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Frisky Larr (MA)
Journalist/Interpreter
Author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.
Bochum, Germany
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Why is Babangida so angry?

 

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 military) President.


Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.

The verbal attack seems to have taken former President Olusegun Obasanjo unaware. Accordingly, his reaction was typical. It reminds me of such reactions in his presidential days, which I have always referred to as a product of poor Public Relations Strategy. As we now know through revelations from aides, the verbal attack from former General (self-styled President) Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida that came on the heels of a media interview was pre-meditated. It was a continuation of the treacherous journey started by Nasir El-Rufai at the halls of the National Assembly.

 

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.

The 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.

We 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 of state.

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”.

Long 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 national interest.

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 dominance.

But 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.

Does 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.

While President 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.

For 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.

It 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.

To 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 military) President.

Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.

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