General Babangida's Moral Albatross


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General Babangida’s Moral Albatross




Musiliu Adeyinka

sent in by

Ibn Saladin


 February10, 2005



No matter how long General Babangida vacillates in his decision to declare his long-held ambition to return to power in 2007, the obvious moral questions that trail his burning desire to lord it over Nigerians once again will stick out like a sore thumb. Despite the audaciously increasing confidence of IBB loyalists to secure the support of President Obasanjo, the moral tidal wave is unstoppably threatening to shake his ambition at its foundation like a tsunami! Interestingly, this moral tsunami is not one that could subside with the passage of time.


Haunted by the cruel memories of his misrule and personality cult, Nigerians with genuine democratic passion and patriotism are being challenged to stand up and rescue our democracy from being swallowed by kakistocratic order. President Obasanjo’s perceived obligation to pay back Babangida for helping him in 1999 to become President is obviously a contradiction of whatever ethical standards he has ever preached. As Obasanjo once said, “there is no leader that has been credited with a great capacity for mischief, for evil, as Babangida.”


The indifference of the Obasanjo administration to the necessity of publishing the Oputa panel human rights violation report is increasingly heightening public suspicion that there is a hidden pact to return General Babangida to power. A former Minister of Information under General Babangida, Mr. Alex Akinyele, recently told the press that the promoters of IBB presidential ambition are just waiting for Obasanjo’s nod before the “Maradona” finally declares his aspiration to contest the 2007 presidential election. Real or imagined, the increasing closeness of Babangida to Obasanjo’s heart is making Nigerians wonder what becomes the essence of our democracy. The moral health our democracy and nation can no longer be separated from the integrity of those who seek to govern the country. A nation without credible leaders runs the danger of drift and eventual fate of a failed state.


It is now obvious that Nigerians are being told they have no say in who becomes their next President. But can we handle the moral storm that may trail any attempt to impose General Babangida when there are several other talented, experienced, knowledgeable, patriotic and credible Nigerians who are eminently qualified to run for the presidency? One shudders at the thought of such a controversial and tainted political figure being foisted on Nigerians in the name of democracy. Admittedly, there are more credible gentlemen among our retired military officers who can have a go at the presidency in 2007. But the increasing focus on General Babangida, despite the stain that attends his record, is the greatest threat to our democracy and national interest.


A man like Gen. Babangida, who almost caused a civil war in 1993, following his ill-conceived and selfish decision to annul the late Abiola’s broad national mandate, should not even contemplate the ridiculous idea of returning to power. His infamous cancellation of the results of the June 12 election of 1993 had portrayed General Babangida as an enemy of democracy. A man who had no respect for the massive mandate of Nigerians for Abiola in 1993 has no reason to seek the fruits of democracy.


In the wake of his selfish ambition to sabotage Abiola’s mandate, hundreds of innocent Nigerians were shot dead as they legitimately protested the annulment of the election results. One finds it rather unthinkable that a General who can afford to sacrifice his nation’s ultimate interest, unity and material progress, on the altar of his personal ambition, should now expect his gullible fellow citizens to trust him to rule them once again.


Under General Babangida, corruption received the lowest priority (if any) in public policy. Indeed, he treated corruption with such indifference that his regime returned the confiscated loot of former public office holders indicted by the Murtala Mohammed administration, of which General Obasanjo was the second most powerful figure. As corruption is the bane of under-development, the return General Babangida to power will make nonsense of all the economic, social and ethical reforms the Obasanjo administration may leave behind at the end of its second term tenure in 2007.


Any government without integrity is unfit to lead its people. And the moral perception of any government is as good as those who lead it. Throughout his controversial political career, General Babangida had elevated mendacity, mischief, manipulation, disinformation and divide-and-rule as state policy. As a result of this approach to governance, people in government are easily held in low esteem. Lying, manipulation and turning people against one another as a means of holding onto power are inconsistent with the integrity of the institution of government.


Prodigal management of public funds was also one of the main features of the Babangida regime. Accountability never existed in the dictionary of his regime, and even if it ever did, it was merely uttered on the lips of the members of the administration. General Babangida was so notorious in the management of public funds that he took the unilateral decision of transferring the Central Bank of Nigeria from the direct supervision of the Ministry of Finance to the presidency.


When Nigeria made 12.4 billion dollars windfall oil profits during the Gulf war of 1990-1991, the proceeds were mismanaged without accountability. The late Gen. Abacha junta, following a deafening public outcry, initiated what ended as a half-hearted effort to get at the bottom of how the proceeds went up in smoke. The famous Dr. Pius Okigbo panel report, which investigated the scandal, has never seen the light of the day. In fact, the fate of the report is shrouded in mystery and Dr. Okigbo eventually died without seeing the publication of his intellectual effort for public consumption.


With his policies of deceit and divide-and-rule, General Babangida had disrupted so many lives through the promotion of conflicts through such notorious Machiavellian tactics to hold to power. Besides, he had no compunction in deceiving even those who are his elders and betters. He innocently lured many close friends and associates into pouring their lifetime investments in a transition programme he was never committed to implement faithfully. The cancellation of the September presidential primaries of 1992, in which 22 aspirants, majority of them friends and associates of General Babangida, was a good example that conscience and integrity matter little to our political Maradona.


In fact, the cancellation of September primaries in 1992 was the beginning of financial reverses for many politicians who declined socially as result of Gen. Babangida’s treachery. His idea was to make every influential leader economically insecure, so that they could depend on him for survival, hence putting them at his mercy. Chief Abiola’s experience was even worse, because Babangida’s betrayal eventually cost him his life in jail!


A man with this antecedent should never be our role model, let alone earn our trust to become our President through democratic process. His actions in 1993 confirmed he had sheer disdain for the will of the people because, despite the over 40 billion naira public funds wasted in his political transition, he had no contrition cancelling the results of the election. He made millions of Nigerians to waste their time by coming out to vote en masse in an election, which despite its peaceful and transparent outcome, he was never sincerely committed to honour.


With this moral albatross around his neck, Babangida should thank his stars that he was not made to answer for his misdeeds, largely because ours is a country that has short memories or incredible tolerance for crooks. It seems General Babangida is daring the conscience of fellow Nigerians who are desperately look forward to a new democratic order in 2007, when integrity will count as a factor for qualification for public office, more so the presidency, which should set ethical standards for the nation. 





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