By Adeboye Ogunlaja

NIGERIANS were jolted recently by the interview IBB gave to newspapers airing his views on various national issues. The judgement of history is about to start its countdown and it won't be long before we are the wiser for it. I took great pains to read the interview and various issues got a fair hearing from the retired self-appointed military President of Nigeria. For a start in other climes IBB would be in the gulag for the role he played in the annulment of the June 12,1993 elections.
I would like to start my comments on what IBB has to say on the proposed amendments to the 1999 constitution of Nigeria. In his view it was not worth tinkering with the 1999 constitution. What has that constitution given to Nigerians? How can we allow a monumental fraud called a constitution to develop and/or evolve? Can we and must we allow injustice to evolve and develop? He then in his typical IBB style led us into obfuscation ... it should take about three years to conclude an amendment to the flawed constitution.

In the meantime, IBB would have us believe that all is well or would be well while the several sore points in the constitution continue to adversely affect Nigerians. It is instructive here to immediately allude to the situation in the Niger Delta. Do we have three years to continue to exploit, degrade and cheat the oil producing states out of a fair share of the revenue from oil? I am not surprised since in IBB's world which thrives basically on deceit, it would have been possible were he in charge of affairs in Nigeria at this time to say one thing to the Niger Deltans and do something else. You do not need any better indicator of this than to look at the portion of the interview where he said he felt so bad after touring the oil producing areas; and the outcome - he recommended a paltry three per cent as derivation; up from one per cent.

Now this is one example of unacceptable fiscal policies that generates so much tension in the land. By not too far inference, were IBB in power today what magic would he have performed to make the Niger Delta peaceful. All that happened at the recent national political reform conference are still fresh in our memory. The current armed clashes and kidnappings do no good to the image of Nigeria and the likes of IBB are the architects of the problems. How did they do this - they were in power and failed to act on a festering sore. By the nature of military rule, they were able to hold down discontent by repression but all that did not go without challenge as the Saro Wiwa episode did prove. Also, civil society opposition groups by their vehement opposition to the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election forced and disgraced IBB out of office.

In a shameless attempt at revisionism, IBB claimed to have stepped aside when in actual fact he cowardly abandoned a sinking ship and foisted a cruel dictator in the mould of Abacha on Nigeria. What did IBB expect Chief Shonekan to do given the reality of the situation he faced? Was he to dare the military? The whole situation was contrived by IBB and after the judgement of Justice Dolapo Akinsanya on the interim government, he probably thought that Abacha would call him back to power to come in and clear the mess he created in the first place. But of course Abacha had other ideas. He too wanted a piece of the action since Nigeria was their conquered territory to be ravaged and pillageg. And that of course he did. Soon enough our national treasury became an extension of the Abacha family purse. It is sheer wishful thinking for IBB to think he can rule Nigeria again. Never again so say all Nigerians loud and clear. It is possible that IBB's conscience is really troubling him. In that case, he should seek the face of God.

By far the most annoying part of the interviewe with IBB has to do with the unlawful annulment of the 1993 elections. To say that his office as unelected President of Nigeria conferred a responsibility on him to cancel an election in which 14 million Nigerians voted is the height of irresponsibility. Thousands of Nigerians died in the struggle to actualise that election and the winner Chief M.K.O. Abiola who IBB claimed to be his friend also died and his blood and the blood of the other victims is on him. The judgement of history is about to take effect and this is no exercise in clairvoyance. Another election year is here and IBB, the dictator, who will brook no opposition is expecting intelligent Nigerians to vote for him.

I agree though with IBB on an aspect of this interview and that has to do with the role of the electorate who must choose between good and evil, between performance and mediocrity, between deceit and a deep concern for the well-being of the electorate. Now it is the fancy of most commentators to discredit Obasanjo's government. But we forget all too soon that it is the same set of people, I mean people like IBB and his teammate late Gen. Sani Abacha, their military appointees and their civilian cohorts, who ruined the economy of Nigeria. Corruption was institutionalised, settlement became a potent instrument of statecraft. What took over 30 years to destroy, we are trying to rebuild in less than 10 years.

I am not a supporter of the third term project and I remain unconvinced that OBJ wants a third term at all cost. There has been so much repair work and renovation of the Nigerian enterprise and the task seems daunting but as the saying goes Rome was not built in a day ... and also to Obasanjo, do your best and leave the rest. Until I hear directly from the President that he wants to continue beyond 2007 barring an emergency situation that puts our current imperfect constitution even as amended to test, I join those who say let us cross the bridge when we get to it.

So welcome IBB to the political terrain. It is a different terrain from the one you are used to that is, regimentation and diktat. In the world of democracy, we discuss issues exhaustively, tolerate all shades of opinion, we insult, malign and abuse one another and shortly after we reach accommodation. We do not plan coups, neither do we use violence as a weapon of ensuring the implementation of plans, policies and programmes. Finally, we the electorates are hungry and will take money from anyone who has it but don't be too sure that we will do your bidding. Also, there are several areas of the country where we are sophisticated politically and will only judge a man by his past and his promises for the future. So welcome IBB, welcome.

    • This article first appeared in The Guardian, Nigeria

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