Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Yar'Adua's Babangida's Style

Before he became the anointed Nigeria’s President, I have had cause to compare him to former President Shehu Shagari who was not corrupt but headed a very corrupt government. The two men were once teachers and seem gentle by nature. At the centre of their historic transformation is also an Owu man who is being rumoured to have been fathered by an Igbo man. It was he who handed over his inheritance to both men in a controversial manner. Remember OBJ’s the best candidate may never win ala Shagari, and now "a do or die affair" ala Yar’Adua.

But Yar’Adua seems to be following in the footstep of Babangida’s system of government rather than that of this stubborn Owu man who elevated himself to a Supreme being during his eight-year rule; and who is now reading theology, a field where most Nigerians play to oppress other Nigerians. See, I just won’t leave the poor old man alone.

Hum, Yar’Adua released Asari Dokubo from the gulag of Obasanjo whom Dokubo had accused of trying to bribe him while in prison. There’s no doubt such gesture scored political point. It was also the right thing to do. Let the same generosity be extended to Ralph Nwazurike, who is currently languishing in jail for the same offence. However, such move or gesture reminds me of Babangida who released jailed politicians and journalists during the early days of his agony eight-year rule. It was after all a fancy gimmick.

Babangida was quickly termed a listening military President by the Nigerian elite. His style was obviously in sharp contrast to his predecessors who had brutalized the mind of Nigerians then. While Tunde Idiagbon and Muhammadu Buhari did not see any reason to smile, Ibrahim Babangida stole our hearts with his gap-toothed grin. He cried out, beseeching us to call him President instead of Head of State. We obeyed his gentle but cunning command like the docile masses of an enslaved nation.

Even sage Awolowo was consistently carried along by Babangida’s pretense. Or have you forgotten how he robed my main man, Tai Solarin who had vowed never to put on Agbada. It was an evil genius move which cleared the way for another era of military barbarity that forever exposed hypocrisy in our nature. I remember our Noble laureate also worked under him.

It was a military mentality that dwarfed the intellectual establishment of hopes. Since then Nigeria has never been the same. Like then, Yar’Adua is now courting esteemed Nigerians including Wole Soyinka and Anthony Enahoro through PRONACO, an organization that has affiliated itself to these two prominent Nigerians.

Now the Nigerian elite have started again. They have started commending Yar’Adua over asset declaration. Although it is going to be the first time that a sitting president will be declaring his asset, these people must remember that we are under an illegitimate government. Femi Falana, Human rights lawyer and President of the West African Bar Association (WABA), commended Yar’Adua saying, "The public declaration of assets by President Umaru Yar’Adua has elevated the Presidency, in spite of the legitimacy crisis confronting it as a result of the last elections".

In his own commendation, Gani Fawehinmi noted this would be the first time that a sitting president will start fighting corruption in a right way by publicly declaring his asset. Maxi Okwu, the National Chairman of the Citizens Popular Party (CPP), also shared the same sentiment saying, "It is my believe that this may well be the turning point in the unrestrained and hedonistic looting of public funds witnessed in the last eight years".

Reuben Abati of Guardian described it as "a demonstration of confidence, and a good moral and symbolic gesture". Even Bolaji Aluko of AC (Action Congress) in his article, "That One Billion Naira Public Declaration of Assets by Umar Musa Yar’Adua" praised Yar’Adua in a clever manner. These intellectual elite may be right in the assessment of Yar’adua, yet the question remains thus: was he voted for by Nigerians, or the election that brought him to power was massively rigged? There lies the good conduct.

Their commendation is similar to that of Ray Ekpu of Newswatch who quickly praised Babangida in the early years of his administration. The master dribbler later showed the stuff he’s made of, and the rest is now history. Are Nigerians still as gullible as twenty years ago? Particularly those who supposed to know better. Are they willing to repeat the same mistake? Can’t they see it? That this man is employing the same tactics eyploited by IBB in those troubled days? It’s called a policy of appeasement.

No one alerted the nation then that Babangida was only appeasing the nation so as to be allowed to eat his own cake. Cake? Nigerian cake? Therefore, Nigerians should be cautious in the policy of jumping to conclusion regarding their leaders. I wonder if Nigerians would ever learn from past experience. Here is a man who should not be the president in the first place due to blatant rigging of the elections that brought him to power.

Yar’Adua may be a good guy, but the fact that he is fighting desperately to legitimize himself cannot be overlooked. It is the same reason for his keen in forming government of national unity. Hum, conscience is an open wound. And suffice to say I would not only have praised him, I would have worshipped him for such noble exemplary method had he won the election without blatant rigging of which he had admitted.

Whether Yar’Adua vows to pursue constitution amendment or not; whether he adopts Abiola’s manifesto or not; whatever he does will only amount to a ruse unless the first hurdle – honesty, transparency, free and fair elections – is crossed. I expect Nigerians to understand that a new broom always sweeps clean. I’m not saying Yar’Adua’s declaration of his assets is bad, in fact, all public officials should do the same.

However, the key point of my argument is this: Nigerians should not fall for the bait to legitimize a stolen mandate. Ibrahim Babangida did the same but where did it lead us? Adopting Babangida or Obasanjo’s style or mixture will not help this former Chemistry teacher. Anyway, I see him as a Caretaker President until the Election Petition Tribunal decides otherwise.

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