On the 3rd of December 2009, I had quipped on my facebook page, “Nigeria has existed as a nation purely on the providence of the masses and hardly by the prudence of its leaders! Here we are once more in a quagmire; what wisdom prevails on our leaders? Time will surely spell it out!” This was 5 months before the passing of late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua on the 5th of May, 2010. This was when the doctrine of necessity was invoked and President Jonathan became in charge of the presidential seat of government until 2011 where he contested in 2011 for the same seat; breaching the unwritten rotational agreement between his party men. He was to breach that agreement again when he insisted on contesting for the 2015 polls, having already served a period of about 6 years as President. He Orubebe-ed Nigerians, but we all were Jega-ed enough not to be distracted from the program of the year — a credible, free and fair election. Wiser counsel prevailed and the masses had made up their mind on changing the status-quo. Providence set in and Nigeria wasn’t on the brink of disintegration anymore as was previously touted by the US and other foreign powers.
In 1999, it was IBB that engineered an OBJ comeback from prison to become the newly democratically elected president – from the south west as compensation for the 1993 annulment. If OBJ achieved anything or everything during his tenure from 1999 to 2007, IBB ought to share and bask in that glory. We have seen clearly over time that not one person or president indeed works alone or takes decisions unilaterally; not in a democratic setting and of course not in a military junta. The western media still ‘hang’ IBB singularly for the annulment, and not the composition he spoke about, that reached that decision. For example, it was well acclaimed and believed that GMB did not stage the coup against SHAGARI, but nonetheless, the establishment or composition at that time, chose him as the C-in-C, and he was hurriedly invited to Lagos from the Plateau, where he was serving as Garrison Commander.
History has somewhat not been kind to the remarkable achievements of Gen. Babangida, as is with all heads of states and persons of notable or exemplary character. It is until after their demise, that we get to appreciate or extol their virtues. The Late Yar’adua was ‘go slow’ and other unprintable invectives, but is now being celebrated as the best of the best, since 1999. They say he reduced pump prices and raised minimum wages. They say he was prudent! But these were never mentioned or appreciated before he left us. It’s as if there is a written understanding that until they are gone, we must not celebrate them. Goodluck Jonathan was clueless but today, he is the father of freedom of speech! Even now, PMB has ‘sworn’ that he will only be appreciated when he is no longer in office!’
Enter the fourth republic of our nascent and ever evolving democratic experimentation, Nigeria has struggled with as many as over 70 political parties, with only two, APC and PDP; dictating the tempo and calling all the shots, taking up over 80% of all electoral seats and offices. Gen. IBB had long ago, in 1992, promulgated 2 political parties, SDP and NRC, and built offices nationwide in every local government of the federation for the two political institutions. Government funds these parties and seemingly, we would have been better off with the two, or perhaps the 5 under Abacha’s junta — but who dares say, when he is also castigated as an enemy of democracy (well atleast not an enemy of Nigeria).
7 billion dollars was used to build the 1st phase of the National assembly. Which means that inclusive of phase two and three, the assembly structure stands at a worth of 21 billion dollars. Meanwhile, IBB built Abuja with 16 billion dollars and as such, all the outcry and connotation of corruption over the gulf oil windfall, is more transparent, and a million times more accountable, than OBJ’s 16 billion power dollars! The Abuja-Kaduna expressway, and the 3rd mainland bridge are huge infrastructural constructs that stand out and have stood the test of time. Were they to be constructed in modern day Nigeria, how much would they gulp?
The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Nigeria Export Import Bank, Nigeria Export Promotion Council, Technical Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation, Federal Environmental Protection Agency, Agricultural Development Program, National Planning Commission, National Economic Reconstruction Fund, National Directorate of Employment, Raw Materials Research and Development Council, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Federal Road Safety Commission, Federal Urban Mass Transit Program, Centre for Democratic Studies, Directorate of Foods Roads and Rural Infrastructure; the list is an endless non-exhaustive enumeration of programs, schemes, institutions and policies that have guided our democratic formative years, and they continue to exist and contribute to nation building and national development. All of these were/ are Gen. IBB’s legacies. Gifts and talents like Wole Soyinka and Tai Solarin and the likes of Prof. Jibrin were all in the employ of the IBB regime.
IBB is one of the most charismatic and charming Nigerian leaders — eloquent, suave, and brave. In my piece on late Dr. Ibrahim Tahir’s 10th year Remembrance, I quoted a weekly trust publication that had reported an account of Tahir’s last few days when he was at the National hospital Abuja. IBB and Ali Gusau were among the few friends of Tahir that cared and persuaded him to be in hospital to receive proper care. 10 years after Tahir’s demise, the duo have indeed been great friends of late Talba, as their doors remained ever open for the family of late Dr. Tahir. If you know him on a personal note, IBB is funny, smart and very interesting to be with, and the roars of laughter and jokes flow on unend. I see his time as a leader of this great country, as a time that saw to the reconstruction of the entity Nigeria, having gone through so much upheaval and ethnic unrests that have accounted largely for the stunted growth of country with vast potential; both human and capital. Nigeria is a unique marriage or location or destiny and having come this far, it is no longer a work in progress but a work in completion. IBB and the likes fought hard for the survival of our famous African giant that is now the largest producer of rice, taking up over 60% of rice produced in Africa.
The south west must forgive IBB for the 1993 debacle. PMB has gone a long way in recognising the Abiola family and has put the family in its rightful political stable. All is set for 2023 and from all indications, a South western candidate may emerge from the APC which looks more likely to clinch the presidential elections — especially with the way PDP is struggling to put its house together.