By Dele Sobowale
“The most uncharitable critic of IBB, after experiencing four other administrations (Shonekan, Abacha, Abubakar and now Obasanjo) readily conceded that, but, for the annulment of June 12, 1993, IBB would have been an untainted hero.”
Double Chief Duro Onabule in my book, IBRAHIM B BABANGIDA 1985-1992: LETTING A THOUSAND FLOWERS BLOOM.
To the list of Heads of States with which IBB can be compared in our own era, we must now add Yar’Adua, Jonathan and now Buhari. Those who were old enough and aware of what was going on are invited to join the debate. But, let me state my own verdict which will be supported by FACTS, not opinions – however cleverly disguised. Babangida was our greatest leader of the last century. But, first some explanations for the article today.
First, Monday, August 17, 2020 is Babangida’s 79th birthday — rendered as 80-1 because of my own history which I am sorry to restate once again, but only because it provides explanation. When in 1990, I became the head of our own Sobowale family at the age of 46, I was aware that no male child in the family had ever reached 60 in 200 years. I was the last of my generation. So, I developed a habit of quoting my age to myself as 60-14 from 1990. To be quite candid, I never thought reaching 60 was possible. That designation of my age also contained within it a prayer – “Almighty God help me to reach 60.”I never prayed for great wealth or power or fame – just reach 60 and die a honest man.
So in rendering IBB’s age as 80-1, I am also praying that he will attain the magical age and we can start another one 90-. There is another reason. Nobody can predict tomorrow. Late Alhaji Ismaila Isa Funtua and I met at Uncle Sam’s house in February this year and he launched into his usual direct attack.
“Dele, you have written a book on IBB, but not on Buhari or even me, why?” “Buhari has not finished work and a book on him will be premature; but, yours can start today if you want.” That was my answer.
“Then come and see me after I return from this year’s Hajj and we can start.” He announced. We even agreed the title of the book right there and then.
“Man proposes; Allah disposes.” I was knocked down by cancer in March; CORO locked down everybody in April, so Alhaji could not perform the Holy Pilgrimage. Death spared me, but, took him and the book might never be written. But, I also recollect that he told me “Come to Abuja tomorrow and we can start.” I was the one who asked for another date. There is a lesson there for all of us. Do what you can for everybody today while both of you are alive. Tomorrow might be too late. Henceforth, I will celebrate those I love while they are alive. There will be no more posthumous tributes. Expect more.
Ismaila Funtua has now become the subject of hostile posthumous commentary by his adversaries – which is uncharitable, selfish and ill-informed in many respects. It is also somewhat uncharacteristic of us to assail the dead while the loved ones are still mourning. But, I guess this is the season of bad manners. A former President, who should know better, savaged late Senator Buruji Kashamu while pretending to issue a condolence message. To the traducers of Ismaila, all I can say for now is this NO MATTER HOW YOU SLICE THE BREAD, THERE ARE ALWAYS TWO SIDES TO IT. That includes how we view any human being – dead or alive. I wish Ismaila is alive to offer a rebuttal.
That naturally leads to the question: why celebrate IBB and wish him many happy returns? Permit me to list some of them.
Governments are in power to solve social, economic, security and financial problems. They are not in office to offer excuses. Granted, they may not succeed all the time, but, it must be clear to the governed how they intend to go about solving those problems and the results must follow in reasonable time. The best leave positive legacies and footprints on the sands of their time. Babangida left more enduring institutions than anyone before or after him. In fact, if we repeal all the existing laws passed as decrees, edicts or acts, from August 1985 to 1992, Nigeria will become a jungle unfit for human beings. It is already tending towards that right now. That achievement is worthy of celebration.
STATES CREATED BY BABANGIDA
“I hate ingratitude more in a man [or group of men] than lying, vainness, babbling drunkenness, or any taint of vice..” William Shakespeare, 1564-1616.
Unless you regret the creation of your state, then if you claim any of these states, you owe IBB eternal gratitude. If you are Governor, Senator, Member House of Representative, Minister, Ambassador, then be sure Babangida made it possible. Nobody else. The states are: Katsina and Akwa Ibom createdSeptember 23, 1987, and Abia, Delta, Enugu, Jigawa, Kebbi, Osun, Kogi, Taraba and Yobe – all of which were created on August 27, 1991. At the very least, those states can never forget IBB and they must celebrate him every year he lives. I join them.
“Buhari signs CAMA Bill” was a report carried by several newspapers last week. The 9th National Assembly had after years of delay sent an amendment to the Company and Allied Matters Act, 20, 1990. Despite the fact that the Act, like over sixty others, was long overdue for amendment, it governed the conduct of corporate bodies for 30 years since it was passed into law. Before it, limited liability companies, whether quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange or not, were managed by robber barons who swindled fellow investors, the FIRS and banks with equal premeditated wickedness. Most of the “captains of industry” and pillars of society until 1990 were just plain pen-robbers in designer suits and babanrigas. The bankers were the worst. CAMA 1990 went a long way to sanitise the economy in a way no other law had done before or after. Without CAMA in place, no foreign investment would have been made in Nigeria, other than in oil and gas and foreign loans will be almost impossible to obtain.
In 1990 alone, over 40 decrees were promulgated by the most purposeful regime so far in our history. The following year was the year of banking reform. In 1991, two game-changing decrees were passed. The first was the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Decree 24 and the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Decree, BOFID, 25. This is not the place to discuss fully the intentions of those decrees, but together they substantially gave the CBN the independence it now enjoys to determine monetary policy with minimum interference from the executive branch. They have also saved fellow Nigerians a great deal from robber-bankers.
The credit naturally goes to IBB and his excellent cabinet of world class Ministers—whose names will be provided in another context.
“I hold that man in the right, who is most in league with the future.”
Henrik Ibsen, 1828-1906. VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ p 71.
Today the economy of Lagos State is under double lockdown – CORO-19 and Third Mainland Bridge. Nigeria’s economy is also partially under lockdown because what is good for Lagos economy is good for Nigeria. WE are in this sad state because after Babangida had the foresight to build Third Mainland, as Gowon had the sense to erect Eko Bridge, no other President has had enough sense to either build the fourth bridge or the first tunnel. A little bit of history is however necessary to illustrate how different leaders react to the problems which confront them when they assume office.
In January 1984 Buhari became Nigeria’s Military Head of State; he met two transport projects underway in Lagos. The first was the Lagos Metro Line designed by Jakande’s government to provide rail transport from Mile 2 to Lagos Island in order to ease the traffic hold up along the Badagry-Mile 2-Orile-Iganmu route. Although it was strictly a state project, Buhari ordered it to be stopped. That was the end of the vision of trouble-free movement along an important corridor of the nation’s economic centre, gateway to ECOWAS and social melting pot. The problem persists till today. Buhari also inherited the Third Mainland Bridge ; started by Shagari to relieve commuters in Lagos of the horrible hold up on Carter and Eko Bridges. Until he left office on August 27, 1985, Buhari, twenty months after, the bridge as an abandoned project.
Today, the Third Mainland Bridge which was 90 per cent completed by Babangida has been partially closed down for urgent repairs. The hardship Nigerians using that bridge now experienced should remind all of us of the men who built it. One is the late Major-General Mamman Kontagora. The other is alive and he will be 80-1 tomorrow. Every Nigerian, not just in Lagos State , has a good reason to say Happy Birthday to IBB tomorrow.
“An entire book will be required to do justice to what Babangida and [Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti] achieved during the period under review. But, it was the most revolutionary period in Nigeria’s health sector in the last century.”
(IBRAHIM B BABANGIDA 1985-1992: LETTING A THOUSAND FLOWERS BLOOM, p 237).
Tobacco Smoking (Control) Decree 20, 1990 is one example of how governments lead people towards a better society. Globally, health experts have been warning mankind against the debilitating effects of smoking. Hundreds of millions of us have paid no heed to the alerts issued. By 1990, several nations had passed laws prohibiting smoking in public. Nigerian governments had ignored the danger until Babangida did something about it in 1990.
That is why today, non-smokers can as a matter of right order smokers to stop or move away when they violate the law. In buses trains and – most definitely air planes – No Smoking became the new normal in 1990. Deserves an applause.
“According to our projection, Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extreme poor people in early 2018..”
That is on page 263 of the book. How did we get into this sorry state?
Don’t blame IBB. Blame all his successors.
To be continued.
SPECIAL BIRTHDAY OFFER
Two hundred (200) copies of the book are on offer at N2500 per copy (paper back) and N3500 (hard back) to readers to celebrate General’s birthday. It is first come, first served. Price excludes postage. Offer ends August 31, 2020.
LAST LINE: If you love IBB, show it while he is alive. Don’t waste our time or yours writing tributes he will never read. Do it now. Get in touch.
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