Former Nigerian military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd), in an exclusive interview with Daily Trust, aired his views on so many burning national issues.
From Boko Haram insurgency to banditry, Amotekun and Shege Ka Fasa, IBB took us down memory lane to why he decided to step aside and how the late General Sani Abacha toppled the interim national government of Chief Ernest Shonekan among others.
Below are eight things IBB, popularly referred to as the ‘Maradona’ in Nigeria’s political circle, said in the interview:
How to end Boko Haram
Nigerian security agencies need more intelligence for their operations, leadership and character to be able to check the current insurgency, IBB said.
“I think we should concentrate more on intelligence information. For example, on Boko Haram, we need more intelligence about how they operate, their leadership, their characters, who teaches them, who trains them, and so on.
“A lot of information needs to be gathered before you confront them. Don’t forget, they are not conventional army; they are just people, small in number when compared to the regular conventional army,” Babangida said.
Gowon motivated me, other northerners to join the military
He said: “If you remember, there was a drive to get a lot of us from the northern part of the country to join the military. The government then, led by Tafawa Balewa, carried out a deliberate campaign to entice us from secondary school to go to military training and subsequently, to military institutions to become military officers. So it was that drive.
“General Yakubu Gowon came to our school as a captain then, and we got all inspired when he spoke to us on why we should join the army. In my class, about 15 of us got admitted into the military college in Kaduna. So, it was a drive that made us to join the military.”
‘I feel a sense of satisfaction’ reciting Quran
General IBB has the habit of reciting the Quran. When asked about this habit during the interview, he said: “Thank God the media doesn’t seem to know that. I think it is good. Don’t you think so? It is personal to me, so I feel a sense of satisfaction.”
Coping without a wife
The former military president has revealed that he enjoys the company of his children since the demise of his wife, Mrs. Maryam Babangida, on December 27, 2009.
“I have very caring and understanding children; they try to fit in where their mother has left,” he said.
When asked whether he was shopping for another wife as speculated in some media, IBB said: “That’s what the media wanted. A lot of people asked me and I said that’s what you (media) said. It is not necessarily what I said.”
The former military president said his proudest moment in life was commanding the Nigerian Army.
“That is one of the highpoints of my profession. Everyone of us wanted to be commanders. And I was able to achieve that before I became president. I think being the Chief of the Army Staff was my proudest moment, as well as what we did for the Army in terms of re-training, re-organising and making it a good fighting machine,” he said.
Why we introduced free market economy in Nigeria
General Babangida (rtd) also noted that he introduced Nigeria to a free market economy. “When we introduced a free market economy, a lot of people didn’t understand what we were trying to do, but now, people have accepted it as the best way for our economic development. The best way is the open market system, and this is what we are practising now. This we did in 1986 and now is 2020,” he pointed out.
Why military coup became the order of the day in Africa
IBB said military coup became the order of the day in most African countries, because there seemed to be a competition in various countries across the continent right from 1952 till the 90s.
“But unfortunately, in the process of building the country (Nigeria), there was military intervention and that brought about the emergence of military regimes. Don’t forget that it was happening in other parts of Africa when we had coup in 1966. In 1952, there was a coup d’état in Egypt, and subsequently, there seemed to be a competition in various countries in Africa. If Ghana had a coup, maybe the next would be Nigeria, and vice versa. It spread to other countries in West Africa and elsewhere. So, military regimes in some of these countries became the order of the day,” he said.
Sambisa Forest and National Guards
“You (Nigerians) shut it down because by then, you feared that I was trying to introduce it to perpetuate myself in office. So the idea was killed. We were sensitive to the plight of Nigerians, but I think that fortunately, it is coming out as Amotekun, Shege Ka Fasa and others.
“We thought about it and felt we should provide another very strong force, though not as strong as the army. If the police failed, then there would be a second force; if that force failed, then the army would get involved. We tried to isolate the army from involvement in internal operations. That was why we came up with the concept of National Guards.
“As usual, Nigerians said no, ‘this man wants to perpetuate himself in office, so he is going to have another force to stop him from being toppled, or something like that.’ I feel bad that it has been taken over, if there is anything like that; but I also feel vindicated. If the guards were there doing their training, it wouldn’t have been possible to take over the forest,” IBB said in the interview.
Read interview here