Former Military President, Ibrahim Badamaosi Babangida declared his intention to be Nigeria’s next President in the 2011 Presidential election, 17 years after “stepping aside” from office in 1993.

Even now most Nigerians are incredulously tuned to believe that IBB (as he is popularly called) is testing the Nigerian political waters to feel the pulse and reactions of Nigerians.

And he got this reaction from Nigerians in torrents of flaks and missiles. Many Nigerians even threatened that Babangida will be stoned if he dares insult the patient sensibilities of Nigerians carrying out his “threat” of presenting himself as one of Nigeria’s next presidential candidates, come 2011. Those who love him so much advised him to forget the presidency and enjoy his ill-gotten wealth for as long as he lived.

IBB who flew the kite of his Presidential ambition on Monday 12th April 2010 told the BBC African Service a few days later about his democratic credentials which included his experience and leadership qualities. He also told BBC “I have conducted the freest and fairest election in the history of our country (Nigeria). The fact that it was annulled is a different story altogether”.

It is true that IBB conducted the freest and fairest election in the history of Nigeria. But what was the result of that election? How can Babangida boast of an election that did not produce a President? Some of the reasons he gave were that Chief MKO Abiola (the winner of the June 1993 presidential election) used his enormous wealth to sway voters and that the presidency was not for money bags. He also said that MKO Abiola could not be president for security reasons as most of the top military officers then did not like Abiola’s face. But IBB did not give us any reason or principle on which he based his annulment? It is the duty of the National Intelligence Agency and SSS to investigate and screen electoral candidates before and not after elections. It is a pity that IBB did not tell the BBC crew the “different story” of the annulment.

Today Nigerians are “judging” IBB by the same measure and principles on which he condemned Abiola. IBB accused Abiola of being a moneybag and using his enormous wealth to sway voters and that some top military officers did not like Abiola’s face.

Today history is repeating itself as IBB is a bigger moneybag than Abiola was in 1993. And today IBB is a pariah cocooned and ensconced in the palatial comfort of his hilltop “heaven on earth”. Today Babangida moves out only in the night and only shows his face openly on very rare occasions. He is even afraid of his own shadow as he knows that most Nigerians do not want to see his face not to talk or think of voting for him.

Nigerians still remember how Babangida ordered his then inhuman and inglorious Army Chief of Staff, late Gen Sanni Abacha to suppress the peaceful demonstration of pro-democracy protesters. General Abacha who later became Nigeria’s president until his mysterious death on June 8th 1998, was then Nigeria’s most insensitive and unrepentant triggerlomaniac. Abacha with his motorised convoy shot and killed 118 Nigerians through Ikorodu road to Marina with many more hundreds fatally injured with gun shots. Babangida has like Macbeth soiled his hands with Nigerians’ blood and his stepping out for the presidency is a demonstration of his ignorance of today’s Nigeria and his ostrich-like lifestyle which makes him oblivious of his surroundings and activities.

Let us now examine IBB’s touted credentials as he flaunted them imperiously at Nigerians via the BBC programme. IBB defended his democratic credentials and offered Nigerians “Experience and Leadership”.

Apparently Babangida, because of the military streak and audacity he acquired, believes that he is a “mighty man of battle” and his thinking is thus compartmentalised in militarism alone. What gives IBB the impression that he is versed in the art of democratic leadership? Military leadership ok, but definitely not democratic or political leadership.

When Babangida overthrew the then popular Buhari/Idiagbon government in a bloodless coup in 1985, most political clairvoyants were skeptical of this sweet talking problem solving military president who did not even make any significant impact in the Nigerian Army in terms of ideological or positive contributions to the growth of the Nigerian Army. I am not talking about expertise in coup planning which was a great plus for Babangida.

IBB came on board in 1985 and the first thing he did was to institutionalise corruption as an unwritten aspect of Nigeria’s constitution. Money was flying into the bank vaults of a privileged few but this had no impact on the economy and the masses.

In fact, it made the economy worse and weakened the naira which Babangida immediately devalued thereby getting more value and naira for his ill-gotten dollar and pounds when repatriated back home in plane loads. Babangida was an expert in carrying hard currency around in jets and planes.

Apart from corrupting the system, IBB also weakened all the democratic institutions of the country not only through corruption but by coercion, intimidation and brute force. The judiciary, labour, workers and student unionism suffered immensely from IBB’s ensnaring double edged speeches and promises. IBB emasculated the Nigerian judiciary with his corruption and divide-and-rule strategy. His government never obeyed court orders and verdicts. The then hard fighting and highly respected lawyer, Alao Aka-Bashorun led a national strike to protest Babangida’s executive recklessness.

In 1987 Babangida threw many labour leaders in jail including Ali Ciroma and Lasisi Ogunde for asking for increased minimum wages for Nigerian workers and in Feb. 1988 he banned the Nigerian Labour Congress and appointed a sole administrator as the then Ali Ciroma-led NLC resisted all pressures to accept Babangida’s “Ghana-must-go” bags.

This period was also the worst season for Nigeria’s former vibrant student unionism. Splinter student union groups emerged from various campuses and thus the strong student union eras of Isaac Adaka Boro, Kayode Adams, Kunle Adepeju, Banji Adegboro-alias Osagiefo watered by the blood of these late heroes were frittered away and replaced by blood sucking and gun totting cult groups which emerged in all the campuses during the Babangida era. Today the campuses have been highly militarised with sophisticated guns, bombs, axes and knives. The students have enough on their hands fighting and killing themselves in inter-gang warfare instead of creating strong bonds and avenues to build a strong student union to defend students’ rights and privileges.

Babangida’s touted credential of experience is a non-issue. What experience did he command when he ruled for 8 years between 1985 -1993. What experience does a good leader need to lead his country to greatness?  The late President JF Kennedy was a very young senator from Massachusetts and he became America’s youngest President (even to date) at age 44. Even President Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s greatest presidents, did not get a second chance as he proved his greatness beyond doubt on his debut but was unfortunately felled by the assassin’s bullets on 15 April 1865 in Washington DC.

Babangida did not exhibit any leadership experience during his 8 years as military pesident of Nigeria. He may have these in quantum as a military commander but definitely not as military president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Babangida’s true credentials are well demonstrated and epitomised in his aliases of “Maradona” and “evil genius”. These are Babangida’s Curriculum Vitae. Babangida earned the Maradona tag because of his impeccable political dribbling skills associated with Diego Maradona, the present Argentine coach and football hero who is also an erratic fellow who scored a goal dishonestly with his hand and called it a “Hand of God” goal.

Babangida has no qualms acknowledging the “Maradona” tag because of his deception and manipulation of the entire Nigerian populace during the June 12 imbroglio and the period of his Hidden Agenda brouhaha prior to his forced resignation due to the nationwide protests occasioned by the annulled June 12 elections.

Another name that excites IBB is the tag of “evil genius” why evil genius? Nigeria does not even want a genius as leader. We only want a truthful, trusted, honest, godfearing and patriotic leader who will protect us not kill us, who will feed us and not pauperise us and who will lead us to the promised land full of oil, milk and honey and not a leader who will destroy our common psyche as a peaceful God loving nation. Babangida does not have any of the above qualities, in fact these qualities are very alien to IBB.

Babangida should even know that age is not to his advantage. Babangida will be 70 in 2011 when elections will take place. And he maybe eyeing two terms in Aso Rock which will bring him to 78 years. Haba, IBB why don’t you choose the honourable option of grooming your son for this exalted position?

Anyway, Babangida should know that Nigerians have not forgotten the $12.4 billion gulf war oil windfall which his administration could not account for up till now. The Dr. Pius Okigbo reports reprimanded Babangida for “many large projects of doubtful viability and many more of clearly misplaced priority”. Projects of such doubtful viability were:

1.    $2.92m to make (a non-existent) documentary film on Nigeria
2.    $18.30m to purchase TV/Video for the Presidency
3.    $23.98m for staff welfare in the presidency
4.    $0.99m for travelling expenses of the 1st Lady
5.    $ 59.72m for security

The Okigbo report noted that expenditure from this dedicated account was made by President Babangida alone and of course he spent a whopping $106 million on his household (the presidency) and his wife’s trips alone and yet IBB boasts that he is the most investigated Nigerian.

When the time comes a leader will emerge who will fully investigate IBB with a microscope and then we will know how he sustains his lavish and royal lifestyle all these years since his retirement. IBB should know that Nigeria has not been static these past 17 years, especially recently. Whoever knew that a Nigerian President could move Maurice Iwu out of INEC. The tide of change has come and we do not need the services of a prophet to know that it will sweep so many hitherto untouchables aside.

The fight against corruption in Nigeria will be incomplete if people like Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and his cohorts are let off the hook to enjoy the national wealth that belongs to the entire nation especially the undernourished and the hitherto abandoned people of the Niger Delta. Nigeria needs a truthful, trusted, honest and patriotic leader. And unfortunately all these qualities are alien to IBB.

•Nanaghan wrote from Lagos, Nigeria. E-mail: bennanaghan@yahoo.com