Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Don't call it a comeback"

First of all, my apologies to LL Cool J for the title of this post, but it's just too fitting to pass up. What else could describe the attempts of Nigeria's former military dictator Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (pictured at left with Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak) to stand as a candidate in Nigeria's 2007 presidential elections?

After taking power in a military coup in 1985, Babangida ruled as a classic African big man, and cut no corners to show his countrymen that he deserved to be discussed in the same sentences as his contemporaries in Zaire and Uganda. While at first styling himself as a political reformer, Babangida quickly discovered that ruling by decree freed him of tedious legislative busywork, and that his modest civil service salary and pension would necessarily be inferior, from a personal economics standpoint, to kleptocracy.

Babangida's comeback tour is not without precedent, as dictators of the 1980s have, more and more, been looking to return. Not all have been successful, such as Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier's ill-fated presidential campaign in Haiti, but really, if voters in Nicaragua could forgive Daniel Ortega, who's to say that Babangida won't tug on Nigerian heartstrings in the same way? One good, or even bad!, turn may truly deserve another.

By the time Babangida was ousted in a military coup by (the now deceased) General Sani Abacha, the ousted dictator had left little to show for his rule beyond a string of extrajudicial murders, human rights abuses, fraudulent elections, and empty state coffers. On the plus side, however, he does have his own website (viewable here), and I'm a sucker for a dictator with a website.

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