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.
WHY SEND IBB?
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.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF YAR'ADUA'S DECISION
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)