With his latest fulminations, it would appear the transformation of the self-styled military president from an “annullist” to a federalist has turned full cycle. The kind of epiphany we read of biblical Saul morphing to Paul on the road to Damascus.
With intense words, retired General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida seized the last Sallah holiday to pen a strong petition against the present federal arrangement suffocating the states.
Time, he declares, has come to devolve more powers – and, of course, resources – to the constituents of the federation. With that, IBB deftly keys into the popular mood today as the Buhari administration increasingly looks helpless against centrifugal forces tugging at Nigeria’s soul.
However, the Maradona of Minna has harsh words for those advocating the country’s dismemberment. He even waxes poetic: “The drums of war are easy to beat, but their rhythms are difficult to dance. Starting wars or political upheavals comes with the slightest provocation, but ending them becomes inelastic, almost unending with painful footages of the wrecks of war. I have been involved and its ripples are tellingly unpalatable, with gory details of destruction and carnage.”
Such stirring talk.
But IBB failed to be specific; was he nostalgic of the 30-month civil war or the national paralysis inflicted by June 12?
While we cannot take anything away from IBB’s latest composition for its poetry and perspicacity, its hypocrisy should not be allowed to pass unchallenged, especially for the sake of the generation of Nigerians under-30 unfamiliar with the nuances of recent history.
One, the epistle would have sounded more sincere had the author, for once, evinced some humility by prefacing same with an apology for his poor understanding while in power and therefore the Herodian persecution of those who had foreseen and forewarned that the inherited rickety federal structure was tottering to a collapse.
Indeed, the unique convergence of historical forces of the 80s quite positioned IBB to radically alter the Nigerian narrative for good in the same way Nasser led the Egyptian military to transform the North African country from its age-old feudal squalor.
Rather, Maradona only clamped down on the likes of foremost nationalist Anthony Enahoro and courageous lawyer Alao Aka-Bashorun at the forefront of the restructure advocacy in the late 80s and early 90s. High on the agenda they were pushing then were the issues of fiscal federalism, redefinition of citizens’ rights and return to parliamentary system.
Inspired by the tectonic shift in world order as signposted by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the nation’s progressive community actually took practical steps to convoke a sovereign national conference in 1990. But afraid that the movement could trigger a momentum that would sweep him out of ill-gotten power, then dictator IBB sent his goons to chase and tear-gas the activists away from where they assembled in Lagos.
Across the border in Benin Republic, a similar movement had ushered the ouster of dictator Mathew Kerekou. But the latter’s loss was only temporary. He would reap bounteously few years later as he got elected president democratically through a process dictated by a sanitized political order.
Again, when Maradona now pontificates that “war not romantic”, we wonder if he had, by any chance, come to that wisdom before June 23 in 1993 when, without fear of God nor respect for fellow citizens, he summarily annulled the results of the June 12 presidential elections clearly won by Abiola, thus plunging the nation into needless crises, exacting heavy human casualties, inadvertently inflicting lunatic Abacha on the country for another five dark years.
Only a shameless hypocrite would canvass the kind of lofty views contained in IBB’s statement of last Monday and also be implicated in the June 12 perfidy.
Or, maybe the Maradona of Minna is still groping in the darkness of poor knowledge today. Otherwise, he should know that June 12 had substantially answered some of the national questions for which answers are still being sought today. June 12 had meant an end to ethno-religious tension and suspicion.
For predominantly Christian states voted a Muslim-Muslim ticket that day. A Southern presidential candidate defeated his opponent in his own native state in north. The presidential candidate of Yoruba extraction won an Igbo state.
That was the golden chance Maradona willfully squandered. Alas, he now seeks to affect wisdom long after history had blown the whistle on his sorry reign.