And General Ibrahim Babngida seems on a course to prove true this assertion made by Prussian general and father of modern strategic study, Carl von Clausewitz.
When it first started to emerge that Babangida was nursing an ambition to return to power as President in 2007, not a few were shocked beyond comprehension.
Many could not just imagine how someone who ruled for eight terrible years, ruined the lives of millions, put generations yet unborn at some disadvantage, stole billions of dollars from public purse, schemed to remain in power till death and had to be chased out, could ever contemplate a comeback.
However, Babangida’s aspiration is proving to be anything but a cruel joke on the people. Even though his statements about the comeback bid have remained ambivalent, his closest associates appear to be in no doubt about it.
As a retired General in the Nigerian Army and a former military instructor at the nation’s Defence Academy, Babangida sure knows about the strategy of using attack to defend oneself. And the role such an audacious strategy could play in his bid to escape punishment for his sins.
Knowing the damage he did during his eight years of misrule, and naturally seeking to secure himself against probable trial, conviction, disgrace and/or death sentence, Babangida decided to strike first.
With that, he knew the people’s thinking would be completely swayed from trying to bring him to justice, to trying to prevent him from assuming power ever again. By this attack, he has successfully put the people on the defensive.
Being a military man through and through, who spent about 30 of his most productive years in the Army, Babangia’s present moves are no doubt influence by some of the things he learnt in service.
As the head of the then military junta, it was widely reported that Babangida made "The Prince", the treatise by the Italian Niccolo Marchiavelli his Bible of ruling. He so much believed in it that he styled himself "The Prince of the Niger".
Given his background and his motive, Babangida’s foray into politics could only be with one mindset. That of going to war. And where else could he draw guidance other than from the wisdom of war strategists of old, like Carl von Clausewitz and Frederick the Great.
Clausewitz, a Prussian general who lived between 1780 and 1891, wrote in his work, "On War", which has been styled the Bible of Strategy, that: "Given the same amount of intelligence, timidity will do a thousand times more damage than audacity."
At another insatnce, Clausewitz wrote: "No military leader has ever become great without audacity. If the leader is filled with high ambition and if he pursues his aims with audacity and strength of will, he will reach them inspite of all obstacles."
On his part, Frederick the Great, who was the King of Prussia between 1740 and 1786 wrote in "Military Instructions" which he sent to his generals at the warfront that "Everything which the enemy least expects will succeed the best." The people are Babangida’s enemy, and it appears his making a bid to return to power was the least they expected.
Babangida’s audacity strategy oozes out of statements by his foot soldiers, the likes of Alex Akinyele, late General Abdulkareem Adisa and Victor Odili. Nine out of ten times when they speak on the aspiration, what comes out takes the "Nobody can stop him" slant. Only of recent have they started adding the "except God"
Even though his boys seem to be all over the place, Babangida is yet to make that no-going back pronouncement on his aspiration. He seems to still be testing the waters. If he is truly a good student of Clausewitz, then we would see him moving boldly forward after such a statement.
For the strategist wrote: "We must,therefore, be confident that the general measure we have adopted will produce the results we expect. Most important in this connection is the trust we have in our lieutenants. Consequently, it is important to choose men on whom we can rely and put aside all other considerations. If we have made appropriate preparations, taking into account all possible misfortunes, so that we shall not be lost immediately if they occur, we must boldly advance into the shadows of uncertainty."
Perhaps he has not moved boldly forward because he trusts not his present foot soldiers. Or have little faith in their abilities. Perhaps he is still making preparations.
Whatever might still be holding him back from moving forward boldly, one hopes that he realises that audacity as a strategy could be a double-edged sword.
It might work wonders and help him escape being brought to book in the immediate future. Or it could backfire and speed up his day of reckoning.