All that Babangida, (nicknamed IBB), has to show for his over eight years in power in Nigeria, is private colossal wealth, and the edification of corruption in our body politics. Yes, he is richer than many African governments and can buy who ever he wants, but he ruined our lives to reach there. The book, The Sink, by Jeffrey Robinson, an American writer, says it all about Babangida. “Of the $120 billion siphoned out of the Nigerian treasury into offshore accounts by dishonest politicians, $20 billion is allegedly traceable to IBB directly as president from 1985 to 1993.” The World Bank and other international sources of information put his total loot from the Nigerian treasury at over $35 billion.He is now threatening to use a fraction of his loot to return to power and a figure of N400 billion has been mentioned by his cronies as his campaign chest. We ought to be worrying now about how to survive this viper’s poisoned food. We are desperately hungry but if we eat, we die immediately. If we don’t, we die slowly from hunger anyway, terrorized by the viper’s fang. We are trapped. We can’t get up to look elsewhere for food or do anything else. The evil genius has hijacked our destiny.
Fortunately, there are still principled, conscientious and patriotic Nigerians, determined that if they must die, it must not be without a fight. Babangida would not return to rule over one Nigeria. If he does, lovers of Nigeria would, at least, make Nigeria ungovernable for him, failing which, they would emigrate. I would definitely renounce my citizenship of Nigeria if nothing else.
The Yoruba have a proverb about: ‘a person about to be roasted, who rubs his body with fat and goes to stand by a raging fire.’ This must have influenced the following remarks on IBB by our popular human rights lawyer/activist, Mr. Femi Falana: “I am not quite sure that Nigerians can stop him from exposing himself to ridicule. He has been lucky that he is not in jail now. His coming out to contest will provide an opportunity for Nigerians to deal with him squarely and confront him with the annulment of June 12 election, the murder of Dele Giwa, the Ejigbo tragic plane crash, the destruction of our values as a people, corruption, and massive violation of human rights.”
M. D. Yusufu, a former Inspector General of police said in Karl Maiers book, This House has fallen, that: “Babangida went all out to corrupt society. Abacha was intimidating people with fear. With him gone now you can recover. But this corruption remains and it is very corrosive to society.”
Professor Akin Oyebode of the University of Lagos law department describes IBB’s attempt to return to power “as a colossal assault on the national psyche. At the end of the debate on the IMF conditionalities, he clamped on SAP, which was more draconian than the IMF conditionalities. Because he has a 50-bedroom house at Minna, he thinks the world is his oyster. He latches on the popular yearnings to launder his image. He has dirty rotten underwear that he wants to clean so that people will give him a new improved IBB. IBB is a bad statement to the whole world that at the end of the day we again brought Babangida to the scene. I don’t want my children to live under Babangida. I won’t live under Babangida.”
If all he could deliver, as a young man was to loot our treasury dry, what is he bringing to the table now? He does not even have the basic education or the intelligence. To be an expert at maneuvering a people and their treasury does not demonstrate intelligence as much as lack of moral fiber and self-discipline. Babangida is an empty barrel midget, robed in threatening vulgar giant frippery of evil exploits.
He lacks respect for democracy and worth of human life. He killed Dele Giwa. He closed down Ogun state radio; Concord, Guardian, Punch and Sketch newspapers; Newswatch and News magazines, during his time. He treated with contempt the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa led Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission (HRVIC), when summoned to answer charges on the murder of Dele Giwa. He also rushed to the court to prevent the implementation of the report of the Commission as it affected him.
Perhaps he wants to come back to rule so that he can retire with the biggest loot in history? But according to the book: The Sink, and International anti-corruption agencies reports, he has achieved that status already so why does he not want to leave us alone?
Speaking obliquely a few months ago in Babangidaspeak, he threatened that when he would speak on the June 12 annulment issue, Nigeria would shake to her foundations. In an interview in late May, 2004, on Channels TV, Babangida spoke on the June 12 issue, and no feathers were ruffled. Instead, Babangida admitted toothy smile and all, that he made a mistake but that he did it in the interest of Nigeria.
That was the same argument Mariam Abacha used when asked about her husband’s loot stashed away in his foreign accounts. She said her husband was saving the money for Nigeria. On hindsight, we got some of the money back didn’t we? That is more than can be said about Babangida’s loot and the political turmoil he plunged Nigeria into since his selfish, irresponsible, June 12 annulment.
On why Babangida ignored all pleas not to kill Mamman Vasta, the master dribbler said that Vasta’s death was a painful decision for him, but that he had no choice in the matter, because he was following military rules, and he did it in the national interest. But Vasta, his fellow infantry soldier and childhood friend, was hurriedly killed and his body dumped in a mass grave on the night of the announcement of his sentence, (i.e. early morning of 5th March 1986), to prevent last minute pleas for reprieve. Acid was poured on the bodies, including Vasta’s and burnt, so one must ask, was the rush to kill Vasta and burn his carcass sanctioned too by the military laws? The whole thing smacks of envy, apart from being hideous and barbaric. Babangida used the phantom coup allegation to remove or marginalize the Middle Belt military top brass in his government.
Babangida said that he brought Obasanjo back to power to stabilize the polity. What he was not telling, was the apparent deal between the two of them not to probe each other in power. Otherwise, why would Obasanjo ignore the bigger rogues to vigorously pursue the return of Abacha’s loot of a mere US$5 billion relatively?
Babangida on the Channels‘TV interview said he wants to return to power to correct Nigerian problems because he has been there before.
The man has no shame. Our most critical problem as a people is the rampant and systematic looting of our treasury by our successive leaders. Babangida was no exception, and he is being accused of the biggest loot of all, so, is he now saying that he wants to voluntarily refund whatever he is being accused of diverting from our coffers while in power? I have written personally to him before to do this, and he did not answer. He does not have to return to power to help Nigeria pay off her staggering foreign debt.
In a country of over 140 million people, what makes Babangida think he alone deserves to rule for perhaps seventeen or more years? What is he bringing to the table now if he never had it in the first place? Don’t we deserve better than our past illiterate leaders who could not differentiate between the national and their private purses?
Of all the Nigerian military dictators, Babangida was the most desperate for power, and for attempting to hold on to it for life, apart from being the most flamboyant, cunning, callous, ruthless and deadly, about how they went about achieving their goals. Babangida grew on Nigeria slowly and quietly, with a deceptive toothy smile.
Babangida first came into serious political reckoning with Buhari’s misleading coup of December 31st 1983. In reality, power was seized for the opportunity to destroy documents relating to the NNPC’s missing USA$2.8 billion oil money, and punish all those involved in the unraveling of the scam. Politicians and critics, including Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, notorious for clamouring for the exposure of the oil money rogue Minister of an earlier military epoch, were locked up without trial.
After consigning the vexatious matters that brought him to power to administrative oblivion with the help of Shinkafi, his Secret Service guru, Buhari announced his readiness to quit office. Idiagbon, as Buhari’s lieutenant, naturally insisted on taking over as head of state from his apparently prematurely retiring boss. Babangida, who was Chief of Army Staff at the time and a member of the Supreme Military Council, insisted it was his turn to rule because he had been involved in virtually every military coup. The quarrel split the Supreme Military Council members almost equally behind the two principal combatants.
Akilu had just returned from a military training in India at the time and Babangida recommended him for appointment as the head of the Secret Service. Idiagbon by-passed Akilu and slighted Babangida by not consulting with him to confirm the new head of the Secret Service from the army.
Gloria Okon was arrested at the Murtala Mohammed Airport trying to smuggle cocaine out of the country. Gloria claimed to be a courier for the family of one of the two high ranking military officers deeply involved in the Supreme Military Council’s palaver. Gloria was quickly smuggled out of the country and a carcass burnt beyond recognition of a human body, was left in her prison room to deceive the authorities. As Gloria’s drama was playing out, Abiola brought a large consignment of banned newsprint into the country, forcing Idiagbon to insist on the arrest of Chief M.K.O Abiola.
All sorts of calamitous events kept rolling out at the time, including the arrest of one Ikuomola for trying to smuggle a large consignment of cocaine out of the country. He indicted a son of one of the Dantatas and they were both tried and sentenced to death. The Dantata family mounted pressure on the Supreme Military Council to commute the sentence to life. The issue heightened the division among the Supreme Military Council members, with the Gloria Okon’s high ranking military benefactor, siding with the Dantatas naturally.
Idiagbon insisted that if poor people found with cocaine could be punished with death sentence, why should the rich and affluent be spared? Idiagbon also wanted the lawyer, (a Rivers state chap who had received some four million naira as legal fees on the case at the time), to be shot along with the drug barons for benefiting from the evil.
The schism between Idiagbon and Babangida totally paralyzed the Supreme Military Council and it could no longer function. Idiagbon forced compulsory leave on Babangida, under close surveillance with tapped telephone lines and all. Chief M.K.O Abiola saw the opportunity to save his neck from the newsprint saga by teaming up with his friend, Babangida, and he provided the seed money for a coup.
Through the facilities of Abiola and the Dantatas, Yar Adua was brought into the picture to help influence the Saudi Arabian monarch to extend a special invitation to Idiagbon as a guest of the monarch, to perform the 1985 Lesser Hajj in Mecca. Idiagbon felt greatly honoured by the invitation and took with him to Mecca, most of his supporters on the splintered Supreme Military Council, including Mamman Vasta.
With Idiagbon (who was the head of the Buhari’s regime in every sense of the word, and was very popular because of his transparent honesty, patriotism, and discipline), out of the way, Buhari (who was ready to vacate office anyway), was picked up like a helpless chicken at Doddan Barracks, and dumped in jail. Idiagbon, against the coupists’ advice, returned home a people’s hero, although locked up for several months too by Babangida.
The day after Babangida’s coup, I attacked it on the front page of the Sunday Punch newspaper, as a ploy by the (IMF and the World Bank) to marginalize the naira and destroy our economy, and Babangida was described as a snake by nature and a stooge of the West. The Editor of the Sunday Punch and his deputy at the time, Ayo Osintolu, and Bob Opone, respectively, were suspended from their jobs. Ayo for six months and Bob for three. I was unemployed as usual at the time, so, Babangida was handicapped about how to deal with me immediately. I heard later that I was blacklisted for all future government contracts and positions, even though my secondary school classmate Rear Admiral Aikhomu (rtd) eventually became Babangida’s deputy in office. I never tried to find out.
Because of my reputation as someone you could persuade with superior argument but impossible to bribe out of his conviction, my best friend who was like a twin brother to me at the time, Com. Wole Bucknor (rtd), was detailed to plead with me to drop any further development of the IBB matter. Their strategy was to admit to me that my observations were absolutely correct but that Babangida meant well for Nigeria. With Babangida’s antecedence, it was difficult for my friend to persuade me, but Nigerian newspapers in general at that early stage of the regime, were a little scared to publish and be damned.
Luckily, it did not take too long for Babangida to begin to reveal his secret agenda. He had removed Idiagbon/Buhari from power to douse the heated allegation at the time about illegal drug links and to help the IMF/World Bank ruin the naira and open up the Nigerian market as dumping ground for American and European junk and decadence. The marginalization of the naira suited Babangida’s Machiavellian streak to blunt prospects of mass protests with abject poverty, hunger, and basic survival pre-occupations. For example, the terroristic power of massive foreign exchange loot in a private hand, is limitless as a tool for forcing pauperized populace to acquiesce to the self-perpetuation antics of a potential despot.
Babangida’s first pronouncement in power was to shock the nation by adopting the civilian title of president. He did this because of a secret personal ambition kept to himself, to transit into life president in the mould of Presidents Nasir of Egypt and Eyadema of Togo, and also because of his agreement to make Chief Abiola his Vice President for collaborating over their 1985 coup. Abacha kicked against Abiola becoming Vice President because he was eyeing Babangida’s seat in a possible future coup of his own and wanted to remain the defacto next in command, in military terms, for eventual easy take over excuse.
Babangida promised Yar Adua a short-lived military transition after which he would hand over power to Yar Adua. That was why Yar Adua kept boasting during the early stages of Babangida’s regime, that no force on earth could stop him becoming the next president of Nigeria. This prompted Obasanjo’s statement at the time that Yar Adua must have forgotten something at the state house.
Babangida was so single minded, self-centered, and power-drunk, he single-handedly forced OIC membership on Nigeria without respect for our supposed religious secularity. He used every means imaginable to assert his power. Spiritual, criminal, everything was fair in his ruthless power game. The gods of the Marabouts became privileged guests at Aso Rock, lacing it with severe witchcraft, which was later vigorously sustained by Abacha.
If the physical failed, the metaphysical was handy in the human blood bath for power. Blood was the language in the cultish game for total control. Fear gripped the land. Who was going to be the next victim? Life was scary and worthless. I bet, corridor of power social acolytes of the time like the Arisekolas, Adedibus and the Akinyeles, could write blood-cuddling masterpieces on the mysteries of the season. Assassinations were rampant, sophisticated and comprehensive, incorporating bombings and dare-devil forages. Media houses were burnt or closed down, and critics of government were murdered, incarcerated or hounded into exile. Plane loads of promising young army officers lost their lives in questionable circumstances. Others appeared to have been sacrificed in distant land civil wars.
The Ejigbo military Hercules crash that killed an elite corp. of army captains and majors returning to their Jaji training base, is a typical example of the terrible human carnage visited upon us at the time by a desperate tyrant bent on holding on to power indefinitely at all costs. The plane was doctored and it crashed a few seconds after take-off from the Murtala Mohammed airport. No rescue attempt was ordered or made until 24 hours after the crash and even then, the inadequate facilities of a private company, (Julius Berger), were relied upon. Forty-eight hours after the crash, a warm body was still found suggesting that some lives could have been saved if rescue operations had commenced minutes after the crash.
Apart from the needless assassinations of possible opponents and rivals for power, there were totally senseless ones too, such as the death of Murtala Mohammed’s first son immediately after visiting the seat of power. It was generously reported in the press at the time. The allegation was that during the friendly, private visit, the young man was asked if he would be prepared to do a job. The young chap said he could not say until he was told what the job was. When told that he was to help facilitate the elimination of Chief Abiola, the young man said he couldn’t because Abiola was like a father to him. The host then quickly dismissed the suggestion as if it had been a joke and asked how the young man travelled to the state house. “By private car,” the young man said. “You are going about without security?” the host asked, pretending to look alarmed, and detailed some security officers to escort the young man to his Minna destination. The body of the young man was later that day found in his car on the route between the seat of power and Minna.
Bongos Ikwe’s son by a girl friend, who later married Oga, also lost his life in suspicious circumstances. Bongos, in press interviews at the time, denied knowing his son’s mother who, in fact, is the junior sister of Bongos’ best friend and music partner on an RKTV programme in the early 60s. Despite denials, Bongos’ most popular recorded song ‘O Mariana’ could not conceal the anguish of the jilted lover.
Perhaps the most stupid, irresponsible and callous murder of them all was that of Dele Giwa. The death was a classic example of desperate, high-handed, dirty and mean, under-the-carpet cover-up state terrorism.
Dele Giwa‘s problem was that he stumbled on some documents about Gloria Okon in London and after interviewing her, threatened to publish the story while allegedly letting it be known that he could be persuaded to withdraw publication with a cash bribe of US$21m plus N200m. Alternatively, he was ready to settle for the position of Information Minister, which Tony Mommoh was occupying at the time. Dele Giwa’s blackmail unfortunately misfired unlike an earlier one involving Mr. Lawson, the founder of the Nigerian Grail Movement who was alleged to have been arrested and locked up in London for money laundering problems. Mudashiru, the military governor of Lagos state at the time of Lawson’s travails, was alleged to have stopped the publication of Lawson’s story by bribing Giwa with the land and C of O of the Newswatch plaza.
Dr. T.C. Nwosu, the renowned Nigerian author, and I, came out in defense of Mamman Vasta, (when he was arrested for coup plotting), in a joint statement published as a news item at the time, in the Nigerian Guardian newspaper. We said it was a lie to accuse Vasta of trying to stage a coup to take the IMF conditionalities. This was the first time anyone, (civilian or military), would come out openly to defend an alleged coup plotter in Nigeria, and Vasta who was our friend and colleague in the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), took our support to heart, and arranged for some documents on his kangaroo trial for coup plotting to be smuggled out to us.
One of the documents we received was on Gloria Okon. We could not use the information in Nigeria at the time because no newspaper would dare publish it, so I arranged for Ejike Nwankwo, my bosom friend, to take the documents to his senior brother, Chief Arthur Nwankwo, who was in political exile in London at the time. The idea was for Arthur Nwankwo to have the Gloria Okon’s story published in the Manchester Guardian, but Arthur decided to delay publication until he could use the immunity of the Nigerian Senate, which he was aspiring to join in Babangida’s best time as a member, to make the story public.
Senior members of the Ministry of Information, and of the Daily Times at the time, and a director of Newswatch, were not totally ignorant about what was going on in Babangida’s government. In fact, Abacha at a point, asked the boss of the Ministry of Information to frame up Dele Giwa. The boss being a principled and die-hard journalist, argued that it was difficult to frame up journalists.
Babangida’s boys went ahead to frame up Giwa anyway. Three days before they killed Dele Giwa, Col. A. K. Togun, the deputy Director of Babangida’s State Security Service (the SSS), invited Giwa to his office and accused him of involvement in the importation of arms while linking Giwa with other persons alleged to be trying to stage a socialist revolution in Nigeria. At the meeting, agreement was reached, and Babangida, through his emissaries, promised to meet Giwa’s terms. Two days before Giwa’s murder, Akilu allegedly phoned Giwa’s home to ask for direction because Babangida’s ADC “has something for him, an invitation or something.”
Dele Giwa allegedly invited the overseas editor of Newswatch at the time to be around. Obviously, Giwa took the president’s promise more seriously than his colleagues at the Newswatch. This was why, when Giwa received the parcel and confirmed that it was from the President, his guest’s first reaction was to dash off to take cover in the toilet adjacent to the room where Giwa opened the parcel bomb. The guest escaped death by the whiskers and blasted eardrums. Tagum, when asked by Airport Correspondents on October 27, 1986, about Giwa’s bombing inadvertently confirmed the blackmail reason for Giwa’s death when he said: “We came to a real agreement and one person cannot just come out and blackmail us. I am an expert on blackmail. If a motorcycle man suddenly dashed in front of a car and the driver kills the motorcycle man, another motorcycle man who was there would not say the motorcycle man who dashed in front of the car was wrong. He would say the driver killed him, not that he killed himself”
An Arab terrorist, who was recruited to collaborate with a University of Ibadan chemistry don especially for the task, produced the bomb. The terrorist is alleged to have gone with Major Buba Marwa, Ogbeha and Gwazo, in a Peugeot station wagon car with fake license plate numbers, to deliver the bomb at Dele’s home. On arrival, they were told that Dele was not in, so they laid ambush near-by to watch movements in and out of Giwa’s premises.
As soon as Giwa was spotted entering his house, the allegation continues, the Arab terrorist offered to go and deliver the bomb, but his colleagues in crime stopped him on the grounds that a white man would look too suspicious for the job. Marwa, accompanied by Ogbeha, are alleged to have delivered the bomb to Dele’s son at the door, after which the crime team drove off to Mafoluku where they burned their delivery car. The same day, the Arab terrorist was flown out of Lagos, first to Kano, and eventually out of the country.
Major Buba Marwa was at the time rewarded with the rank of Lt. Col. and posted to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, USA, as the new Military Attaché. His rise in the Army was extremely rapid and as Col. retuned home to be Governor of Lagos State. Armed robbers welcomed him to his new office with the kind of daredevilry never before experienced in Nigeria. Violence begets violence they say. The armed robbers raided from Mile two to Ikeja, even as he was passing by. Marwa panicked, so Babangida pumped unusual resources into Marwa’s coffers to ensure his success, which is the genesis of his tramping around as an achiever today. His private life does not suggest that he suffered in fool’s paradise.
Marwa, Ogbeha, and Gwazo, have since denied their alleged involvement in Dele Giwa’s murder. Marwa, who now owns an airline and, therefore, knows that it takes less than eight hours to fly across the Atlantic to Nigeria, argued that he was studying in the USA at the time. The implication of this, of course, was that it was impossible to take a few days off his studies.
Marwa, who rose to fame through IBB’s benevolence, is considered in military circles as one of the IBB boys, made up principally of the trusted cronies of the retired dictator. Accused of laundering money for IBB, Marwa again relied on the puerile argument that he was the Borno state governor in 1990, as if state governors are too busy governing diligently to travel out of Nigeria for a day or two, or even a week, on private businesses.
In December, 2005, when Marwa was detained for a couple of weeks by the EFCC, for laundering money for Abacha, he allegedly admitted that he had no choice in the matter as a military officer. He was only doing his duty. Of course, doing illegal duties loyally often goes with silencing, mouth-watering pecks, if nothing else.
In the area of managing the national economy, Babangida bestowed his adroitness and moral degeneracy. His economy was dominated by male-wives, particularly in the banking and oil sectors. Women often brag about the efficacy of ‘bottom’ power. Feminine men sometimes flaunt it too as their passport to economic liberation. Between them and the suddenly very lucrative 419 business of the time, industry was complete. IBB’s chiefs, allegedly colluded with 419 criminals to create the over-night semi-illiterate money-bags without class or shame, (including the 150 members of the National Assembly, that in 2005 sent IBB a birthday card), and who together now form the bulk of his supporters and campaigners, to return him to power.
Babangida (sapped) or totally wiped the middle class out of existence with the destruction of the naira, which he did by fiat in 1985, when he down graded the naira exchange rate from about N2 to N18 to the dollar. By the time he was forced out of office in 1993, the naira was exchanging at N60 to the dollar. Society was now reduced to two social classes of either the very poor or the rich rogues.
Babangida first concentrated on pulverizing his military base by tinkering with the 1985 Decree 17, to give himself sole authority to fire his military chiefs, including the chief of general staff; chairman, joint chiefs of staff; service chiefs, and the inspector general of police. General Domkat Bali said at the time: “Babangida must have known what he was aiming at if you now take those powers of the President as civilian, and you now put them on any army officer who then sits with other army officers, in the name of Supreme Military Council, SMC, who are useless to him, whom he can change tomorrow, that means that name is not Supreme at all.”
Bali was provoked to leave the government when he was demoted from the position of Minister of Defence to that of Internal Affairs. Ukiwe, a senior naval officer, who was IBB’s deputy, was forced to retire even before Bali did, for demonstrating patriotic zeal in defense of team spirit, over our IOC membership saga.
Gideon Orkar’s failed coup of April 22, 1990, provided Babangida with the opportunity to further purge the military. With total control over the military, IBB was ready to pursue his President-for-life agenda, (starting) by dismissing his S. J. Cookie’s Political Bureau programme for the return to civil rule by 1990.
For over eight years, Babangida kept shifting his handing over date and juggling his transition programme by arbitrarily banning and unbanning politicians, particularly the known opponents of military rule. He spent N40 billion on his endless transition programme, and bribed all and sundry, including the NLC with N50 million, NUJ with N20 million, PMAN with N30 million, and so on, to try to silence them. He attempted to compromise some vocal critics by settling them, and those he could not recruit, he sacked where possible, or detained, or killed, or hounded into exile.
Less than two years into his rule in 1987, IBB announced that he was planning to bequeath a lasting legacy of civil rule, through a gradual learning political process. Four years into his regime in 1989, he lifted for the first time his ban on partisan politics, and set up two political parastatals. One was called the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and the other was the National Republican Convention (NRC).
The handing over date to civilian government was postponed once again from late 1990 to the 1st of October 1992. He allowed elections to be held into the local governments in 1990, and in 1991, Babangida instigated intra party squabbles to find excuse to ban 12 of the candidates participating in the governorship elections. Candidates replacing the disqualified ones had barely one week to campaign.
Elections into the State Assemblies miraculously held without too much acrimony, followed shortly afterwards by elections into the National Assembly. In all the elections, known individuals strongly against Babangida or the military in power were sidelined, banned, or hounded into exile, prominent among whom were Ibrahim Tahir of the NPN, Sam Mbakwe, Chris Okolie, Wahab Dosumu, Ebenezer Babatope, etc.
Allegation of massive rigging was invoked on 17 November, 1992, to ban Adamu Ciroma and Shehu Musa Yar Adua, who had emerged from party primaries as presidential candidates for the NRC and the SDP respectively, and 21 other presidential aspirants, (including Chief Arthur Nzeribe, Chief Olu Falae, Alhaji Lateef Jakande and Alhaji Umar Shinkafi), from participating in the scheduled August 1992 presidential election, and all other future elections. The trick was that Babangida was gradually narrowing the field of potential presidential materials to himself. Remember that Babangida had promised Yar Adua the Presidency when Yar Adua helped to actualize the 1985 coup that brought Babangida to power. The ban did not go down well with the political elite in general, and particularly with Yar Adua who had assumed he would take over leadership from Babangida.
With the ban, Babangida once again postponed his handing over date from October 1st 1992, to Dec 5, 1992. Soon after, Babangida mandated the National Electoral Commission (NEC), to conduct the presidential primaries of the political parties, and he again fixed a new date of January 3, 1993, for the handing over of the reigns of power to a civilian government. Bribery, thuggery, rigging, ethnic cleavages, etc., ruined the NEC supervised political parties’ presidential primaries, resulting in the dissolution of party executives, who were replaced by Sole Administrators, and National Coordinators. Handing over date was once again postponed to August 27, 1993.
Baba Gana Kingibe, who was the SDP chairman before the dissolution of the party executives, and was then supposed to be managing the affairs of Yar Adua, was alleged to have received Babangida’s backing and financial support to aspire as presidential candidate obviously to cause confusion in Yar Adua’s political camp. Kingibe pasted his campaign posters all over the place, causing bad blood between himself and Yar Adua, which spilled into the Jos SDP convention of 1993.
In the meantime, Babangida was busy creating anarchy in the ranks of the politicians by introducing his modified open ballot system, and insisting that presidential aspirants go through tedious ward, local government, and state congresses. This eventually produced two presidential aspirants for each of the states, plus two for the FCT, and the unwieldy 62 presidential aspirants had to go through further elimination processes, at various national congresses, before the Jos (SDP), and Port-Harcourt (NRC), conventions of 1993.
Several irregularities were observed at the party conventions and a lot of money changed hands.
Alhaji Bashir Tofa for the NRC, and Bashorun M.K.O Abiola for the SDP, emerged as the presidential flag bearers. Babangida who was unhappy that progress was being made in the presidential election process was further pissed-off when his nominee, Pascal Bafyau, the ex-NLC president, as Abiola’s running mate, (to spy on and undermine Abiola), was rejected by Abiola. Abiola also upset Yar Adua’s calculations, by not accepting Abubakir Atiku as his running mate, and choosing Baba Gana Kingibe instead.
Of course, the emergence at last of promising presidential candidates for both parties was not a very palatable option for Abacha too who was still nursing the dream to succeed Babangida although pretending to be on the side of Babangida. Abacha misled Babangida to think of him as a possible ally, so the scene was set for Babangida to feel that if he annulled the election, he would have the support of Abacha, Yar Adua and other perceived, powerful enemies of Abiola, including a leading traditional ruler in the South-West.
Babangida, in his determination to scuttle the presidential election at all cost, promulgated Decree 13, forbidding the presidential flag bearers of the two political parties from doing anything whatsoever that would influence members of the public to vote for them at the election scheduled for June 12 1993. Then Babangida empowered NEC to disqualify any of the candidates at will, and as a (final) fall back strategy, to scuttle our democratic dream, he set up his Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) party, using Senator Arthur Nzeribe as proxy.
On June 10, 1993, at the unholy hour of 9.30 pm, late Justice Ikpeme, who was appointed a few days earlier and hurriedly transferred from Lagos to Abuja, granted a court order to the ABN, restraining the NEC Chairman Humphrey Nwosu, from conducting the Presidential election on June 12, 1993.
The Director of the United States Information Service (USIS) in Nigeria at the time, Mr. O’Brien, warned that the US government would not be happy if the June 12 election was cancelled. Babangida panicked, and although he declared O’Brien persona non grata and ordered him out of the country in his personal interest, Babangida allowed Nwosu to go ahead with the election.
The election was adjudged by the international and local observers monitoring it and by the two political parties involved, as the fairest and freest in the history of Nigeria. By the evening of June 14 1993, more than 50% of the election results had been authenticated and released by NEC, showing that SDP’s Moshood Abiola had swept the polls.
To everyone’s surprise, Babangida suddenly ordered NEC not to release any more results. On June 23, 1993, Babangida gave an unsigned statement to Nduka Irabor, his press secretary, announcing the cancellation of the presidential election on the radio. The unsigned statement was a strategy to allow Babangida to deny its authenticity, should Nigeria begin to boil over the announcement. Nigerians had become too hungry and docile to react.
Babangida annulled the June12 election entirely on his own, based on his selfish, personal agenda to rule indefinitely. Before annulling the election, he rallied the connivance and support of some critical Emirs and a leading Yoruba traditional ruler known to be antagonistic to Abiola’s political ambition, and the signatures of a bunch of political and military apologists (or jobbers), tagged the G-34, on a document entitled ‘Peace Pact,’ in endorsement of his annulment of the June 12, 1993, elections.
The G-34 comprised of the following members of the military junta and leaders of the two political parties, the SDP and the NRC: Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, Chief Earnest Shonekan who eventually headed Babangida’s contraption called the Interim National Government (ING), General Shehu Musa Yar’ardua, Alhaji Sule Lamido, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Amb. Dele Cole, Chief Tony Anenih, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Brig-Gen David A. B Mark, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Alhaji Olusola Saraki, Chief Dapo Sarumi, Chief Joseph Toba, Chief Bola Afonja, Dr. Hammed Kusamotu, Dr. Okechukwu Odunze, Prof. Eyo Ita, Y. Anka, Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu, Chief Tom Ikimi, Barrister Joe Nwodo (who signed with reservations), Dr. Bawa Salka, Alhaji Abba Murtala Mohammed, Alhaji Abdulrahman Okene, Lt. Gen Joshua Dongoyaro, Lt. Gen Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, Brig-Gen John Shagaya, Brig-Gen Anthony Ukpo, Halilu A. Maina, Alhaji Bawa Salka, Mr. Amos Idakula, Mr. Theo Nikire, Alhaji A. Ramalan, Alhaji A. Mohammed. Many of these traitors are still making decisions for Nigeria today.
Babangida’s military constituency, by and large, was against the annulment. Abacha saw his opportunity to act, and with the backing of the armed forces of Nigeria, warned Babangida that he would be entirely on his own after the August 27, 1993, handing over date. Babangida in fear, concocted and swore in an illegal arrangement he called the Interim National Government, ING, to take over office from August 27, 1993. After swearing in his ING on August 26, 1993, Babangida who was supposed to be pulled out of the army in the military tradition, played all sorts of pranks to delay the event from 11.am to 1.00pm and then to 3.00pm, when the Nigerian army removed Babangida’s guards from the Eagle Square to warn him that his time was up.
There is this strong allegation among the rank and file of the armed forces, and members of the defense correspondence of our newspapers attached to the seat of power, that Babangida arranged, in the last couple of weeks before leaving office, for several armoured vehicle loads of newly printed naira notes to be delivered daily to his new Minna palatial abode obviously with the connivance of Abacha, perhaps as his mentor’s retirement benefit.
Abacha and Babangida had several serious financial problems with Abiola but one of them takes the cake. It was over some foreign war booty amounting to US$215m. It is alleged that Babangida had asked Abiola to help launder it when Babangida was in office but Abiola was not interested.
Babangida allegedly side-stepped Abiola and eventually prevailed upon a member of Abiola’s family in the custom of family friendship, to rescue the situation. Then the person suddenly died. It is further alleged that Abiola was asked to return the money and he truthfully and honestly said he knew noting about it and even if there was such a thing, he had no authority over the matter. Then he was asked to pressurize the children of the deceased to play ball.
Abiola refused, arguing that he had no legal or moral right to do so. The kids of the deceased wanted Abiola released but Abiola was too principled to succumb to blackmail so the powers that be decided early after his arrest, that he would die in detention for declaring himself president.
The Gulf war oil windfall is Babangida’s often-referenced loot. Abacha set up a panel headed by the highly respected economist, Pius Okigbo, in October, 1994, to reorganize the CBN. Okigbo’s panel discovered that $12.2 billion of the $12.4 billion accruable from the Gulf War excess crude oil sales was frittered away or unaccounted for, through nebulous or phantom projects that could not be traced. Only $206 million was left in the account. According to Okigbo, “disbursements were clandestinely undertaken while the country was openly reeling with crushing external debt overhead. These represent, no matter the initial justification for creating the account, a gross abuse of public trust. ”
When Obasanjo in 2001, decided to look quietly into the missing NNPC’s US$12.2 billion Gulf war oil windfall linked to Babangida, it was found that the documents pertaining to the fraud had disappeared from the volts of the Central Bank. The brilliant, highly respected economist, Pius Okigbo who handled the investigations into the scam had private copies. Before he could deliver, he insisted on travelling to London against strong, wise, private, counsel, and he was wasted. Other members of the Okigbo panel had copies of the report anyway and were still alive.
Government miraculously found the CBN documents when it suited it, and aspects of the documents concerning IBB, were published during the threat by members of the House of Representatives to impeach President Obasanjo in July, 2005, because of speculations that IBB was one of the Northern elites fanning the plot.
Babangida was ruthless in the way he amassed his colossal wealth. First is the illegal self-allocation of free oil, sold on the spot market. Then he initiated the corrupt culture of maintaining a huge monthly security vote virtually as personal pocket money. Rather than repair our refineries, let alone to work at maximum capacity, IBB built private refineries in Cote d’Ivoire and the Republic of Benin, where he took our crude to refine and sell back to us as fuel.
John Fashanu, in a private investigation published in African Confidential early in Obasanjo’s current regime, discovered an alleged $6 billion debt buy-back scam by IBB between 1988 and 1993. Another $14.4 billion disappeared into off shore accounts as currency stabilization and debt buy-back scheme that actually cost $2.5 billion. One of the front-companies used, Growth Management, based in London, bought the debt for 10 cents per dollar and resold to the government at 45 cents to steal 35 cents per dollar. Fashanu was trying to recover about $17 billion for the Nigerian government only for the CBN to say they had no records of the deals. The records are out there abroad but cleaned out at home to conceal the (theft) deals.
The Wolfsberg Principles, an initiative of 11 banks and institutions across the world to fight serious international financial crimes, traced another $3 billion of our stolen money to Babangida’s accounts abroad, and $4.3 billion to Abacha’s.
Although Babangida used mostly fictitious names for his numerous accounts abroad, EFCC could zero in on some of the accounts by following up on the dusts raised early in 2003 over the financing of a leading Nigerian telecommunications project in which Babangida is alleged to own 75% shares. Mohammed fronts for his father on the authentic board of the company. Those claiming to have borrowed from foreign banks in the heat of the EFCC’s revelations at the time have not identified the collateral or sortie used. Documents on the loan supposed to have been granted on 9 February, 2001, was dated 28 August, 2006. The original ‘loan’ letter has not been presented. Apparently, Paribas Bank, based in Paris, was managing a slush fund from which investments in excess of US$400 million was made to buy into Alcatel, (the telecommunications’ partner technical partners), Bouygues Telecoms, Peugeot and Total finaelf.
Alcatel and Parabel National of France were worried at the time that their invoices for the telecom project were being inflated to launder funds by the supposed private owners of the sources of funds and that private cheques were being issued to finance the staggering project without recourse to borrowing from banks. They suspected illegal laundering of funds and threatened to withdraw collaboration on the project while alerting Interpol to investigate the sources of the private cheques being issued to finance the project.
IBB could not participate in Obasanjo’s 2003, inauguration ceremonies, because he was allegedly out of the country sorting out the Interpol queries on the Alcatel’s slush account alert, at the time. Even now, the telecoms’ financing details through Siemens etc, could be investigated by the EFCC tracing ghost cheques to issuing private sources of funds and their local and international banks to unravel possible laundering of funds.
Luscious contracts for the construction of Abuja were awarded to front-companies of his and his cronies, including Julius Berger and Arab Contractors that between them virtually single-handedly handled the construction of the new Federal Capital. The security danger of foreign companies solely constructing a country’s capital and having assess to its structural secrets, including possible Presidential underground escape routes and military arsenal volts, is mind boggling to say the least, but that is an issue for another day.
The largest, most prestigious housing estate in Alexandra, Egypt’s leading holiday resort town, is alleged to belong to Babangida. Even Egyptians cannot afford his rent, which is alleged to be in dollars. All his tenants are rich foreigners and the staff of multi-national companies operating in Alexandra. The estate is alleged to have its own airport, which Babangida uses when he visits.
Babangida is alleged to own several other housing estates around the world, including houses on Bishop Avenue in London. He uses his London houses, it is alleged, as guest houses or gifts for people on his compromise list. He is considered generous with gifts of cars with their boots stuffed with naira notes when he wants some jobs done.
Perhaps you would want to join me to play the prude accountant, generous with figures. Let’s pretend that Babangida was a General throughout his service years in the Nigerian army. Again let’s assume he spent 30 years in the army and was paid N100,000 monthly (actually, salaries of Generals were less than N10,000 a month until recently) and he saved every kobo of his salary. He would be worth about N35,000,000 plus interest in the bank today. But Babangida’s 50 bedroom palatial abode in Minna is alleged to be conservatively worth billions of naira and he does not owe any bank on it.
In 2003, he threw a wedding party for his first daughter, which numbed the nation. Some 28 governors were in attendance, and in June 2004, he treated us to another dream-like political carnival during his son’s wedding. No one dared to ask where the money came from to set up such a palatial abode or scandalous and intimidating wedding carnivals in our jungle of abject poverty and hunger. Nigerians reveled in the lavish show of shame, hoodwinked by the audacity, the sumptuous food, the ambience, the vulgarity….. At least we saw our fellow Nigerians (albeit a handful of them), living it up on the money that could have guaranteed millions of Nigerians, active, regular employment indefinitely.
Almost all the principal characters involved in leadership tussles with Babangida since 1985, Abiola, Yar Adua, Idiagbon and even Abacha, have all died through induced cardiac arrest, lethal injection, poisoned food, gassed telephone handset, etc, etc, and my fear is whether Nigeria would survive the Godfather himself? Babangida usurped eight years and eight months of the thirty-three years of military misrule and still wants to come back to finish us off properly. If he was honest with himself, he ought to be ashamed for the economic, political and social mess he has turned Nigeria into. Babangida should be heading for Kirikiri not Aso Rock.
Naiwu Osahon renowned author, philosopher of science, mystique, leader of the world Pan-African Movement.