Babangida: Peoples’ Testimony of a village tyrant at 79
Irohinoodua Editorial, August 20, 2020
The usual hypocrisy of many Nigerians took the centre stage this week. Former Head of State, who described himself as the President of this whole country, after staging a military coup had turned 79 years. His name is Ibrahim Babangida.
The praise singers chorused, with flute, lyre and tambourine what they described as the mark of heroism of a man who ruled and ruined Nigeria for eight terrifying years. In glowing tributes, politicians sang his praise and thumb-up for who they described as a towering man of dignity and grandeur. It is understandable. Nigeria is still suffocating under the excruciating feet of people of similar characters who would like to keep Nigeria in the dark alley of rot. There is no doubt that Babangida remains one of the most influential figures in Nigeria today. He is said to be stupendously rich, resources he fleeced illegally while he was unelected impostor in Nigeria and which till date no one has asked him to account for such.
The truth is that Babangida represents the worst any country or generation can be proud of. For a man associated with the most bizarre cases of corruption, robbery of the entire landmass, murder, ethnic chauvinism, gross violation of human rights, ignoble immorality and savage attacks on the media, how some Nigerians decided to cloth him with the fabric of honour beats the imagination of decent people all over the world. This is not to talk about his lying spirit and his covetous tricks and deceits. Babangida indeed was the one that launched the scheme of making corruption a state policy. His Government till date refused to account for $12.4 billion oil windfall raised during the Gulf War. Apart from the stolen oil windfall, the government of Babangida for eight years was not accountable to anybody except himself. He as a person routinely disbursed public funds to individuals and corporate organisations. Those individuals were termed “IBB Boys” all of who deal in all sorts of corruption including drugs and other dirty deals like money laundering. In 1986, he launched the privatization process which he used to raise cash for himself and his family members some returns he later invested in enterprises, including Globacom, said to be one of his front empires. His privatisation projects saw to the sale of many enterprises belonging to the regional governments of the South West apart from providing the impetus for the burial of the historic National Bank, owned by Western Nigeria.
His government from August 1985 to August 1993, saw the fall of human dignity and the rise of fame fueled by shady deals, crime, lies and the destined rise of yahooyahoo boys. Under IBB, the state became the chief custodian of vices, violence, immorality and indecent culture. Gross immorality became the national symbol. Labour lost its honour. Fraud gained prominence, Knowing how to cheat became a national milestone. Babangida’s attacked on free speech was unprecedented. Apart from his government elevating violence and terrorism to a state act, Babangida took after the media with a decisive and ferocious onslaught. He began with the death of Dele Giwa, publisher of Newswatch Magazine in 1996. He pounced on The Punch, The Guardian, Tribune, Concord Newspapers, which he shut down at immeasurable cost to the owners. His attacks on educational institutions were cruel and barbaric. He was responsible for the demise of the Concord group of companies owned by the late M.K O Abiola, his friend whose death cannot be isolated from IBB’s annulment of June 12 elections. Babangida cannot isolate himself from the death from cancer of late Chief Gani Fawehinmi who was detained and made to inhale cigarette smoke from state agents tutored to cloud his cell with carbon monoxide.
Babangida shut schools at will, proscribed the teaching of history in schools and viciously attacked progressive teachers like Prof Patrick Wilmot, of the Ahmadu Bello University, which he sent packing from Nigeria one afternoon. He came mercilessly after the Ife Collective, and other progressives, which he harassed using University Vice Chancellors. Babangida turned the University campuses into a cell of criminal gangs which he armed, urging them to attack, with guns, progressive student movements across the country. Hundreds of progressive students were expelled. Some were killed during anti-government protests. Some were raped by armed security operatives as recorded in Ahmadu Bello University in 1986. He was a cony man who would say something he would deny and deny something he would say. At his inception, he allowed the lie to fly around that he was of Ogbomosho, Yoruba stock, telling some of his Yoruba friends, but three years after he had consolidated power, he issued a signed statement saying he came from the Bulluwayo of the Sullubawa stock in Sokoto and that his Fulani parents had migrated from Sokoto to Niger State. The statement was displayed in every military institution in the country.
The truth is that IBB was a man of little knowledge who nevertheless exploited violence to stage the seizure of the political space which he converted to a fiefdom. He ruled over kind people, whose offense was that they were too good to a man that exploited and diminished their humanity. His Structural Adjustment Programme, (SAP) was designed to pauperize Nigerians, but it benefited the callously rich few. SAP saw the exit of Nigeria’s industrial revolution and the relocation of many promising companies from Nigeria. The subsequent economic meltdown led to the mass migration of the first generation of Nigerians from their fatherland in search of better life. The brain drain took deep root under IBB. The naira was pummeled and dropped from grace to grass. His economic policies led to mass poverty and the destruction of the creative spirit of the average Nigerian. We cannot quantify the number of homes destroyed and the number of people in the cemetery born out of loss of jobs, hunger, fear and trembling.
It impacted the norm of desperation, haste and mutual destruction of trust between the state and her citizens. The social contract was killed. The country became a jungle where might was right. In 1986, Babangida set the country on a path of division when he took the country to the Organisation of Islamic Conference, (OIC) breaking the secular tradition of the country. His transition programme began in 1990 did not end until three years later, a game he had designed all along to fail. Babangida saw two military coups in attempts to overthrow the evil regime. His response was brutal and merciless. The ‘coup’ of 1986 led to the shooting of his best man during his marriage, Gen Mamman Vatsa while the other coup of 1990 saw a bloodbath of young officers later buried in shallow graves. For a country that has been robbed of real heroes, celebrating crooks is not really out of tune with the historic reality of country that is downcast and crestfallen; a country where the concept of good and bad is defined by a man benefits in return, a land where character no longer counts but what makes the hero is how fraudulent you can be. It may not even occur to many, that Babangida’s devilish plots and the conscious destruction of the moral fabric of the country have consequences. Some of the consequences are exactly what we see today in the images of violence, poverty and insecurity for men and women, old and aged, armed and defenceless people alike. At the fullness of time, IBB will be remembered for his cruelty, his inhumanity, his disdain for good conscience and the thousands of souls that perished under this iron feet. History cannot be wronged. It is a question to time.