Crafty former Nigerian dictator has been known to tell many lies, but now he is heaping the blame for his woeful failure to bequeth a lasting democractic legacy on the man he betrayed - MKO Abiola. According to General Ibrahim Babangida, he had wanted to restore the June 12 mandate to MKO Abiola after a secret meeting, but Abiola messed up by not trusting him.
In one of his usual entertaining interviews pushed through newspaper reporters, he told the Daily Sun that forces around Abiola did not trust him even when he had promised to "do something" for Abiola, therefore he allowed the June 12 election to be flushed down the drain.
Babangida reasoned that if Abiola had trusted him, he would have done Abiola a personal favor, forgetting that an election was a national and legal property. He said the problem with the election was the management of the aftermath of the annulment, and not the annulment. The people who fought to get the mandate actualized, he said, were the problem, not him and the cabal that resisted all democratic efforts by killing innocent citizens and driving political opponents to exile.
The Sun asked: "Why couldn’t you change the course of June 12, since you were not only in government, but also in power?"
In a 15-year afterthought, Babangida stated: "I think one day, the facts will emerge. But each time I think about it, I feel the political management at that time was the undoing. I think June 12 was mismanaged. We had people who handled the whole issue about June 12, they didn’t apply a lot of political common sense. Now I can sit down and tell you it ought to have been done this way. I will give you an example. Moshood Abiola came out to me during the crisis - in the heat of June 12 - and he said: ‘what can you do’. He asked me that. I said there are a lot of things I can do. Just as you said, he said he knew me.
"That if there is a mountain here, I can go through if I wanted. We laughed. But I said ‘no’, as a soldier if there is a mountain here, I have been taught to go round it. We all laughed. So I pleaded for some time to think about it and then I also promised I was going to call him to tell him what we were going to do. Unfortunately his handlers, they tried to make interpretations of my discussion with him. Fortunately for him, it was only two of us in the meeting. We didn’t bring any other person in. This was at the instance of very prominent traditional rulers. I said I will inform my team.
The moment he left, those forces around him took over the whole thing. And they went on and on, saying don’t trust him, he is not going to do this, he is going to do that and I think he got carried away by them."
Asked: "There is this allegation that the South-west appropriated MKO Abiola soon after the June 12 1993 presidential election, even though you were closer to Abiola than most of them," IBB replied, "The answer is true. Yes I was very close to Abiola than all of you except those of his immediate family. After his immediate family, I will claim that I am one of the closest three persons after his family.
Reporter: "So why couldn’t you change the fate that befell him?" "Fate! Even you have called it fate," Babangida replied unapologetically.