Ibrahim Babangida At 78: Leadership and the Burden of Responsibility By Olatunji Abanikanda

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 Ibrahim Babangida At 78: Leadership and the Burden of Responsibility By Olatunji Abanikanda

“To ba buru tan, iwo ni kan ni o ku” literally translated to mean “when it turns sour, you shall be all by yourself”.

This month of August is very remarkable in Nigerian history and more importantly in the life of arguably the greatest (may not be the best) leader of the Nigerian nation. His birth, ascension to power and his stepping aside were all in the month of August.

Yesterday was the birthday of Nigeria’s maverick and most elegant leader in our contemporary history; General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (GCFR) popularly called IBB and nationally nicknamed Maradona for most part of his tenure which eventually led to his ignoble alias of “Evil Genius”.

No matter the hate or derision you have for him, you cannot extricate from him all the good things he did for the progress of the country (his personal ambition of self perpetuation notwithstanding). It is on record that no administration in Nigeria has paraded the caliber of distinguished professionals that IBB engaged in various aspects of governance from health to education, finance, security, rural development and ironically DEMOCRACY etc.

We still remember the likes of late Olikoye Ransom Kuti, Babatunde Aliu Fafunwa, Tai Solarin, Wole Soyinka, Jerry Gana, Humphrey Nwosu and others who held sway at their various Ministries and Agencies. While some of these agencies may be moribund now, the legacies they left behind remains colossal. Is it the Primary Health Care, 6-3-3-4 educational system, FRSC, DFRRI or even MAMSER we want to talk about? Even his wife introduced the flamboyance associated with the office of First Lady and her pet project (Peoples Bank) traversed the length and breadth of the country. The two party contraption of his regime remains the best approach to solving our political logjam and his option A4 remains the best approach to electioneering.

Having listed all these good legacies of IBB, how come then he’s regarded as a Villain against been considered a Hero? He was his own enemy and he destroyed all his good works by just one sentence (the election of June 12 is hereby annulled). Ironically IBB established a very rsound electoral umpire that conducted the fairest and freest election in the annals of the democratic history of Nigeria, but he ended up upturning the results of the election along with some known co-travelers in that unfortunate mission and so many others who he refused to mention till date.

The surprising part of the whole story is that IBB sacrificed his bosom friend and the man who was instrumental to his rise as Nigerian President by satisfying and assuaging people who were neither his friends nor have contributed as much as MKO Abiola has contributed to his life. It is an incontrovertible fact that IBB only acceded to that ignominious requests by MKO’s haters because of the “Collateral Benefits” accruable to him as a consequence of the annulment. He miscalculated that removing MKO from the political landscape will lead to natural death of the yearnings of the people for self rule by democracy.

The same elements that urged him on and conspired against his friend ensured that he never enjoyed his much anticipated benefits of self perpetuation in office. They turned their backs on him and till date point accusing fingers to him that it was his idea all along.

Sadly, despite all opportunities for IBB to lay bare the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate annulment of Nigeria’s freest and fairest election aside from the lame duck excuse that it was the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) that so direct, he kept an undignified silence till date. Maybe he wants to be reminded that the hierarchy of the PRC are all beneath him as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and President of the country. Now he’s carrying the guilt of an action he has an option of stopping in the spirit of rule of law, fairness and justice to pitch tent against the very man that assisted his ambition and rise to power by “succumbing” to the pressures from his friend’s enemies with the hope that he will be the biggest beneficiary.

Apparently IBB has forgotten that when the tide becomes too tough to roughshod, he will be left alone and will carry that burden of guilt all his life. He should have remembered that “akuku j’oye, osan ju enu mi o ka ilu lo”, that is its better not to be enthroned than remain a toothless bulldog. As Chief Executive he should be aware that everyone would lay the blame of his actions / inactions flat on his table and people who hold such leadership position must be prepared to stand their grounds on matters that are fair, just and in line with rule of law, else they stand the risk of forfeiting all their heroic exploits and remain in the dustbin of history as a villain!

No matter how long a leader stays in power, he should remember that either the office or himself will eventually become history and thus should strive to do what will not make him an outlaw or a reject after his tenure. Let me conclude by sharing this corpus; “E je ka to’ju igba ile, bi t’oko o gbo, bi ko gbo, enikan o mo. A dia fun eni aiye kan, a bu fun sere’sere. Bo je emi l’aiye kan, ma se aiye re, bo je iwo l’aiye kan, ko s’aiye re, gbogbo eni aiye ba kan, ko se daada.” Translated as “let’s tend the home grown plant for we are not sure if the one on the farm will ripen or not. So declared for the incumbent and the good doer. If I’m in position, I will do good, if it’s you that’s in control, do good. Whoever is in control should do good.”

Happy birthday to the Evil Genius.

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