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The perils of Babangidaism - By Chuks Iloegbunam


The public slanging match between Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida, two Army Generals that, between them, ruled Nigeria for 20 of its 50 years, summarises the heavy burden of curse under which the country continues to groan.

If a married couple habitually punched and pummeled each other into gore, blind eyes and broken teeth, why might the sensible expect of such a couple offspring that do not count pugilism and the institution of maelstrom among their strongest points?

Everywhere in Nigeria there is avoidable violence, a legacy of the legendary failures of the quarrelsome twosome and their cohorts who purport, at every turn, to speechify long-suffering nationals of this country on the fine milestones along the road to success.

In places where it is customary to do the right thing, it will occur to both OBJ and IBB as about time they took a rest, or it will strike some individual or quarter, as crucial to advise that the duo took an overdue recessional trip to Silenceville. After all, even the most hardened of eardrums could do with some remission in the dosage of decibels. Of course, there will be time enough to pointedly spell out to General Obasanjo why the allure of taciturnity should finally begin to appeal to him.

As for General Babangida, some of the issues he addressed on his 70th anniversary call for immediate repudiation, before their inimical consequences begin to gain the currency of acceptance by the unwary.

Babangida's principal problem lies in his inability or unwillingness to accept that his military presidency of Nigeria amounted to a resounding failure. Under the delusion of previous political leadership success, therefore, he sallies forth with unmistakable élan, to posit fresh options for Nigeria which, if truth be told, only the thoughtless will accord more than a fleeting attention.

It was IBB that employed the instruments of the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, to demolish the Nigerian economy and render the country's currency almost worthless. It was IBB that introduced the conduction of national censuses in which questionnaires had no fields for ethnic and religious affiliation. In parenthesis, it is important to note that Babangida's 1991 census posted Nigeria's population at 88.5 million. A mere 15 years later, Obasanjo's census doubled the figure to 140 million! What was the arithmetic?

It was IBB that blew billions beyond computation in a tedious political transition programme that culminated with his nullification of the best presidential election ever conducted in this country.

The anomy created by this singularly unpatriotic act lingers to this day. It was IBB that grossly escalated the sectarian divide in this country by smuggling Nigeria, a secular country, into the Organisation of Islamic Countries, OIC. It is this same Babangida that presumes, simply because he turned 70, to harangue the country on political tenure and state creation - two critical issues on which there is no indication that he harbours a desire, however superficial, to come clean. Haba, IBB!

This is Babangida's argument against further creation of states: 'I feel that right now we do not need to create more states. State creation is one of the matters that I think is settled. The new agitations in the states have everything to do with the rotation of power within each state'.

This suggests that rotation is guaranteed only by tininess. But isn't the Secretary-Generalship of the UN, a global organisation, forever running on rotation? Why should the North West geopolitical zone have all of seven states when the South East has only five? Why should Kano State boast more local government areas than all of the South East put together? Isn't the clamour against parity tied to the fact that certain sections of the entity are intent on keeping the cornered excesses in political representation and revenue allocation?

If Babangida was civil in language while positing his anti-states creation views, the reverse was the case when he discussed the single tenure proposal of President Goodluck Jonathan. According to IBB, the proposal 'is too elitist and serves no useful purpose insofar as it did not guarantee three square meals on the table of majority of Nigerians. The proposal therefore is wicked, outlandish, self-serving, (a) deliberate distraction and an outright contempt for the people'.

Unless the lexis of the English language now stands on its head, unless a new English dictionary has surfaced with entirely new and radical interpretations to old words whose meanings were previously very clear, it is difficult to pinpoint what is 'wicked' or 'outlandish' or 'self-serving' in what the President proposed. It is curious to label as a 'distraction' or as 'contemptible' a proposal to amend the Constitution so that, instead of serving two terms of eight years, a President or a Governor sits in office for just the single term of six years.

In real terms, what President Jonathan is proposing is actually tenure amputation from eight to six years. The President has said and reiterated that he will not personally benefit from the proposed constitutional amendment, that he will serve a four-year term and leave the presidency, come 2015. Of course, it is understandable that khaki and agbada politicians who found it impossible to abide by their promises while in power will greet the vows of succeeding leaders with skeptical smiles. But how does the proposal remove three square or three round meals from the Nigerian table?

The entire opposition to the President's proposal is down to either misapprehension or political partisanship. The Nigerian public is being shielded from the truth because those irreversibly disconsolate at Jonathan's presidency must continue to do all in their power to frustrate his best efforts at instituting a new political dawn, mindless of the collateral damage to the country that is inherent in their unpatriotic actions and pronouncements.

They care nothing about heating up the polity, so long as they get a chance to lash out at Aso Rock. Otherwise, how can anyone who does not feed through the wrong passage ever believe or ever propagate the fallacy that a single, six-year term amounts to tenure elongation?

Mr. Chuks Iloegbunam, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.


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