which manifested in wage freeze, embargo on certain imported items, recruitment, promotions, etc, including introduction of Structural Adjustment Programme(SAP).
The News wrote that unknown to Nigerians, IBB the beloved leader had brought through the backdoor, the lMF conditionalities. In March 1992 he devalued the Naira by 100 per cent while Alhaji Abubakar Ahmed announced the deregulation of exchange rate.
The Naira crashed and prices escalated, leaving the economy unstable. To the chagrin of the academia, IBB blocked further debates on IMF. Professor Akin Oyebode narrated how â€œhe sent his goonsâ€ to disrupt a debate organised by Gani Fawehinmi.
Participants were not allowed into the NLC headquarters and when they shifted base to Ganiâ€™ s Chambers they ,were forcefully sent out in disarray with Gani Fawehinmi landing in GashuaÂ prison. He had become autocratic. Â Â Â Babangida experimented with several economic policies each of which brought greater woes on the people so much so that the man himself wondered aloud about the resilience of the Nigerian people since the policies pauperized the nation.
In 1992, he told the Daily Times: â€œFrankly, I have kept on asking my economists why is it that the economy has not collapsed till now? Surely, it is not our knowledge. It is not our theories. It is not anything we have readâ€. A man bankrupt of ideas to move the economy forward for eight years must be a joker asking the people to allow him to come back.
Economic analysts pointed to the fact that in 1985 external debt stood at $12 billion by the time BB was leaving, it had shot up to $33 billion with attendant capital flight and brain drain.
In order to silence opposition, IBB manipulated the duo of Dr. Tai Solarin and Professor Wole Soyinka to accept headships of the Peopleâ€™s Bank and the Federal Road Safety Corps, respectively but as soon as they realised they were being blackmailed they quickly opted out.
Mr. Orija, a commentator on national issues, writes from Lagos.