At 79, Babangida Is Anything But a Statesman

Owing to IBB’s averseness to the truth, President Obasanjo famously remarked in 1993 that if Babangida greeted you “good morning,” you must step outside to verify the time of the day.

Ibrahim Babangida/photo credit: The Guardian Nigeria
Ibrahim Babangida/photo credit: The Guardian Nigeria

As former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently discovered when he made scathing comments at the death of the PDP VIP, Mr. Buruji Kashamu, it is abominable to say anything bad about the dead in Nigeria.

For this reason, I cannot wait until Ibrahim Babangida is dead before I write what I have to write.

At 79, former military leader, General Ibrahim Babangida, is being honorred by the political elite as a great leader and a “statesman.” Among those who have praised him are President Mohammadu Buhari, who suffered in the hands of Babangida, former President Goodluck Jonathan and former Senate President David Mark.

Why they call Babangida a statesman, I cannot fathom.

If General Babangida is a statesman, the word has lost its meaning, for a statesman is someone who has had a respectable public career.

Although Babangida did not create all of Nigeria’s problems, he constructed the road to hell. The Babangida I know does not qualify to be feted, and those who fail to describe him as a tyrant are hiding the truth.

By the time you finishing reading, you can decide if Babangida is a statesman or a despot.

For the sake of the younger generation, especially the millennials, I would provide sufficient background to understand the man who could not be repackaged successfully by the corrupt elite.

By the time you finishing reading, you can decide if Babangida is a statesman or a despot

For proper identification, the former military “president,” and professional coup plotter, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, is also known as “IBB,” the self-styled “Evil Genius” and “Maradona.”

It is important to take our time to reach into history because most Nigerians are not old enough to know Babangida.

No fewer than 60 per cent of Nigerians were either babies or unborn during the most catastrophic political event in Nigeria that was the handiwork of the Evil Genius.

It is now 27 years since Nigeria was released from the stranglehold of IBB, following riots that greeted his annulment of Nigeria’s freest and fairest election in 1993.

Babangida led Nigeria through a tortuous and deceptive political and economic transition that ended in a cul-de-sac.

When he left, Nigeria was bankrupt economically, morally, socially and politically.

Owing to IBB’s averseness to the truth, President Obasanjo famously remarked in 1993 that if Babangida greeted you “good morning,” you must step outside to verify the time of the day.

Even now, who knows if IBB is 79?

READ ALSO: Why Babangida Removed Me From Power – Buhari (Full Interview)

Most information about him could not be verified.

There is no evidence he passed his School Certificate examination, as he did not receive his undisclosed results until three decades later in a publicized ceremony as the military head of state.

From the start, it seemed Babangida was more interested in power than a professional military career, as he had been the face behind every military coup in Nigeria over a 30-year period.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) remarked that Babangida had taken part in all coups in Nigeria.

With his cohorts, he unleashed many years of needless bloodshed and power rotation that left Africa’s highest grossing nation as one of its poorest.

When the military seized power in December 30, 1983, IBB became the chief of army staff and a member of the highest ruling military body, the Supreme Military Council. He also served in that council during the Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo regimes.

Being in military leadership was not enough to satisfy IBB’s thirst for power.

From the start, it seemed Babangida was more interested in power than a professional military career, as he had been the face behind every military coup in Nigeria over a 30-year period

On August 27, 1985, the Muhammadu Buhari/Tunde Idiagbon administration was toppled in a palace coup by Babangida, who made himself Nigeria’s first “military President,” an unknown title for a military head of state.

IBB received numerous national and military decorations, most of which he awarded himself or received from his subordinates and beneficiaries.

To his supporters, he is a god – because he showered them with material benefits.

However, to many Nigerians, he was a brutal dictator.

Before he dribbled himself out of power, the evil genius was methodical, shrewd in power, flamboyant in style and ruthless in response.

Deft and strategic, Babangida ushered himself as a champion of human rights, but unleashed a spate of abuses that was only matched by his savage successor, General Sani Abacha.

Maradona’s first call in power was to release most of those jailed by Buhari, including the late music star, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

Shortly after, Babangida began to brutally muffle opposition, as he frequently detained labor leaders, journalists, students and human rights advocates.

By the time Babangida was one year in power, he had begun to demonstrate his deceptive character.

He started a national debate on whether to accept an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan or embark on austerity measures.

Nigerians favoured the measures but soon found that the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) was not being faithfully executed.

While the people sacrificed, billions of dollars was being pocketed by Babangida and his men, such that under SAP, unemployment numbers, food prices, and cost of living soared.

Ghana and Uganda made gains under SAP, but Nigerians suffered till they responded in a 1989 riot, to which the dictator replied by first killing hundreds of protesters, then issuing palliative measures.

A World Bank report issued in 1995 fully documented how grand theft under Babangida’s regime nullified the gains of SAP.

Before he dribbled himself out of power, the evil genius was methodical, shrewd in power, flamboyant in style and ruthless in response

His government implemented a myriad of failed programs, which only helped to divert attention and fritter scarce national resources.

Such programmes include the People’s Bank, Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI), National Directorate of Employment (NDE), and Better Life for Rural Women. All these programmes are long dead.

Babangida replaced his deputy, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe with Rear Admiral Augustus Aikhomu.

The former was headstrong and idealistic, while the latter was largely a yes-man.

Ukiwe challenged policies that threatened the secularity of Nigeria, including Nigeria’s secret membership of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

As things got worse, a band of top officers, including Babangida’s mate and best man at his wedding, General Mamman Vatsa, allegedly planned to remove him.

They were all captured and killed without sufficient evidence.

We now know that Vatsa may have been murdered for offences he did not commit, going by revelations by the former Chief of Defence Staff, General Domkat Bali.

Nigeria continued in spiral fall until April 22, 1990, when a brave junior officer, Major Gideon Orkar, almost toppled the Babangida regime.

The official residence of the head of state, the Dodan Barracks, was razed.

Babangida escaped by a slim stroke of luck.

Nigerian civilians were, for the first time, involved in a coup attempt, as Orkar made damaging allegations about Babangida’s personal life, political problems and corruption.

READ ALSO: I Annulled June 12, Not IBB – Dahiru Saleh

For his safety, the dictator quickly moved the seat of power from Lagos to previously abandoned national capital, Abuja, just about an hour’s drive from his hometown.

IBB now counts the move to Abuja as one if his greatest achievements, although he pretty much ran for dear life.

Throughout his rule, the Evil Genius was held in suspicion by most Nigerians.

He held on to power with a single promise: to lead Nigeria back to democracy.

But this promise he reneged on over and over, causing a viral term, “Hidden Agenda,” to be coined by the late lawyer, Mr. Alao Aka Bashorun, who declared that Babangida was attempting to succeed himself.

Abiola believed Babangida to his peril and he was dribbled of his life

IBB cancelled without good reason, presidential primaries about to be won by the late Chief of Army Staff, General Shehu Yar’Adua.

The confusion that ensued led Babangida to fast-track the political transition process that caused billionaire philanthropist, Mr. M.K.O Abiola, to step into politics.

Abiola believed Babangida to his peril and he was dribbled of his life.

The election of June 12, 1993, between Abiola and Mr. Bashir Tofa, was Nigeria’s most peaceful and acceptable election, but it was annulled by Babangida, who refused to vacate power.

The annulment unleashed a national outrage that led to IBB’s downfall.

Hundreds of Nigerians were killed by soldiers acting under the directives of Babangida and his beneficiaries, as the citizens fought for the mandate given to Abiola.

Eventually, it dawned on the Maradona, the game was up.

He was forced to vacate his beloved presidential seat when decided to “step aside.”

Babangida was forced out, but not before he planted his equally ruthless and utterly vindictive partner, the late General Sani Abacha, to guide a lame civilian caretaker administration of Ernest Shonekan.

It surprised no one that Abacha sent Shonekan packing in less than three months, and continued the evil legacy of his former boss, IBB.

The bedrock for today’s social, political and financial decadence in Nigeria was laid by this man, Ibrahim Babangida.

He created conditions malignant to national advancement, such as the institutionalisation of the culture of corruption that is now heavily entrenched in the social and moral fabric of the Nigerian society.

The phenomena of the scamming schemes or theft-by-deception, A.K.A. “419,” is largely believed to have gained undue prominence and seeming acceptance during the eight-year misrule of Ibrahim Babangida.

The “Yahoo Boys” and “Hushpuppy” culture is a by-product of the IBB era.

During his administration, money laundering, corruption and theft were raised to a whole new level.

The defunct BCCI bank was busted for unprecedented international financial crimes in 1991 globally, and many governments shut down the bank’s operations in their domains. Not in Nigeria, under Babangida.

The corrupt military administration run by him worked out a deal where the bank, controlled by his close friends, changed its name to Africa International Bank.

Under the threat of closure, the BCCI scandal led journalists at Abiola’s Concord Newspapers to depart and form THE NEWS group, which thrives long after his dictatorship.

With IBB in power, the closure of universities became an annual event, and the foundation was laid for today’s instability in the tertiary education system, including wasteful spending of billions of naira every year on foreign education by Nigerian parents.

It was under Babangida that the health of the late human rights lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, was compromised.

The bedrock for today’s social, political and financial decadence in Nigeria was laid by this man, Ibrahim Babangida

Though he made his mark through frequent arrests and jail time, Gani reportedly developed health problems that led to his death through encounters with IBB’s henchmen.

Long before, the late Newswatch journalist, Dele Giwa, was brutally murdered through a parcel bomb by someone believed to be an agent of the Babangida administration in 1986.

Before he opened the parcel, Dele Giwa said it must be from the president.

Ibrahim Babangida’s regime has been indicted by the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission, led by the late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, for the killing of Dele Giwa.

Babangida blocked that report from being released through the judicial system he blatantly corrupted.

The report noted: “On General Ibrahim Babangida, we are of the view that there is evidence to suggest that he and the two security chiefs, Brigadier General Halilu Akilu and Col. A. K. Togun are accountable for the death of Dele Giwa by letter bomb.

We recommend that this case be re-open for further investigation in the public interest.”

The $12bn Gulf War oil windfall received during the Babangida administration remains unaccounted for, and all he could point to as achievements in a recent interview is buildings in Abuja and the Third Mainland Bridge.

This is the man some would have us call a statesman.

In a sane society, IBB would have been tried and convicted of social, political and financial crimes against the good people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

To call such a mindless dictator a statesman is to assume all Nigerians are without sense and memory.

Babangida is anything but a statesman and history will not be kind to him.

Written by Tunde Chris Odediran

Tunde Chris Odediran studied and practiced journalism in Nigeria. He is now a Technical Communications and Information Technology professional in the United States.