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Saturday, July 13, 2024

How Ibrahim Babangida Laid Foundation Of A Destroyed Nigeria

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I will attempt a modest effort to respond to Prof. Yusuf Dankofa, a cerebral lawyer and law lecturer, who incidentally taught me Legal Methods in my first year at the Faculty of Law, ABU, Zaria.

You see, the learned Professor believes I was unfairly critical of Babangida (IBB) yesterday, when i pointedly accused him in my Facebook post of being the grand architect of the rot we see today in Nigeria’s society. My learned Prof told me in clear terms, that all past leaders share, or should share, the blame, equally. I have had time to sleep over this matter, and rethink my held position, but must express my regret, sadly, that i woke up with the selfsame opinion as i held yesterday, though in stronger measure. For good reason.

Before IBB, Nigerian politicians fought each other fiercely. But the cat-fights were restricted to vulgar abuses and intellectual clap-backs through newspaper articles and open letters. It was IBB who first put it in the heads of the government institution, that intellectual exertions were a sheer waste of time in engaging or silencing opposition. IBB introduced political assassination into the polity in grand style, as a more convenient and expeditious means of getting all the opposition ducks in a row. And he was quite inventive about it. He started with a love letter to Dele Giwa, laced with a bomb in 1986. Then in 1992, about 159 promising officers of the military mysteriously lost their lives in the C-130 crash in Ejigbo.

It was widely reported as an inside job. Fingers pointed to IBB. He denied it. I believe him. But what I find curious is that in a 2015 interview on this issue, IBB stated, as I read online, that the ill-fated C-130 plane should not have flown the day it did because it was faulty. When asked if the people responsible for clearing the plane to fly these officers, despite its being faulty, were punished, he heartily said “No.” When asked why not, he calmly responded “the Nigerian factor.” And this answer came from the man who was the all-powerful C-in-C at the time, and on whose table the power of life and death, punishment and reward, laid. But like i said, he has since denied culpability in the matter, and I, let me repeat, believe him.

Prior to IBB, I do not believe there was a parallel incident of political assassination in Nigeria on that scale or prominence. He gave the idea to Abacha, and those that followed. So in 1996, the no nonsense Dr. Shola Omoshola perished, a victim of institutional murder. Killed by bomb blast, IBB style, but by Abacha. Same 1996, Kudirat Abiola is assassinated. Same 1996, Col. Marwa escapes death by car bomb. Same 1996, bomb blast at Durba Hotel, Kano. Bomb blast in Zaria police station. Bomb blast at Ikeja military cantonment. Bomb blast at Ikeja Airforce base. Bomb blast, bomb blast, bomb blast!!!

Between 1996 and 1997, the bomb blasts were uncountable. Some by government, some by NADECO. In fact, since Dele Giwa, over 1000 people have lost their lives to political assassination, including, Bola Ige, Alfred Rewane, Harry Marshal, Dikibo, Andrew Agom, Igwe Barnaba and wife, Funsho Williams, Ayo Daramola, Dipo Dina, Godwin Agbroko, Ogbonnaya Uche…and the list goes on and on. Most were slain long after IBB was gone, but the seed of institutional violence in Nigeria was unarguably sown by IBB.

Let’s talk about corruption. Before IBB, what was rife was for powerful government ministers to steal money here and there, while the head of government itself, who might not be aware of the thievery, retires or is deposed into penury. Which is why even Gowon, who ruled for 9 nine years, was not deposed a rich man. Neither was Murtala Muhammad or Ironsi, or Shagari, or Buhari. People might dispute the pedigree of Buhari, but i include him in this list because in 2003, Prof. Kyuka Lilymjok took some students to Buhari’s house in Kaduna to speak and parley with him about his presidential ambition in that year.

Incidentally, I was the leader and spokesman of this group and sat face to face with Buhari in his dinning hall for the discussions, at his Kaduna home. It was a modest bungalow. Absolutely no luxury. I recall with considerable light-hearted humor that we were served warm coke on this occasion, and after all said and done, Buhari handed me an envelope containing N20,000 to share among over 50 students as “transport”. He profusely apologized that he had no money to give. Now you can imagine the fight among our ranks for the pittance, as is common with students. But i went away thinking this man must either be extremely honest to not have stupendous wealth having been Governor, Petroleum Minister, President and lately Chairman of PTF, or he must be quite stingy. At the time, I leaned more to think of him as an honest person. Many dispute this though.

But IBB changed all that. It was IBB who ingrained it in the minds of leaders, that they must feather their nest while in office, sort of retirement insurance. He basically and literally opened the public treasury to his cronies to feast on. My Prof., have you seen IBB’s 50-room hilltop mansion in Niger? The man flaunts wealth unapologetically. Where did he get the money? His salary as a military officer? His military pension? It was IBB who started the unfair sharing of Niger-Delta oil wells to his cronies, and at his pleasure. Did you know that Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija was a mere tailor sewing for Maryam Babangida?

Then Babangida woke up one morning, and like a genie in a bottle, decided she had to be a billionaire. So, he gifted her OML 216, a natural asset of the Niger-Delta, and today that tailor is on the Forbes rich list, worth more than US$3.3 billion. Babangida was the genie in the bottle. Just rub him the right way and your wish is granted. Then came Abacha, who learnt well from IBB. He gifted T. Y. Danjuma OPL 246, Alhaji Mai Daribe OML 110, Sanni Bello OML 112 and 117, Alhaji Indimie (Babangida’s inlaw) OML 115, Alhaji Saleh Gambo OML 215, Aminu Dantata OML 108 etc. Interestingly, Abacha also gifted himself, through Dan Etete, the very lucrative OPL 245. All to the Northern oligarchy, as you can see, at the expense of the source of the resources in the Niger-Delta, who eke out a bare-knuckle existence on a daily basis. IBB started it. Nobody did this before him.

Shall I speak about the missing US$12 billion oil windfall? This was just a single heist. He should have stolen so much more before and after this occasion. But this one time, US$12 billion went missing. Now, at that time, Nigeria’s population was somewhere in the region of 95 million and the exchange rate was about N10 to a dollar. So US$12 billion would have been say N120 billion in Naira terms. If shared among all Nigerians at the time, each person, including new born babies, mad men, prostitutes, armed robbers, murderers, thieves and what not, so far as they are Nigerian, would have gotten something, at least N100 at the time.

It might not have been much, but it would have gone round if shared. But one person, IBB, stole it. And with impunity too. Lest we forget, this happened on the cusp of IBB’s SAP program, when 90% of Nigerians were going to bed hungry, with no hope of food when they wake. But he still mindlessly stole this money on this occasion, even when he had stolen so much before this, and after. Now, suppose this money was put to a project, we would have had a world-class university, or a world class hospital or something else world-class. But he stole it and proceeded to send his children abroad to school and seek medical attention.

This and several monies IBB stole are the reason why Mohammad Babangida has never worked a day in his life, but owns over 24% of a telecommunications company that has now become a multinational. He holds huge stakes in several other companies. He is not better than me, who is trying to make honest living in an impossible business climate, a sort of Frankenstein monster that gobble up businesses created by his father.

It is the reason why IBB’s children at the time floated Fruitex International London Limited with a share capital of about £100,000 fully paid for in cash. This company and several other offshore corporations were then used to launder Nigeria’s commonwealth into Swiss accounts, to the detriment of the masses, to the detriment of the Niger-Delta, where the resources were stolen from. But dont get me wrong, so many people after IBB have bested him in the thievery game. In fact, so much have been stolen from Nigeria since then that what he took pales into insignificance. But he started it as head of state.

Babangida badly politicized and polarized both the military and the civil service like no President before him. We are still suffering from it today. His Decree 43 killed the earlier entrenched independent, apolitical and non-partisan principles of the civil service. Permanent Secretaries were replaced with Directors-General, who were political appointees and served at the pleasure of the President. In fact, they were to abdicate office with the Ministers. And so, with this artifice, IBB used political appointments, even in civil service, to reward loyalty.

This led to the emergence and institutionalization of the “brown envelope” syndrome in the Nigerian civil service. Accordingly, by some sort of strange alchemy, it became viewed as illegal not to pass a “brown envelope” under the table when seeking favors in government ministries. In the military, there was the emergence of “the IBB boys.” They were powerful officers who had direct links or relationships with IBB. For their loyalty, he rewarded them with gifts and appointments. Burba Marwa is often cited as the poster child of this system. He became quite prosperous under IBB and thereafter. But first, we hear he did IBB a few favors. Perhaps you should ask Dele Giwa about this.

May we speak of the current distrust between Christians and Muslims in today’s Nigeria? I do not deny that before IBB, there were religious skirmishes here and there. But the real, deep-seated distrust began with IBB’s surreptitious enlistment of Nigeria in the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). All Presidents before IBB had tried to hold things together, careful never to act in any way that betray dominance of one religion over the other. But not IBB. By this singular act on the OIC, he fanned the embers of a nationwide distrust between adherents of the two religions, and between the North and South, which we still suffer from till this very day.

What about values in society? It was IBB who invited Nigerians to believe that the end justified the means in money making. During his regime, drug barons held sway. 419 as a national institution-backed syndicate emerged. This was when foreign victims were taken to the real CBN offices for meetings, only to realize that the entire scheme was a scam after they had parted with money. These con men received both protection and patronage from the IBB regime. How can we forget who Gloria Okon was to IBB?

Never before had a President of Nigeria been so enmeshed in such scandal as drug peddling, this was truly a first. Needless to say, my Prof., Nigeria’s perception of morality and integrity has not been the same again since IBB. Nobody cares how money is made anymore, just make the damn thing!! So after the scorch of 419 came Yahoo Yahoo boys, money rituals and all sort of get-rich quick schemes. But you cannot but trace the root cause to IBB’s regime.

Let me mention the integrity of the Judiciary. It was during the whole June 12 debacle that we heard, for the first time, that a Judge had been procured to grant a midnight injunction to first stop the June 12 elections, and then again to restrain the announcement of the results. Dont forget, the preceding years up to this period is always referred to as the “golden years” of the Judiciary. We had upright and intelligent judges. Bribing or influencing a Judge was a phenomenon that was not common, in fact rarely heard of. But Babangida saw to it that it was done, using Arthur Nzeribe. Well, we all know where we are on this issue today.

My great Prof Sir, the tapestry of IBB’s ills to the Nigerian society is actually encyclopedic, and can only be captured in volumes. It will serve me no purpose to continue because i will not end. But like i earlier said, he is enjoying his loot in his 50-room mansion up the hills of Minna. From that vantage point, he has a bird’s eye view of all of us, and must be laughing himself silly on what fools we all are, by continuing to pay him him pensions, changing his cars every 4 years or so, acknowledging him as a statesman, consulting him on how to “move the country forward” or backwards as the case may be and generally paying homage to him, all as a befitting reward for his role in single-handedly destroying the moral fabric of Nigeria’s society.

I really do wish him well and hope he dies peacefully in his sleep after a sip of chilled champagne fully paid for by Niger-Delta’s oil, for doing such great work in frontally, backwardly and brutally raping that once beautiful bride called Nigeria.

By Barr. Fidel Albert

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