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Of the dead nothing good must be said




There is a tribe in Southern Africa somewhere, Trouble can be quoted on this in spite of the fact that he has never been to their kingdom, never met their King and never heard their language spoken. In fact, based on rumour, hearsay and made-up stories, he can say authoritatively that this tribe exists in Southern Africa somewhere whose belief is that of the dead nothing good must be said especially if they have been bad people. This came back to mind a couple of weeks ago on the occasion of the 75th birthday of IBB, 1; and the revisiting of an article entitled Another perspective On Azazi’s death to balance the fake encomiums: “Azazi’s: End of a Dream” by Aliyu U. Tilde. This is how the article concludes:

“Azazi’s might have died a hero of his people, understandably. He was buried at Ijaw Heroes Park in Yenogoa. In the military and post-Jonathan Nigeria, however, little of him would be remembered better than his criminal record as an accomplice in Okar’s gunrunning activity that led to his compulsory retirement, his anchor of Niger Delta terrorism, his manipulation of Boko Haram, the unguarded utterances that led to his vacation of the NSA office, and then, his violent end in a helicopter crash.”

It has been Ibrahim Babangida’s 75th birthday. His friend’s (including former military dictator and presently democratic president of Nigeria of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari) have been pouring what Tilde would call ‘fake encomiums’ on him. Olusegun Obasanjo, (who definitely had the political courage that Babangida lacked, by going through a transition, albeit, an unsuccessful one), praised Babangida. He notes that IBB’s humble beginnings “defy the overwhelming impact” (underwhelming? not whelming at all?) “It has had on the developmental history of our dear nation.” Not wanting to judge IBB (so that he too may not be judged?) OBJ says:
There is no gain saying the fact that as a result of the roles you have played in the Nigerian history, you have enjoyed accolades of friends and suffered condemnation of adversaries and that has made you a great friend to your friends as much as a formidable adversary to your foes. Indeed, you have had your roles to play and no matter what individuals or groups may say, the rest should be left for posterity to judge.”


Our political leaders have always been over-rated both by themselves and those who feed off them. The criteria has always been that they tried their best given the circumstances in which they found themselves. So, Gowon tried given that he was young, a bachelor and surprised into the highest position in the land. But by 1974, he was no longer new to political power. He had the best advisers and ministers, at that time called commissioners. He had promised to hand over to a civilian government come October 1, 1974. The date arrived, as all promised dates will arrive and Gowon did not have the political courage to fulfil his promise. This failure would lead to two years of drift in Nigerian politics and a military coup d’etat. Gowon tried, right?

Another set of promises are made in 1976 and another demolition of institutions begin. A senseless assassination takes place and there is the re-boot of the promises. This time Obasanjo had the courage to go through the handing over. He rode on a house into Ota happy that he had done his duty. Unfortunately, because he did not ensure that others who should, did their duties, it was a failed handing over. The rapacious onslaught on the natural treasury under Shagari climbed a new height. At the age of 90 the other day you should have seen the newspaper adds for the old man. So, he too tried, right?


Another military coup d’etat was in order. This saw the first coming of Buhari. Everything must give way to discipline. Nigerians must learn to wait for their turn on a queue. They must keep their surroundings clean. They must not criticise people in government. Some laws, which did not exist when offences were committed must come to judge those offences. And nobody must ask when the military would leave. In a classic case of Corruption fighting back, Buhari was kicked out of power by Babangida. Did Buhari try? He tried too much, hence the new coup d’etat. And the era of new and renewable promises of a return to civil rule.

A new era dawned. IMF prescribed it’s never successful financial policy. The political leadership said they did not want it but then adopted it for the country. Massive sums of money got lost or did not get lost. Inquiries sat and never got up to report what they found. Parties were formed, one a little to the left and the other a little to the right. At a time when centrist politics played out around the world, there was no room for balance through a little of the left and a little of the right. At a point of confusion, and mental strain Babangida lacked the political courage to do what needed to be done. He did not wish to die for the country. He stepped aside. And two people stepped into his position. It was only a matter of days before one elbowed the other out of the way. So, Babangida tried, right?

Abacha was the disaster that broken promises, grand larceny and corruption of the political processes had been brewing for the country. And we drank it by force. Nobody could say what would happen to the country day after day. One day five political parties nominated Abacha for civilian president. And he would have gone on to go as civilian president of five parties’ democracy. Who needs an opposition when we are all agreed as to who should be president? What’s the use of voting when our political leaders can go out bring someone to be president? Votes and voting did not matter. And so, once more another head of state tried. They have all tried us Nigerians. When will Nigerians try them?

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