Ode To Baba Iyabo-Chuks Iloegbunam

BABA IYABO is the quintessential hero in every drama of his own scripting or adaptation. If he isn’t the originator, initiator or lead actor, hush! It means the play ain’t worth it. Therefore, those who presumed to put it together must be impaled on the flagstaff of their impunity. But Baba Iyabo was an unknown quantity until his replacement of Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Adekunle (Black Scorpion) as the commander of the 3 Marine Commando Division of the Nigerian Army during the civil war. After the conflict, he claimed the title of the Ultimate-Commander-that-defeated-Biafra. But his stint at the battlefront had been over a spare six months; the war had lasted for two and a half years!

Baba Iyabo, the soldier-turned-author published My Command, (Ibadan. Heinemann Educational Books, 1981), his account of the civil war. Thirty-three years later, another officer who fought alongside Baba Iyabo, published a counter to the book. Reviewing it at the launch in July 2013, the journalist, Kunle Ajibade, observed that: “The total lack of (a) generous spirit in General Olusegun Obasanjo prompted General Alabi-Isama to write The Tragedy of Victory. [Ibadan. Spectrum Books, 2013]. Three years ago, when Alabi–Isama turned 70, he came to Nigeria from the US to celebrate his birthday. His close friend, General Alani Akinrinade who attended the ceremony, gave him two copies of General Olusegun Obasanjo’s My Command. By that time Alabi-Isama had heard about the book but had never read it. Akinrinade had told his friend that the book would turn his belly. It surely did. General Alabi-Isama discovered that there were so many distortions of fact in the book, and he immediately dismissed it as a tapestry of inaccuracies. As he read it, he marked out not less than eighty two passages in My Command where General Obasanjo simply told outright lies to massage his ego and damage the reputation of his colleagues. Alabi-Isama then thought that since he was still a moving encyclopedia on the 3 Marine Commando Division, it was time to tear the painted mask of Obasanjo’s lies.”
Baba Iyabo has not uttered a word on the evisceration of his war memoirs by Alabi-Isama. But he has continued, with fangs and talons, to attack and maul people he believes are obstacles to his coveted role of Eternal Lead Actor in Nigerian affairs. He expected President Goodluck Jonathan to have a bit of commonsense, which should translate into the Nigerian leader perpetually facing Ota Farm and taking dictation. If Jonathan woke up in the morning, he would be expected to face the Delphic Oracle at Ota Farm and seek permission to rise from bed and brace up for the day’s challenges. If Jonathan got to the office, he would, of course, seek another permission before he presumed to warm his seat. If people visited the presidential office, he would ask whether it was appropriate to grant them audience or whether muscular elements of the Police Mobile Force should not flog them kilometres away from Aso Rock’s precincts.
Because President Jonathan wisely understood that he should be his own man, rather than dawdle on the lawns of a fellow that since had his day, Baba Iyabo found him guilty of the capital crime of presumption. Therefore, every action of Jonathan’s, however patriotic, has to be visited with Ota diatribe. Baba Iyabo isn’t the only one fate dealt the presidency of Nigeria. All the others would rather consult privately with the President on any matter they felt strongly about. Surprisingly, embarrassment appears to be scant in this weird situation of just the one man knowing all the answers and incessantly spewing invectives in all directions. But, should embarrassment really be in short supply in the propensity of just the one man habitually barging into open doors?
To return to President Jonathan, for whom Baba Iyabo is of little electoral significance. His stance rebukes the social media-generated opinion that he is weak. Jonathan has looked the lion in his face and spat at it. Yet, the heavens have not fallen. Nor will they fall. It is obvious that Jonathan understands the sagacity in facing other than Ota in the governance of Nigeria. Those who have not appropriated this wisdom can do with some counsel. If a politician won an election, he tried. If a soldier shot himself to power, he still took some risk, even if his action was patently unconstitutional and undemocratic. In Baba Iyabo’s two presidential instances, he contributed precious little. He was dragged from hiding under the bed in Chief S. B. Bakare’s Ikoyi, Lagos, home and made Head of State after putschists killed General Murtala Muhammed in 1976. He was dragged from prison and made President of Nigeria, following the return to democratic rule in 1999. These circumstances should have left him permanently in sober reflection. Had that been so, he may have tried to attain something of the legend of Nelson Mandela, another man who went straight from prison to the presidential palace. Instead he tried to twist the constitution in order to serve a third unprecedented term of office.
In calling members of the National Assembly thieves, is Baba Iyabo saying that he is the only person ignorant of the fact that his futile third term bid translated into a whopping N50 million largesse to almost every Federal legislator of that era? Was it not under his watch that the then House Speaker, Ghali Umar Na’Abba, poured next to the Mace, the rejected millions of raw cash the presidency had sought to clandestinely use to misdirect lawmaking?
Important point! If railing against sexual harassment is trending, those posted behind the microphones should not be serial rapists. To determine whether or not to pay any attention to Baba Iyabo, the public will do well to first examine the views of two men and two women. Grab a copy of Wole Soyinka’s You Must Set Forth At Dawn, (New York. Random House, 2007) and read the Nobelist’s accounts of two developments in which he thought that he and Baba Iyabo had some understanding. The one was the Biafran Army’s overrunning of the Midwest Region; the other was to do with the attempt to recover the plundered Ori Olokun statue, thought to be in Brazil. Next, get a copy of Bitter-sweet: my life with Obasanjo (Lagos. Diamond Publications, 2009) by Oluremi, Baba Iyabo’s first wife. Read also, Iyabo’s 2013 letter to her Baba.
Reporting it, political editor Emmanuel Aziken, wrote a front-page story in the Vanguard of December 18, 2013 with this opening paragraph: “In what is turning out to be a season of open letters, daughter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Iyabo, has ruled out further communication with her father till death, describing him as a liar, manipulator, two-faced hypocrite determined to foist on President Goodluck Jonathan what no one would contemplate with him as president.” Finally read especially paragraph 10 of the 50-paragraph affidavit sworn to by Gbenga, Baba’s son, in his 2008 divorce proceedings.

Mr. Chuks Iloegbunam, author, wrote Lagos

Author: News Editor

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