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Nigeria. Return of the “Evil Genius”
Nigeria’s former military leader Ibrahim Babangida has made clear his plans to run for president in next year’s election and for “IBB”, a self-proclaimed “Evil Genius”, to take such a decision can only be a sign that he thinks it is in the bag.
If elected, a generation would have passed since he plunged Nigeria into one of its darkest spells by annulling a 1993 election which was widely regarded as fairer than some of the few before and at least some of those since.
That, and accusations that official corruption worsened under his eight year rule, certainly helped to create Babangida many more enemies, but he undoubtedly has many supporters in Nigeria and some fondly recall his time in office compared to the turmoil that followed. (Though it should be said that some in Nigeria are ready to speak in favour of late General Sani Abacha’s dictatorship.)
It could be argued that by returning to office, Babangida would have the chance to correct mistakes of which he himself has spoken.
It could also mean he fulfills an ambition to become an elected president in a way that had become impossible in 1993 when he was forced to step down after annulling the vote widely believed to have been won by his one-time friend Moshood Abiola.
Babangida, 68, has in any case remained a powerful master of behind the scenes politics in the years since he left office and retained as much influence as anyone in Nigeria so a return to the top office might not make that much of a change.
Nigeria has been ruled by military men or former miliatry men for more than 39 years out of nearly 50 years as an independent state and if Babaginda stands he could end up contesting against Muhammadu Buhari, the former military ruler he himself overthrew in 1985 and who came second in the 2007 election.
The latest experiment with a purely civilian president has not been a particularly easy one – President Umaru Yar’Adua was rushed abroad for medical treatment last November for medical treatment and has been too frail to govern since.
His deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, is now acting president, but because of the peculiarities of Nigerian politics is seen as ineligible to contest the next election for the ruling party because he is a Christian southerner rather than being from the Muslim north.
Is it time for Nigeria to give IBB a chance as an elected leader? Or has Nigeria moved on? Is it time for new blood? Vote now.