|Defender of Human Right & Democracy
An ardent defender of human rights, he moved quickly on becoming head of state to promote civil liberties.
To signal his intentions to re-entrench civil rights and individual liberty in Nigeria’s body politic General Babangida released many political detainees, amongst them the former civilian governors held in detention by the previous administration. Those who benefited from his kind gesture were Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the much liked Lagos State governor, the late Alhaji Bakin Zuwo of Kano state, late chief Bisi Onabanjo of Ogun State, Alhaji Sule Katagun, former chairman the Public Service Commission. Some journalists, Buka Zarma, Editor of New Nigerian and Lawrence Folu Olamiti, Edition of Sunday Tribune and many other politicians in detention without trial were released.
The Senegalese cultural minister, who was among the first visitors to Dodan Barracks spoke glowingly of president Babangida’s human rights record. The influential American Christian Science Monitor published in Boston wrote, “Babangida the soldier’s soldier, stern on duty but sociable is likely to be more flexible than his predecessor”.
Following steps taken by president Babangida to revamp the rule of law, the then president of America, Mr. Ronald Reagan sent a message of solidarity with the regime. The message was delivered at Dodan Barracks by Mr. Justice Arlin Adams, a member of the United States Court of Appeal. President Reagan, on that occasion, presented volumes of books on human rights, an evidence of America’s best wishes to Nigeria. He said he was confident that the Babangida government would successfully guard Nigeria to the attainment of its vast potentials.
The president followed these human rights gestures with yet another. He set up a two-party system for Nigeria to replace the chaotic several parties that contributed to the demise of the previous two republics. He created more local governments to stretch the hands of government to rural areas and to bring about participatory rural government. He held local government elections into the councils as a testimony of the new democracy. The local elections were successful. New Chairman and Councilors of councils formed the new threshold to National democracy.