Ballot On The Right Hand, Cudgel On The Left
culled from GUARDIAN, November
Last week, Ibrahim Bademasi
Babangida, widely-known in Nigerian politics as IBB, again jolted himself
into the political consciousness of Nigerians. He obtained his party's
presidential nomination forms, an activity treated by the media as one of
For those who forget
quickly, IBB was the man who led Nigeria from 1985 to 1993. During
that period, some Nigerian citizens, including this writer, say that
IBB single-handedly rewrote the history of our nation - in the
Some of us swear
that IBB's greatest contribution in office was the nurturing
of the phenomenon of corruption. IBB began his era of infamy
by choosing to restructure Nigerian politics from the ground
up. Repudiating the past, he breathed life into two
political parties that were supposedly designed to offer the
people a choice. One party was "a little to the right," the
other, "a little to the left."
successful was his scheme, into which billions of
Naira was invested, that in 1993, Nigerians who had
invested their energies and hopes in the process
were rewarded with the most credible elections in
the nation's history. It was then that IBB, who had
evidently hoped that the process would collapse,
permitting him to continue in office, annulled the
elections, crumpling the results like a soiled piece
This is why it is something of an irony
that, 13 years later, as the nation
struggles from some of the problems that he
personally inflicted upon it, IBB is
investing in the same political process that
he infamously scuttled. I hear he expectes
to contest the election, hopes that it will
be free and fair, and that somebody will not
annul it and send him either to oblivion or
to his death.
To which I say, only in hell!
Nigerians may look indifferent,
maybe even completely stupid
sometimes, but they are not.
Only in hell will IBB
fearlessly and confidently
campaign for office
throughout Nigeria, and not
only survive that process,
but actually win. Only in
hell will he spend his
untold, unspoken-some say,
unspeakable-wealth on behalf
of himself, and win. Only in
hell will IBB ride to Eagle
Square on May 29, 2007, and
ride back out as the
This does not mean
that I count him
out. He may yet have
help, including that
of his friend,
Obasanjo, who has
himself offered us
not one reason to
trust him further
than we can yell a
into his ears. As
Nigerians now know,
unless each puts his
top of a table,
nobody ought to
trust that each has
five fingers, nor
that they are all
Oh yes, IBB
that he will
what it is
said to be.
he has said
Nigeria is a
state, not a
Even that number was not proving to be of much use. In some centres, registration officials did not know how to fix the machines when there was a problem, and some of them reported software glitches. In Yola, the machine still required 15 attempts before obtaining a usable picture of the man.
More often, however, the crisis was not software, but hardware: the batteries that were said to be capable of an eight-hour life routinely ran out faster than an IBB campaign speech. Registration officials had no spares, either!
These problems, by the way, are in addition to the usual menu: officials arriving late, lack of materials, and public ignorance of registration procedure. I am sure that Professor Iwu has thought the entire situation through, and dismissed any fears he can complete the registration exercise at the end of this month, or organize credible elections in a few months. Last Tuesday, instead of being in the trenches, he was personally drafting a politically-correct condolence note in response to the ADC air crash.
Somewhere, IBB is probably just smiling through that large gap in his dentition. He certainly does not sound worried, for which he probably has a good reason. He has been "threatened" by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC), but he has yet to exhibit any pangs of fear. Indeed, he has practically asked the Commission to get behind him, and the Commission has so far failed to get in front of him.
This suggests that IBB knows something the rest of us might not. He is innocent until proven guilty, but it might well be that he is confident the EFCC, despite its big talk in front of cameras, will not bite you unless you are biting President Obasanjo. Either that, or IBB has somehow received the reassurance that the bad news the EFCC has been promising some aspiring office-holders will not be extended to him.
The immediate meaning of this would be that even before the EFCC publishes its sleaze scorecard, IBB already knows he is a free man. Regrettably, this is the current image of the Commission, a character it was never expected to have. The blame would have to go to the EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, who says far more than he achieves, and promises more than he delivers. At this point, Mr. Ribadu is as much a danger to the political process as those he putting in front of the firing squad.
In this one respect, IBB is right; no Nigerian ought to be made to look guilty in public if he is not, or if he knows his way around. IBB belongs in one of those categories and no other.
There are other reasons to worry about 2007, including the Nigeria Police. One of the trophies Obasanjo brandishes around the world as a symbol of the success of his so-called anti-corruption drive is that former Inspector-General Tafa Balogun was found guilty of corruption. Of course he does not tell the world that a man who was found to have embezzled so ruthlessly received only a jail term of six months. Six months is not even enough for a man in Kirikiri shake hands with his own boys that were sent there for not parting with appropriate checkpoint percentages.
In any event, the Nigeria Police is in worse shape today than before 1999, and before it was used as a key instrument for election rigging in 2003. Is the Police capable of supporting credible elections, or will it be fighting for favored candidates and parties?
Speaking of credibility, the Obasanjo administration has continued to lose whatever drops of it remained. While IBB was penning "Presidential candidate" under his name last week, the story was breaking worldwide that OBJ's key assistant, Nnamdi Uba, had been indicted in the United States for laundering money by means of the presidential jet. Worse still, a part of the loot was used to buy equipment for Obasanjo Farms.
This revelation is fully in step with the picture of an ethical vacuum in the presidency that Atiku Abubakar has been trying to describe, a vacuum that sees presidential aides making routine forays to official bank accounts like Super Falcons attackers in front of the Cameroon goalkeeper. The President, I hear, will soon be taking his credibility crisis before the Senate Committee probing the Petroleum Trust Development Fund account. Not exactly the ideal work-day plan of an "anti-corruption" crusader.
It is the moment of truth for the Nigerian voter. If he does wish to rid himself of his shackles, he must plan, and be vigilant. In the back of his head, he needs an extra pair of eyes, one of which must stay awake. In his left hand, he must refuse to be denied of that voter's card. In the right hand, I recommend a cudgel.