Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida’s Faux Pas

Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB)
Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB)

The former Military Head of State between 1985 and 1993, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida was in the news recently when he said that the military should not be blamed for the nation’s woes.

This remark is rather insensitive and asinine especially when you consider the ruin that the Khaki boys did to the Nigerian state especially during his time in office where he earned the sinister sobriquet ‘Maradona’ and was the self acclaimed ‘Evil Genius.’

IBB is a man full of contradictions. Permit me to go back in time to the era when he ruled the nation with a tight fist. He assembled a star studded cabinet – the likes of Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, Lt-General Ipoola Alani Akinrinade, a civil war hero, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, Dr. Chu Okongwu, Samuel Oluyemisi Falae, Chief Alex Akinyele etc were members of his cabinet. He also ensured that Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka got a federal appointment as the Head of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Popular social critic and founder of the Mayflower Secondary School, Tai Solarin was made the Chairman of the Peoples Bank. IBB had the uncanny ability to feel at home with the brightest of minds in the clime even though he was intellectually deficient and bereft of progressive ideas.

Despite his star studded cabinet, he brazenly implemented anti-people policies that not only impoverished the people but ruthlessly wiped out the middle class which is the fulcrum of any functional economy and forced millions of his countrymen to go into economic exile in foreign lands.

The Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), a home grown clone of the Bretton Woods backed policy which yanked off subsidy on the critical sectors of education and healthcare was implemented by him despite protests which turned bloody against it. Nigerians wouldn’t forget the sophisticated murder of popular journalist, Dele Giwa via a parcel bomb in his Ikeja residence on October 19, 1986 and his murderers still remain at large close to thirty-four later.

It was under his administration that the educational sector suffered gross underfunding that has haunted it till this day and frequent disruptions of the academic calendar due to strikes and students’ unrest. The healthcare sector under his watch nosedived to been worse than consulting clinics as mis diagnosis soon became the order of the day especially in the public hospitals which was not only grossly underfunded but also short staffed as the healthcare practitioners fled into economic asylum especially to Europe, Asia and North America.

His regime was described by some pundits as a narco dictatorship as the hard drugs trade blossomed under his beady eye. The image of the nation was soiled as many drug couriers in need of quick filthy lucre joined the distribution of it in foreign lands. It was alleged that many top military brass were heavily involved in it but no harsh law against traffickers and their baron sponsors was enacted by the highly corrupt regime. Some sources even said that the notorious Gloria Okon whom the late Dele Giwa was deeply investigating which even made him embark on a trip to London was a drug mull for the then First Lady, Maryam Babangida who gained worldwide fame for her ‘Better Life for Rural Women’ pet project which made her the pioneer First Lady to step out of her spouse’s shadows in the country.

He institutionalized corruption and the Pius Okigbo report of the missing $12.5 billion Guld war oil windfall has never been resolved till date. The ‘settlement’ system which is a Nigerian linguistic shibboleth for corruption gained sturdy grounds during his administration. An addict of power, he was never sincerely interested in the smooth handover from a military to a civilian transition. Billions of naira was wasted in his transition programme which saw the government controlled formation of two political parties – the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC). He kept shifting the time for the handover and was notorious in his banning and unbanning of politicians.

Historians and pundits will recall that the late Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’adua’s presidential ambition was truncated when he was banned by the IBB regime as a corrupt old breed on the eve of the SDP primaries. The likes of Adamu Ciroma, Umaru Shinkafi, Lateef Kayode Jakande also suffered the same fate. At the gubernatorial level, Dr. Joe Nwodo, Hyde Onuaguluchi, Atiku Abubakar, the former Vice-President, Bala Takaya, Dapo Sarumi, Late Professor Femi Agbalajogbi were disqualified by the fickle minded regime thereby putting asunder their quest to become governors. The worst hit was Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola whose election was annulled by IBB despite the general consensus by local and foreign observers in its been adjudged the freest and fairest election in the nation’s political history. The June 12 de-annulment crisis that was surreptitiously precipitated made many Nigerians lose their lives, properties and means of livelihood including being domiciled in the country as killer squads were on the prowl looking for pro democracy activists to devour and rip apart.

Realizing that his evil game was up, he hurriedly handed over power to an Interim National Government headed by Abiola’s townsman, Chief Ernest Shonakan, a former Chairman of the United African Company (UAC). He smartly retired all the Generals except his fellow comrade-in-arms, General Sani Abacha before retiring to his opulent Minna residence built obviously from the proceeds of gargantuan corruption as he is not known to have had any known inheritance to be able to afford the expensive services of Israeli guards who protect him 24/7. How was he able to afford a fifty room mansion in his impoverished hometown? Was it from his modest legitimate earnings and pension?

IBB was so conceited that he refused to honour the invitation extended to him to testify before the Human Rights Violations Investigations Panel popularly known as the Oputa panel which was headed by the late eminent jurist, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa. He ran to court through his counsel, Chief Rotimi Williams SAN to prevent him from reconciling with his people whom he so emotionally and physically traumatized.

In a decent society, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would have had him arrested and made to explain the source of his mind boggling wealth but alas we tragically live in a third world jungle made so by our heartless and visionless leaders!

He ought to be behind bars for his gross human rights abuses as well as nauseating corrupt practices while he held sway for eight years and not to be the spokesman of his badly dented military colleagues who became emergency soldiers of fortune especially when they served his corrupt regime.

It is high time for Nigerians to tell IBB to permanently keep quiet and not speak on burning national issues as he is part of the reason why the nation he claims to love so much is in a monumental mess.

It is said that people acquire wisdom as they age but the case seems to be the reverse with Babangida as there is the possibility of a combination of senility and folly masqueraded as ‘worldly wisdom’ especially with his latest utterance.

IBB should please spend the remaining part of the evening part of his life enjoying his loot and should not insult the collective intelligence of Nigerians with his canticles.

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Articles by Anthony Ademiluyi