Depending on who you ask, the name Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida evokes different memories. For a General, who enjoys being called Maradona (remember Argentine football legend Diego Maradona?), no one should be surprised that even after his retirement, Babangida has largely remained a dribbler.
Lately, he was in the news after his spokesperson, Kazeem Afegbua issued a statement on his behalf. Babangida, who thrives in controversies, once again reminded Nigerians that he remains essentially IBB when a counter statement emerged claiming that the former military ruler did not authorise Afegbua to issue the statement.
Another version of the denial said Afegbua tampered with the original statement. There were other versions as well and it became such a mess that even security operatives suspected that a crime might have been committed and declared Afegbua wanted.
Today, no one, except Babangida himself knows the truth about that statement. That is typical IBB. It is IBB being IBB. After all, a couple of months earlier, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had issued a similar statement and no one doubted he issued it.
After maintaining a dignifying silence for a while, Babangida has chosen to step into the spotlight. Many are wondering what messages he is trying to put across.
In a recent interview with Channels Television, Babangida, who should be grateful to Nigeria for how the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election ended, has continued to defend the indefensible.
He said: â€œNobody has ever sat down to say the two persons are friends. What went wrong? We tried to rationalise why we had to do what we did but nobody is prepared to listen to us.
â€œI have never seen anybody write anything on this to try to give people a different version altogether. He (Abiola) knew my feeling; I knew his feeling about the country generally because I do talk about Nigeria with the presumed winner of the truly democratically freest election. We even talked about it during the crisis itself.â€
The former military ruler, perhaps, is not aware of the fact that most of the people who voted for Abiola did not know he was IBBâ€™s friend. So, it was not an issue in the election or after the election. People voted according to their conscience.
May be IBB needs to learn better, because nobody is too old to learn.
But for now, he should be told that the excuse he gave for cancelling the election was illegal and unconstitutional and amounted to an affront to all democratic principles. Period! Is that too difficult for a General to understand? It shouldnâ€™t be.
Twenty-five years after, Babangida should see the indiscretion in his decision to cancel the election. He should stop insulting the nationâ€™s collective intelligence. The best he can do is to keep quiet since he is too conceited to accept that he was wrong.
If IBB cares to listen, for once, Nigerians refuse to be fools. That is why they donâ€™t accept his explanation and justification for annulling the June 12 presidential election. His explanation is not good enough or as lawyers would say; â€œyour explanation does not hold water, so, save us the trouble.â€
For IBB, this should be a time of deep reflection. Before he cancelled the presidential election, he was well loved. Had he allowed Moshood Abiola to serve the mandate freely given to him, Babangida, perhaps would have returned as a civilian president. But he chose a different course and with that decision he destroyed all that is good in him. He should therefore stop blaming Nigerians for his own bad judgment.
Had IBB not cancelled the election, if Nigerians were given the chance to choose a president among him, Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerians would put him first because of the support he enjoyed across the country.
It should be a concern to Babangida that, Buhari, a barefaced dictator could come round to be president, whereas, IBB the benevolent dictator was not even bold enough to come out to contest?
For IBB, Williams Shakespeareâ€™s famous quote is apposite: â€œThe evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.â€
When asked whether he planned to write an autobiography, the former military president said: â€œPeople may not read it because itâ€™s coming from a dictator. Yea, he cancelled June 12 and that will kill the thing about the book, but I will try. I hope one day if God spares my life I will discuss about it (June 12 elections) because I still believe people donâ€™t get what we were trying to put across.â€
Hasnâ€™t God spared IBBâ€™s life enough to tell Nigerians the story?
It is good that Babangida has come to the realisation that people would not read his autobiography. He should stop blaming them. He should look inward to understand why they will not read his autobiography.
In the same vein, he should change his perspective on the annulment. His idea that â€œpeople donâ€™t get what we were trying to put acrossâ€ is fallacious. On the contrary, it is IBB, who should try and understand what the people are putting across. He is the one who does not understand what the people are saying about the annulment.
Nigerians have weighed IBBâ€™s justification for the annulment and found it worthless and not credible, unless, he wants to invent another justification.
If after 25 years, people still donâ€™t get the message IBB is trying to put across, then he should ask himself why? Are the people deaf? Or is my message wrong and baseless?
IBB needs to come clean before he moves on. Nigerians are very kind people. If they can forgive Buhari for the ways he treated them when he was military Head of State, there is no doubt they will forgive IBB too.