There seems to be an obvious strategy to keep the spotlight on
Olusegun Obasanjo and turn the heat on him. Dislodging the former
President from his persistent relevance and effective involvement in
the scheme of things, would move the strategy forward to the next
level. Again, the fighting strategy bares another evil tribal face.
The ball is kicked off by El-Rufai and the return leg at Ota farm
seems to have played into the hands of the waiting strategists.
Balarabe Musa takes his turn to unleash his venom on Obasanjo claiming
sarcastically, that Obasanjo was right for calling Babangida a fool.
After all Babangida made him President. Now loyalists of President
Obasanjo from the geographical region of the former President are
taking on Ibrahim Babangida for his unprovoked attack.
facts as they stand however, revolve around just one issue. Betrayal.
Definitely, President Obasanjo will not be happy to see his personal
and political relationship with his former subordinate officer General
Ibrahim Babangida summarized with just that word. Unfortunately
however, that is the crux of the matter.
now know that General Ibrahim Babangida is strongly aggrieved. He is
reported to have felt betrayed. He strongly believes that Olusegun
Obasanjo has sinned against him and must be punished for his sins. He
therefore allied with the Northern Elders Forum in spite of his anger
at the same forum for rejecting him and picking on Atiku Abubakar to
fight the Presidential battle against Goodluck Jonathan for whom
Olusegun Obasanjo was strongly known to have strategized. For General
Babangida, the idea of combining forces to fight Olusegun Obasanjo,
who – in spite of all attacks over the years – has remained resilient
and relevant at home and abroad, was more urgent than dealing with
Adamu Ciroma and Co. who dared to despise him. After all Ciroma can
still be dealt with at a subsequent time and at subsequent instances.
Olusegun Obasanjo sinned against Ibrahim Babangida by reneging on a
now open-secret agreement reached in 1999 to return Babangida to the
Presidency after he (Obasanjo) was done with his own project in the
Presidency. As I explained in detail in my book “Nigeria’s
Journalistic Militantism”, everyone knew then that both men were not
the best of friends. But having just tasted prison life in the status
he thought was “untouchable” and having seen the number of presumed
friends who deserted him in his plight, Olusegun Obasanjo had his own
agenda. This time, he was not going to have some “Danjumas” or
“Yar’Aduas” pushing him around as was done when he was military head
Obasanjo reneged on the agreement and conjured some Umaru Musa
Yar’Adua from a magic wand to overwhelm the fighting spirit of General
Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, who was forced to eat the humble pie.
This was not before he had at least, tolerated the arrest of General
Babangida’s son on charges of economic crime even though Babangida had
considered himself and his family “untouchable”.
afterwards, when all the dust had settled down and Babangida thought
time had healed old wounds, he came up again in 2011 to run for the
Presidency against Goodluck Jonathan. After all other strategies had
failed to render Olusegun Obasanjo irrelevant in the scheme of things!
All the vehement attacks since 2006 could not do the trick.
Irrespective of the betrayal that Babangida felt from the Northern
Elders Forum led by Adamu Ciroma by rejecting him, he would have run
against Jonathan all the same. But this good old Obasanjo just would
not go. His strategic counseling of Goodluck Jonathan was widely
suspected to have helped in checkmating all northern strangleholds.
Indeed Obasanjo sinned against Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. As Obasanjo
had a clear idea in 1999 on where to steer Nigeria given his past
experience, Babangida may have devised a blueprint that would have
sought to leave positive memories of him in the Nigerian psyche to
wipe away the past negative memories and experiences if he had the
chance to become President once again like Obasanjo had. We will never
know. Obasanjo frustrated him and we can all understand that the man
is naturally an angry man. A very angry and frustrated man. But does
anger justify the distortion of facts?
Moreover a vast number of Nigerians are thankful to Olusegun Obasanjo
today, precisely for this act of ingratitude and betrayal towards
Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida in spite of all the poisonous arrows shot
Obasanjo’s way. Nigerians are thankful that Olusegun Obasanjo has
simply stopped the vicious circle of recycling the Presidency amongst
ailing oldsters in the midst of younger and more dynamic contenders.
The risk of a septuagenarian or octogenarian Babangida or Buhari dying
in office with the attendant implication of the old soviet-type image
of leaders dying serially in office was forestalled and it does not
matter at all if Obasanjo may have done this for self-serving motives.
Ibrahim Babangida has all the rights in the world to be angry and
frustrated at a sense of personal betrayal. As a Nigerian however, he
will understand the result of an overriding national interest cladding
Obasanjo’s actions. General Babangida’s problems lie however, in
separating his personal ambition from the overriding priority of
Shortly after 2007, General Babangida rode on the prevalent wave of
anti-Obasanjo sentiments and declared that Nigeria now knows who
perpetrated “monumental corruption” on the nation. “Monumental
corruption”! A phrase coined by media men to describe the years of
Ibrahim Babangida in recognition of, pardon, in describing the new
sweep-clean mentality of whatever is available in government coffers
at all levels. The mentality of the complete sharing of budgetary
allocation by government officers started taking a stronger turn under
the watch of General Ibrahim Babangida. The scattered gang of
“419’ers” was born under the government of Ibrahim Babangida. It was a
historical and “monumental” episode in the Nigerian theater. Until I
am educated in-depth on the positive achievements of Ibrahim Babangida
as military head of state, I am aware of no single positive
achievement to report in this essay.
Historical records report Dele Giwa, 419, drug trafficking, Islamic
Conference Organization, failed Structural Adjustment Program,
annulled elections and M.K.O. Abiola etc. The only achievement that I
heard was the construction of a long bridge across the ocean in Lagos
and the writing of a controversial constitution.
Babangida sought to shed this ballast and drop the phrase “monumental
corruption” on the shoulders of Olusegun Obasanjo. It was easy in
2007. Anti-Obasanjo sentiments were at their highest. Hardly anyone
challenged him then. Other views were suppressed by majority
it remains questionable to me, if Ibrahim Babangida himself truly
believes that Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime was worse than his own simply
because Obasanjo has more enemies on whose toes he stepped. Even more
worrisome is the fact that General Babangida seems to believe that
Nigerians see these issues the way he sees them. In spite of all anger
at Olusegun Obasanjo and the apparent intellectual conspiracy to deny
all the positives of Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency, records do not
show any instance of one groundbreaking Babangida’s achievement that
compares to the re-payment of Nigeria’s external debts alone, no
matter how it was facilitated. The Internet is awash with
unsubstantiated accusations of drug-smuggling allegedly perpetrated by
General Ibrahim Babangida himself. One fact is clear that Nigeria was
consolidated as a transit land for the smuggling of cocaine under the
watch of General Babangida, whose intelligence and sense of creativity
I strongly admire.
General Babangida’s anger justify comments without proof? How did the
General make his calculation to report that Obasanjo’s civilian
administration earned more money than the country ever earned in all
its years since independence in 1960? This singular pronouncement made
his position at best, simply abstruse and obscure.
Obasanjo in his characteristically uncontrolled temper, should have
deviated from direct abuse calling his former subordinate officer “a
fool at 70”, response from Babangida camp inferring the uncertainty
of Obasanjo’s real age and claims of incest finally uncovers the
bellicose state of mind of General Babangida. It was no longer an
argument and misunderstanding over facts but the sheer intention to
hurt the feelings of the other party with some premeditated agenda.
This is just unfortunate.
Babangida’s comments that triggered the entire debate stating that the
government of President Obasanjo lacked vision and wasted resources
was not only economical with the truth, it was unprovoked in the very
first place. In fact, the statement from Babangida’s camp that the
comments were necessitated by El-Rufai’s testimony before the senate
committee further strengthens the suspicion that El-Rufai may have
acted out a preliminary Babangida’s script.
one, I am pleased that Obasanjo did not only respond to and clarify
El-Rufai’s insinuation of corrupt practices in the specific decision
to privatize the Nigerian Airways, his fight-back against unprovoked
attacks like the one from General Babangida opens up a new chapter in
the quest to set the records straight, no matter the temporary
successes achieved by malicious propaganda. Even though it played into
the hands of the Babangida’s camp, Babangida is not completely having
it his own way and is not getting away unscathed.
truly beats all imaginations how a spokesman would declare on behalf
of General Ibrahim Babangida that the spate of political
assassinations broke all records under President Obasanjo while the
smoke of the letter-bombing of Dele Giwa is yet to clear off the air.
One is forced to wonder if General Babangida truly authorized some of
the statements released on his behalf.
his credit however and in admiration of his infamous ingenuity,
General Babangida’s vituperations did not specifically name President
Obasanjo in the fateful interview. Every subsequent statement
attributed to him was released exclusively by spokesmen. This always
leaves the leeway open to retract such statements as unauthorized when
the chips are down.
I wish President Obasanjo would be calmer and prefer innuendos like “I
dey laugh” when faced with extremely angering moments like this rather
than baring his mind open in honest anger and frustration. The
present-day media world of information consumption is not a respecter
of extroverts and down-to-earth people particularly if they are
politicians. The cunning ones and mental dribblers reap the best of
the media farm these days even though it has not helped General
Babangida in his quest to become a legitimate (not self-imposed
Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic
Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria!