BABANGIDA: SAINT OR SINNER?
Let us plead with that great hero of Nigerian nationalism, Anthony Enahoro, to borrow a line for the title of this piece from that of his pamphlet written in 1950. The pamphlet; Zik: Saint or Sinner, was a reproach of the role Zik played in their trial when his newspaper, the West African Pilot in 1949 chided the action of the Zikists calling for “positive action” as “youthful exuberance”
Enahoro had just finished his third jail term fighting for freedom, this time for chairing the Zikist movement's lecture where the crusade was mooted. Dr. Namdi Azikiwe, the great Zik, was to preside at the lecture but was absent for “unforeseen reasons”.
So Enahoro, Macaulay, Osita Agwunna, Mokwugo Okoye, Nduka Eze, Raji Abdallah, Abubakar Zukogi, Ogoegbunna Dafe, Mahmud Attah, Smart Ebbi, Josiah Olawoyin, Peter Osugo, Nwanna and others were tried and jailed in the raid against the Zikists.
The title of this piece, Babangida; Saint or Sinner, is not to prove Babangida's unverified, false and trumped-up sins, but to expose his accusers as deliberate blackmailers without facts, most of them talking from both sides of their mouths.
Babangida rode to power on the crest of being in the vanguard of the human rights' crusade. The press had declared war on General Muhammadu Buhari because of Decree 4 which Gani Fawehinmi, the self-acclaimed human rights lawyer, courted like a maiden. Fawehinmi did not see any wrong in the trial and imprisonment of Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor, both Guardian journalists, under Decree 4, which Buhari borrowed from the chest of statutes left behind by General Olusegun Obasanjo.
His stand was that Buhari's government was a corrective one which could use unorthodox laws that did not accord with equity, to clean Gani's imagined Augean stable. He took fat briefs from Buhari's government as he did with the overthrown Shehu Shagari's administration and endorsed the trials by the tribunals which his colleagues boycotted on the orders of the Nigeria Bar Association then led by Bola Ajibola. One was not surprised when Fawehinmi again became the godfather of Nuhu Ribadu, Obasanjo's hatchetman, who was violating all the laws in the books, using corrupt methods, in a so-called crusade to chasten Nigeria; whereas he was clearing the way for his master to succeed himself by cutting down all known opponents.
Thus, his lies against Dieprieye Alamieyeseigha that he dressed like a woman to beat British immigration, whereas London allowed the man free passage, knowing the charge in their court couldn't stand the test of the Queen's justice and that it was a political issue being fuelled from Abuja by the EFCC and the Justice Ministry, serving the cause of Obasanjo. Ribadu, Gani's friend, did not stop at hounding opponents of self succession by Obasanjo, chief of whom was Babangida. Ribadu went to south Africa and declared Babangida a crook, though he claimed he had no facts to substantiate his charge; which, itself, was libelous.
He switched his war against opponents of Obasanjo now to supposed Babangida's friends and relations. Mike Adenuga, the tycoon, was stormed and harassed and had to flee for safety through a NADECO route. Ribadu descended on Babangida's son, Mohammed, the quiet, easy-going, cultured lad and held him in jail without charge. That is the man the White House and the Western press present as a fighter of corruption, Was that how J Edgar Hoover ran the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)? Ribadu openly supported Wolfowitz, former head of the World Bank, who doctored diplomatic reports as ambassador and also wrote false report in favour of his girlfriend at the same bank.
Fawehinmi, more than anybody else, started the blackmail against Babangida, but the human side of IBB would not lend support to the liquidation of an opponent as Fawehinmi would have done if he were in IBB's position. He had faded in the reckoning of most discerning Nigerians because of his role on Decree 4 until the death by a letter bomb of Dele Giwa, the popular journalist and head of Newswatch Magazine. He became the researcher, investigator par excellence and in his usual modus operandi, was smearing the name of Babangida without proof.
He knew one of the most honest men ever the police had, Christopher Omeben, was in charge of the investigation, yet he blackened IBB and the police and resorted to private prosecution of imagined officers for self aggrandizement. This restored him to good conduct in the eye of the public and gave him the credibility he needed badly. When the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) was being introduced by Babangida, none of the new human rights' activists were seen to have opposed it. It was those of us they called socialists who stood out to give the people the demerits of the programme.
All these civil liberties' organizations live on the dollars from organizations in the United States, which is un-nationalistic.
They can't oppose World Bank or IMF. The father of human rights movements in Nigeria, Mallam Aminu Kano and the mother of the movements, Funmilayo Ransome – Kuti, did not go cap in hand begging for American dollars. At the All African Conference in Ghana in 1959, Aminu moved the conference to draw a human rights charter Present were Tom Mboya, William Du Bois, Siaka Stevens, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and many others. Nkrumah was the host Aminu did not live above the common northerners whose cause he championed, but devoted himself to educating them and exposing them to modernity. These new human rights' leaders, who oppose Babangida, hop from one continent to the other, attending conferences, building no institutions at home really to reflect the pursuit of human development.
Who were those who opposed SAP? Mohammed Ayagi, Balarabe, Sam Aluko, Pius Okigbo and Professor Adebayo of ECA. They were all world-class brains who could not be subservient to the Breton Woods institutions. Who proposed SAP? Aboyade, Olu Falae, Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji and other friends of the World Bank and sensitive western institutions. Falae and John Edozien, the permanent secretary, planning should tell Nigerians those who benefited from SAP.
The banks destroyed Nigeria with market speculations engendered by SFEM. Falae was a bank managing director before his appointment as Secretary to the Government. Edozien, his friend, left government to be managing director of a bank. Babangida read through the men around him and introduced people's measures like DFFRI, NDE, People's Bank and such other measures to cushion the bad effects of SAP. All these annoyed the agents of foreign capital in his administration.
Falae, Breton Woods loyalist, is foremost among the human rights leaders today in Nigeria. Is it a twist of fortune? No. Civil liberties' movements are a decoy of western institutions, necessary diversions, whose only language is 'democracy' which, in fact, has no specific definition because it is fluid.
Suffice to say none of Babangida's accusers has been able to prove any of their charges. Babangida does not claim to be a saint. He is also not a sinner but is as imperfect as any other human being. He never violated the rule of law in office. I challenge anybody to cite any instance as Obasanjo did.
The present civil liberties' organizations appear to be lazy, perhaps, as lazy as labour. When Ibeazim Keazor started this legal project, he got no money from any external source. It was to protect the rights of everybody before the law. The inheritors of his novel movement do not even mention his name because they have short memories. That son of commissioner of police, Keazor, one of the first five Nigerian cadets, appointed in the police in 1926, carried himself respectfully. Hustlers have spoilt the broth he cooked in the new rat race by gold diggers.
Well, he had the name of his father who was recruited along with Agbabiaka, Egbuson, Arthur Prest, all from King's College, and Oluwole, the great football organizer, from Ibadan Grammar School, as pioneer cadet sub inspector.
Lawrence writes from Lagos.