27 September 2010

Nigeria: Between IBB And His Mentor, the Hannibal


Abuja — Former Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was once asked who has been his most trusted counselor, guide or mentor in life, and to the surprise of many, he named Hannibal.

Ahuraka Yusuf Isah explores the military and political similarities of the two Army Generals.

The fact that in his book, "A Concise History of Warfare", Field-Marshal Montgomery of Alamein, the World War II British Commander, did not give any account that Hannibal showed extraordinary military process in the originality and vision of his strategy like Scipio Africanus, Alexander and Julius Caesar of his medieval time, the choice of Hannibal by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida as his mentor, therefore, becomes difficult to comprehend.

By the account of history, Hannibal was remarkable in handling men. He invaded Italy with a motley army recruited from all parts of the Western Mediterranean . He trained it and led it to win great victories. Altogether, for sixteen continuous years, Hannibal maintained the war with Rome in Italy without once releasing his army from service in the field, but keeping the vast number under control without any sign of disaffection towards himself or towards each other. He was courageous and popular with his men.

Since no army general ever reigns in history to the end, by 202 B.C, the final battle of the second Punic War was fought at Zama that led to the defeat of Hannibal.

Each army was 40,000 strong, with Scipio stronger in Calvary boasting 4,000 against Hannibal's 2,000. Not the Hannibal's 80 elephants could be of help, because as they pounded towards the Roman army, Scipio ordered a blast of trumpets and horns along the whole of his line. The sudden blare caused the elephants to panic and set in confusion.

In the appraisal of this war generally, Hannibal was probably the better tactician, but Scipio was undoubtedly superior to Hannibal in strategy. It was this which in the end mattered most and which marks out Scipio as one of the great captains of history.

Of course out of the second Punic War emerged the beginning of the Roman Empire, and during the second and first centuries Rome was continually at war to preserve and extend her power in the Mediterranean.

Emergence of Babangida

Very little was recorded or heard of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in the Nigerian Civil War front. Except that as young army officer, he was hit by bullet while on top of a tree trying to spot enemies position.

But by February 13, 1996, Lt. Col. Babangida (as he was then) was said to have been directed by General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma to go with armored car to level the FRCN building where Col. Dimka held hostage. But Babangida defied the order and did otherwise. He negotiated with Dimka to vacate the building, and in exchange paved way for him to escape from the building without firing a single shot.

General Danjuma was said to had fumed and highly annoyed with Babangida not keeping to instruction and even promised to deal with him militarily. That could not mature as effable Babangida sent words across to some journalists that it was because of them he failed to carry out the order, since some of them would have become part of the rubble including Dimka.

Babangida became the toast and darling of the journalists then, he was taunted a "diplomatic soldier", "democratic solider" or a solider with human-kindness",

Nothing was heard of Babangida until General Muhammadu Buhari and General Tunde Idiagbon military government came on board. Babangida, as the Chief of Army Staff found his way to deliver a paper in the Trenched Hall of University of Ibadan ostensibly to dismiss insinuation in some quarters that he was not literate enough as a military officer. His velvety voice and pronouncements got the students carried away and they gave him a resound high ovation.

Babangida contributed immensely in Buhari becoming a head of state, notwithstanding, he was made a top gun too. It has to be so as Buhari found it difficult to take responsibility for fear of ascription, thereby making his 2-IC over important and too strong, hence reasons were made to overflow in the army to give way for a change, this time around from unintended beneficiary to one of those that brought the change in the first instance.

The Significance of Babangida Military Government

Undoubtedly, Babangida appeared to be the first to have embarked on a comprehensive reform in the country. For good or bad, some people felt that was the beginning of the modern Nigeria . He said it was an attempt to re-engineer Nigeria because the larger part of the population was engaged in economic production in the country. Either as an artisan, skilled or unskilled labour, there was something to be engaged doing. With just a budget of N15.6 billion in 1986, economic productivity was at its peak and more policy initiatives and fiscal measures were adopted than many regimes of this country combined. Policy initiatives and fiscal measures too many to enumerate here.

The letter-bombing of high-profile journalist, Dele Giwa during this regime gave it more image crisis than it could ever control. Not only a new dimension of crime linked to a government of a rural country like Nigeria then, but it was condemned worldwide.

The June 12, 1993 presidential election which was acclaimed the freest and fairest sub-Saharan region was also believed to have been won by the late M.K.O Abiola. The result was never disclosed till date.

These are Babangida's Achilles heels which his opponents have always wanted to cash upon. But the caveat is that the damage done with the June 12, 1993 presidential election was corrected with Obasanjo's election in 1999. Abiola's lost in 1993 was Obasanjo's gain in 1999.

General Babangida's military regime was known to have imbibed the "culture of settlement", an aphorism for corruption in high places, to deal with some political problems facing the government. But corruption that took place during General Olusegun Obasanjo's democratic government had dwarfed whatever one may consider as corruption then. The Nigerian patrimony, agencies and parastatals were rehabilitated, refurbished or renovated and then sold at a give away price to the so-called "investors" (government officials).

2007 Election And Verdict of History

Penultimate 2007 election, the hostility Obasanjo maintained against Babangida and all the personalities that stopped his third term bid kept Babangida off from contesting. He did not for once said that he was contesting.

But now he was among the first to declare openly that he would contest the 2011 presidential election. Not even when the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan has indicated his interest to contest the same election.

Babangida is confident, and many people believe that too, that if there is free and fair election he will win. But as an establishment man, he is more than aware that Jonathan would reach out for incumbency factor. Not even when Obasanjo, who adorns absurdity more than necessary, has filed behind Jonathan.

Why is Babangida still adamant and wanting to contest when he is aware that with all the permutation on the ground, the presidential election is a fait accompli for Jonathan? The crude oil account has been drawn to the minimum while frantic effort is being made to borrow from World Bank ostensibly to guarantee the success of Jonathan in the poll.

Perhaps, for fear of the verdict of history, Babangida prefer a defeat. The north has told him that he is the cause of their political travail, for bringing Obasanjo to power in 1999 who turned around as a thorn in the northern flesh. He is in the race because many people, including foreigners, are apprehensive that this election may fail or lead to nowhere. Election would be conducted and a winner would emerge, but just as it is possible to win the judgment without securing justice, so it can, if incumbency advantages are factored into it.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric, the larger part of the north is feeling cheated. There is a palpable fear and anger amongst the larger populace in the north similar to the season of General Aguiyi-Ironsi's Decree 34 of those days.

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