Last Saturday night, I stumbled on a documentary designed to propagate General Ibrahim Babangida’s presidential bid on Africa Independent Television. The last time there was a documentary on IBB on the same station – about four years ago – he was portrayed in a bad light. It seems his media men have finally mastered the spin of reconstructive history. Alas! I saw about 20 minutes of the recent documentary and I could not help but wonder what the world was turning into.
For a fact, lies and untruths are an integral part of politics. Where will politics, Nigerian politics particularly, be without lies? In the case of IBB, there were not just blatant lies but also untruths, distortions and revisionism presented as truths. Have we become a nation of preposterous beings? IBB for 2011! Those three words are the worst things that can happen to Nigeria and Nigerians.
The worrying part of the ghastly spin business is that studies have shown that documentaries are a very effective means of propaganda. If Nigerians do not guard their ”hearts with all diligence”, we can be sure that minds will begin to sway in the direction of IBB, especially the younger generation who have just reached voting age and did not witness the self-styled evil genius’ locust years. Two, three or more of such documentaries and people might begin to think differently of IBB; and a gross mistake that will be.
One of the many ‘achievements’ highlighted in the documentary was the establishment of DFRRI, MAMSER and other similar agencies. But many a discerning mind knows that those agencies were not only ineffective but have long been moribund. IBB was also credited as paving the way for Christian‘s pilgrimage to Israel. But a question for the propagandists: Under whose watch was the nation smuggled in as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Conference? And the IBB claim has a delicious ring of untruth around it. Christians have been going to Israel before IBB‘s birth. IBB was credited as helping to end apartheid. He was also said to have been paid appreciative visits by Nelson Mandela and Frederick De Clerk. So? Pope John Paul visited Abacha. Does that qualify Abacha for beatification? The evil genius was praised for creating many states. Once more, how many of those states are economically viable? Even Abacha created more states!
One could go on and on disproving all the claims made to burnish the evil genius’ image. What, however, was most annoying, to me, was the issue of the Structural Adjustment Programme. The documentary said that he introduced SAP as a way of rescuing the Nigerian economy. Two eminent Nigerians, Chief Olu Falae and Professor Wole Soyinka were cynically mentioned in the documentary to lend a semblance of credibility to SAP. I cannot speak for Falae because he was finance minister under IBB. But with what I know of documentaries, I believe Soyinka‘s excerpt was mischievously edited so that only the part where he described SAP as a good idea was aired.
Nobody in his right mind would describe SAP as a good idea. It was another programme designed by imperialist institutions like the IMF and the World Bank to launch us into another round of ”economic slavery”. Countries like Nigeria, Zambia and Tanzania and certain South American nations who accepted the idea are today wallowing in economic pit. Some are fighting hard to get out of the mess while some African leaders are either too totally confused or too trapped in the morass to negotiate a way out.
When Western economists sit down in their posh offices to design a programme for Third World Countries, they are not likely to bother whether it matches the reality in those countries. And it is understandable. What they see are charts, figures and their selfish interests. African leaders, most often, are too selfish pursuing their personal interests to care about the future impact of these programmes on their nations‘ economies. And SAP, one of those programmes apparently conceived after a bout of vodka and wild partying, was sold to Nigeria hook, line and seaweed. IBB was the brilliant military president in charge of this fraud of an economic adjustment!
No thanks to SAP, the Nigerian educational system effectively collapsed and is still struggling to stand. It was under SAP that it was recommended that too much money was being expended on the Nigerian universities and that university education was not necessary because the country was still a developing one where education was not a priority. You would think that anybody with a pea-sized brain will reject that. But no, IBB didn‘t. Not only did SAP destroy education, it also caused inflation, naira devaluation and hyper-unemployment. Nigerians, who survived that misadventure, will recall the feeling of helplessness, angst and negativity that pervaded the entire country. Today, Nigeria has not fully recovered from those years.
And to think that this is the programme IBB‘s people are brandishing as an achievement and using authority figures to veto! Even the World Bank has tacitly disowned SAP as practised by Nigeria. How many more insults will this man throw at Nigerians before he realises the world has shifted from his ilk. He ordered the execution of thirteen officers in 1986 whilst he was receiving a delegation of eminent cultural ambassadors. He refused vehemently to appear at the Oputa panel. As a testament to his absurdity, an appeal court judgment rules in his favour over his refusal. He has been unable to fully account for the nation‘s Gulf War oil windfall, claiming pompously that none indicted him. And on the issue of Dele Giwa and the infamous parcel bomb, IBB is the ever artful dodger; the Oputa panel recommended further action against the three principal suspects but we know and they know nothing might come out of it. Those are some of the things the documentary ought to include.
Much more than what can be measured, those were the years when brain drain grew the highest. How many Nigerian doctors, engineers, communication and legal specialist are resident abroad? How do we attract our best when spoilers mouth profanities in the name of democracy? Did IBB allow the planting and growth of democracy? With what happened in 1993, IBB‘s revisionists still claimed he paved the way for democracy. Who was pushing the agenda of Association for Better Nigeria? Was it not Arthur Nzeribe and his British lackies? Or was there a maradonic hand of Lucifer? These are questions IBB should be answering not telling us how he gave Nigerians a good time.
Young undergraduates who were protesting SAP lost their lives in the riots that followed. If Nigeria were not the country it is, should somebody like IBB not be answering for his crimes by now rather than seeking to assault and batter Nigerians further? If, as younger man, he could not get a hang of the Nigerian economy but successfully ran it aground, why should we expect him to have learnt to be left handed in his old age?
If he really prepared the way for democracy, then, in what way did he compensate those people who died or were maimed in the post-June 12 riots? What about those whose means of livelihood were destroyed? And INEC’s present boss, Attahiru Jega, was jailed, too!
Enough said, I wish IBB could run. I wish he could win whichever party‘s nomination. I wish he could spend billions (it is the only avenue to milk him of his excess funds). What I don‘t wish him is electoral success. He should lose, and after losing, head for a tribunal which will pass judgment against him! Conscience be darned, it is Karma.