Thursday, February 12, 2009

On December 22nd, 2008, Guinea's long time strongman and President, Lansana Conte, died at the age of 74. Although the nation's constitution laid out instructions for the transfer of power, Guineans soon discovered that a military junta, led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, was in power. While many citizens welcomed the change promised by the junta after 24 years of rule by the late Conte, international reaction was swift and condemning. The European Union, United Nations, United States and African union quickly criticized the coup and called for democratic elections. In addition the US suspended almost $15 million in aid to the country.

The Nigerian government condemned the coup and President Yar'Adua also criticized the Presidents of Libya and Senegal for supporting the military junta. President Yar'Adua sent Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) as a Special Envoy to Guinea to talk with the junta leaders and gather necessary information. According to Nigeria's Foreign Affairs minister, Ojo Madueke, Babangida was sent as a member of a delegation to "convey...that [the] coup is unacceptable."

It is ironic that a President, so staunchly critical of coups and other Presidents who supported the Guinean coup, would send a former military dictator as a national envoy to a military junta. Particularly,a former dictator who recently praised Nigeria's most dangerous, corrupt and violent military dictator, Sani Abacha. Given his history, it was therefore no surprise that IBB returned to Nigeria with nothing but praise for the Guinean coup plotters, who he called "patriots". His admiration for the junta was a direct contradiction of President Yar'Adua's public declarations against the coup.

Since being ousted in a coup, IBB has remained a power player in Nigerian politics. Prior to the 2007 Presidential election, there were reports and rumblings that he would be an alternate candidate if Yar'Adua's health precluded him from becoming President. The subsequent election was heavily criticized by domestic and international observers as flawed. Many alleged that Yar'Adua was a 'puppet' for some individual (usually Former President Obasanjo) or group of individuals, thus further diminishing confidence in him and his ability to get things done.Given these and other realities - the questioning of Yar'Adua's authority, and the fact that some wish IBB to return to politics - Yar'Adua's decision to send IBB becomes even more curious.

Yar'Adua's decision raises many issues including whether Yar'Adua is preparing the groundwork for IBB's eventual return to major politics as a potential future President or Vice President. If that is the case, there is cause for alarm because IBB is yet to illustrate that he understands or appreciates true democracy. Or, was Yar'Adua borrowing a tactic from America's President Obama by forcing a potential opponent to become an ally, as Obama did when he brought his main primary election opponent, Hillary Clinton, into his administration?

Whatever tactic Yar'Adua was applying and whatever the reason, it appears that it backfired because IBB's public support for the Guinean junta, which was in bad taste, diminished the President's stance and makes him seem weak. Even if IBB disagreed with the President, there were more tactful means to express a difference of opinion, the best of which would have been to simply state "No Comment" in response to probing questions from the media.

That IBB could so publicly contradict the President reflects an erosion of the power of the Yar'Adua administration and its ability to influence matters abroad and possibly within the nation. This is a problem that does not bode well for the current administration and future administrations, as well. It sets the precedent that anyone, even a former dictator, can question and diminish the authority of a 'democratically elected' President. This will make it difficult for Yar'Adua and future Presidents to use their position to influence situations on the continent and of course, within Nigeria. That is something no Nigerian should want. No matter how anyone feels about Yar'Adua, they should never want him to fail as President, because Nigeria cannot afford failure.

Consequently, it will be interesting to see if and how Yar'Adua addresses this challenge to his authority. The last time he reacted to criticism, it was heavy handed and draconian, resulting in the shutdown of Channels TV, the arrest of bloggers Elendu and Asiwe, and the arrest and ongoing lawsuit against Leadership journalists. How will President Yar'Adua react to IBB?

Related Articles of Interest:
- Suppression In A Democratic Regime
- Nigeria, Be Careful What You Wish For
- Turning Away from Democracy
- Rewriting Abacha's History
- Why Babangida Must Not Run For Presidency Again (Akintokunbo Adejumo)

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8 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Femi B said...

Wow, thats too Ironic. This is exactly the issue, you know I am sure no one in the NIgerian media made mention of the Irony of sending IBB...ridiculous

Anonymous said...

Lets put aside the issue of who the messanger was for a moment. Guinea´s dictator pursued a revolutionary socialist agenda and crushed political opposition. Tens of thousands of people disappeared, or were tortured and executed, during his 26-year regime! As if we cared, RIP, Bola Ige. We have a huge fish to fry does not come near our problems in Ngn.

All previous rulers in Africa have left a legacy of hell here on earth, yet they are feted in the UN and allowed to deliver daft speeches rather than told in no uncertain terms to go directly to jail after their wasted years. There is not one ruler in Africa that has delivered measurable benefits to their people, yet, they get to meddle in other people´s affairs, under the label, wise old men(women?). A little advice though, history has a way of repeating itself, Nigeria we hail thee.

Jinta said...

why send anyone to guinea in the first place?

i have stopped rationalising yardy - there is no method in his madness

Anonymous said...

Yar'Adua can't and won't do anything about IBB's voltre face. It simply isn't him. He has other things to worry about...


@ Femi B: Unfortunately, I am not aware of anyone that focused on that irony, but I am sure someone eventually will. I just find the 'public diss' very troubling and worrisome. Anyway, how are you? Hope your dad is ok?

@ Beauty: From my research, it does appear the the late Guinean President was quite a 'strongman' who crushed opposition at every turn. Nevertheless, I believe in democracy and while the coup plotters have claimed that they will call for elections in approximately 24 months, history has shown that when African military rulers taste power, they don't let it go willingly.

Anyway, the Guineans I have spoken to are quite confident that "the young boys" (as they referred to the junta) will indeed steer the nation towards democracy. As I am a battle hardened Nigerian, I can't help but think they are a bit naive, honestly. I think they have suffered so long under Lansana Conte, they just want something else. Anyway, time will tell.

@ Jinta: "why send anyone to guinea in the first place?"

That is a very good question that I didn't even consider. I think Yardy was trying to reach out to the coup plotters and encourage them to quickly turn control over to a democratically elected government. Assuming that was the case, there is actually nothing wrong with Yardy doing that. In fact, it is a solid sign of statesmanship to reach out to a junta so as to let them know you will help them if they do what you want. Unfortunately, I can only speculate as to Yardy's reasoning. It might have been enough for the President to simply state that he would not recognize the junta, as was the approach chosen by many non-African actors. But, maybe Nigeria was playing the big brother role.

I will add that Babangida has in the past been sent as a Nigerian representative to Guinea, when Conte was alive. OBJ sent him, definitely.

@ Chxta: You might be right. But, it would be unfortunate for a President whose party runs around accusing opposition parties of treason to not decisively react to his envoy's obvious disrespect. Had that been a blogger like you or I, the SSS or some other entity would have requested a 'discussion'. Until Yardy can deal with the top dogs, people will continue to question his authority which will in turn, make it harder for him to do the things he has promised and more importantly, the things he MUST do. But then again, I can only speculate as to whether or not the President wants to do what he has said he will. I just hope he is serious, because Nigeria has a hard road ahead, especially with the current global recession.

Beauty said...

S, I believe in democracy before we can talk about democracy, the different types available is perhards the problem with the term "democracy in Africa". Will those bad boys that took over in Guinea be any better than the mad dog that used to rule them will no loner be relevant since the state will not florish either way. It is only in complete education like that of Aristotle´s Ethics before graduation to Politics. Again, it is about education. Guineans and Africans generally have only known the tyranny of the minority and as such will embrace any change. The tyranny of the majority will eventually beg the same question. Who rules and on whose behalf?

Anya Posh said...

This is was an outright challenge to his authority as the commander-in-chief. That delegation sent to Guinea was supposed to present the single opinion of Nigeria and probably the opinion stipulated in the official delegation report. If IBB decided to go on a limb & wing it by providing his own ideas, then we have a serious problem on our hands. Yar'dua needs to stand firm to maintain/enhance his credibility because the way he handles this issue will affect his legitimacy.

Adaeze said...

wow..that's so ridicilous and ironic. It is worth questioning indeed. Solomonsydelle - I recently discovered your blogs and I'm trying to catch up. Great work you're doing!

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