The ravaging calamity that befalls Nigeria as a country since the colonial era is the act of re-writing history. The Nigerian ruling elites have successfully rewritten Nigeria’s history by excluding themselves from the gory path of history and rebranding themselves as liberators.
This unscrupulous act of rebranding criminals as statemen gets me infuriated. Ibrahim Babangida’s 80th birthday brought many fake achievements, praising and altered history about the former head of state and his role in Nigeria’s democracy.
Prominent persons, academicians, and influencers in Nigeria are trying to rewrite the gory details of Ibrahim Babangida, widely known as Maradona.
IBB, as he is popularly called, is a well-known coupist and enemy of democracy in Nigeria. He was born on August 17, 1941. IBB was a military dictator who ruled Nigeria from 1985 when he staged a palace coup that ousted General Muhammadu Buhari’s regime from power. IBB oversaw the brutal assassination of Dele Giwa, a veteran investigative journalist who exposed the criminalities of IBB and his cronies. Aside from the annulment of the June 12 election, the massacre of dissent voices, and enormous corruption engaged in by Ibrahim Babangida, what other things do you know about him?
Read five revelations I consciously brought out of the numerous crimes against humanity committed by the former military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida.
1. Restriction of Freedom of Expression and Press: Babangida crippled freedom of press and expression as various journalists, media houses, critics, and civil societies suffered from his inhumane dictatorial 6-year regime.
Three newspapers in Lagos owned by John West Publications were shut down in March 1991 for 13 days for what was described as “embarrassing publications” against the corrupt military head of state, IBB, and his wife, relating to the Jennifer Madike case.
Also, William Keeling, a correspondent with the British Daily Financial Times, was expelled from Nigeria and declared persona non grata after he wrote an article that exposed the Babangida government for not reporting about half of the extra five billion dollars that it was estimated to have earned from a boost in oil prices during the Gulf War.
Many media houses were shut down and scores of journalists were imprisoned with no charges against them. The press bitterly suffered from the claws of Babangida’s oppression.
2. Abortion of Democracy: Babangida was the Chief of Army Staff who annulled the June 12, 1993, presidential election which happens to be the freest and fairest election in the history of Nigeria. The unofficial result of the election though not declared by the National Electoral Commission (NEC), indicated a victory for Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who defeated Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC). Babangida purportedly annulled the June 12 election after he discovered that Abiola won the election despite all machinery he had put in place to truncate the electoral process.
The hidden reason why the archenemy of democracy, General Maradona failed the Nigeria people was that Abiola’s campaign focused on economic issues, as he was a vocal critic of the government’s Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) which the Babangida government had commenced in 1986, and following prescriptions by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, he imposed austerity measures to ensure fiscal discipline by the state.
To interest you, Tofa, the government-sponsored presidential candidate, supported the SAP as he hammered on focusing on the effective implementation of existing economic policies if he assumed power.
Note that Babangida had closer ties with Tofa as he had once suggested that Babangida should remain Nigeria’s leader till 2000.
The evil genius annulled the June 12 election because of his nepotic, tribalistic, selfish, and bourgeois interests.
3. Brutal clampdown on civil rights advocates: He jailed hundreds of activists and democrats who demanded respect for human rights and democratic government. He was so tyrannical and brutal such that he admitted to a news magazine that his favourite alias was the “Evil Genius”.
Sometime in November 1991, the passport of human rights attorney, Gani Fawehinmi was seized when he was on his way to London, UK for medical treatment. No official reason was given for the action.
Human rights attorney, Alao Aka-Bashorun’s passport, which was seized in 1990, has not yet been returned.
Popular public interest advocate Femi Falana was harassed on numerous occasions, apparently because of his role as defence counsel for Jennifer Madike, whose case was a headache for IBB’s tyrannical rule. Femi Falana was arrested on May 12, 1991, when security agents asked to see documents used in the defence of his client.
The activist’s passport was also seized in October 1991, when he was at the airport trying to leave the country to attend a meeting of non-governmental human rights organisations from Commonwealth countries. The meeting had been called to lobby the 1991 Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference, which was being held in Zimbabwe. He was questioned over the following two days about the Madike case and accused of being insufficiently patriotic because of his opposition to the government-sponsored candidacies of Nigerians to fill prestigious positions in the international arena.
Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was also jailed for years because he criticised IBB’s dictatorial regime.
Babangida Maradona also put in prison pro-democracy activists like Omoyele Sowore, Shehu Sani, and many others who led protests to demand democracy in Nigeria.
4. Killing of students: Under Babangida’s rule, thousands of students were massacred across various Nigerian universities, especially in Zaria based on the order of the military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida. IBB military government’s hostility towards academic pursuits crippled universities throughout the country as academic operations were stopped.
In 1991, students were the targets of a Maradona siege, The government cracked down on students’ unions and their leaders in May as a response to an ultimatum issued by the National Association of Nigerian Students which the government later banned.
Babangida arrested and jailed over 500 students from Lagos State University (LASU), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and other institutions who protested against the government’s maladministration of the educational system.
5. Corruption: Babangida was as corrupt as Goodluck Jonathan, former Nigerian president. IBB regime institutionalised corruption. His government found pleasure in looting the national treasury to enrich himself, his friends, and families.
Ibrahim Babangida’s regime was unable to give an account of the Gulf War oil windfall, which has been estimated to be $12.4 billion.
According to wikipedia.com, during General Ibrahim Babangida’s tenure, corruption became a policy of the state that he routinely disbursed vehicles and cash gifts to people to earn loyalty, and the discipline of the military force was eroded.
The term “IBB Boys” emerged, meaning fronts for the head of state in the business realm, someone who usually transacted dirty deals from drug dealing to money laundering and all sorts of other corrupt deals.
Babangida covetously enriched himself through banking, oil, and import licences as he used these favours to raise huge cash for himself and his allies.
As of today, IBB is regarded as the richest past head of state in Nigeria.
I penned this piece down for this and the next generation to know that Ibrahim Babaginda (IBB) is a skunk that cannot be deodorised. He looted the national treasury, closed down universities for several months, murdered his opponents, jailed journalists, closed down several newspapers, and used various government privatisation initiatives to reward friends and cronies, which eventually gave rise to the current class of nouveau riche in Nigeria. Babangida is a thief that should be living in jail by now if only Nigeria was being led by good people, not past criminals.
Festus Afofun, a writer and human rights activist, writes from Ogun state, Nigeria. Festus can be reached via email: [email protected]