Nigeria on Fire : Nigeria’s Darkest Moment, 1985-98 (IV) – The Cult of Ibrahim Babangida

Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha, the two military demagogues, were not patriots in any debased sense, neither were they interested in protecting the North or anybody for that matter from any ‘foreign’ domination. They were merely two ordinary but psychologically damaged Nigerians who, in their formative childhood years, witnessed and experienced personal humiliation, discrimination and social deprivation at close quarters. This was as a result of their immigrant status in the towns of their birth under the Northern Nigeria feudal system. They secretly vowed to do something about their experiences.

The last thirteen years is a proof that they did do something about it. Unfortunately, they were shallow opportunists with neither faith nor beliefs in any higher principle or virtue apart from the love of money and the magical power of money. They have no visions greater than self but were clever enough to realise their personal ambition, which was, to have their names on the ruler’s list of Nigeria. The total strategy of their operation was rooted in blackmail and in this they excelled.

In their inglorious journey to the top and even after attaining their goals, they blackmailed their friends, their colleagues, their superiors and anybody that crossed their paths. In the case of those who resisted, and such cases were very few, they never lived to tell the story. While one is ever smiling and the other was ever hiding his eyes behind very dark goggles, none of their acquaintances ever doubted the iron-will and chilling wickedness behind the smile or the dark glasses. These two men have no atom of respect for any life; they are the archetypal bad men of popular Hollywood films.

The military rumour mill is full of stories of their ruthlessness and their rising star status was acknowledged by all as second to none in the Nigerian Military hall of notoriety. They started on this part by accident when the northern military officers had to avenge the losses of their colleagues in the first coup d’etat of January 1966. They were among the young officers that performed brilliantly well in their avenging duties. The result of that gruesome episode was the merciless assassination of Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi and many others.

The fearless performance of Babangida in particular shot him into the status of cult heroes. Babangida became ‘The Untouchable’ among his colleagues and superior officers especially those from the under-class regions in the Force. Abacha, one of the greatest opportunists that Nigeria ever sired, saw the rising star of his classmate from the Nigerian Military School, and he quickly tagged along. Their super-efficient role in identifying supposedly state enemies and in rooting out all local subversive treasonable activities from the fatherland was legendary.

In such dastardly and bizarre engagements they never failed and they later succeeded in recruiting and training up similar ‘patriotic’ executioners. This is how Babangida got to partake in every military skirmishes concerning change of power in Nigeria since 1966.

Even Niccolo Machiaveli who the rumour mill claimed is the patron saint and political godfather of Babangida had this to say about those who achieved sovereignty by means of crime, “And yet we can not call it valour to massacre one’s fellow-citizens, to betray one’s friends, and to be devoid of good faith, mercy, and religion; such means may enable a man achieve empire, but not glory.”7

Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha both believed in the invisibility of money power backed by gun power as a veritable instrument for the establishment and protection of the sovereignty of one-man rule. To the first they gave their souls completely. They made money, how they made their money is another story for another day but it must be told. They had always used money to settle anybody who they identified as a likely stumbling block to their desires even before they wrested the absolute political power.

You hear of courtiers that say of them, they are very generous. Of course they were, because they learnt the lesson of blackmailing superbly well and so they know that everybody is ‘buyable’ in the Nigerian parlance. They understand that having intelligence knowledge of the needs of their targets is all a blackmailer requires in fixing the right price. If there is any culture that can be identified with these two men it is the ‘culture of settlement’.

Babangida established a brand new cult or religion in Nigeria, which we shall call Babangidaism. It is very close to a mystical all-consuming faith in the omnipotent power of money. Converts were brainwashed to drop all the cherished values, principles and virtues of their societies. They adopted the end justifies the means philosophy and became totally consumed with only one goal in life: to make big money by hook or by crook.

Every Nigerian was converted: the traditional and the untraditional rulers; the spiritual and the non-spiritual leaders; the city and the rural women; the educated and the uneducated men; the moralist and the non-moralist; as well as the southerner and the northerner. His converts could be found in every community, in every mosque, in every church and in the length and breadth of Nigeria. Since the reign of Babangida every Nigerian has come under the spell of Babangidaism.

Students of sociology, philosophy and psychology need to give attention to this Babangida phenomenon that has completely changed the character of a whole nation. Hopefully, one day when sanity begins to reign in the country, Nigerians will be encouraged to come out of their fears and talk freely about their individual experiences or horrors in the corridor of Babangida-Abacha’s ‘Militarydom’.

It is hoped that one day all the pretending respectable Nigerians who fell under the spell of the High Priest will have the courage to disclose their pains and joys in the hands of their masters. When the time is right and a brand new Nigeria is in place, a Truth Commission must be instituted as one of the means that will be necessary to purge the nation of the evil of this cult of money worshipers.

This national demonic malady, which has befallen all Nigerians, is dangerous, injurious and fatal to the social health of Nigeria. There is no need for anyone who served in the governments of these two stalwarts to go into self-denial. Babangida knew a thing or two about human nature. He knew that the soul of Nigerians, like all human souls cannot be ruled unless broken. Through his religion, Babangida broke the soul of everybody who sets eyes on him or who he sets his eyes on.

Nobody who served in his government escaped his ever smiling but evil gaze. It will be the height of tomfoolery and great deceit if any of his Ministers, Military Service Chiefs, Garrison Commandants, Director-Generals, Chairmen of Parastatals, Governors, Commissioners, Chairmen and Councillors of Local Governments, top or low civil servants, and government contractors of all shades, colours and sizes, pretend that they were never converted into this ungodly cult.

Once again, when the time is right for genuine reconciliation, all worshippers must be persuaded to come forward; to make open confession; to seek forgiveness; and to pay appropriate restitution for the irreparable injury they have caused the nation and particularly for their idolatry. Anything short of this is a delusion that the Nigeria state as presently constituted and managed will survive in to the far future. Babangida’s spell on Nigeria must be exorcised. Until this is done, Babangida and his disciples, who are scattered all over the country, will always be a threat to the social, economic and political health and development of this deformed or incapacitated nation.

The Conspiracy 

Looking at the media coverage of the death of Sani Abacha since June 8 1998, it seems the mass media was inadvertently trying to separate Abacha’s regime from Babangida’s reign. This is most unfortunate. It is one of the major sicknesses in Nigeria, a serious debilitating and chronic case of amnesia. Under the effect of this ailment, Nigerians are prone to a complete blackout of the events of the recent past and they become incapable of recalling from memory important events even those that pertain to their future happiness. As a result they seem to lack the ability to monitor phenomenon over time; to see the link in separate events emanating from the same source; and to draw pertinent inferences that could help them understand issues correctly in order to make valid objective decisions. To avoid this error, it is necessary to remind Nigerians that Abacha’s regime was a mere extension of Babangidas.

Drawing inference from the way the exchange of command was conducted in 1993, it seems the two conspirators had a solemn pact to rule one after the other. The change of baton could have been bloody had Babangida refused to abdicate in August 1993. The only person Babangida feared in Nigeria was Abacha. Observers should therefore have noticed that Babangida was almost under house arrest until the news of the terminal nature of Abacha’s illness started to filter out. Before that time, Babangida was another voiceless Nigerian. However, whatever hold Abacha had on him, one hopes those who know would oblige this important information to the nation. He is still a man to be closely watched. Babangida still believes he could bounce back to power in Nigeria if he wants to or at worst becomes a kingmaker. Nigerians should not, for a second, doubt his capability.

It is easy to be deceived into believing that there is a difference between the regime of Babangida and that of Abacha. Or even the present military regime that is been courted by the international community and some gullible Nigerians. Any difference in the two defunct ‘governments’ whatsoever is just a question of personality style. The basic principle on which Babangida and Abacha ‘governments’ were run is one and the same. The policy orientation of Babangida was a personal vendetta on the established power base of the north. Both men took great pleasure in playing musical-chair game with the centre of northern power. They truly meant to scourge the head of the hidden power in Nigeria. In the process they got sucked into their own vanity and they lost bearing (if at all they ever had one) under an absolute power, which the sages say corrupt absolutely.

Abdudsalami Abubakar, the present incumbent on the military throne of Nigeria, cannot and should not be trusted with the task of saving Nigeria from the valley of death to which his predecessors have consigned her. As a matter of fact no man, and not military personnel either, can give liberty to another man. If a man of reason becomes aware that his liberty was stolen, he must fight to get it back since it is a birthright without which man is of no better value than a kept animal.

Nobody can give to another man a true liberty, whatever is given by any earthly power, no matter how benevolent in the name of liberty, is a farce. The onus is on each thinking-Nigerian to use, as a matter of urgency, his or her God-given gift of reasoning to seek the truth and to identify the lies of our situation as a nation of pretenders.

Nigerian so-called leaders have, since independence, pretended about their love for unity when they prefer disunity since it serves the purpose of divide and rule.

They pretended about their desire for peace when it is under crisis that the new moneymen and women among them are created.

They pretended about their belief in the principle of equality of persons when inequality is the only workable strategy suitable for their peculiar commonwealth.

They pretended about their eagerness for democracy when the traditional rulers and the privileged ones in our midst prefer the status quo since they know that democracy will put an end to their unconstitutional reigns.

It is therefore not surprising that all the efforts of libertarians and true democrats in the last thirteen years have not received the expected popular support from Nigerians who are patiently waiting for a Messiah to deliver them from tyranny, feudalism, nepotism, cronyism and ‘babangidaism’.

They wait in vain because Abdusalami Abubakar is not the messiah on whom Nigerians can throw their political shopping list.

SAM ABBD ISRAEL

11 OCTOBER 1999

(To be Continued)

NOTE

7. Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince. Translated by C. E. Detmold. Introduction by Lucille Margaret Kekewich. Great Britain: Wordsworth Classics of World Literature.  1997. p.33.

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