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Max Gbanite

New Jersey, U.S.A.

maxgbanite@hotmail.com

Wednesday, December 4, 2002


On a crisp Saturday morning late last year, while traveling to Kaduna, I noticed a mammoth crowd gather within the vicinage of Zuma Rock -- on the right side of Abuja-Kaduna Expressway. For those who have never seen this tourist beauty before, it’s indeed an awesome sight.

The primary rock (considered "the male" by locals) is about 150 – 200 feet high and the size of a soccer field; it is black in complexion and has marks easily identifiable as its face -- with eyes, nose, and mouth. Next to the primary rock is the female, followed by four sons -- all shaped alike and almost the same size as the male.

The location of Zuma Rock is about 35 kilometers from the old tipper garage, bordering Maitama, and about 15-20 kilometers to Minna Junction.

On this particular day, the crowd gathered in awe and imagination on how the primary rock was able to move itself to the other side of the Expressway without any signs of earthmoving equipment on sight. The riddle was solved when a freelance journalist on the site told the crowd that "The rock moved in salutation and in admiration of IBB"! Coincidentally, His Excellency, General Ibrahim Babangida, GCFR (rtd.) had just passed through on his way to Abuja.

The other stories credited to General Babangida (IBB) are as follows:

- He has a 150-room mansion perched on the highest hill in Minna, with a landmass the size of Lokoja.

- He is training with Russian cosmonauts to visit the moon in April 2003, to avoid Oputa Panel.

- He owns Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the Queen of England.

- He has slept in the United States White House as a guest of President Abraham Lincoln.

- He has acquired the Boeing Corporation -- the giant aircrafts manufacturer, Enron, and every multinational company that operates in Nigeria.

- He owns NNPC, and they have since changed the name to "IBB-NNPC."

If you believe any of these stories, including the moving of Zuma Rock, please read something else and seek primary psychiatric assistance for suffering ‘Journalistic Asinine Induced Syndrome.’ This type of illness mostly afflicts those who believe everything thrown at them by members of the media, some of who are actually mean moonlighters and midnight masquerades. The worst perpetrators of this curable illness are those who quite often parade themselves as graduates of journalism and or "creative writers."

In essence what I have noticed is that many people who seek relevance in our society as writers, and who wish to have their articles read by others, must invariably invoke the name of General Babangida. They choose the part of bashing his image, abusing him, and casting aspersions on his person in order to be recognized as "brilliant" writers. And, very often, their unguarded emotional exuberance mars their attempt to articulate the main issues of their topic.

For instance, TELL Magazine (November 4, 2002) on its front page screamed: "How IBB Trapped The Patriots." However, on reading through the article, you will not find any scintilla of fact, truth, and evidence to justify such a caption. Then you realize immediately that you have been ‘419-ed’ into buying the magazine. Incidentally, TELL is not the only magazine, newspaper, or print medium that recognizes the import of invoking the name ‘IBB’ to sell out any particular issue. As a matter of economic sense, it has become very lucrative and evidenced that using of the letters ‘IBB’ on any article is guaranteed to be read. Of course, the particular issue of the paper is bound to be sold out. It is then no secret that every known and unknown writer has entered into this newfound love in yellow journalism called ‘Babangida Bashing.’

The most dangerous of these writers are the paid assassins, whose job it is to write unsubstantiated lies and half-baked truths; they make ignoble assertions and find any available disingenuous means to assassinate the character of General Ibrahim Babangida with their brutal poisoned pens. It is indeed a new low in yellow journalism. What a shame.

George Will, a respected conservative columnist, once wrote about liberal democrats: "The canonical text of liberalism’s disparagement of Americans’ competence was John Kenneth Gilbraith’s 1958 book, ‘The Affluent Society.’ It argued that the bovine people beyond the faculty club are manipulated by advertising, so business produce not the things people want but the wants that business find it convenient to supply." I believe that the same applies to journalists, especially the hired guns who write to impugn others, being mindful of the fact that the truth, though expected, is not really worth the money being put out; so they resort to what will ultimately sell and, in most cases, the name ‘IBB.’

It was very appalling reading articles on the Internet that castigate or disparage the person of General Babangida. Some of the more antagonistic character assassins clearly amuse themselves and their readers by relishing in bashing our former leader by accusing him of all sorts of things with reckless abandon. On numerous occasions, I have engaged in sensible and heated discussions on the Nigerian state and the roles played by the General himself. Some have had the temerity to ask me after reading some of my articles on General Babangida: "Max, how much is IBB paying you to defend his image?" My answer remains short and simple and to the point: "The same amount being paid to those of you who relish in disparaging him!"

It is wrong to bash individuals just to score cheap political points. No one should be subjugated to half-truths and innuendoes, especially those who have put their lives on the line for the good of the country we still call home. General Babangida is a good friend, and I will always defend his good name and his good deeds. His policies cannot be slammed by those who do not have the full picture. It is therefore a service to them that I present the other side of the coin, which is the fact. General Babangida is a gentleman’s gentleman, a soldier’s soldier and, above all, a good man -- a very good man. Take it or leave it.

I once said that mentioning General Ibrahim Babangida’s legacies would make sense if, and only if, he agrees to come out of retirement to lead the nation again as many Nigerians would like him to do. In the absence of that, let’s roll the allegations constantly made by his detractors and paid writer-assassins.

Is he blessed by the Almighty God (The Merciful) to play the roles he has played in the past, is playing today, and will probably play in the future? The answer is obvious, giving the fact many who want to contest elections across the land, from student union leaders through legislators to the presidential aspirants go to seek his support. Very soon, even those who want to emir and eze and oba will start seeking his blessing too! The man understands his environment the way a capable and competent general should. He is definitely one of those who make things happen, whereas others watch it happen, and many ask what happened.

On the death of Dele Giwa, many who follow Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, would like us to believe that General Babangida had a hand in the killing. Well, you are wrong a thousand times. The case has been disposed of all the way to the Supreme Court. The issue of Oputa Panel is what I call "Unjudicial Operatic Semantics." The evidence submitted at the Panel was inconclusive. The Panel probably felt agitated that the former President did not honor its invitation; hence, it recommended that the case be reinvestigated. A federal high court ruled that the Panel was unconstitutional and that the former President didn’t have to appear before it. We may not like it, but that’s the law of the land. If you care to find out more about the death of Dele Giwa, contact Rev. Dr. Chris Omebem, former Deputy Inspector General of Nigerian Police Force and currently a church minister or, for a start, read my article ‘Dele Giwa: The silent fact’ of November 2001, published in African Newsreel, and on all Nigerian Internet-based news sites.

The annulment of June 12, 1993 elections, is no longer an issue. The way the government is being conducted today is a vindication of June 12. Those who have benefited tremendously from the annulment are in power today, and one must ask: What have they done for the masses in the interest of democracy? When you find the answer, send me an email. Former President Shehu Shagari, whose government was also overthrown by the military, has since moved on with his life, understanding that God’s will is greater than what man wills.

When I had the opportunity to speak to late Justice Bassey Ekanem, the judge who ruled for the suspension of the presidential election that ultimately led to the annulment, she said that the case was predicated on a case brought against the late Chief MKO Abiola by Senator Arthur Nzeribe challenging the sanity and competence of Abiola being the president in accordance to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) constitution. Justice Bassey Ekanem asserted that her decision was purely based on legality. Abiola failed to come to court on more than four occasions as demanded by court. She in turn sent a letter directly to the then Attorney General, Chief Clement Akpamgbo, SAN, an erudite scholar who would like to see the integrity of the judiciary maintained. The Attorney General made attempts to contact Chief Abiola, but he was refused the opportunity. He had no choice than to allow Justice Bassey Ekanem’s decision to suspend the election to be submitted to the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC), which then decided on the annulment. The rest, they say, is history. Must General Babangida be blamed for a consensus decision made by the ruling AFRC? The answer is NO.

Adoption of only two parties: Any sensible person would agree that for a change that the decision to adopt only two political parties proved that Nigerians can work as a unit without the normal rancor of religious and ethnic affinity usually associated with selecting their leaders. For the first time in the country’s history, two Muslims were almost elected into the highest offices of the land. Christians didn’t even mind. The experiment must be repeated someday with two Christians or even two atheists. This is one of the major contributions made by Professor Omo Omoruyi, and people even said that he did well under IBB; but, today, he is one of those bashing Babangida. I have not read anyone calling this a good case of biting the finger…. Oh well, let’s now watch and see what will come out of 22 plus six parties! Hopefully we will see these Internet bashers form "Babangida Bashing Party" -- if only to attract some attention and cash in some more on the name.

If you believe that Nigeria made $12 billion during the Gulf War, then you are as gullible as they come. Dr. Pius Okigbo’s Report was inconclusive. All you have to do is check with OPEC headquarters in Geneva; they will give you a complete record of what Nigeria sold to the world then and today.

Saudi Arabia guaranteed to bridge the gap in loss of crude to the United States resulting from the War. Venezuela and Mexico upped their quota. Nigeria for unknown reason was never an issue. Professor Sam Aluko, a well-respected international economist and who was then the Chairman of Nigeria Economic Intelligence Commission (NEIC), proudly refuted Dr. Okigbo’s Report. He averred that under normal circumstances Nigeria as an oil exporter had never sold up to such an amount. He backed it up with data. I will accept his verdict. Lest we forget, when President Olusegun Obasanjo was the head of state and General Buhari was his petroleum minister, "creative writers" led us to believe that $2.8 billion was missing from the petroleum account in London. Later, we learnt that it was pure accounting error. Nobody today accuses President Obasanjo of pocketing that money.

The point here is that most of these hired-assassin writers and "creative writers" have no locus standi in their communities. They cannot even influence the outcome of a ward election. Highly placed members of their respective constituencies are ready to take the night bus to Minna to seek General Babangida’s support when they are contesting for elective offices. WHY?

Like him or loathe him, the man Babangida is and will remain relevant in the entity called Nigeria, until the Almighty God decides to call him home and, even after that, people will still go to his resting place to seek his blessings and spiritual support before every election in the same way members of Afenifere and all those seeking political relevance in Yoruba land prostate before Pa Awolowo’s resting place.

Expect more on his accomplishments if he accepts the call by many, journalists inclusive, to contest for the Presidency in 2003. If after 10 years out of office, the man IBB is still regarded by many as the king and kingmaker of Nigeria, and the media continues to make money with his name without paying him any royalty, then there’s a divine attribute to his enigma and a commercial goldmine in the use of his name. God must love him, for He made General Babangida what he is.