General Ibrahim Babangida (Nigeria’s eight head of state) became the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria in August 27, 1985 (Eid-el-kabir).
President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida is a man of many parts. He was born during the Second World War. A fine officer and gentleman, 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 Aisha 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 Defence Academy between 1970 and 1972. He commenced the Advanced Armoured Officers’ course at the Armoured 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 Armoured 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 Armoured 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 December 31, 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.
He is married to his sweet heart former Hajiya Maryam King since September 1969, and they are blessed with four children-two boys (Mohammed and Aminu) and two girls (Aisha and Halima).
In recognition of his service to the nation, Babangida was conferred with one of the highest national honour-awards, the commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFR). Apart from this he has also been decorated on different occasions- these are the Defence 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 honour, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR). General Babangida has Presented several military and service papers some of which are entitled “ Civil / Military Relationship – The Nigeria experience 1979 and “ Defence 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. He is also the recipient of the Person of the YEAR 2004 Award by Nigerians in Diaspora Organization - Arewa-online. His biography encouraged, inspired and taught us when we were young 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 glued to their radio sets to learn more from the hourly broadcasts of events. Dimka held the nation to a ransom. 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, we saw his patriotism as one of the qualities that make him suitable to be declared our 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. Compared with many who have had the opportunity rule Nigeria, Babangida was a somewhat more methodical ruler, and his style was different. Babangida was deft and tactical.
The administration of Babangida opened more diplomatic posts abroad, improved the strained relations with others and lifted the diplomatic ban on Israel.
In 1986 Nigeria became a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), an international association of Islamic states in which Nigeria had long held observer status.
Babangida's government adopted other economic reforms leading to a market system and political reforms leading to democratic processes. Important changes were made in the basic structures of military federalism. For the first time, a military leader was called president, presumably to emphasize the executive power he wielded and pave the way for democratization of the Nigerian polity. The name of the supreme lawmaking body was changed from Supreme Military Council to the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC). There was also a new Armed Forces Consultative Assembly, formed in 1989, which functioned as an intermediate legislative chamber between the AFRC and the rest of the military. In spite of these elaborate structural changes, Babangida adroitly increased the powers of his office. He changed his ministers and state governors frequently. Even supposedly powerful members of the government were not spared, as was demonstrated in 1986 when he dropped his second in command, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe. In his place, he appointed Rear Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, former chief of the naval staff. The most dramatic of these changes were made at the end of 1989, when Babangida reassigned several ministers, including General Domkat Bali, the powerful minister of defence and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the minister of defence being the president himself). These changes generated heated controversy however, Babangida emerged from the changes more powerful than before.
He also 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.
Babangida and the first lady, Maryam have always been regarded as the people’s and big business head of state and first lady. The first lady and Babangida’s love for the masses was demonstrated at every opportunity during his administration. To uplift life in rural areas, his administration through the energy of the first lady, Mrs. Maryam Babangida, initiated and implemented the Better Life Programme. 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 in other to create a safety net. 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.
IBBnomics and the Babangida revolution
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.
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).
The year after ascending to power, the Babangida regime declared a National Economic Emergency. The options open to the country, Babangida said, were either to accept an International Monetary Fund loan and the conditions attached or to embark on more austere economic measures that would require great sacrifices. Although the people favoured a non-IMF option, they soon discovered the hardships eventually imposed differed little from the IMF's conditions. The economic recovery program recommended by the World Bank was instituted as a self-imposed structural adjustment program (SAP) that involved a drastic restructuring of the country's economy. Under SAP, unemployment rates soared, food prices increased significantly, and numerous user fees for education and health services were imposed. These hardships did not dissuade the government from SAP, which it believed to be the only approach to the country's social and economic problems. At first, many people couldn’t appreciate the Babangida Structural Adjustment Programme as realistic solution to Nigeria’s economic ailments at the time. 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. The benefits of SAP, such as lower inflation and more balanced budget, began to be seen but SAP was adhered to less stringently in the late 1980s.
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.
Babangida also introduced far-reaching changes in the civil service, the police, the armed and security forces, and the political system.
On April 22, 1990, a coup attempt led by Major Gideon Orkar almost toppled the Babangida regime. The presidential residence in Dodan Barracks was extensively damaged by the rebellious soldiers, but the head of state survived. A unique feature of this coup attempt was the level of involvement of Nigerian civilians, who allegedly helped finance the operation. During the hours when the rebels controlled the radio station in Lagos, they broadcast a critique of the regime with threats to expel the far northern states from the federation.
The survival of Babangida and all senior members of the regime enabled the government to continue its policies, especially the planned transition to civilian rule in 1992. The state congresses of the two government-sponsored political parties, the only legal parties, the National Republican Convention and the Social Democratic Party, were held in the summer of 1990 and campaigning began in earnest thereafter. The outcome of the elections and subsequent annulment soon lead to crisis.
The crisis of the June 12 1993, led to General Babangida handing over to an Interim National Government exactly eight years later on August 27, 1993. Gen. Babangida said in the seven years after the annulment of the June 12 presidential election, people keep asking me about it in spite of enough answers I have given. But you will find out that it is just a group of people who feel aggrieved by the annulment of the June 12 presidential election. If it were not for the annulment, what would have been their positions today? June 12 has served as a key to open the door for many Nigerians in positions of authority today. These beneficiaries of June 12 annulment are not being fair to me. There are only two dogged fighters for June 12 in Nigeria. They are mere sycophants who have fed fat on June 12, he said.
The former President also commented on his speculated presidential ambition, saying, “in the first place, if God ordains one for something, nobody can stop it. Likewise, if God says no, even if the whole world teams up, it will not change the situation. Therefore, I am leaving everything to God to determine my political future.”
At the time of the political transition there were: great increase in food production. Increased local sourcing of industrial raw materials through research and development. Regular payments of workers’ and teachers’ salaries nationwide. Also, the promotion of public ownership of government companies through privatization and commercialization. Provision of employment and training opportunities at all levels through programs 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. There was unprecedented agricultural improvement. New road construction and dualization of major highways were carried out. The cocoa, palm fruits, rubber plantations and farms have returned to their good era. Are these not praise-worthy? These are the Legacy of a true hero and Leader: General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida.
It is not the critic who counts; nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion; who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumphs of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat...THEODORE ROOSEVELT 1910