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Ibrahim Babangida And The Nigerian Presidency

 

By Chippla Vandu


Having seized power via a military coup in 1985, Ibrahim Babangida went on to rule Nigeria for eight years. During this period, his government kept putting off programmes that were meant to usher in an era of democratic civilian rule.

 

This was also a period of mass looting of the country's treasury by Babangida and his henchmen, giving rise to a clique of multi-millionaire army generals.

 

By 1989, when the storm became too turbulent, the dictator finally gave in and lifted the ban on politics. His government approved of (or rather, created) only two political parties—the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

 

These were modeled after the American system. Massive rigging resulted from presidential primaries which followed in mid 1992. The electoral commission swiftly proceeded to cancel the primaries.

A few months later, out from obscurity came a gentleman called Bashir Tofa, who won the NRC presidential ticket. The well known, affluent and hugely influential Moshood Abiola won the SDP ticket. The presidential election was held on the 12th of June 1993. The moment results started trickling in, and it became apparently clear that Abiola had all but clinched the presidency, General Babangida "annulled" the election.

 

Then began Nigeria's nightmarish political crisis, fondly described as an "impasse" by Babangida's state propaganda machine.

Ibrahim Babangida never did lead Nigeria to the Promised Land. He was pressured to leave office in August 1993 by national strikes and public disobediences. Before leaving office (or "stepping aside" as he put it), he handed power over to an interim national government led by Ernest Shonekan, a seasoned industrialist but an utter political novice.

  

     

Father, General, Leader..

  Out of uniform: Babangida gears up for 2007 presidential election

 

Shonekan's interim government was just three months old when General Sani Abacha (at that time the Minister of Defence), seized power through a military coup. The rest is history. Abacha redefined the meaning of the term "dictator" by leading the most brutal and oppressive government in Nigeria's post-independence history.

Recently, Ibrahim Babangida has been using the media to drum home his intention to contest the Nigeria presidential elction slated for April next year.

 

Since Babangida led what is arguably the most corrupt government in Nigeria's history, few would doubt his ability to single handedly fund his election campaign, should any political party be silly enough to make him its presidential candidate. Having taken Nigeria to the brink of disaster in 1993, Babangida should seek other ways of redeeming himself.

The
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of Nigeria has been out targeting those responsible for looting some $400 billion from the Nigerian treasury since 1960, promising to publish their names soon. Should Ibrahim Babangida fail to feature prominently on this list, then the EFCC should be disbanded. Should Babangida make the list, dare then be a morally bankrupt and absolutely corrupt political party that would accept him as its presidential candidate.

Nigeria surely does not need an expired politician as its potential leader and surely not one who misused an eight year opportunity at the helm of affairs. A Babangida presidency in 2007 would be a huge joke and nothing but that. It is up to reasonable and thinking Nigerians who have the means to prevent this from happening.

 

The National Electoral Commission of Nigeria would be wise to ban all previous Heads of State and Presidents from contesting at the polls again—though I doubt it has the power to do so. These people ought to retire from party politics.

 

They have practically nothing to offer to young Nigerians, who in every sense have become both the present and the future.

Chippla Vandu is a Nigerian writer and academic. He blogs as Chippla.

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