Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (born August 17, 1941), also known as IBB, is a retired Nigerian Army General who was President of Nigeria under military rule. He ruled Nigeria from August 27, 1985, when he overthrew Major General Muhammadu Buhari in a coup, until his departure from office on August 27, 1993, having annulled the elections held on June 12 that year. General Babangida was a key player in most of the military coups in Nigeria (July 1966, February 1976, December 1983, August 1985, December 1985 and April 1990). There is evidence of severe human rights abuses during his regime.
Marriage, family and personal life
Ibrahim Babangida was born in 1941, Minna, Niger State. His parents are Muhammad and Aisha Babangida. He is from the Gwari ethnic group. On September 6, 1969, he married Maryam (née King) Babangida (First Lady of Nigeria 1985-93). They had four children together: Muhammadu, Aminu, Aishatu, and Halimatu. Maryam Babangida died from complications of ovarian cancer on December 27, 2009.
Early education and military career
Babangida attended the Provincial Secondary School, Bida from 1957 to 1962 where his classmates included officers such as Abdulsalami Abubakar. Babangida later joined the Nigerian Army on December 10, 1962, when he attended the Nigerian Military Training College (NMTC) in Kaduna. Babangida received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant as a regular combatant officer in the Royal Nigerian Army (a month before it became the Nigerian Army) with the personal army number N/438 from the Indian Military Academy on September 26, 1963. Babangida and General Mohammed Magoro were among the first batch of Nigerian graduates from the NMTC who attended the Indian Military Academy from April to September 1963. Others in subsequent batches from Babangida’s NMTC class include Garba Duba and Ibrahim Sauda. Babangida furthered his armoury training from January 1966 until April 1966 by enrolling in Course 38 of the Young Officers’ Course (ARMED) in the United Kingdom where he received a four-month course in Saladin and gunnery.
From August 1972 to June 1973, he took the Advanced Armoured Officers’ course at Armored school. He attended the Senior officers’ course, Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, from January 1977 until July 1977 and the Senior International Defence Management Course, Naval Postgraduate school, U.S., in 1980.
He was heavily involved in quelling the Nigerian coup of 1976, when he was to ‘liberate’ a radio station from one of the coup plotters, Col Buka Suka Dimka (a close friend of his), to prevent him making further announcements over the air waves. Although he did prevent further broadcasts, Col Dimka managed to escape.
He attained the following ranks: Second Lieutenant (1963), Lieutenant (1966), Captain (1968), Major (1970), Lieutenant Colonel (1970), Colonel (1973), Brigadier (1979), Major General (1983), and General (1987). Babangida also served as a member of the Supreme Military Council from August 1, 1975 to October 1979.
Participation in the Nigerian counter-coup of July 1966
Babangida, then a Lieutenant with the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron in Kaduna, was one of the many officers of northern Nigerian origin who staged what became known as the Nigerian Counter-Coup of 1966 which resulted in the death of Nigeria’s first military Head of State, General Aguiyi Ironsi (who had taken power in another coup earlier that year), and his replacement with General Yakubu Gowon.
Babangida was the Chief of Army Staff and a member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) under the administration of Major General Muhammadu Buhari. Babangida would later overthrow Buhari’s regime on August 27, 1985 in a bloodless military coup that relied on mid-level officers that Babangida strategically positioned over the years.
He came into power in a military coup promising to bring to an end the human rights abuses perpetuated by Buhari’s government, and to hand over power to a civilian government by 1990.Eventually, he perpetuated one of the worst human right abuses.
Babangida issued a referendum to garner support for austerity measures suggested by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and subsequently launched his “Structural Adjustment Program” (SAP) in 1986. The policies entailed under the SAP were the deregulation of the agricultural sector by abolishing marketing boards and the elimination of price controls, the privatisation of public enterprises, the devaluation of the Naira to aid the competitiveness of the export sector, and the relaxation of restraints on foreign investment put in place by the Gowon and Obasanjo governments during the 1970s.
Between 1986 and 1988, when these policies were executed as intended by the IMF, the Nigerian economy actually did grow as had been hoped, with the export sector performing especially well, but the falling real wages in the public sector and amongst the urban classes, along with a drastic reduction in expenditure on public services, set off waves of rioting and other manifestations of discontent that made sustained commitment to the SAP difficult to maintain.
Babangida subsequently returned to an inflationary economic policy and partially reversed the deregulatory initiatives he had set in motion during the heyday of the SAP following mounting pressure, and economic growth slowed correspondingly, as capital flight resumed apace under the influence of negative real interest rates. Babangida is seen by many to have presided over one of the most corrupt governments in Nigeria, however, unlike other regimes, no ministers of his regime were convicted/tried by the courts.
Although he ran a Military Government, his government appeared to be consultative: issues were subjected to public debate, but the use to which the final recommendations were put was another matter. For instance, in setting up a 17-man ‘Political Bureau’ (the so-called Politburo) in January 1986, Babangida kicked off what was intended to be a national debate on the political way forward for Nigeria. The Politburo ‘majority report’ appeared to have been completed whilst consultations were ongoing nationwide. Curious still, the manipulation of what would be revealed as a ‘minority report’ made it to being the majority report. Significantly, a member of the Politburo issued a separate report, now popularly referred to as the ‘minority report’. All the members of the Politburo were promised some involvement in managing the execution of the programmes suggested, and only a maximum of four did not benefit after the report was issued. This methodology is consistent with Babangida’s patron-client political style.
Babangida upgraded Nigeria’s role in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC, now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation), from an observer status to full-fledged membership. After public outcry and denial by Babangida, the John Shagaya panel was instituted to determine Nigeria’s status in the OIC. The panel failed to take an explicit position on the issue, and instead, called for peace and stability within the nation, and the preservation of secularism within Nigeria. Commodore Ebitu Okoh Ukiwe, the first Chief of General Staff-in command, was ‘dropped’ by Babangida. Ukiwe had been opposed to the registration of Nigeria, a secular country, in the OIC.
Nigeria has never been withdrawn from the OIC and remains a member. Sani Abacha, who overthrew the Interim National Government set up when Babangida was forced out of office again unilaterally registered Nigeria as a member of the D-8 (Developing-8), an organisation for development cooperation among Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. The D-8, an idea proposed by then Prime Minister of Turkey Necmettin Erbakan in October 1996, is a “cooperation among major Muslim developing countries”.
1990 coup attempt
On April 22, 1990, Babangida’s government was almost toppled by a coup attempt led by Major Gideon Orkar. Babangida was at the Dodan Barracks, the military headquarters and presidential residence, when they were attacked and occupied by the rebel troops, but managed to escape by a back route. During the brief interlude during which Orkar and his collaborators controlled radio transmitters in Lagos, they broadcast a vehement critique of Babangida’s government, accusing it of widespread corruption and autocratic tendencies, and they also expelled the five northernmost and predominantly Hausa-Fulani Nigerian states from the union, accusing them of seeking to perpetuate their rule at the expense of the predominantly Christian peoples of Nigeria’s middle-belt citing, in particular, the political neutralization of the Langtang Mafia.
Botched transition to civilian rule
In 1989, Babangida legalized the formation of political parties, and after a census was carried out in November 1991, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced on January 24, 1992 that both legislative elections to a bicameral National Assembly and a presidential election would be later that year. A process of voting was adopted referred to as Option A4. This process advocated that any candidate needed to pass through adoption from the local level to any height of governance.
Babangida banned all political parties and formed two political parties by himself, namely the SDP (Social Democratic Party) and NRC (National Republican Convention) and urged all Nigerians to join either of the parties, which the Late Chief Ajibola Ige famously referred to as “two leper hands.” The two-party state had been a recommendation of the 17-member Political Bureau.
The legislative elections went ahead as planned, with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) winning majorities in both houses of the National Assembly, but on August 7, 1992, the INEC annulled the first round of presidential primaries, alleging widespread irregularities. On January 4, 1993, Babangida announced a National Defense and Security Council, which he was president of, while in April 1993, the SDP nominated Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (MKO) as its presidential candidate, with the National Republican Convention (NRC) choosing Bashir Tofa to run for the same position. On June 12, 1993, presidential election was finally held, but the result was held back although it was announced in some states that Abiola had in fact won 19 of the 30 states, and therefore the presidency.
Rather than allow the announcement of the results to proceed, Babangida and his cronies decided to annul the elections. Babangida then issued a decree banning the presidential candidates of both the NRC and the SDP from running in new presidential elections that he planned to hold in the interest of the country. Widespread acts of civil disobedience began to occur, particularly in the Southwest region from which Abiola hailed, resulting in the killings of people mostly from the South East part of the country. On July 6, 1993, the NDSC issued an ultimatum to the SDP and NRC to join an interim government or face yet another round of elections, and Babangida then announced that the interim government would be inaugurated on August 27, 1993. On August 26, amidst a new round of strikes and protests that had brought all economic activity in the country to a halt, Babangida declared that he was stepping aside as head of the military regime, and handing over the reins of government to Ernest Shonekan. Within 3 months of the handover, General Sani Abacha seized control of the government while Babangida was on a visit to Egypt.
The killing by a letter bomb of Dele Giwa, a magazine editor critical of Babangida’s administration, at his Lagos home in 1986 was allegedly attributed to Babangida and remains a controversial incident to this day. In 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjoestablished the Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission headed by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa to investigate human rights abuses during Nigeria’s decades of military rule. However, Babangida repeatedly defied summons to appear before the panel to answer allegations of humans rights abuses and questioned both the legality of the commission and its power to summon him. He was however represented by counsels, Mustapha Bashir Wali and Yahya Mahmoud. His right not to testify was upheld in 2001 by Nigeria’s court of appeal which ruled that the panel did not have the power to summon former rulers of the country.
The Oputa Panel Report would conclude that: “On General Ibrahim Babangida, we are of the view that there is evidence to suggest that he and the two security chiefs, Brigadier General Halilu Akilu and Col. A. K. Togun are accountable for the untimely death of Dele Giwa by letter bomb. We recommend that this case be re-opened for further investigation in the public interest.”
In an interview with the Financial Times on August 15, 2006, Babangida announced that he would run for president in Nigeria’s 2007 national elections. He said he was doing so “under the banner of the Nigerian people” and accused the country’s political elite of fuelling Nigeria’s current ethnic and religious violence.
On November 8, 2006, General Babangida picked up a nomination form from the Peoples Democratic Party Headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria. This effectively put to rest any speculation about his ambitions to run for the Presidency. His form was personally issued to him by the PDP chairman, Ahmadu Ali. This action immediately drew extreme reactions of support or opposition from the western population of the country. In early December, just before the PDP presidential primary, however, it was widely reported in Nigerian newspapers that IBB had withdrawn his candidacy to be the PDP’s nominee to run for president. In a letter excerpted in the media, IBB is quoted as citing the “moral dilemma” of running against Umaru Yar’Adua, the younger brother of the late Shehu Yar’Adua(himself a former nominee to run for the Presidency during IBB’s military regime), as well as against General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, given IBB’s close relationship with the latter two. It is widely believed that his chances of winning were slim.
On April 12, 2010, his spokesman announced that he would be seeking the nomination of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the presidency in the elections scheduled to be held in 2011. In a move unseen before in Nigerian politics he launched his official campaign website on August 9, 2010, where visitors can interact directly with him.
Following a bombing in Abuja during Nigeria’s 50th anniversary celebrations and the consequent arrest and interrogation of the Director General of Babangida campaign, Raymond Dokpesi, there were calls for him to quit the race. In addition, there were others who linked his affiliated to the blasts. He responded in saying it would be “idiotic to link” him with attack. Even before the blasts, however, some of his former loyalists, popularly called “IBB Boys,” apparently asked him to quit the presidential race so as not to avoid being rubbished by a non-General.
- Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (GCFR);
- Defence Service Medal (DSM);
- The National Service Medal (NSM);
- The Royal Service Medal (RSM);
- The Forces Services Star (FSS);
- General Service Medal (GSM);
- In May 1989, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, conferred Babangida with theKnight Grand Cross of the Bath (GCB).