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Ibrahim Babangida

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Ibrahim Babangida (cropped)

General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was a Nigerian military officer and ruler of Nigeria. He ruled Nigeria from his coup against Major General Muhammadu Buhari on August 27, 1985 until his departure from office on August 27, 1993 after his annulment of elections held on June 12 that year.

PresidencyEdit

CoupEdit

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 27 August 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 and lots of unresolved political assassinations.

Economic policiesEdit

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.

OIC membershipEdit

Babangida (unilaterally, without consultation with other bodies) 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, subsequently confirming membership and making a recommendation for withdrawal from the body. Commodore Ebitu Okoh Ukiwe, the first Chief of General Staff in General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida's regime andBabangida's second-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 attemptEdit

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 ruleEdit

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 held that year.

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. January 4, 1993 saw the announcement by Babangida of a National Defense and Security Council, of which Babangida himself was to be President, 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 elections were finally held, but the results were 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 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 have held. Widespread acts of civil disobedience began to occur, particularly in the Southwest region from which Abiola hailed, resulting in the killings. 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.

Human rights abusesEdit

The killing by a letter bomb of Dele Giwa, a magazine editor critical of Babangida's administration, at his Lagos home in 1986 was largely attributed to Babangida and remains a controversial incident to this day. In 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo established 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 death of Dele Giwa by letter bomb. We recommend that this case be re-opened for further investigation in the public interest."

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