Nigerians have been left to question the direction of the country following the announcement of former military leader General Ibrahim Babangida to run in the 2011 presidential elections under the ruling and most influential Peoples Democratic Party.
General Babangida was a senior officer during Nigeria’s civil war, 1967-70; he participated in three coups – becoming leader in 1985, resigned presidency in 1993 after nationwide strikes and protests following his annulment of election results.
Some Nigerians have questioned the direction of the country’s ruling class and questioned the plans the ruling party has for the future of Nigeria.
“I don’t think we should be returning to the leadership of people like Gen. Babangida. This is a new era, we ought to be bringing in new blood; educated and innovative young minds into leadership positions to reform this country, not going back to former generals like Babangida,” said Festus Ogbe, a Nigerian student.
The PDP has said that its presidential candidate will be from the mainly Muslim north, and Gen. Babangida has expressed his intention to take the ticket. In 2007, Gen Babangida declared he wanted the PDP nomination to run for office, but later withdrew his candidacy, however his spokesman has announced that he [Gen Babangida] would seek the nomination of the ruling People’s Democratic Party in 2011.
Famous for his promises to hand over to civilian rule but holding back when the time came and rather annulling the 1993 election which allowed military strongman Gen. Sani Abacha to assume power, Gen. Babangida is described as a man who either inspires great approval or intense loathe.
“Under General Babangida’s rule corruption became endemic in Nigeria, the economy deteriorated and democracy suffered. Why should we be going back to such a leader; are they no capable Nigerians out there who can lead this nation, why must we have the same circle of poor leaders run this country?” Bassey Ikpi, a Nigerian businessman in Diaspora said.
According to analysts, Gen. Babangida enjoys the goodwill of those he empowered during his eight-year military rule – people who now hold influential positions in business and politics, and could help his presidential bid.
“To the entire country, Babangida is a criminal that went away with stealing billions of dollars from the ordinary Nigerian people and it seems like the world doesn’t know about it or just pretends not to know. Well, this is why the ordinary 150million Nigerians will continue to suffer,” Ogbe added.
According to comments from the weblog againstbabangida.com, “All that Babangida has to show for his over eight years in power in Nigeria, is private colossal wealth, and the edification of corruption in our body politics. Yes, he is richer than many African governments and can buy whoever he wants, but he ruined our lives to reach there.
“The book, ‘The Sink’ by Jeffrey Robinson, an American writer, says it all about Babangida. “Of the $120 billion siphoned out of the Nigerian treasury into offshore accounts by dishonest politicians, $20 billion is allegedly traceable to IBB directly as president from 1985 to 1993. The World Bank and other international sources of information put his total loot from the Nigerian treasury at over $35 billion,” it reads.
Nonetheless, some analysts believe that Gen. Babangida has slim chances of getting the presidential ticket from PDP. The North, determined to produce PDP’s candidate for 2011, is shopping for a reliable candidate that has nationwide acceptability. Some observers say Gen. Babangida’s quest may not get the nod of power brokers in that he needs their support to make any progress.
Incapacitated President Umaru Yar’Adua has not been seen in public since November 2009 due to ill-health and is considered unlikely to seek re-election.