Today marks 30 years since former Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida stepped aside from the corridor of power. His government was not only accused of annulling the June 12 1993 presidential election, but Babangida himself felt that since many had accused him of becoming the issue, stepping aside could provide an opportunity to pull through with the transition programme. That was not to be as General Sani Abacha booted out the Ernest Shonekan-led Interim National Government (ING) to assume power.
IBB’s preference for the title, ‘President’ only reflected his desire for collective participation; something that was strange for the barrel of the gun government. After abolishing the Supreme Military Council (SMC) and replacing it with the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC), the IBB regime ran a government that is akin to a diarchy system where the military and civilians shared the burden of governance. Nothing was settled as long as the public was not allowed to engage in discourse. Desirous of a new political culture, the Political Bureau, headed by Dr Samuel Joseph Cookey, was set up to discuss the way forward for Nigeria’s politics.
At the end, the government adopted a two-party system in the hope that challenges confronting a multi-diverse society like Nigeria would find resolution in the approved two-parties. The IBB regime reshaped the political landscape and broadened new frontiers for infrastructural development. In 1990, he completed the construction of the over 11-kilometre Third Mainland Bridge that was started by President Shehu Shagari in 1980.
The regime established agencies to cater for the development of the country. It is on record that over 40 federal agencies were established to implement initiatives for development, including the Federal Road Safety Commission (AFRC); National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA); Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructures (DFRRI) and the Mass Mobilisation for Self-Reliance, Zero Justice And Economic Recovery (MAMSER).
He appointed technocrats from various parts of the nation, not on the basis of religion or ethnicity but clearly on competence. His administration created 11 states and 136 local government areas so as to free some minority groups from the yoke of oppression.
Though his regime goaded Nigeria into the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC); it also restored diplomatic relations with the Jewish State of Israel. In all this, the defense of the nation’s permanent interests remained the main focus. More than anything, his regime walked the dream of building a new federal capital city. Unlike others before him, he was at the forefront of realising the Abuja dream. It is to his credit that his administration played indispensable roles in setting the foundations for the building of Abuja that has become the pride of not only Nigerians but also Africans.
Despite efforts at launching the country into greatness, like other previous administrations, the former military leader was confronted with many challenges. However, he worked hard to tackle them. Like every human endeavor, the administration achieved great strides in many areas but also witnessed some lows in certain areas. No single regime can do it all within its time as only the continuation process perfects growth of nationhood. Most of the good things, especially the adoption of a two-party system, if it had not been discarded by succeeding governments, should have deepened our party democracy by now.
Despite spearheading massive infrastructural development and changing the political landscape of Nigeria, the main criticism against the IBB regime is the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential poll. Like the true leader that he is; the gap-toothed General has accepted full responsibility for the annulment.
The former military president became the most probed former leader under President Olusegun Obasanjo; the man he assisted in bringing to the presidency from prison. Not one allegation of corruption was established against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The strangulating present level of corruption and the glaring leadership deficits have portrayed General IBB in glorious terms.
I have been privileged to speak with the General many times in the past, and come to the conclusion that IBB remains one of our nation’s greatest leaders whose patriotic roles have been diminished in discordant tunes. As a true patriot of this nation, he is more sinned against than sinning. That is the burden borne by all true leaders. In today’s Nigeria, the former military leader is the most influential leader whose official residence has now become a Mecca of a sort for reputable business actors and political gladiators.
Meeting him two years ago for the first time when he turned 80 was a dream come true. Recalling that first encounter in an article entitled, ‘A Day With IBB’, one of my readers quickly sent me his account number for his own share of what I got from Minna.
No doubt, I told my reader that IBB may be one of the most generous leaders, money has never been my focus in meeting him. To me, IBB is far more than naira and kobo. A session with the former leader who ruled Nigeria from 27th August 1985 to 26th August 1993 is a meeting with a living monument of outstanding intellectual prowess whose sharp memory still dazzle.
I have written many articles on the man some of his critics still refer to as ‘Evil Genius’. I have witnessed both the powerful and powerless thronged to his mansion for consultation and intervention. In him I have come to the realisation that power never left him even when stepped aside some 30 years ago.
He celebrated his 82nd birthday last Thursday without any form of media blitz. Here is wishing the General who was never afraid of taking a decision as president a belated happy birthday wishes. For now, nothing can be done for or against him as he is presently glued to the memories of his past unappreciated by some of his critics. The sordid present has made him a saint.
Without any doubt, IBB’s footprints on the sands of governance is that of a daring adventurer who saw Nigeria, not on the prism of ethnicity or religion, but an opportunity to improve the lives of his fellow citizens. IBB must have had his share of troubles and mistakes, but his good heart for humanity continues to illumine his path even @82. May the future be kind to this exceptional leader and grant him abundant health in the service of God and Country.
Resolving The Musawa Conundrum
Elegance, beauty and Intelligence symbolise the personality of the new Minister of Art, Culture and Creative Economy, Hannatu Musa Musawa. I have never met her in real life, but I recall our telephone conversations sometimes between 2005 and 2007 when I was the Editor, LEADERSHIP Sunday. Then, she was writing on the back page of the Sunday edition.
She is presently embroiled in allegations of not serving the one-year compulsory NYSC scheme. The NYSC has confirmed that she is presently serving with an Abuja-based legal firm as a youth corps member. Her present position as the Minister of the Federal Republic is at variance with the position of the law. The 9th Senate had rejected her nomination as one of the PENCOM National Commissioners by former President Buhari on account of her non-participation in the NYSC scheme.
The appointment of Musawa as minister, while at the same time engaged in the one-year compulsory scheme, amounts to turning our nation into a platform for rewarding lawbreakers. The rules for exemption from the NYSC scheme are clear: Only those serving in the military or security agencies or beyond 30 years at graduation. No country can survive on having two sets of rules for citizens. Nigerians should demand full disclosure on the matter. What is good for Kemi Adeosun (South) should also be good for Musawa (North).