The Annuler's Hollow Ritual


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The Annuler's Hollow Ritual




Peter Clavan Oparah




culled from THISDAY, April 2, 2006



For those that take the former military president, Ibrahim Babangida serious, last week was their week. It was a time the ex-tyrant, sent packing by popular backlash against his predilection for perpetuity, chose to reflate their shrinking hope that he would come out for the presidency and ostensibly restore the good old days when Byzantine licentiousness reigned and prebendalism was elevated to a state art. Babangida chose the very lowest moment in the tenure of the present fidgeting Obasanjo charade to make his hollow declaration of intent. He was merely passing a veiled message to Obasanjo that his had been a grand failure as well. And come to think of it; does the fact that some Nigerians still feel that Babangida is our new kid off the block in our perpetual search for redemptive impetus in leadership, contrary to what we know, not speak so low of the Obasanjo pretence on the Nigerian leadership saddle for the past seven years? If what Nigeria needs now is a recycled Babangida, then all has been lost. 

Coming to the Babangida interview, which was celebrated by the press, it was a mere hogwash and typical of Babangida’s outings, replete with so much vaunting self-celebration, cut and sew gyrations, empty sound and fury; signifying nothing. His was a hollow ritual that rather obfuscated than clear the air on why Babangida has not deemed it fit to talk to power since his inglorious flight from Aso Rock. It merely glossed over the fact that this pretender to political wisdom, who was bested in a fight he was both a player and referee, is a puffy creature that reserves no moral or political clout than the sordid nectars that have elevated him to a tin god to the buccaneers that hungrily look forward to the age of uncensored sleaze liberty, when all is fair on the issue of feeding the gluttonous greed of the mandarins that laid the very foundation for the misdemeanors of the present.

Babangida, as usual, refused to come clear on his impression of the present tragedy because he has so much to hide and the present regime obliges him with the criminal exculpation that has kept him off the dock of justice. But such license comes with a heavy price, which is that Babangida would continue to behave like a silly maid who has something to say but can’t find the right _expression because she is under heavy blackmail by her husband. Babangida makes so much noise about knowing how to pass his views to the Obasanjo regime, even when Obasanjo knew no such ways when Babangida was in power. Ask Ribadu or any other person entrenched in the present Obasanjo regime. Babangida knows this, which is why he always hides under rigmarole and equivocations to present himself whenever he is confronted with the abysmal showing of the Obasanjo regime. 

Babangida meant to express his intent for the presidency and he couldn’t find the best way to express it. The press, in desperate search for baits to draw him out, came to his rescue but the press glossed over the fact that his declaration for the presidency was, at best, a drunk’s promise. If Babangida feels that one year to the presidential election, he still needs the blowing of the whistle to throw his hat in the ring, then he is not serious. He may have been grandstanding and in consonance with what we know, playing safe till he feels the coast is sufficiently clear for him to ventilate the base values he made the central canon of his woe-ridden regime as it lasted. In this game of self preservation, the ultimate loser remains the misguided greedy political urchins who have erected sandy castles on Babangida. It was this same dashed expectation that fired the momentous build up to 2003 that ended up in smokes and with Babangida renewing his dubious allegiance to Obasanjo. The same picture will repeat itself in 2007, when Babngida will again develop stomachache and his bewildered hecklers left in the lurch.

But then, if Babangida is interested in the presidency, why has he not taken the fight against Obasanjo’s perpetuity project beyond a lazy reading of how the newspapers project the national assembly members to vote on the third term project, which is obviously ill-fated from the puerile foil that encases it? Why has Babangida not migrated to the trenches to fight for the presidency instead of waiting for others to do the main battle, which will now necessitate the whistle blowing business? In the face of these questions lies a personality terribly conscripted by his incapacities, which however, are self-inflicted. We are faced with a fellow that cannot rise above the heavy burden of guilt imposed on him by willful acts of sabotage he wrought in his eight forlorn years in power. Whether it is on Dele Giwa, the $12.4 billion oil windfall, the corruption inferno, the political crimes that culminated in June 12, the economic wildfire he ignited, the demolition of our value system, the liberalisation of impunity or any of the horrible sins against the nation that Babangida committed against a country that was particularly benevolent to him, the truth is that the man carries insurmountable cans of woes that ill-supports an encore for him. He is very much aware of these impediments and even while his hecklers make a ragtag road show of his non-existent political clout, he knows that this is a mere veneer, a façade that he needs to fend off the indictment that sure awaits him in the long run whenever any assessment of the Nigerian state under him is carried out.

The fact is that Babngida faces a grittier task of fending off the flurry of indictments that trail him and he believes that a most prudent way of managing the situation is occasionally indulging in such hollow ritual as he did during the media interview. His half-hearted expression of interest in the presidency is merely a tactics to give his traducers much work to do than facing squarely the issue of keeping his culpability in the front burners. That is why the issue of his comeback bid has been flickering like a poor wick since 1999 and has consistently found ways to smoulder out, leaving his motley army of hangers-on more confused than when they started on this dry dream.

It must however be stated that the nation is being forced to gobble Babangida’s half wits once again because Obasanjo has woefully failed to lift governance beyond the selfsame warped alley Babangida and Abacha left it and this remains a cherished forte for Babangida. The compromised war against corruption has deliberately left such prime targets like Babangida untouched and the much-hoped-for reactivation of hope, which whetted Obasanjo’s second coming has percolated under the unpardonable administrative deficiencies of the government as well as the regime perpetuity ennui, which has eaten deep into the Obasanjo government, as in the Babangida and Abacha juntas. I believe the Babangidas and their ilk source tremendous impetus in the fact that Obasanjo has bungled the ship of state and this has seen people like Babangida assume the awkward visage of redeemers from the wobbling ship of the present. Even when it is so obvious that such claims reek of jarring contradictions, Babangida and his ilk persist with the hope that perhaps, maybe, such wry reasoning would catch up-after all this is Nigeria!

In our wildest imagination, who on May 1999 would have thought that in 2006, we would have been heckling whether Babangida of all persons, should stage a comeback to the same stool he ran away from in 1993? Who would have thought that we would have been stuck in the lame debate of whether Babangida is fit or unfit to be Nigeria’s president in 2006?

It is the inherent contradictions in Obasanjo’s government that breed the Babangida nuisance, which has found a way to periodically insult our collective psyches through such hollow and worthless rituals as happened last week.

• Oparah wrote from Lagos.



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