Title: IBB: The Misunderstood Patriot
Author: Oriade Daniel
Publisher: Royalbik Concept, Lagos
Reviewer: Pelu Balogun
For some Nigerians, the former Nigerian military president, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, popularly called IBB, was a modern-day political philosopher.
For others, he is perceived as a political albatross. Daniel’s ‘IBB: The Misunderstood Patriot’ is a book that seeks to explore the enigma called IBB with compelling facts about his leadership credentials.
The book runs in four parts, detailing IBB’s background and his grip on power, his Transition to Civil Rule programme, which was meant to usher in the Fourth Republic in Nigeria; while the concluding section of the book unfurls the thoughts of IBB in an interview session with the media.
In his forward to the book, John Wilkinson, a retired Senior Executive at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), says: “…IBB’S vision of what Nigeria could be, particularly in the economic sphere, led him to formulate and implement efforts which are still vital elements of the Nigerian reality.”
Born in Minna in 1941, IBB was recruited into the Nigerian Army in 1962. His first taste of leadership was in 1964, when, as a lieutenant, he was appointed Commander of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Nigeria.
Two years later, he participated in the July 28, 1966 counter coup that toppled General Aguiyi Ironsi’s regime.
His second involvement in a military coup was in 1975 when General Gowon was toppled by Murtala Muhammed.
Hence, following the reconstitution of the Supreme Military Council, IBB marked his entry into the military ruling class of the country, The Supreme Military Council.
A man of steel, he foiled the February, 1976 Dimka counter coup, which, unfortunately, claimed the life of General Murtala Muhammed.
IBB’s ingenuity in the art of coup making was brought to bear again in the 1983 coup that ousted the civilian government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and enthroned General Muhammadu Buhari in government.
Two years later, IBB himself ousted the regime of Buhari from office in a palace coup that made him Nigeria’s leader.
He was to survive two other counter coups against him said to be orchestrated by Major-General Mamman Vatsa, then FCT Minister, and Major Gideon Orka in 1985 and 1990, respectively.
Starting from Part B of the book, the author highlights the leadership attributes of IBB as a leader of men and a great manager of resources: “IBB has a thorough grasp of the Nigerian state and society. It is also plausible that he fully comprehends the Nigerian economy in its growth, from colonisation, colonialism, state-driven post-independence complex, effects of the civil war, and the necessity to redesign and manage the economy, from within the dynamics and dialects of the global market.”
While some of IBB’s political actions were misunderstood by many Nigerians, the author is of the view that “IBB policies on the economic sector were the ones that were the most understood, especially …the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).”
SAP, he explains, was aimed at a rational allocation of foreign exchange, and the stimulation of greater recourse to the use of local raw materials by industrial organisations, as well as a restoration of confidence in the economy of the country and encouraging diversification of the economy by promoting non-oil exports. The book also chronicles the telling effects of SAP on the economy and Nigerians in general
To IBB’s credit, echoes the author, were other socio-economic programmes, such as Better Life for Rural Women, National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND), National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA), Urban Mass Transit Scheme, and other remarkable initiatives in steel, energy and gas sectors; social and public services. Daniel also details IBB’s effort at reforming the security sector.
The dynamism of IBB regime’s foreign policy, says the author, manifested overwhelmingly in Liberia and Sierra Leone where “Nigeria… almost single-handedly brought the bitter wars in the two countries to an end through …ECOMOG”.
The author informs us, too, that the Structural Adjustment programme drew a lot of attention to the president from abroad, while his economic diplomacy took the notch higher via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The most misunderstood aspect of the Babangida presidency was his transition programme. In the fourth part of this book, Daniel examines the visions, policies and implementations of the programme meant to usher Nigeria’s fourth republic.
It started with the constitution of the Political Bureau in January 1986, setting up of National Electoral Commission (NEC), successfully holding the 1987 local government election, creation of 11 new states, pioneering the two party system (SDP and NRC), and reforming the political process with the introduction of Option A4 that emphasised on recruiting political leaders from Ward, local government and state levels.
Perhaps IBB’s greatest political undoing was annulling the June 12 1993 election that saw the emergence of Chief MKO Abiola.
As a misunderstood patriot, the author avers that IBB’s postures clearly indicates a love for a united Nigeria, and his miscalculation in annulling the June 12 election, of which he has acknowledged his mistake, shouldn’t be used to wipe out his groundbreaking achievements in government.
This book, written by a young Nigerian in his forties, is recommended to those in authority, researchers, political scientists and all Nigerians to understudy and interrogate the art of statecraft, including its highs and lows.
Balogun is a public affairs analyst. He wrote from Ibadan, Oyo State.