Following the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo's bombshell of a missive sent publicly to President Muhammadu Buhari few weeks ago General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, former military President cum dictator, had issued out his own scathing statement last Sunday by his long-serving Spokesman, Kassim Afegbua. The press release was tailored, as it were, towards passing a vote of no confidence in the incumbent President's administration. Obasanjo's bomb of a letter was hard-hitting and unsparing enough but that of Babangida was more profound, more undiplomatic, more uncharitable and more disdainful of Buharism. It was brimming with historical events and mindful of the past and present. And the future above all.
While OBJ accused Buhari of many things including nepotism and incompetence Babangida called for a "digital" revolution to replace the present "analogue" presidential situation on our hands. Obasanjo is used to finding fault in every President except himself, this we know to be true. But in finding fault in anyone occupying the high office he often comes out as a moral voice of reason in whom much is still dependent upon. But the same thing cannot be said of Babangida, so his critical take on national issues raised more suspicion, question than it answered.
Soon after the first statement released by Afegbua hit the national news headlines online another counter statement, this time purportedly signed by IBB himself, hit the scene seemingly countering what Kassim released and denying ownership of the content. Confusion set in and Babangidaism, in its bizarreness, was brought forward to national attention once again. Babangida is nearing his grave, so he must have thought that he should intervene now before it is too late! But he needs not to worry about history has reserved a place all ready for him in infamy.
Whereas OBJ's anti-Buhari tirade, issued and signed by himself from Abeokuta, generated some fire and fury across the federation for its characteristic pungency the IBB first literary salvo provoked certain expected uproar leading to some unease at the seat of power. The premier epîstle (followed later by the second) caused an instant confusion simply because of the source. Between the Spokesman and the principal there appeared to be a definitive miscommunication or misrepresentation or both. For one, Babangida has effortlessly muddled up everything around him and about him as a master of subterfuge. For another Kassim Afegbua seemed to have exploited IBB's age-induced ebbing intellectual power and energy to foster his political ambition.
But by standing by the initial statement authored and distributed on his behalf by Kassim IBB proved not to be a coward. He had owned up to the statement even though the messenger served his selfish political interest to some extent. Now Afegbua is going about telling whoever cared to listen about his future political plans as if he was waiting for this moment all his life to use IBB's name and national appeal or notoriety to ride to power at the local, state or national level.
Following the two diametrically opposed statements bearing Babangida's name Afegbua was declared wanted by the Police authorities over what he had claimed emanated from the Minna 'Prince' of the Niger. He turned himself in and was allowed to go home after interacting with the law enforcement agents in Abuja. And subsequently, in what amounted to state-orchestrated intimidation, Afegbua was invited over by the DSS and after interrogation, he was left off the hook. There is no way the security agencies could have 'nailed' Kassim on this one because IBB is very much alive and kicking, radiculopathy or not. It would have amounted to criminal scandal if IBB had not owned up to the statement issued by his Spokesman on his behalf.
And talking about the press release itself Babangida had demonstrated that he has not changed his ways and manners. Reading through same, (that is, the Afegbua version) one had thought that another coup d'etat had been effected by the retired master coup plotter in Minna. It read verbally like a coup speech, something treasonable when subjected to critical constructive analysis.
Between President Buhari and Babangida there is no love lost! Both are former Heads of state and elder statesmen in their respective rights. IBB and PMB were militarily working together in the defunct Supreme Military Council after the former President Shehu Shagari was deposed in the last day of December 1983. While Buhari was 'appointed' the Head of State Babangida was made the Chief of Army Staff. Due to the love of lucre and shady deals Babangida found Buhari unbearable, too rigid in his policies. Since the boys in the military wanted a slice of the national cake something must give. But Buhari and the late Tunde Idiagbon were not in the mood for such corrupt enrichment. So IBB struck with his boys in August 1985 seizing power and sending Buhari away to the wilderness in Benin City.
President Buhari is said to be vindictive much like Olusegun Obasanjo, so he has never forgiven Babangida for overthrowing him nor forgotten how his legacy was almost messed up by the intervening force. When he rose to power in 2015 his first major task was to go after one of the 'golden boys' that carried out his arrest on the night of the bloodless change of government in Dodan Barracks in Lagos. Retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki never saw it coming but by accepting to work under the ex-President Goodluck Jonathan as the National Security Adviser he exposed himself to certain vengeance coming from familiar zone. And by pressurizing the INEC to postpone the general elections of 2015 when it became clear that GEJ was on the verge of losing the poll Dasuki shot himself in the foot! He embezzled billions of Dollars quite alright but he never stole more than Obasanjo or Babangida or others at large!
According to Warren Buffet, the American billionaire business mogul, three things to look out for in the life of any man are intelligence, energy, and integrity. But, he went on to say that in the event of integrity being found in such a man the two others (energy and intelligence) are no longer necessarily important. In President, Buhari Nigerians found a man of integrity but he has demonstrated a waning intellectualism and energy required to accompany integrity to achieve near-perfection of character. To power Nigeria and empower Nigerians we need a high-tech generation to be in the driving seat of power come 2019. So on this score, we agree with IBB and OBJ.
But be that as it may the President ruling over us now is better than Babangida in terms of integrity and patriotism. Comparing the two of them integrity-wise is like comparing orange with apple, dusk with the dawn. Or better still, heaven with hell. General Babangida would forever fail any integrity test because of his crafty 'Maradonic' character developed over time. For eight giddy years we gave him a chance (sorry, he gave a chance to himself) to make our nation better but he played Mobutu in his megalomanic madness preferring the life of opulence as opposed to fiscal discipline and empowerment of the masses. Alas, he failed predictably after squandering millions and billions thrown into settling opponents and organizing a national swindle of a transition programme!
Lo and behold the three famous Nigerian Generals are at 'war' or so it seems! For the uninitiated they are fighting for a noble patriotic cause or better still, for the future of Nigeria -- the past and present having been compromised by them. But for the discerning mind IBB, OBJ and PMB are just engaged in an egocentric self-serving battle for relevance post-Buhari in 2019. The trio, professional militricians in their rights, know us as much as we know them. But the time has changed. And Nigeria too!
Babangida is never in any moral position to advise the young Nigerians to take power democratically from the present aging ruling elite. We know the time is ripe and the future is now as well! Taking over power from the gerontocrats making things worse for our generation remains a duty, nay a task, that must be done. And now is the time to start the mass mobilisation.
By SOC Okenwa