Ibrahim Babangida at 74

IBB AT 74

An Interview with former President, Gen Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida on
his 74years birthday at his residence in minna

Q: Sir, on a lighter mood, Nigerians are saying that you are not from
Niger State, but that you are from Ogbomosho in Oyo State and that
your because of your second name, which is Badamasi was even coined
out of Yoruba name, Gadadamasi. So, this joyous occasion of your
birthday celebration is an opportunity for you to clear the air on
what is actually your source ?

IBB: Thank you Mr. Chairman and his distinguished colleagues I want
to thank you also. Like you rightly said during your interaction, I
was here with you almost a year ago. Time flies and we are now
together again. I want to say that I appreciates the concerns, I
appreciates the goodwill that I enjoy from each and everyone of you.
I have always consider you as part of us or part of the family. So,
for that I am very grateful. I want to put it on record that I
appreciates each and everyone of you. Like my friend, late Dimka would
say, we are all together. So, once more thank you very much.

On your first question, I have had to an answer that question way
back , though some of you were not born then in 1962 about November of
that year and that question you raised because of the name. I was
before an interview with a Minister and some very prominent people
during my last year in Secondary School, somebody asked me that
question. First of all I corrected the way it is spell. It is not new
unless people did not get to understand it better than Gbadamasi , It
is not new .So, I was in my final year in Secondary School when I had
to answer that question but now it is some 53 years later now and I
am glad Iam answering the same question 53 years after the first time
. But the truth is that I hails from here{Minna} Niger State , my
parents were
all between Wushishi and this town . My grandparents traveled to
settle down there. So, I think that says it all. But come to think
of it, there is nothing wrong in been from any part of this country,
but the truth is I hail from Niger State, so are my parents. My
grandparents and my great grand parents moved from somewhere to settle
down here in Niger State. However there are some people who still
call us settlers in Niger State and that we are not indigenous because
our grandparents came from somewhere. But having lived all my 54
years in Niger State, I think I am more than qualified to be called
an indigenous Niger State citizen .

Q: About two weeks ago, the United States of America specifically
said what Nigerian Military needs in the fight against the Boko Haram
insurgent group is more of training than Hardware equipment. Do you
agree with them about to this ?

IBB: Well, I think I must admit that a lot of us were trained in
America and there has been quite some sizable number of Officers of
the Nigerian Army were trained in America. So , it is therefore
nothing new to talk about training because they knew they had trained
quite a number of us in the past and I was trained in America too. I
was in a place called Port Norks in Kentucky where I did a Senior
Officer’s course in Tanks, I was also in Naval Post- graduate
School in the United States, where I did Senior Officer’s Management
course . I was a Brigadier at that time. So, a lot of us were
trained in America.

Yes, they are right but there is an old saying that no matter the
sophisticated weapons or the weapons they have, we always say in the
Army that it is not the weapons, but the Man behind the weapon. In
other words I do appreciates what they are trying to do for us . We
have had a lot of experience over the years since after the Second
World War , the United States of America has been involved in
stability operations and other operations in support of either United
Nations or in support of countries with which they went into a
Bilateral agreement . So, I expects they should talk over that.

Q: Are you in support of the renewed fight against the insurgents in
the north- eastern part of the country by the Federal government?

IBB: Yes, they have to be fought. I think the renewed efforts of the
Nigerian Armed Forces and what the Federal government is doing is very
commendable.

Q: Your political god son, and former Abia State Governor, Dr. Orji
Uzor Kalu is being dragged into FIFA Presidency race , what words of
encouragement do you have for him or you think Nigeria has not
developed to the level of producing the President of the world
football governing body?

IBB: I will vote for him. I wish him a very good outing in talking
about his interest in Sports, especially Football. The Enyimba
Football Club, you can still recall that he virtually brought them up
and it was very interesting . And if that is recognized outside this
country, I think there is nothing wrong in trying his hands to be
recognized in the world . That was why I said if I have a vote, I
would cast my vote for him.

Q: Towards the last days of the immediate past President Goodluck
Ebele Jonathan, the insurgents seemed to have been overwhelmed or
captured so to say, at a point we were almost saying eureka that the
government and people of Nigeria were finally getting to see the end
of this terror group. But suddenly, now they insurgent group has
staged what could be described as a come back as they have become
more fierce in their attacks against innocent citizens . What did
former President Jonathan did that the incumbent President Muhammadu
Buhari is not doing or that he is doing wrongly?

IBB: I think it is a general misunderstanding. The whole concept of
insurgency, you can call it anything, guerrilla warfare , instability
, Nigerians should realize that we are not fighting a regular army
where you can confront yourselves by share use of force, weapons to
overwhelm the enemy . No, you have got a small trained army , the
psych of which was to inflict maximum casualty on quote and unquote
the so called enemy. Or inflicts casualty on him where or when he
least expects it . In fact, we are not fighting a conventional war
that makes it exceptionally difficult. They would blow up bridges,
they would go and blow up barracks, ammunitions and so on. So, this is
an unconventional war, we should know that. And I think the soonest
they are trained for it and they know this is the shortest way out,
they will retreat or even reduce. I think the public should be
educated about this unconventional war.

Q: If you cast your mind back to 25 years ago, precisely in 1990 when
some middle level Officers in the Nigerian Army wanted to terminate
your life. At that time when the Coup plot against your administration
almost caught you unaware, did you plan to abdicate power and run for
your dear life at the then seat of power at the Dodan Barracks,
Obalende Lagos?

IBB: I continue to remain grateful to God and it strengthened my
belief that no matter what happens if God did not will it, nothing
would happen to you nor something could happen to you. So, it is a
matter of belief and that whatever happens to you either good or evil.
I remain grateful to Him for sparing my life and up to this time
despite what we went through . And those of us who participated in
combat , it is still the same thing either during the war in 1967, not
even in 1990 but 1969, about 21 years after God kept me and I remain
grateful and I am grateful to all of you for the support .

Q: Today in Nigeria we are awash with so many troubles either as a
result of corruption or because of insecurity problem. At the state
level almost everyone is grounded and same thing at the national. As
an Elder Statesman, don’t you think it is high time we have a forum
for Elder Statesmen so that you can formally come up and call a
spade a spade. We mean a Constitutional forum where Elders can say it
the way it should be said ?

IBB: Well , I think one of the most unique things that in our setting
now , I see this country as a country that is specially blessed .
There are about eight or seven of us alive today and everyone of us
has his experiences in one way or the other . But the other good thing
is that there is a forum where we all meet with the current Head of
State , chat with him, talk about the situation in the country , we
discussed and offer any solution to them.

Number two, those of us who had been there are always very accessible
to the government so that we can always put things across either in
writing or talking to him. Those sort of things are there . But to
me I have not seen any precarious situation confronting us as a people
in this country although the challenges are there and these are the
challenges that every government faces . But the people and the
government must come together . People should support the government
to come out with solutions to our myriads of problems that every
government faces whenever it comes.

Q: In your candid opinion, what are the key areas that you think
the current leadership should pay attention to so that we can be able
to move forward?

IBB: I must commend the current leadership for identifying, even
before the elections, during the elections and after the elections
some of the problems that are facing this country . Number one it has
to do with the security and the President talked about it extensively
the security of lives and property, the security of the States, the
security of this environment called Nigeria that has been identified.

And the second one of course is to do with the way we live, the way we
work and the way we behave, corruption, then the third has to do with
the economic development of the country. I think they were once
identified and I think we should support him towards achieving his set
goals as he establishes the regime to us, especially in the area of
wiping out corruption.

Q: One of the strategies of wiping out corruption, the Presidency has
started with the attempt to recover stolen funds, what is your take
on this?

IBB: When you said strategy, when my Boss, former President Olusegun
Obasanjo had a similar strategy and to be fair to him, like this
government they made a lot of recoveries of stolen funds when he was
in office . So, we should support what this present government is
trying to do and to achieve the same objective. If it is pursued
presently I believe it will achieve some degree of success. Look at
the issue of Crude Oil theft, the government I am sure would be
resolute in trying to stamp out all Lupe holes. And to bring to book
those who are culpable in stealing our Oil.

Q: Do you buy the idea of Federal Government’s plan to open dialogue
with the genuine leadership of the Insurgent group?

IBB: The President got it right and he said yes, he would talk to
people who are credible, people who can be identified as some of the
leaders of the Insurgency, and then the government could be ready to
talk to them. But so far, apart from one or two names, we don’t hear
of
any other leader of the Insurgency. So, I don’t think the government
would like to talk to just two people as far as this issue is
concerned. So, the government is right to be careful to identify and
if there is anything to talk about with the credible leaders of the
Insurgency to put an end to the senseless killings of innocent
citizens and destruction of both public and private properties in the
affected areas of the country .

Q: As a leader and member of the Peoples Democratic Party{PDP} how do
you align yourself with the reality of the moment for a party that had
been in power for about 16 years now playing the role of opposition
party now and do you see your party coming out of the stormy waters to
take her rightful position again in 2019 general elections?

IBB: Well I think one of the good things is that for 16 years , there
has been democracy practices in the country . However, a lot of
things must have gone wrong somewhere and the right judges are the
people and the people have spoken. I think it is natural, they needed
a change after 16 years and they did what is right, they did not go
wild , they did not fight anybody. They used their ballot papers to
change the government . I think this is the beauty of democracy
and I look forward to such practices in the next 50 years in this
country. But on the issue of whether the PDP is capable of coming
alive again to swing a surprise in the 2019 general polls, don’t
forget there
are politics in what is happening now. I hope they would learn from
their mistakes , what they did wrong , what they did right and what
can we do now and then re-launch the party for a better performance
at the polls.
Q: Casting your mind back to the ill-fated Major Gideon –led Coup
de-tat against your administration in 1990, how did you escape Orka’s
mutiny because there was a rumor then that there was a channel that
went from your Official resident at Dodan Barracks at Obalende Lagos
that went somewhere in the city. Today at 74-year old I am sure that
whenever you sit down and think about all those things you will ponder
on how you escape Orka’s Coup among other challenges you had
encountered alive?
IBB: That, I can remember very well, I had some loyal Officers who
were supposed to be the protectors of what might happen against me
and my family members at my official residence then. Initially they
said I should leave, but I told them no, I was not leaving an inch .
But they remained very supportive and very steady. And later I ferry
my family outside the Dodan Barracks , I joined my guards . We went
out of the Dodan Barracks and went to a safe house where we got the
access to the loyal group. May God bless General Sani Abacha, Sani
Abacha was the Chief of Army Staff . He got in touch with me and I got
in touch with him and we sat down, talked on what we were going to do
and I left for the State House and joined Abacha in his house. And
that was what happened .

Q: How did you feel that one of the Corporations established by your
administration, the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas[NLNG} was what
saved Nigeria from her embarrassing financial status when both the
Federal and States Governments were almost finding it difficult to pay
workers monthly salaries after the Nigerian National Petroleum
Corporation{ NNPC} was unable to bail out the country over her
dwindling economic status following a drop in the sales of Crude Oil
at the International market?

IBB; I feel good that at least somebody, somewhere recognized that we
did something towards the development of our country. And I think the
credit goes to all those that worked with us during our time. People
like Professor Tam David West , Alhaji Rilwanu Lukeman and Prof.
Jubril Aminu. All credits goes to them and to me for taking the
decision.

Q: What is your candid advice to the Federal Government to revive the
economy and your assessment of the performance of the present
leadership both at the states and the Federal levels so far?

IBB: That should not be fair . But so far I am confident that they
are doing well. They have identified the problems and they looked
resolute in confronting these problems head on. And there are a lot
of people in the society who are offering a lot of very sound advice
on what to do about the current situation in the country.

Q: Sir on a lighter note, is it true that the you are first
military leader in the world to address the United Nations General
Assembly in Military uniform?

IBB: No, I was not the first one. Rather I think my Boss OBJ {Chief
Olusegun Obasanjo} was the first one. I think OBJ was the first person
because he was the president before me and he addressed the United
Nations but I went in plain civilian dress in 1991 or 1992. But
General Obasanjo was well dressed up in Military uniform.

BY SALIHU N. MUHAMMAD

MINNA

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