It is with every ounce of innate joy that i celebrate the maradonic icon of our nation’s political history as he clocks 80 in a nation where life expectancy has been doing a topsy turvy and presently stands at 61 years for males and 63 for females. It means that Ibrahim Badamosi Babaginda has lived beyond the nation’s life expectancy age which is no mean feat deserving thus the celebrations and warm greetings ferried across the country.
Surviving till 80 in Nigeria is no beans as my generation and the generations after will affirm in popular culture’s lingua; not in a country where our healthcare is in a comatose like shape or where our infrastructure is forever in bad shape, institutions are near absent while those saddled with leadership responsibilities make a general mess of the trust the masses give unto them, the Nigerian is bloodied, bruised and befuddled by the system and where life should be sweet, enjoyable and fulfilling it is instead near the hobbesian point, every one to himself, God for all.
Thus the likes of IBB would be basking in unrestrained euphoria, the pages of newspaper and hours of broadcast time would be bought to eulogise the man, lush interviews would be granted on a number of high rise television stations, where he would pontificate about politics, state of the nation and his tenure as president.
But what exactly are IBB’s legacies, for a man who is loved and hated by a vast majority of people, what can the man who sits atop the hilltop in Minna claim to have bequeathed to us as a nation he governed for eight years and even after, what legacies?
Here is a man who came to power on the enormity of the goodwill of his people and squandered it soon after, here’s a man who promised to walk the talk, but talked all round instead. Heres a man who unlike other millitary leaders (Ironsi,Gowon,Murtala and Buhari) wanted power, threw himself at the power games and wrested it eventually, only to disappoint himself and the nation.
It is said that Ali Mazrui the Kenyan American scholar never forgave Babaginda for failing to take Nigeria into the development index or at least set the country on an irreversible course in that direction. But then, who wouldn’t get angry? This is a man who vested much hardship on the Nigerian people, using a combination of economic policies that wiped away at the middle class and set Nigeria with two extremes, the very rich and the extremely poor.
This is a man who engaged Nigerians on finding the route that was best for its return to democracy but at the end turned it into a state of “so near but yet so far” when he annulled the June 12 elections. Even at that the man has refused to come clean on the real reasons why he annulled such a free and fair election as well as plunged the nation into a political crisis we only recovered from in 1999 and began its healing in 2018 when the Buhari administration officially recognised that election and laid the ghost of June 12 to rest.
Now to corruption, i shook my head in disbelief as he on television attempted to conjure up himself as an anti corruption champion because he allegedly dismissed a governor for mismanaging a certain amount of money. This however leaves us with more questions than answers, otherwise we should be asking if a mere dismissal from office was punitive enough as a measure in fighting corruption, also, with all the known allegations of sleaze and wanton acts of corruption witnessed in his regime, it is not an achievement for one to tout that he dismissed a governor, that obviously is like a drop in the mighty ocean. Truth remains that IBB institutionalized corruption in the country, Nigeria became a “settle” me nation and never before his coming did we see such outlandish and ostentatious display of graft, corruption became so glamourisng that the next millitary strong man after IBB sought to much outdo his predecessor.
This is not to say that there were not a number of positives from his administration, IBB brought panache to governance, he experimented with ideas, maybe a little too much , he also surrounded himself with brilliant people and crafted a number of brilliant policies but for every goal IBB scored, he scored four or more own goals.
Igboeli Arinze is the Managing Editor, realpoliticsnigeria.ng