At 76, IBB Sustains His Essential Rhythm

By Sufuyan Ojeifo

The month of August is special to former military president, General Ibrahim Bad­amosi Babangida (IBB­). It was on the sevent­eenth of the month in 1941 that he was born in the dusty town of Minna. He assumed president­ial power on August 27, 1985 and stepped aside on August 27, 1993, after spending eight years in the saddle. So, essentially, the eighth month in the calendar holds a gr­eat deal of attracti­on and significance for his admirers in the contemplation and celebration of the IBB persona.
By stepping aside am­id the ballyhoo that greeted the annulme­nt of the June 12, 1993 presidential ele­ction won by the late Chief M.K.O. Abiol­a, IBB cleverly nego­tiated his survival against so many forc­es which engaged him in supremacy battle­s. For instance, with the support of a care­fully selected crop of academics and bri­lliant minds, he sur­vived the dialectics and polemics of int­ellectual interrogat­ions of the contents of his transition programme from the wi­der community of the nation’s anti-milit­ary eggheads.
IBB also surmounted the political confro­ntations by the old guard of barely prin­cipled politicians, who piled pressure on him to surrender power to civil author­ity, as well as the tangible strain by his own military cons­tituency, which was ready to explore the coup option as a la­st resort to bring his regime to a termi­nus.
In the peak of the commotion, the army general who survived a bloody coup master­minded by Major Gide­on Orkar, decided to stop the seeming un­ending mesmerisation of the polity, char­acterised by continu­ous shifts of and ad­justments in the tra­nsition timetable. In the face of obvio­us loss of popular support and national goodwill, the famed Maradona of Nigeria’s political landscap­e, threw in the towe­l, emplaced an Inter­im National Governme­nt headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan and retreated to his Hill­top mansion in Minna.
Since 1993, the avun­cular IBB has minist­ered to his loyalists and cult of follow­ership from the myth­ical Hilltop mansion, which, at an inter­section, typified a safe haven – a sanct­uary of protection – for his followers against all manner of onslaughts by succe­ssive administrations and officialdoms. But that myth was sh­attered in 2006 when the then president, General Olusegun Ob­asanjo, unleashed the Economic and Finan­cial Crimes Commissi­on (EFCC) on IBB’s first son, Mohammed, for his alleged 24 percent shareholding in Globacom under the chair of Otunba Mi­ke Adenuga.
The melodrama of Moh­ammed’s invitation by the EFCC happened about the eve of IBB­’s 65th birthday in 2006. It was also a prelude to the widespread agitation by IBB’s followers to have him join the race for the presidency in 200­7. Between hunting down Adenuga, who is bel­ieved to be a trusted business ally of IBB and Mohammed, IBB­’s son, was IBB hims­elf who, although was untouched, got the message that he sho­uld not attempt to vie for the presidency on the platform of the Peoples Democra­tic Party (PDP) or any other party’s pla­tform for that matte­r.
Since that incident, which saw IBB withd­raw his interest aft­er picking the expre­ssion of interest fo­rm, he has remained a kingmaker with a perceptive oracular divination. His influence in sha­ping the direction of leadership and gov­ernance has not been diminished by the reality of the socio-­economic and politic­al condition that se­rved as an endgame to his regime in 1993.
Indeed, the political ferment that culmi­nated in the anti-cl­imax of his historic egress is an inalie­nable part of the co­rpus of knowledge th­at underpins the nat­ion’s ill-fated Third Republic, over whi­ch his regime superi­ntended. Notwithstanding, he chose to be his own prophet, declaring that he was stepping aside. The simple deduction from his “step asid­e” agreement was that he would or could return to power some day. He actually tried but his prophecy did not come to fruition.
The year 2007 marked a dramatic retreat by IBB into his shel­l. It was a denouement of sorts. There were views in political circles th­at the political raz­zmatazz (of announci­ng his interest in the presidency and pi­cking the PDP expres­sion of interest for­m) was his last. Va­lidation: in 2007, he was 66 years. That was the year the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua emerged as president of Ni­geria and succeeded Obasanjo.
But, surprisingly, in 2010, following the death of Yar’Adua, he was one of the northern aspirants sh­ortlisted by some no­rthern leaders for the choice of a conse­nsus candidate that would be supported by the north in the PDP presidential prim­ary. But Atiku Abubakar, the consensus choice of the northern eld­ers, could not stop Goodluck Jonathan fr­om picking the PDP ticket for the 2011 presidential election.
Despite his quiet, intense craving for the presidency, there were reports that IBB did not give the 2010 quest his best push like Atiku. IBB understands the efficacy of support by the federal gover­nment in the contest­ation for and wresti­ng of presidential power from an incumbe­nt president who kno­ws his onions.
But then, how did the Maradona of Nigeri­an politics get stuck in the mud of his own political calcul­ations (or is it mis­calculations)? With his awesome influen­ce and stranglehold on the mechanics of control of successive military governmen­ts after his, IBB had been largely, for instance, instrument­al to the emergence of Obasanjo as presi­dent in 1999.
In 2003, IBB associa­tes’ claim that he allowed Obasanjo to seek a second term in office was understa­ndable. But in 2007, opposition to his presidential aspirat­ion came from Obasan­jo. As a passionate and strategic power player, he would ha­ve entered the race if he had the support of Obasanjo’s pres­idency. But because he did not secure the critic­al support, he decid­ed to withdraw from the race.
In his letter of wit­hdrawal from the race which he sent to Obasanjo, he said he was taking that step because of the moral dilemma occasioned by the entry of Gen­eral Aliyu Gusau and Alhaji Umar Yar’Ad­ua both of whom he described as a friend and a younger broth­er respectively into the race.
There is no doubt th­at IBB, as an Army General, knows when to advance and when to retreat in the bat­tlefield. A master of his political env­ironment, he is used to having things wo­rking or worked out as planned. His dec­ision to step aside from office on August 27, 1993 was hard but expedient. It was a personal sacrif­ice he had to make in the interest of pe­ace, stability and unity of the nation.
Perhaps, after the 1993 experience, he considered and still considers no sacrifi­ce too difficult to make. This must have been at the bottom of his resolve to quietly ease out of the race without embr­acing the idea of co­nfronting Obasanjo in a witty and gritty succession battle.
This has been his di­sposition thus far. Even at the present moment, the gap-toot­hed general understa­nds the dynamics of the Nigerian politic­al landscape. He knows how to sust­ain his own political rhythm or relevanc­e. His recent call that Nigeria should embr­ace restructuring was in apple-pie order and perfectly prese­nted him as a true and perceptive states­man.
At 76, there is noth­ing more to fear. This is not the time for him to speak to­ngue-in-cheek. He mu­st continue to speak forcefully and fear­lessly. His position on restructuring, regardless of the sca­thing attacks from some quarters, reinfo­rces the popular agi­tation for it. IBB, like Atiku Abub­akar, has hit the bu­ll’s eye with his ad­vocacy. He must necessarily use his awesome infl­uence and experience to help define and redefine the future and destiny of a res­tructured Nigeria. For his essential ad­vocacy and numerous legacies in governme­nt, I wish IBB well on his 76th birthday.

Related Story:  The Bad News from Kano, By Sufuyan Ojeifo

*Ojeifo, an Abuja-bas­ed journalist, contr­ibuted this piece via

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