BABANGIDA NOW AN EASY TARGET

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For 13 years, Nigeria's most ambitious dictator lived in near seclusion. It was not easy to know anything that was going on behind the heavily fortified mansion of General Ibrahim Babangida. Now that he has picked election forms with his blood-stained hands, Babangida can be easily targeted. And here's why.

The dictator locked himselft behind the massive premises of his multi-billion naira home to secure himself from unexpected assassination. The going had been tough immediately after the annulment of the June 12 election. Initially, IBB had assumed he could still live like a normal citizen.

No sooner had he tried to venture out than he realized his life was in extreme danger. First, he attended a muslim worship in Kano, where his shoes were stolen out of the thousands at the door. That event shook him a little.

Then he attended another event in Minna, where a cleric turned his sermon into a Babangida-bashing event. That radical cleric blamed him for every damage Nigeria had experienced. That people in his own immediate environment would attack him with passion was an unexpected experience. It shook Babangida to the core.

The result: Babangida became a recluse. For many years after, nobody knew what he was doing behind his mansion, except when he would venture out once in a year or so to attend social engagements, usually in the north. Even when it was rumored he had cancer, no one knew if IBB was really sick.

The turning point was the death of the late dictator, Sani Abacha, and the opportunity for political power guaranteed by the ascension of his kin, Abdulsalam Abubakar, as the head of state. Always an opportunist, Babangida seized the moment,  taking up the role of kingmaker  when he assembled the old brigade to anoint President Olusegun Obasanjo as the guineal pig for the military-political complex  experiment in Nigeria.

Thus, IBB's first trip to Western Nigeria took place when he travelled to Ota Farm to invite Obasanjo to mount the old saddle. Ever since, Babangida made a gradual but steady public appearance, which has culminated in his well-staged appearance in Abuja on November 8 to pick the PDP nomination form.

Now that Babangida is a declared politician, some things that were never possible are now possible. He has lost some of the advantages of seclusion, as he will begin to find in the coming months.

There are a lot of enemies who were kept distant because IBB was nowhere to be found. They include student leaders, radical university academic staff, outspoken journalists, human rights activists, bloggers, market women, motor park touts and his opponents. Babangida will have to attend political campaigns and grant impromptu media interviews. He will just have to interact. There lies the danger for him. Not only can unexpected questions be asked, his political campaigns can easily turn into a mayhem. The dangers of old may come back to haunt him.

Politicians deal with thousands of people daily. Babangida's controlled world  will now be more difficult to choreograph. Inside infomation will, at times, filter to the outside. And some of his followers will betray him, since most of them are operating out of need rather than love anyway. He may be assailed with scandal upon scandal as the elections draw near.

The mass media, perhaps, will most certainly hold the most power over Babangida. He seems to have understood the situation himself, as he has been sending emissaries to court journalists and draw them to his camp. The good news is that so far, he has failed. With a few exceptions such as Elendureports.com and Sun newspapers, owned by Governor Orji Kalu, IBB's boy,  the respected media does not want to hear him.  It appears that many journalists, especially those in the West and Mid-west who suffered greatly during his terrorizing years have decided it's payback time for the general. Heaps of hidden dirt about Babangida's past may begin to come in the open during the campaign.

Anyone should not be surprised when questions like Dele Giwa, Gloria Okon, Jennifer Madike, homosexuality, Ejigbo crash, drug business, Bongos Ikwue and the like overwhelm Babangida's campaign. It will be interesting to see how IBB will wriggle his way out if the press is courageous enough to challenge him.

Dele Giwa's murder alone is enough to bring Babangida down. Should Gani Fawehinmi and some radical journalists decide to take him on at this time, the crisis alone may drown Babangida's talk about repairing Nigeria. But then, there is June 12, Oputa and Okigbo reports, Gulf Oil Windfall and the rest of them. Every single one of these issues can destroy Babangida.

Babangida is now an easy target. Thank God, he finally came out. If he didn't, he would have escaped.

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