Ibrahim Babangida is the hope for Nigeria
Ibrahim Babangida is the devil incarnate to the majority of Nigerians. It is understandable. We all know his numerous sins; they’ve become cliché to all of us. His three most grievous sins, according to mainstream media are: He allegedly murdered one of Nigeria’s finest Journalists, Mr. Dele Giwa in one of the most sophisticated and technically-savvy assassination plots ever witnessed in Nigeria. Even though there has been no proof, whatsoever that he murdered Giwa, Nigerians, for some reason continue to believe that he was the mastermind of it all. I do not believe that IBB killed Giwa. He infamously mismanaged over $12 billion from the gulf oil windfall, and then annulled the so-called ‘freest and fairest’ democratic elections ever held in the country- an election won by the late business mogul, M.K.O Abiola.
I cannot defend his sins. The general is responsible for his own misdeeds. But even at that, Nigerians must reminisce on history and realize that all of our leaders have made some grievous mistakes at one time or the other during their rule. As humans, we are allowed to err. We all do. IBB is human, and has erred in his own way. Nigerians cannot afford to hold it against him forever.
But then again, much as we all hate to admit it, apart from the political tensions Nigeria witnessed during his era, Babangida’s tenure was the most economically and socially prosperous regime Nigeria has ever witnessed to date. His economic policies such as the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) were he deregulated the agricultural sector by abolishing marketing boards and eliminating price controls boosted the economy, and has been copied severally by successive governments, without much success. IBB brought about the privatization of public enterprises, the devaluation of the Naira to aid the competitiveness of the export sector, and the relaxation of restraints on foreign investment put in place by the Gowon and Obasanjo governments during the 70s which invariably hurt the economy.
IBB’s era was one of the best times Nigeria ever had. If we as Nigerians choose to forfeit our myopic, lopsided, and narrow-minded negative perceptions of the man- and focus on the economic benefits we all enjoyed during his time, we will realize that in all truth and sincerity, IBB is the only one (at this juncture), who has the experience, the track record, the global influence, and the wherewithal to take Nigeria from where it is now, to where it ought to be.
During his time, there was good public infrastructure. Our naira had good, strong value. Unemployment was minimal. The current power and electricity crisis which we are suffering today were non-existent during Babangida’s time. Of course, there were power outages once in a while, but they were not as incessant as during Abacha’s, Obasanjo’s, or Jonathan’s era. Think about it: Life was good during IBB’s time.
Even though he has been labeled a villain of democracy, IBB is actually a pillar of democracy in Nigeria. It was General Babangida, in 1989 that legalized the formation of political parties. He endorsed legislative elections to a bicameral National Assembly and even formed two political parties, SDP (Social Democratic Party) and NRC (National Republican Convention) to facilitate the democratic process. Granted, he forbade private individuals from forming parties, but he did so to sanitize the system. He was trying to avoid a situation where any Tom, Dick or Harry could just wake up one morning and start a party. Today, we have less-than-credible individuals forming political parties for all the wrong reasons. That was what Babangida was trying so hard to avoid, but it happened anyway.
As we all know, in 1993 IBB annulled the presidential elections, adjudged the freest and fairest elections ever conducted in Nigeria which saw MKO Abiola emerge as winner. It was probably the wrong thing to do. But don’t expect a General, an old soldier for that matter, to go down on his knees and beg for forgiveness. A general’s ego will never permit that. Nigerians should understand. IBB has, though, severally, and in many ways hinted that he regrets his actions on June 12. He is sorry for the event, and as he famously said, he takes responsibility for all that happened. Let’s leave it at that. Many of our leaders have done worse things, and they are not being as victimized as IBB. The June 12 saga happened 18 years ago, and it’s become a part of our history. Let’s learn to live with it. There is no use crying over spilled milk. Blaming IBB over June 12 won’t do anything to salvage our situation as a nation. Abiola was a martyr for democracy, and he will always be.
If IBB was actually evil and anti-democracy, he could have chosen to stay back in power after the annulment. The Nigerian people could have done little to stop him. He could have rallied his loyal troops, crushed any and all oppositions, instilled fear in the hearts of all Nigerians, and maintained power. But he didn’t. When he sensed Nigerians were angry for him for a mistake he had committed and painfully regretted, he suppressed his personal ambitions and stepped down, paving the way for a new government. IBB could have achieved so much more for Nigeria if he had stayed longer, but we never gave him a chance. Deep down, there is still so much value he can add. He still nurses an ambition to right his wrongs, and to create a greater Nigeria.
IBB is certainly not coming to loot. He is growing old, and he already has much more money than he or his generation could ever need. (Don’t ask me how he got the money). Even if the stakes are power, IBB doesn’t really need the presidency to gain power. He is already one of Africa’s most powerful and influential people. He is not coming back to loot, or kill or destroy. He is coming back to right his wrongs, and to complete the good work he started when he had the crown. IBB really wants to prove that he is a good leader and an astute administrator. Nigerians should give him a chance- only for four years.
In the end, IBB is the best person suited to rule this country. Who else do you think will take us to the promise land? Goodluck Jonathan is Olusegun Obasanjo’s puppet. Obasanjo, who is still secretly seething with anger that Nigeria’s rejected his third term bid, will use his influence over Jonathan to punish Nigerians. Obasanjo will always make sure that Jonathan never achieves much more than the little he (Obasanjo) achieved. If we make the fatal mistake of allowing Goodluck Jonathan return to power next year, Nigeria will be ruined.
Who else is fit to rule Nigeria? Dele Momodu? Please. Or it is Atiku who teamed up with Obasanjo to almost ruin our nation? Or is it Chris Okotie who will bring all the pretty girls in his church to take over government? Of all the individuals who have declared their interest of ruling Nigeria come 2011, who else has the credentials, experience and wherewithal to take Nigeria to its rightful place apart from IBB? Tell me.
Right now, as it is, there are only two good people who can change the situation of Nigeria around, and for the better: God and Ibrahim Babangida.