For a leader whose trademark is saying what he would later deny and denying what he would later say, this weekend’s declaration by Babangida that he would contest for the post of the President in the forthcoming 2011 election should not be a surprise. Last year in the face of a visible President Umaru Yar Adua, IBB, as his admirers call him, gave the impression he would not contest the 2011 race through series of rebuttals by his political aides.
The cloud of ill health that seems to be drowning President Yar Adua’s political career, seems to have brightened the future of the former military dictator, whose style of leadership, his critics say, was largely responsible for bringing Nigeria from a lofty height to the current basement of economic and cultural hulk.
Barely a week ago in Abeokuta, Babangida said he was still ‘consulting’ on his plans for 2011 election. This weekend, he came out full blown. ‘The speculations are correct’, he told a group of enthusiastic journalists at the Benin Airport yesterday. Many observers think IBB had for long nurtured the ambition to rule Nigeria after he was humiliated and hurried out of power in 1993, following his annulment of the June 12 Presidential election won by Chief M.K.O Abiola. In 1999, IBB was instrumental to dragging his former boss and fellow military musketeer, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo into the race. His former secretary, Chief Olu Falae also contested the election under the banner of the Alliance for Democracy-All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP coalition. In 2003, IBB was said to have waged stealthy campaigns to contest the election, but had to retreat back into his shelter owing to the decision of OBJ to seek for a second term. In 2007, the former president also made futile attempts but had to shrink back due to the rabid ambition of OBJ to install Yar Adua as the country’s President. It remains unclear if the decision to impose an unhealthy President Yar Adua was deliberately orchestrated to pave way for IBB as part of a large scale military plot to ensure the same clique that has been manipulating the future of the country since 1960 remains the country’s albatros.
With Babangida’s forward march from the public gallery into the ring of battle, the 2011 race is expected to take a more dramatic, ironic and even tougher twist. On which political platform will IBB contest the election? Can he win the primaries? If he wins the primaries, will he win the presidential race? If he wins the race, what manner of civilian president will a conscious dictator be?
Analysts contemplate that IBB has attendants of political parties, some of which he helped fund, to choose for his dream. But it is strongly speculated that he is likely to contest either using the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP or through the chessboard of a new realignment of political forces expected to take shape soon. For one thing, the declaration of IBB, who is in a better position to know the state of health of ailing President Yar Adua has added another common sense to the emerging reality that the eclipse of President Yar Adua’s political livelihood is heading for full circle. This tactically suggests that his health problems are real and damning. It may also give the impression, in some quarters, that the plot of giving the impression that Yad Adua is alive when he may be dying is as useful to his political rookies, who desperately want to sustain their perks and privileges as it is useful to politicians aspiring to take over the presidential stool, IBB inclusive.
It is likely to be in the interest of IBB that Yar Adua is kept alive in spirit, at least that will checkmate Jonathan assuming full powers and therefore hacking him down from the possible vantage position of determining his own successor, if he chooses not to bid for the presidential race. IBB’s declaration also shows the determination of the North, early enough, to send signals to the other geo-political zones that the North is not ready to allow the position to slip from its grip, putting to a critical test any possible aspiration of the Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan to seek an extension or elevation of his presidential credentials beyond 2011.
Observers think given the domination of the political terrain by mainly undemocratic forces that have largely seized power through electoral malpractices, IBB winning the 2011 election may depend less on public goodwill than on the ability of the hawkish system to ensure a ‘do-or-die’ route to his victory. Some think a victory for IBB in the next election will seal any hope for a national economic and political rebirth having ran the country amok for the eight years of his brutal repression which led to moral collapse, malicious acts of corruption and weird egocentric ambitions of a visionless, draconian leadership.
For instance, it is expected that IBB which ran a regime of reckless economy where corruption and ineptitude were celebrated, societal values took a dive for a fatal end, campus cultism and disdain for the sanctity of human life became the order of the day, if he wins the 2011 election, will only rehears the tortuous journey of the past. In a way, IBB’s entry has also raised puzzles about that political prospect of the Acting President. If the Acting President, who as Vice President looked set on one day assuming the post of the President, quits in 2011, what will become his political career? Will he reverse to be the country’s Vice President again under the new President that will emerge next year or he will simply pack his load and return to the creeks of his ancestral home? In one respect, IBB’s declaration has clearly demonstrated that in spite of the troubles afflicting the nation, the 2011 race has not brought into the forefront men and women of vision, of principle, of character, of courage and of deep intellectual conviction that understand the travails of the country and are equipped mentally to bring back the nation from the social and economic calamities that almost every honest person can see.