General Ibrahim Babangida’s Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) had just finished its weekly meeting. What ministers do with the present occupant of Aso Rock, Abuja –praise and worship – was the lot of IBB then at the Dodan Barracks, Lagos. Toady appointees in abject servitude fawned over the president; everybody must congratulate the leader on how well he was doing – even while failing. Babangida was used to such menial, exaggerated loyalty; he had been around power since July 1966, and deep in its depths from July 1976. That stuffy afternoon in October 1986, the officials were at their servile best. The Inspector-General of Police, Etim Inyang, made to greet the leader; IBB flashed him his trademark Pepsodent smile, and, almost immediately, he withdrew the beam, then fired at the top cop: “My friend, where is Anini?” The IGP froze. He had no coherent answer to that question which the Commander-in-Chief deliberately asked within the earshot of the press. The following day, Babangida’s flamethrower-question was the lead headline of every newspaper in Nigeria and the dominant theme in public discourse weeks after.
I am not sure Anini also knew his reign would ever end. He was an unusual felon; he was as elusive as air. His nickname was The Law. He was actually the law. When he was finally captured like a naked snail in December 1986, a jubilant news magazine exclaimed with the headline: “Anini: Face to Face with the Law.” I wish the pesky weevils in our barn enjoy that end too.