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IBB and the sting of the single story



Nigeria is a school of paradoxes if you sit back and reflect on a number of matters.

The most recent is the fulmination of former military president General Ibrahim Babangida against one of those pre-election videos aired on “a private television station”. IBB says no one should demonise the military, citing the many areas in which military leaders have contributed positively to the evolution and development of Nigeria.

I agree with IBB against demonisation of the military, but for a different reason than his. I also agree that the videos have been odious and used for wrong purposes.

IBB then launches into the jeremiad about the sacrificial nature of military service. It is a global truism, save that in Nigeria military service since the 1960s particularly at the top has not been sacrificial. Not at all. IBB can tell that to the marines.

IBB’s complaint is one of the ironies of Nigeria. It underlines once again the danger of the single story. Chimamanda Adichie has something to say about this.

History shows that IBB’s primary constituency commenced the single story demonisation of groups and institutions in Nigeria. From the first coup and particularly following each coup removing civilians, the military sent out the narrative that politicians were corrupt. Corruption has been the primary narrative against every civilian government in power, by the military.

Our history shows however that corruption as a single story is a false descriptor. This label that the military institution hung on Nigeria has become our albatross and our sad reality, military or civilian. The cudgel is freely used and not for altruistic reasons.

It is similarly ironic that IBB complains about videos. Videos? Do you remember the origin of video displays in government, shown to various groups of leaders to justify the annulment of June 12?

Another irony is that of the channel for this damage to the ego of IBB and his cohorts. In one of the paradoxes of his years as Maradona, IBB moved to liberalise broadcasting in Nigeria in 1992. Liberalisation ran against the run of play as IBB came first as a friend of the media then turned to a scourge. Decree 38 of 1992 established the National Broadcasting Commission and charged it to accept and screen applications for the issuance of licenses for private participation in broadcasting in the country.

AIT is one of the fruits of that era.

IBB lists the many achievements of the military and their contributions to the nation. When the military demonised democracy in Nigeria, they took no cognisance of the outstanding achievements of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the many firsts of the Western Region, or Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe who was superintending over a region with the fastest growth rate in Africa at the time, or of Sir Ahmadu Bello and his slow but steady and all-inclusive approach to development of the Northern region. All they saw was corruption.

Now the shoe is on the other feet. Nigerians think the military was a blight on our land, despite the achievements recorded by them. IBB dislikes this narrative. Or is there more to his complaints, given that we speak here once more of Maradona, the lover of Chaka the Zulu?

-Article by Chido Nwakanma


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