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Diary Of A Debacle: Tracking Nigeria’s Failed Democratic Transition, A Review By Charles Alfred

December 12, 2014

Diary of a Debacle: Tracking Nigeria’s Failed Democratic Transition (1989-1994) is a delight. It is an encyclopaedia of Nigeria’s failed third republic. Therefore, it should be in everybody’s’ bookshelf. I know I do not have the power to recommend or correct some errors from the realm of the printers’ devil. However, I pray that in the subsequent prints, chapter seven of the book should be made chapter two. Tribalism in page 62 line 15 should be changed to, ethnocentrism.

I was assigned to lecture (actually, teach. The use of the lecture methodology of impacting knowledge to undergraduates at present in Nigeria is a disservice to them and the nation because of terrible fallen basic standards) a General Studies’ course, GS 203: Nigerian People, Culture and Citizenship, to our year two students in my university. Because of the course contents, I needed to consult books that have eminently covered history of the nation’s pre-colonial, colonial, early post-colonial and the contemporary politics and histories. As usual, books on the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s (IBB) muffled third republic are not easy to come by.


I am an ardent reader of the Nigerian newspapers’ opinion columns. While reading one of Olatunji Dara’s articles, in the, The Nation Newspaper; a senior colleague and a father figure tossed a book on my lap. Out of curiosity, I glanced to check what it was all about. Voila! It was the Diary of a Debacle: Tracking Nigeria’s Failed Democratic Transition (1989-1994). At first, I thought of recommending the nine-chapter (411 pages) book to my students, as part of their reading list. I rescinded on my earlier decision. My reason for retracting, after reading the book, is simply because of the “big-big grammar” that many Nigerian students (who are products of “miracle centres”) are unfamiliar with. By the way, “Miracle Centres” are dubious outfits that assist examination cheats to obtain WAEC grades and JAMB scores for qualifications to gain admissions to the universities and other tertiary institutions.

Diary of a Debacle: Tracking Nigeria’s Failed Democratic Transition (1989-1994), published in Ibadan (four years ago), covered the whole history of the aborted third republic in a comprehensively supreme style that IBB official “hagiographers” whimsically called the, “IBB Era”.  The framework of IBB’s tricks; his best Trick profile that mesmerised and suppressed Nigerians were all revealed and rendered in the book. IBB’s excellent scams forced a Chief, who the author refused to name, to call him, “a devil” (p: 37). IBB’s fine tricks also forced Richard Joseph, the foremost Afro-centric scholar, to describe his politics as “…one of the most sustained exercises in political chicanery ever visited upon a people” (p:xiv).

Chapters one to six of the book were overtly bloated with facts. The introductory part of the book is laden with historical antecedents of the June 12 debacle. Those who have so much against the APC presidential hopeful, Muhammandu Buhari, will sieve out some facts the “Liberator” (IBB) gave to warrant the kicking of the former out of “power and government” in chapter one. Buhari’s supporters, too, will find some of his real merits in this chapter. The ignoble roles university professors, who became IBB sophists and palace intellectuals, were also revealed in these pages.

Let me confess, I was thoroughly ashamed of my senior colleagues’ (the professors) roles in thwarting the nations march to democratic greatness and bliss.

The early chapters also exposed the character and ideological flaws of most confessed-socialists and communists, commonly called leftists in Nigeria—especially those from the ivory towers. Chapters four (A Slow Unravelling And A New Road Map); five (Destination Uncertain); and six (The Unravelling Quickens) were subterranean exegeses of the activities of the “banned, unbanned, re-banned and banned” (sic) political hypocrisies and somersaults of the politicians who wanted to play their usual ball with the Maradona, (IBB). The ‘master dribbler’ thoroughly “broke their waists” in the political field with his ABN, SAP, Peoples Bank, National Bank of Nigeria, OIC debates, Option A4, Zero-party election, SDP and NRC sidekicks and penalty kicks inviting slobbers.

Chapter seven of the book, according to the author, is the “heart of the book from which the volume derives its title.”  To me, this chapter is a “Who-is-Who Character-History of all those Who Helped to Kill and Bury Nigeria’s Third Republic with the main dramatis personae, IBB”. This chapter actually brings to the fore the fact that, IBB was not the only demolisher of the June 12 election. The towering socialism-loving political economist, late professor Claude Ake, in his book, Social Science as Imperialism..., warned that: social scientists of the global South, should not fall into the trip of ‘mathematicising’ and using quantitative analyses/methodologies to present development issues in the field. Such trend, according to him, will blur the real issues of liberation that social scientists are after in the developing countries; and, ultimately, this will amount to imperialism. If not of this pertinent warning, I would have tabulated (and weighted) the characters; their roles; and the verdict, from the book.

In the seventh chapter, significant reference is made to Author Nzeribe, the leader of the now rested diabolic, Association for Better Nigeria (ABN), and Abimbola Davis of the ABN, who “…brought before the Abuja High Court the petition that resulted in the annulment of the June 12 presidential election”. Legal luminaries such as Justice Muhammed Bello, Clement Akpambo, and Justice Bassey Ikpeme—were the early characters that IBB co-opted to kill the transition programme. The unsavoury roles and the fake legitimacy that characters such as Ernest Shonekan, Jerry Gana, Sam Aluko, Prince Julius Adelusi and Prof Bath Nanaji played as members of the rudderless Interim National Government (ING) were highlighted too.

The book also chronicled the undignified supports and mucus that some characters (such as the ex-Sultan of Sokoto, Ibrahim Dasuki, Archbishop Olubunmi Okogie, Shehu Yar’Adua, Tony Anenih, Adamu Ciroma, Nduka Obaigbena, Abubakar Rimi, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, Lt Gen Aliyu Mohammed, Retired Brigadier-General David Mark, Retired Brigadier-General Anthony Ukpo, Brigadier John Shagaya, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Sule Lamido, Dipo Sarumi, Olusola Saraki, Dr Patrick Dele Cole, Dr Okechukwu Odunze, Dr Hamed Kusamotu, Joe Nwodo, Professor Okon Uya,  former Governor Saleh Michika  of Adamawa, former governor Kabir Gaya of Kano, Mathew Mbu, Joseph Wayas, Umaru Dikko, former Katsina Governor Saidu Barda, among others) gave and poured on June 12.

The negative propaganda efforts of Uche Chukuwumerije, Duro Onabule, Tonnie Iredia of NEC, Nduka Irabor, former Edo Governor John Odigie-Oyegun, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, Chief Tom Ikimi, Brigadier-General Halilu Akilu and others were acknowledged and exposed therein in chapter seven.  Of course, like every balanced work, the positive efforts of men and women of goodwill and value then—-that stood up to be counted for June 12—were recorded too. The principled and selfless activities of Gani Fawehinmi, Beko, Falana, OBJ, Abubakar Umar, T.Y. Danjuma, Dr Pius Okigbo, Daniel Azinge, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Balarabe Musa, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Mahammadu Buhari, Mrs Hannah Awo and others were recorded.  

Chapter eight (In The Grip Of The Debacle) majorly covered the feeble attempts by the Shonekan-led “misbegotten” INC to further bamboozle the people to accepting his illegal legitimacy. Altogether, nothing worked in the Shonekan-led INC government.  Life was, then, nasty, brutish and focuses-less. The beneficiaries of the annulled election, won by Cheif Bashorun Moshood Abiola, demonized him. They called Abiola unbeliever because he refused to accept the annulment as an “act of God”. The beneficiaries of the annulled election also told Abiola: “Nobody is bigger than the country”, therefore, he should be grateful and patriotic. Some ‘yeye’ country leaders (Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Zembabwe’s Robert Mugabe), who gave some form of suspected legitimacy to the ING, were rebuked in this chapter. The very last set of collections in the chapter adequately also summarised the early demeaning activities of the Abacha era. The thoroughly negative roles Kalu Idika Kalu, Lateef Jakande, Jerry Gana, and General Oladipo Diya were introduced.    

The IBB last debacle, called ING, disappeared after 85 days; General Sani Abacha used his hot iron boot to melt the ING headed by Shonekan, on the faithful day of November 17, 1993. Chapter nine (The Long Shadow of June 12) sufficiently covered the ‘June 12’ saga, and its aftermath. The first “4-1-9” revelation made, in this chapter, was very shocking. Chief Shonekan, according to the chapter, called Chief Abiola (the winner of the June 12 election) several times, whilst the latter was in exile, to assure him that he would, “come over when conditions were favourable” to become the president of the country. What amused me most was that Abiola believed Shonekan! More baffling was the fact that Shonekan could play such heinous “4-1-9” on a fellow High Chief and countryman.

The confirmation, from the chapter, that, Abiola actually visited (and supported) Abacha when he first toppled Shonekan, almost crippled me. This, to all intents and purposes, melted my sympathy for Abiola. Col. Abubakar Umar’s revelation that Abacha “…swore in the name of God, that he had no other goal except restoring Abiola’s mandate” was the “4-1-9” Abacha used to gain the much needed initial support. That Abiola, also, munificently and gleefully nominated the most prominent ministers: Lateef Jakande, Dr Olu Onagoruwa, Baba Gana Kingibe, Solomon Lar and Chief Silas Daniyan, as members of Abacha cabinet was an exposure that killed my spirit.

A heartbreaking dialogue that took place in the premises of the High Court between Abiola, Kudirat Abiola, his other family members and the author reported in pages 345 and 346, brought back my full sympathy for the winner of the June 12 election. On the cloudy day of July 17th, 1998, Sani Abacha, “the beacon of brutality” died “mysteriously” in his “sleep” after killing Kudirat, Alfred Ruwane, Onagoruwa’s son, Musa Yara’Adua, and others. He also plucked one of the eye’s of the publisher of the Guardian newspaper who was his minister and “who did not know how to comport himself”.

Chapter nine revealed, too, that on the sunny day of August, 8, 1998, Abiola “slumped” and immediately died across the coffee table of foreign delegates who came to persuade him to humiliate himself by renouncing the June 12 mandate he was given by the masses of the people of Nigeria.  Emeka Anyaoku, Kofi Annan and others had earlier engaged the June 12 martyr in the persuasion bid, without success. General Abubakar Abdulsalmi was the head of state that supervised Abiola’s demise.

Diary of a Debacle: Tracking Nigeria’s Failed Democratic Transition (1989-1994) is a delight. It is an encyclopaedia of Nigeria’s failed third republic. Therefore, it should be in everybody’s’ bookshelf. I know I do not have the power to recommend or correct some errors from the realm of the printers’ devil. However, I pray that in the subsequent prints, chapter seven of the book should be made chapter two. Tribalism in page 62 line 15 should be changed to, ethnocentrism.

“Fifth” should be deleted from the last paragraph of page 222. “In” of line 21 of page 208 was supposed to be “to”. In paragraph 6 the word, “theory” is begging for change or clarification.  The articles entitled: “The other Hijackers” (p: 298-300); “Echoes of Decree 43” (p: 310-312); “National Image and Self-esteem” (p: 312-15); and “A Tale of two Countries” (p: 316) should be hacked from the volume. They made the book cumbersome and they did not add anything unique to the real June 12 story.

The bustles of the author of the book under review during this period actually made him a pro-democracy activist and a public-oriented intellectual. And I, therefore, qualify the author in these terms. The book is a call to other editors and living foremost journalists to produce or put their real articles together. Take it or leave it, the universities and other tertiary institutions in Nigeria still need books like, Diary of a Debacle: Tracking Nigeria’s Failed Democratic Transition (1989-1994). Let me conclude with the sentence the author used in ending chapter seven (p: 283) of the book, “May his (IBB) like never come this way again”.   

Charles Alfred is of the Department of Political Science, Federal University, Wukari, Taraba State