Babangida and Nigerian Intellectuals
The formation of the political bureau was a significant event for many reasons. The composition of the bureau could hardly be faulted as it included men and women of character and learning; it also served as an early move for Babangida to co-opt, cultivate and involve intellectuals in the elaborate Transition Programme. In preparation, Babangida released political detainees, repealed the Decree 4 of 1984 and promised a respect for fundamental human rights. Within two years of seizing the reins of government, Babangida had the support of a large swathe of the country; there were few dissensions. When it started to be obvious to discerning members of the bureau that all was not well with Babangida's plans, only a few of the members took decisive action.
Dr. Edwin Madunagu, then of the respected liberal newspaper The Guardian, was dropped from the bureau for "extremist" and "uncooperative" views and attitudes. He would later famously issue a separate report. Reports appeared showing that Madunagu had been threatened and harassed.
Professor Sam E. Oyovbaire served as special adviser to Admiral Aikhomu (Aikhomu became Babangida's deputy after Commodore Ebitu Okoh Ukiwe had been forced out of office in October 1986) engaged in rationalising the regime's political programme. Oyovbaire extolled the virtues of the Transition Programme, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), MAMSER (Mass Mobilisation for Self-Reliance Social Justice,and Economic Recovery), SAP (Structual Adjustment Programme - the "home-grown" version implemented by the Babangida regime without the standby facility of the International Monetary Fund). In Feb 2002, Oyovbaire, along with Chidi Amuta, wrote in defence of Babangida's programmes. In 2010, when Babangida had again nursed the ambition of contesting for the presidency, Professor Oyovbaire had been named as his "Director of Policy and Strategy". In December 2010, when Badangida had been ruled out of the 2011 elections, Oyovbaire had been reported as the head of the Abubakar Atiku campaign for the presidency in the South-South; this followed the " harmonization process of the I B B, Gusau, Atiku and Saraki Campaign Teams in South-South following the adoption of Atiku Abubakar as the consensus Candidate by the Ciroma led wise men from the North ...".
These above appear to confirm the reading of public commentators, including intellectuals and academics, of the success of Babangida's patronage politics. The creation of several programmes maintained a steady income for many academics, even as the programs were rife with the corruption that marked Babangida's regime as exceptional. Members of the political bureau were promised active roles in the implementation of their recommendations; personal loyalty developed as a matter of course. In reference to the Transition Program of General Babangida, Prof. Adebayo Willians in "Intellectuals and the crisis of democratization in Nigeria: Towards a theory of postcolonial anomie" wrote: "A substantial faction of the intellectual class is implicated in this democratic debacle, and its behaviour provides rich insights into the dynamics of intellectual affiliations in a neopatrimonial military state."
By 2002, Oyovbaire could be read defending Babangida's regime: "The socio-economic reforms of the IBB regime created the enabling environment for a generation of Nigerian professionals who were self-reliant, confident and challenged to break new grounds in the Nigerian political economy." and presented Babangida's regime as the "... architect and founder of the process of modernization of the Nigerian political economy..." Regarding the "missing" $12.2 Billion Gulf War oilwindfall, Oyovbaaire wrote: "The IBB regime did what it had to do with the dedicated funds. Therefore, the divergence of opinions between the Okigbo committee and the IBB regime on this matter was essentially conceptual and not substantive." By 2010, Oyovbaire had become coordinator for the activities of PDP presidential aspirant, Abubakar Atiku.
Oyovbaire has also co-authored a book "Portrait of a New Nigeria Leader: Selected Speeches of IBB" (Tunji Olagunju and Sam Oyovabaire). In the preface, Adele Jinadu wrote: "President Babangida's enunciation of human rights as a cardinal aspect of his regime is not merely accidental or an opportunistic rationalisation to take advantage of the opprobrium in which the Buhari regime was held and thereby win popular acclaim. Rather it runs deep in his liberal and populist convictions and is based on a reasoned and well-thought out conceptualisation of the military role in African politics". Jinadu, another Nigerian intellectual, appears blind to - as Williams would write - the "unprecedented and well-documented assault on human rights by the Babangida government".
Oyovbaire's high opinion of Babangida could be contrasted with the assessment of two other scholars. In the assessment of Rotimi and Julius Ihonvbere: "Babangida’s Character... left much to be desired. He was corrupt, manipulative, unpredictable, ambitious, unreliable and uninterested in leaving office"; see note 1 in
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