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IBB'S LAST CHANCE

By NBF News
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Why do we as one man rise against former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, each time he attempts to return to power through the ballot box? He tried in 2006, we resisted him. He attempted it again late last year and we stridently opposed him. Why? Because he owes the nation atonement, an apology, a show of contrition and mortification, which has long been pending. What are the things I have against the man popularly called IBB? Two, basically. His overthrow of the military regime led by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in August 1985, and his annulling of the nation's free and fair election won by Basorun M.K.O. Abiola in June 1993. For these two infractions, consider me an anti-IBB any day, anytime. Well, except if he repents, which he has an opportunity to do now.

Under the Buhari regime which lasted between December 31, 1983 and August 27, 1985, there was a sense of mission. Along with his number two man, Babatunde Idiagbon, Buhari made it clear that he was leading the country somewhere, and with perseverance and forbearance, we would have got there. Like every human being, the head of state made mistakes, but I believe they were mistakes of the head, not of the heart. The intentions were clearly noble and nationalistic. But then, IBB struck. He overthrew that regime for purely self-serving reasons. He aborted our march to Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, and returned us to Egypt, the land of bondage and servitude. He held us captive for eight good years.

When we finally removed his yoke off our necks, wriggled free from his grasp of death, he gave us the unkindest cut of all before he left. He voided a widely acceptable election, thus torpedoing a convoluted transition programme that had cost billions of naira. IBB then became, in my estimation, an enemy of the country. It's a position I've taken for years, and which I still maintain. But now, he has an opportunity for penance, perhaps the last chance. Knocking hard at 70, time and tide waits for no man, and we have to seize every opportunity by the forelock.

Just as I've always been anti-IBB, I've always also been pro-Buhari. And no apologies. Today, Buhari is bidding to be president, which I believe is his last outing, having thrown his hat into the ring in 2003 and 2007. On both occasions, the elections went so badly that we cannot say he lost well and true. Now, he's on the march again. Significantly, Buhari is not bidding for the presidency on the basis of zoning, which has been a quite contentious issue in the past one year. He's running just as a Nigerian, who incidentally comes from the North. But on his part, Babangida is an apostle of zoning. He believes it is the path to sustainable fairness and equity in the country.

That was why he submitted himself to the consensus arrangement by the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF). He still believes in the cause, even after the consensus candidate, Atiku Abubakar, was brazenly manipulated out of the primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). What should IBB do now? Throw his weight behind Buhari. Is that not a contradiction? How can he support a man he booted out of power in 1985, and whom he had then accused of all sorts of misdemeanour? Won't Buhari come for his pound of flesh after he gets to power, probing IBB, and stripping him bare of all he has? These are valid posers.

No doubt, Babangida has a lot of clout in the country, except with people like us who have been in the trenches against him since 1985. The best way he can deploy that clout now, I think, is to back Buhari in the presidential race. And I'm not saying back him to just win in Niger and Zamfara states, as we saw in the PDP primaries, but back him effectively and robustly in all the places he has influence round the country.

IBB backing Buhari, will that not be a taint? A man with plenty question marks supporting one we consider whistle clean, with tons and tons of integrity. Should Buhari even allow it? Is it not a smear and stigma? Not in politics. Did you ever think a Nuhu Ribadu would campaign on the same platform with a Bola Tinubu or Saminu Turaki? Or even belonging to the same party with Attahiru Bafarawa? These were the people he had called rogues to our hearing pre-2007. He even reportedly described the then new party, Action Congress, as Congress of Thieves.

Now, he's presidential candidate of that same party. Strange? Quite. But not incredulous. It is part of the power game. If you want to catch a monkey, you have to behave like a monkey. For people like Buhari or Ribadu to ever be president, they have to work with all sorts of people, who can provide them the needed platform and leverage. What they do with power when they get it will be a completely different ball game. You stoop to conquer.

But should IBB fear a probe and vendetta if he backs Buhari to power? Not likely. This Buhari is looking forward, not into the past. Yes, anyone who steals in the Buhari/Bakare dispensation will have himself to blame, but I doubt if energy will be dissipated in probing the past. The country needs straightening out, and that is what the honest duo will be engaged with. I tell you, change is coming to Nigeria if we get the two honest men into power. Every other option is business as usual. For once, we can voluntarily elect men we can trust, and who will serve us with every kobo that comes into our treasury. Anyone who steals in that dispensation, and is caught, will surely be a goner. Don't you like that kind of Nigeria? And don't forget what IBB told Pointblank News, an online medium late last year: 'I respect Buhari. He was my boss.

He was an honourable man, and I can say it anywhere.' Now is the time to say and prove it.

IBB short-circuited a noble process in 1985. In 1993, he did us in again in a very cruel way, and those who connived with him then are still around, unrepentant, un-exposed. They continue with their nefarious activities. Will we remain consigned in this vicious cycle? Not if IBB does his penance now. He has taken responsibility many times for the 1993 election annulment, but we said no, taking responsibility is not the same thing as apologizing. I know one of his close friends who even set up an opportunity for him to apologise to Nigerians in year 2000. He balked at the last minute. He can use this last chance well. Throw his weight behind Buhari actively, and facilitate the emergence of a honest leader for us. Some of us can then find a place in our hearts to forgive him. Like Marie Correlie wrote in Ziska, 'Even with a late repentance, love covers all.' IBB's repentance would be late, but better late then never.

Anambra's 'Group of Death'
When pairings are released in soccer tournaments, and you have two or three great soccer playing nations in the same group, it is often called 'Group of Death.' That is the same thing we have in the race for the Anambra Central Senatorial District in the election coming in a fortnight. Imagine all the people lined up to square up against one another: Prof. Dora Akunyili, Dr. Chris Ngige, Chief Annie Okonkwo, Hon Chudi Offodile, Emma Nweke, and Chukwunwike Maduekwe.

You may say the last two, who are of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), and All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), respectively, are no heavyweights, but what of the first four? The mother of all battles surely lies ahead in that senatorial district, you can be sure.

Dora Akunyili, we know. NAFDAC boss, Minister of Information and Communications, a fighter, honest woman, and many others. Now, she's in All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the party of the incumbent governor, who is believed to be backing her. Her chances are sure bright.

But then, Chris Ngige, we also know. Well-loved by Anambra people, despite having occupied the gubernatorial seat for three years as a usurper. But he fought the malignant godfathers to a standstill, so the people adore him. His party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) may not be a favourite in Anambra, but Ngige sure is. Just by sheer force of personality. A senate seat seems to be cinch. True?

Annie Okonkwo. Deep pocket. Incumbent senator. He lost out in the primaries of the PDP to Chudi Offodile, and then decamped to Accord Party. The day he crossed over, I was amazed to see the crowd that turned out. It would be a yeoman's battle uprooting this man from the Senate, plus his deep pocket.

Hon. Chudi Offodile. We also know him. A two-time member of the House of Representatives, elected in 1999 and 2003, respectively. You may say in terms of legislative experience, he is best positioned among the lot.

He's a successful lawyer and businessman, urbane and suave. And the fact the he worsted Annie Okonkwo in the PDP primary makes him a giant killer. But can his lightning strike again and again, particularly on April 2? He sure would be a worthy senator. I pity the people of Anambra Central Senatorial district. Who will they choose out of these highly qualified people? We wait, we watch. Whoever emerges from this race will surely deserve it.