By Fortune Archibong
The 2022 Democracy Day had come and gone but Nigerians were amused at the unexpected recognition of Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, the running mate of the late M.K.O Abiola in the 1993 presidential elections which the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) is presumed to have won, as a former Vice President of Nigeria. Unwittingly, Kingibe is now listed in the club of Nigerian former Vice Presidents which include the late Chief Alex Ekwueme, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Mr Nnamadi Sambo and Prof. YemiOsinbajo come May 29, 2023.
As a calculated political action to curry the favour and support of the South-West geo-political zone; President MuhammaduBuhari on the 12th of June, 2018 hosted a special investiture for the late M.K.O Abiola as the Grand Commander of the Order of Federal Republic (GCFR); one honour bestowed on only the Presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria posthumously but physically conferred on his first son, Kola Abiola. By that singular act of honour, M.K.O Abiola is supposed to be hoisted among the portraits of Nigerian Presidents. Details and modus operandi of the honour were scanty as no mention was made of the Vice Presidential candidate of the botched republic and ticket with Abiola, the living Ambassador and son of Borno, AlhajiBabagana Kingibe until recently. Besides, Kingibe was not treated to an elaborate state function such as the one where Abiola’s son, Kola stood on the dais to receive the posthumous honour on the behalf of his father. Discerning minds had concluded that no political trick would be stronger enough to curry the favour of the South-West Nay Yoruba race except at the mention of M.K.O Abiola.
Kingibe had trudged on with life after the truncation of the Abiola’s mandate and the military rule afterwards with baggagesof ill-wind and misconceptions. The initial salvo of accusation shot at him was this betrayal of Abiola his master and the mandate they jointly secured from Nigerians when he accepted to serve in the military junta of the late General Sani Abacha as Minister of Internal Affairs. He is said to have abandoned all the pro-democracy efforts at the revitalization of Abiola’s mandate in Lagos and other locations to dine and wine with the military top brass in Abuja. He was said to be conspicuously absent at the Epetedo Declaration where the late M.K.O Abiola declared himself as the President of Nigeria and his subsequent arrest and detention by the military regime. He may not have visited his erstwhile political boss, M.K.O Abiola in the prison and his later demise in incarceration.
As a diplomat and Kanuri son, his relationship with the late General Sanni Abacha may not be known to Nigerians who had erroneously taken the late military ruler as a Kano man without the understanding of his Kanuri roots. Kingibe’s relationship with Abacha who was born on Kanuri soil and Kanuri mother who only took the young Sanni to Kano where he claimed “political origin” was too strong and had to switch support from a yoruba presidential candidate and politics too far from the El-kanemi dynasty of Borno. Kingibe was at home with Abachawhom he must have interacted in Maiduguri in olden times as a Kanuri brother and saw no evil whatsoever to abandon Abiolafor him. He grew up as a shrewd political/ diplomatic strategist who knows the riddles of power play and has won and lost some critical battles in the corridors of power.
Kingibe’s next political season of relevance was when the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua dusted him from political oblivion and appointment in 2007 as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. For a sickly President with apolitical cum diplomatic strategist in the pole cabinet office, Kingibe bestrode the presidency as a colossus and was effectively in charge of the federal cabinet and the appurtenance of presidential powers. Buoyed by these levers of power, he undermined and took advantage of the sickly absence of the late President Yar’Adua to attempt a constitutional misnomer of succeeding a sickly president notwithstanding a constitutionally approved Vice President Goodluck Jonathan then, by pre-empting ethnic sympathy for a northern President in the event of Yar’Adua’s death in office. Meeting upon meetings, consultations and all manner of emissaries to secure the endorsement of critical power brokers of the country; all these collapsed upon the arrival of the same sickly President UmaruMusa Yar’Adua who relieved him of his post as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation for a Bauchi-born technocrat and bureaucratic czar, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed.
Again, it should be known that Kingibe is power player of Kanuri for the Kanuris and in the midst of Kanuri as would be concluded shortly. Then came President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, who is more Kanuri than Fulani in some issues. Of note is the fact that the closest friends of President Buhari are Kanurisand had interacted with them so early in life as a military officer, former Governor of North-Eastern State and Borno State. This explains the reason for the engagement of the late Mallam Abba Kyari from Borno State as the Chief of Staff to the President.
Trust the Borno and Kanuri connections as Kingibe again was given unfettered access to the Aso Villa to prosecute a Kanuri agenda in the presidency. Apart from the massive support from the Borno-Yobe axis of north-east zone who had endured in thick and thin with President Buhari in his several failed political attempts at the Presidency, the Kanuris are distinct political species who spares nothing to attain any socio-political height. Their dividends today are sensitive political appointments such as Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Inspector-General of Police and a look at the spread of other appointments would indicate that the Kanurisoccupy strategic offices in the government and other opportunities such as Kanuri in-laws like Muhammad Indimi and a sect of others holding key oil blocs in southern Nigeria and other juicy national concerns.
While the late Mallam Abba Kyari, late chief of staff to the President lived, Kingibe was said to be given the task of compiling the first set of Ambassadors appointed by this government where his dead friends in the foreign service were appointed from their graves. The sudden appellation of Kingibeas a Nigerian Vice President is a sudden political beatitude of aKanuri diplomat. Only God saved Nigeria that Ambassador Kingibe did not succeed his late town’s man, Abba Kyari as the Chief of Staff to the president which almost happened. Further access of this strategist into the seat of power with his latest political insignia may portend an albatross!