Ibrahim Babangida IBB: MY TRUE HERO
Do you know that a collection of words today will definitely form history tomorrow? This question reminds me of a man who had performed series of operations that bailed a nation out of the doldrum and his name will ring forever in the ears of his people even if he had some vulnerable manners – people will still continue to echo the good and reject the bad manners in such a person. This is why I have been prompted to let the cat out of the bag by revealing some of his pragmatic and scientific strategies – deliberately mapped out from time to time to make his country become a stable, enduring and civilized country. These interesting episodes are of course the recent ones relating back to General Ibrahim Babangida.
President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida is a man of many parts. He was born during the Second World War. This factor of his birth may have confirmed the irony that he was destined to be a soldier. General Ibramhim Babangida, president, commander-in-chief of the Armed forces of Nigeria, was born on August 17, 1941 in Minna, Niger state (Nigeria). He is one of the children of Muhammad and Aishat Babangida. He began his primary education in 1950 and finished in 1956. In 1957, he gained admission to Government college, Bida, where he passed his West African school certificate Examination in 1962.General Babangida enrolled at the Nigerian Military Training college on December 10, 1962, passed out on April 20, 1963, and was later commissioned in the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
The general then proceeded to the Indian Military Academy for another course from where he graduated in April 1964. After his graduation, he was appointed commanding officer of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron until January 1966, when he proceeded to the Royal Armoured Centre in the United Kingdom for the young officers’ course, which he completed on April 24, 1966. He was thereafter, promoted to the rank of Lieutenant that year. Soon after, he was back at the same Royal Armoured Centre where he bagged a certificate in Armoured Driving Maintenance the following year.
In July 1968, he was appointed commander, 44 infantry (The Rangers) and got elevated to the rank of captain in August of the same year. It was also during his tour of duty as commanding officer in the same battalion, that he earned his promotion as a Major in April 1970. Based on his previous good performances, he was nominated for the company commanders’ course at Warminster in the United Kingdom between October and November 1970, and after a successful completion, he was appointed instructor and company commander at the Nigerian Defense Academy between 1970 and 1972. He commenced the Advanced Armored Officers’ course at the Armored school in the United States on August 16, 1972 where he again passed out with flying colors on June 8, 1973. On his return, he was appointed Lieutenant- colonel in 1974 – a position he held until his appointment as the inspector and subsequently the commander Nigerian Army Armored corps in 1975. In January 1977, he proceeded briefly on the senior officers’ course at the Command and Staff College, Jaji. After completing the course in July of the same year, he was redeployed to his former post as commander of the Nigerian Army Armored Corps where he was until 1979 when he was promoted as a Brigadier. Soon after his promotion, he attended the Policy and strategic studies course at the Nigerian Institute of policy and strategic studies (NIPSS) at Kuru-Jos, Plateau State (Nigeria). Later, he went in for the Senior International Defence Management Course at the Naval post Graduate School in United States between January and June 1980. On January 5, 1981, he was appointed Director, Army Staff Duties and plans and he was promoted as Major General on March 1, 1983. He relinquished his appointment to become the chief of Army Staff on December 31,1983. General Babangida was also a member of the Supreme Military Council – the highest policy formulating body of the government between August 1, 1975 and October 1979. He was re-appointed to the same vital government organ when the military took over the reins of power from civilians on December31, 1985 in his new capacity as the Army boss. He combined both appointments until August 27, 1983 when he became the President and Commander-in-chief of the Armed forces. On assumption of office, he changed the title Supreme Military Council (SMC) to Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) over which he presides as chairman. On October 1, 1987 President Babangida was promoted a full General.
In recognition of his service to the nation, Babangida was conferred with one of the highest national honor-awards, the commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFR). Apart from this he has also been decorated on different occasions- these are the Defense Service Medical (DSM); The National Service Medal (NSM); The Royal Service Medal (RSM); the Forces Services Star (FSS). And the General Service Medal (GSM). During a state visit to Great Britain in May 1989, Queen Elizabeth II conferred President Babangida with the Knight Grand Cross of the Bath (GCB). He reciprocated by conferring on the English Monarch, Nigeria’s highest honor, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR). He is married to former Hajiya Maryam King since September 1969, and they are blessed with four children-two boys and two girls. General Babangida has Presented several military and service papers some of which are entitled “ Civil / Military Relationship – The Nigeria experience 1979 and “ Defense policy within the framework of National planning 1985”. Among the places he had visited are Western and Eastern Europe, North America, Middle East, Africa and Asia. President Babangida was elected chairman of the Organization of the African Unity (OAU) in October 1991 and represented the organization on many international issues and also at the United Nations General Assembly. His biography has encouraged me as a young boy that success is sure through diligence and perseverance.
A remarkable evidence of his loyalty to the Nation during the Muritala Muhammed administration was the demonstration of rare courage that he exhibited during the troubled days of the regime threatened by Dimka’s coup d’etat. One of the days which shook Nigeria to her foundation was the day that Lt. Colonel. Buka Suka Dimka took over the premises of Radio Nigeria at Ikoyi, a few poles from Dodan Barracks, residence of the head of State. That morning, on Friday, 13th February 1976, Dimka had ambushed the Head of State and with the collaboration of some soldiers acting under his influence and that of his collaborators had shot the Head of State and Commander-in-chief of the Armed force of Nigeria and assassinated him. Confusion was the order of the day throughout the country and especially within the Armed Forces particularly in Lagos. No one dared to move near Dimka as he was armed to the teeth and was in complete control of the Broadcasting house, the FRCN. It was the most credible and reliable medium through which all Nigerians picked the national news of development in the country. It was even at that moment that every Nigerian was often glued to their radio sets to learn more from the hourly broad casts of events. Dimka held the nation to ransome.
To dislodge him would cost lots of lives, lives of innocent people working in the radio establishment and living around Ikoyi and Obalende communities.
A young Nigerian soldier in his middle age emerged on the scene to put end to Dimka’s coup. That young Nigerian soldier was Colonel Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. It was a bloody day as Army officers were in disarray. They had been taken by surprise by Dimka and his Co- coup plotters. He clearly demonstrated this quality in his confrontation with Lt. Col. B.S. Dimka when unarmed he approached the coup leader to withdraw his troops from the premises of the Radio station already occupied and fortified with tanks and armed men. He spoke to Lt. Col. Dimka with ease and fearlessness, which marks him out as a courageous soldier among officers of the Nigerian Army. At first, Lt. Col. Dimka threatened General Babangida’s life when he warned him to keep off or “I will shoot you” General Babagida Managed a smile, his usual characteristics and replied “ I would have been happier to die in the hands of my friend. I know you will have to take care of my wife Maryam and children.” These few Statements by General Babangida and his peculiar military diplomacy did the magic as he disarmed Lt. Col. Dimka without firing a single shot. Even at the Nigerian Military School in Zaria where General Babangida had his Military training, he was known as “ Mr. Courage”. For saving the nation with military diplomacy, I saw his patriotism as one of the qualities that make him suitable to be declared my true hero. For that solo military effort of Babangida, Dimka would have carried his plans further and the nation’s throat would have been slashed. Babangida’s courage had saved the nation from bleeding to death. The attributes of his leadership have been acknowledged by Nigeria. From there on, he began to earn the respect of his fellow men and the love of Nigerians.
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 Buhari administration. Those who benefited from his kind gesture were Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the much liked Lagos State governor, the late Alhaji Bark in 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 Buhari’s 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”.
The Buhari government greeted initially with great euphoria had become highly repressive and unpopular by the end of 20 - month rule, the newspaper added. 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 which 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.
He set up machinery under which the two party structure would reach the grassroots for non- discriminate membership. Two parties NRC and SDP represent popular political views and Ideological sentiments of majority of Nigerians. So, it became possible for those with liberal views to be grouped together and those of conservative political views to be associated. It represents a clear – cut dichotomy in Nigeria’s political history. To uplift life in rural areas, his administration through the energy of the first lady, Mrs. Maryam Babangida, the Better Life Programme was initiated and implemented. It was designed to raise the consciousness and the standard of living of people.
The government (Babangida) also set up the people’s Bank of Nigeria, and established branches in towns and rural areas for the use of the poor. Loans were issued free of interest to promote small-scale industrial activities in the rural sector. We can cite a lot of other examples such as self-sufficiency in food production, including exports of cash crops, commendable industrial growth, promotion of tourism, the big growth in banking and non-banking financial sectors, a balanced and highly efficient civil service and other public service structures. The volume of Nigerian business increased during his regime in spite of the state of the economy. This was credited to president Babangida’s romance with the business community and the chambers of commerce, while at the same time urging their greater participation in investment some of the old dormant industries and those moribund and unprofitable grain boards were privatized. The activities of the lucky entrepreneurs brought home hard currency to boost the dwindling naira. The administration of Babangida opened more diplomatic posts abroad, improved the strained relations with others and lifted the diplomatic ban on Israel.
Every revolution begets its own legality; the Babangida revolution was not an exception. The wide gap between the rich and the poor seemed to have given him a lot of concern throughout his administration as he fought the battle through many democratic reforms to narrow this gap. He felt if good production from the rural areas were in abundance, and the city dwellers are gainfully employed by the industries, all will have enough to eat, safe and to educate their children. He set the country on the path to economic recovery by adopting measure which the angels dared not, the Structural Adjustment Programme (IMF and World Bank options).
At first, many people couldn’t appreciate the Babangida Structural Adjustment Programme as realistic solution to Nigeria’s economic ailments. Its curative ability was not immediate at first, but two years after its adoption, Nigerians learnt the economic tricks of self-reliance and began to look inward for socio-economic dependability.
Babangida had produced the following identifiable gains through Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). Intensive export promotion drives in the non-oil sector. Local production of wheat. Support for the establishment of small-scale businesses.
Great increase in food production. Increased local sourcing of industrial raw materials through research and development. Regular payments of workers’ and teachers’ salaries nationwide.
Promotion of public ownership of government companies through privatization and commercialization. Provision of employment and training opportunities at all levels through programmes of the National Directorate of Employment. Rural development had taken a brand new dimension with MAMSER crusading and spreading awareness of governments concern for rural dwellers. Unprecedented agricultural improvement. The cocoa, palm fruits, rubber plantations and farms have returned to their good era. Are these not praise-worthy? I hereby proclaim that General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida is my true hero.
Tijani Wariyu Kolade,
Computer Engineering Dept.,
Goldnet International Institute of Computer Science & echnology, Accredited I.M.I.S. Study centre.
Govt. Approved Reg. No.- EDU/A/41/01/2000).
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