YET again, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida has forced himself unto our national consciousness and he has become ‘the issue‘ of the moment, sadly eclipsing far more imperative concerns, including our ailing president and the wobbling polity.

Of course, it is annoying, very annoying, that 17 years after the gap-toothed evil-genius of Minna was forced out of Aso Rock as a self-styled (military) president – an absolute dictator role he played for some eight years – he still manages to remain ”the issue,” willy-nilly, for worse and for worse; for there cannot be any good in a situation where an organisation, not to talk of a whole country, remains under the influence, or grip of an individual, a former leader, no matter what ”genius” they may be.

The case is worse, where a country, in this modern day and age, relies on its old, used, re-used, worsted, and perverse former leaders to give directions and lead it into economic and technological salvation; its beacon of hope. Sad is such a country. And old Babangida and his ilk are at over 70, in this computer age where the average age of those at the helm of affairs, in government, business, or finance, is 40. But it must be said, and quickly too, that, as the Yoruba would say, omode l‘ogbon, agba l‘ogbon, l‘a fi da ile Ife – meaning, the wisdom of the young and the old is the origin of Ife land. And, also, ti omode ba n‘aso to agbalagba, ko le ni akisa to agbalagba – meaning, if the youth can match the elder in the number of fashionable clothes he has, he certainly cannot claim ownership of as much rags. The import is clear, although a spiteful youth could wonder of what use are rags anyway.

Babangida‘s declaration of intent to run for president of the country has jumped onto the front burner of national discourse. He is being taken seriously, and if only to prove to himself that he has not been consigned to the rubbish heap of history, the heat his declaration has generated, and continues to generate, is proof enough.

All of a sudden, the country is awake, the sun is shining, the newspapers are making hay, pro-Babangida folks are rubbing their hands already in anticipation of action. Babangida running is now the debate in every beer parlour, every university staff club, every town hall, everywhere home and abroad.

The Internet is abuzz. To be sure, the divisions are also very sharp, as to be expected. Those up in arms – ready to do battle, even die – against, are as many as those equally up in arms and ready to die for this enigma called Babangida. There is no telling where the pendulum would swing in a free and fair battle. Either side is passionate, even if one is more vociferous than the other.

Vociferous, yes, and given to cacophonous hullabaloo. And the tendency is for those with the dominant din to get wrong in their calculation into thinking that their louder noise means greater number or substance. It is a source of worry for those of us who share objection to an Babangida’s second-coming (shouldn‘t beat Christ to it, should he?) and would not want Babangida as president again for a myriad of reasons.

The facts on ground and dispassionate reasoning sadly do not bear their optimism out. Yet anyone who simply steps back and tries to present an objective analysis of the situation – if only to form part of any strategic thinking and opposition stratagem – is jumped at, ready to be pilloried as an infidel or traitor. O ma se o.

Myriad they are, reasons why a Babangida is not it and shouldn‘t be it, at this point of our national life. Many of the reasons have been flying all over the Internet and regular media: stolen wealth in the billions of dollars; murderous and villainous atrocities; institutionalising corruption; SAP-ing and sapping the country‘s economy; and many more. As to be expected, some of these are grossly, even improbably, exaggerated, and many are fictitious. I am certainly angry that not much has been incontrovertibly pinned down to him, no incontrovertible evidence of assets or bank accounts anywhere in the world in the figures being bandied about; no court action at all and certainly not one resulting in a court indictment or conviction. We even once had a fire-spitting Ribadu there who was saying all the right thing against Babangida and gave us hope that something would come up to pin the evil-genius to the wall – all to no avail.

The reason, however, may not necessarily be because these evidences are not there. Methinks it is more because the whole country and those who govern and determine what holds or falls are the very same people who are holding this country to ransom, keeping us all on the leash. And they are all birds of the same feather, equal rogues or beneficiaries of the very system that breeds and feeds Babangida and the lot. Here we talk of Obasanjo, Danjuma and Gusau. Buhari is out of it and not a civilian in sight.

But we must go back to Babangida and his chances as a come-back-kid. I want to wager some bets: Babangida has more supporters in the South than in the North – in spite of the anti-Babangida noise. If he walks the streets of Delta State or even any other South-South or South-East state, the multitude that would follow and hail him would create a mini earthquake.

Babangida has more supporters in the South-West than the anti-cacophony would accept – and this is evidenced by the headquarters of his South-West campaign in Ekiti State. Which brings me to the other wager, seeing that Ekiti stands for book or dogon turenchi. Babangida has a significant support amongst our academics, intellectuals, and opinion leaders. Many professors would line up behind him any day, many governors (as we now hear of Gbenga Daniel, Oyinlola, etc), many industrialists and economists (as we now hear of a Falegan, Akinyele, etc). So wherein lies the substance of our hope that a Babangida venture will fail?

The big story is the person of Babangida and the character of Nigeria and the Nigerian. Ours is a God-forsaken country. With values completely upside down, the majority of Nigerians worship money, money, and more money. Big-time rogues don‘t get jailed, and when and if they do, they make re-entry on a white charger with a whole community or tribe hailing the return of their hero – some hero.

Then there is the person of Babangida, charming, generous, thoughtful and kind person if ever there was one, as anyone who has met or had dealings with him would attest. Babangida would drop on you in the middle of the night, he would remember your birthday, he would call you by first or nick-name, like MKO Abiola he would remember the name of your wife and children, he would come to your aid when you are most desperate and your world is about to end. You‘ve got to owe Babangida a favour – even if it is the favour of your silence rather than damnation; Omerta, as the mafia keeps.

But Babangida is evil, and like the Esu of Yoruba mythology, a charming devil indeed.

twitterfacebook twitter google