Can you imagine? Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) loves Chief Moshood Abiola (MKO) so much that he now misses him!
So said IBB to mark his 74th birthday. But unlike his power and glory days, when he committed that grave anti-MKO infraction that nearly brought Nigeria to her knees, the public met his declaration with a near-total snub.
Could IBB, the soldier trained to dominate his environment, who once boasted he was not only in government but in power, be fading from public consciousness?
Perish the thought, IBB-philes would roar! But really, is the self-christened evil genius fading out of fashion; and that grim reality had pushed the rather peculiar MKO praise out of his mouth, just to remind all he is still around?
Sure, IBB misses his “friend”. But MKO, wherever he is now, would probably think — and in popular estimation, he won’t be wrong — that with friends like IBB, MKO needs no more enemies!
The IBB-MKO tango needs no elaborate retelling. IBB was military “president”, a civilian gloss on a military dictatorship, which should have warned early enough that his so-called political transition programme was a grand fraud. But he authored it, anyway: a long-winding and serpentine programme supposed to birth a new democratic republic, but which instead delivered death to not a few political ambitions.
But the most tragic loss was clearly MKO’s, IBB’s self-confessed darling “friend” who not only lost his presidential due (courtesy of the presidential election he won on June 12, 1993, but which IBB annulled), he eventually lost his life. Even before that, in the epic struggle to reclaim that mandate, MKO had lost his most senior wife and chief mandate-reclaiming campaigner, Kudirat, making the couple’s children premature orphans, because their parents fatally strayed into politics.
MKO also lost his billion-naira business empire, in the course of the struggle, the empire that watered MKO’s famous charity and philanthropy, which greatly benefited the polity. Finally the country lost a democratic republic. The still-birth Third Republic got truncated for the starkest and grimmest military dictatorship Nigeria had the misfortune to suffer — under Sani Abacha.
So, if IBB now declares he misses MKO, Hardball just wonders: what granite constitutes IBB’s love — a peculiar love that ensures pain but seldom any gain?
Cold comfort, though: the proverbial high and the mighty that aided and abetted the IBB scheme appear having their due comeuppance. For starters, PDP, the Army Arrangement power transfer special vehicle has coughed and spluttered to a halt after 16 painful years of retrogression.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, first pilot of that misbegotten political jet, is condemned to declaiming PDP, and explaining why the best thing to happen to a country he always claims he loves was for his former party to lose power.
David Mark, who rose to become president of the Senate just made dubious history as the first Senate president in Nigerian history to become an ordinary member, no thanks to PDP loss of federal power. He was allegedly active in the June 12, 1993 presidential mandate annulment plot.
IBB himself tried to re-step into power, after “stepping aside”, but found himself a thoroughly damaged good. His campaign was mercilessly shut down, even before the PDP primaries closed.
So, what is IBB’s rather strange professing of love for MKO — a bitter and painful pang of conscience? Whatever it is, IBB must carry his own cross. But Hardball’s friendly advice: he had better come clean and publicly apologise for the great ill he did MKO.
A pang of conscience is a pretty heavy albatross to carry to the grave.