In this interview with TOBI AWORINDE, AbdulMumuni, a son of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief Moshood Abiola, responds to claims by a former military dictator, Gen Ibrahim Babandiga (retd), that his annulment of the historic poll prevented a bloody coup
What are your thoughts on the claim made by a former military dictator, Gen Ibrahim Babandiga (retd), during a recent Arise News interview that there would have been a bloody coup if the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which your father, the late Chief Moshood Abiola, presumably won was not annulled?
(Laughs) It’s a kind of funny claim, since after the annulment, there was still a coup. So, I don’t understand what he is talking about when the same thing that he was supposedly worried would happen still happened. It’s very funny. Anyway, let me start by saying this: most people might not know, but my name is Abdul Abiola and when I was born on December 18, 1984, my godfather happened to be Babangida himself. Apparently, when I was born, there was a big party at the house (in Lagos); we had about three bands. Even when he spoke about the ideal candidate, he was basically talking about Abiola. I just find it very odd that a person knows that the country needs somebody who is accepted across the country, and yet, this person found it hard to hand over to my father because my father was accepted across the nation. That is my take on that aspect of who should be the next president.
I also want to say that I do not believe that the people who put us in the present situation we are in today in Nigeria should even be providing any solutions. The fact that he is not languishing in prison for the damage he has caused to the nation should be enough for him to just be quiet, as far as I’m concerned. What we lost in 1993 was the basis of a nation, that was the breaking point. When you want to create something that is beyond ethnic and religious divisions, that was the birth of the nation that he destroyed. So, for him to now say there would have been a coup if he didn’t do what he did, I would say for a fact that there wouldn’t have been a coup, what would have happened is he would have lost his own power and hold on the nation as we have it today. And I think that was what was scaring him, that he would lose power.
They say power corrupts, and everybody knows that. He never wanted to lose power. He never expected Abiola to win, and the fact that Abiola did win, he then thought that his legacy would be that he handed over to a Yoruba person, so he, as far as I’m concerned, is the one who is ethnically biased because Abiola did not care if he was Yoruba or Igbo, he didn’t even think about such things. He was Nigerian first.
It’s very funny when somebody who is supposed to be a defender of the nation’s integrity is thinking regionally. I believe they rallied around Obasanjo so that they could protect their interests. Obasanjo, if anything, is a military man before anything else, and I think that is what they wanted to protect: the military control over the national resources of a nation. These resources do not belong to the military or the police, they belong to all Nigerians. And how we use these resources to help the majority is what they should have been focused on.
I actually believe that if he is really genuine and if he is really the Maradona he thinks he was, those who were against Abiola (would have been brought to book). Abiola wasn’t elected through coup, he went through the (democratic) process. He went across all 30 states at the time and basically won the election. So, that alone shows the level of leadership we have in Nigeria, that ‘it doesn’t matter if you win the election, it’s what we want.’ Who are they to decide for us?
For him to now come and say, ‘We knew that there was somebody that fixed…’ We shouldn’t even be listening to him!
When I was watching the interview, I was laughing. It seemed like a comedian was talking because I feel like the one problem Nigerians have is that we keep looking back when we are running forward. How can you be running and looking backward? Se won se wa ni (are we cursed)? And if you notice, the man was trying to play smart with the Nigerian public. Every chance he got, he said the Nigerian people are resilient—we know we’re resilient. He said we’re smart—we know we’re smart. You don’t have to tell us what we already know. But he wants us to feel like he is on our side, but this man is not on our side. He has never been on our side.
Do you think the former military dictator still has political influence today?
I will tell you for a fact that, ever since he left power, he has remained in the corridors (of power), tweaking and moving things around. I don’t understand why people just think that when you do the same thing over and over again, you will get a different result. That is the recipe for madness. So, in my submission, I will say this: Like I said, he was my godfather and I give him all the respect because even when my father was being herded to jail, he said, ‘Babangida is my friend,’ because my father knew that ‘what you’re doing is not going to end well.’ And I think people are seeing the lies in what he is saying now.
He talked about the Structural Adjustment Programme, everybody knows that it was a strategic programme by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to subjugate Africa. But maybe when you are at the top of the pyramid, you don’t see all these things. Remember that before SAP, we had the Import Substitution Strategy, where we would stop importing certain goods because we could make them here, indirectly creating our own industries and that was going to build our own capacity. That, I believe, was even a better way because Nigeria was moving up during that time.
When he talks about corruption during his time, when he got in, it was N1 to $1. If you’re talking about corruption, stealing is stealing. These people want to destroy this country. I would urge my Nigerian people because we’re the youths; this man is talking about a time that has passed. As a matter of fact, if COVID-19 will do something good for us, it would be to address some of the issues we are facing in Nigeria.
The former military dictator disclosed that some unnamed 2023 presidential contenders were on his radar. Do you trust his choices for the next president?
Let me tell you this for a fact, if we allow them (political elite) to decide who will become president in 2023, we are going to be in the same position, if not worse. As a matter of fact, there might be no country to talk about anymore. When I watched his programme, first of all, I was amazed that this is the person that we are calling Maradona. He even used his own mouth to say he had to do a ‘Maradonic handling of society.’ This is why we are in the position we are today. People that should not be listened to at all are the ones making decisions for us, it’s a big problem. I believe the Nigerian people are smarter now than they were in 1993, they will not be bamboozled by any Maradona that doesn’t understand what being a Maradona is.
I believe that if he had taken a stance in 1993, when he was being approached by some of our so-called elite, to annul the election and forego this democratic idea; if he could have just captured those dissenting voices that did not want problems for the Nigerian people and just wanted their own personal progress, his name would have been written in gold.
But for as long as I am alive, I will make sure that enough people understand that the greatest problem we have in this country is the five babas that are on hilltops. We know where the hilltops are. Anybody that I see that goes to meet them on any of those hilltops for their permission to be president, I have already written those people off because those people have shown that they are not with the Nigerian masses, but they are with a select few who have ruined the nation and they feel they have the right to continue to ruin what we are trying to build.
The Nigeria of today is not the Nigeria of 1993. We are not doing well, but you can see that we are using 97 per cent of our income to service debts. We cannot continue this way. For the past 30 years, we listened to them diligently when they came to us to request our votes, but nothing came out of it. I urge Nigerians, if it’s only this one time you take my advice, to shun anything you hear from these five babas. Enough is enough!
Do you believe the former dictator’s claim about corruption under his military regime?
Let’s ask the man that is talking to just leave his house in Minna without his protection, descend from the hilltop, and walk on the street alone. Just say, ‘This is Babangida,’ and see the reaction of people. These people are being protected by soldiers and all the ammunition that should be used to protect the citizenry are in his house protecting one man out of 200 million people.
Before we know what’s happening, it’s another year and they will send new cars to his house. I don’t know when last he left his Minna hilltop mansion. Apparently, when they built it, they built underground passages, but we don’t even have a (subway) tunnel in the whole of Nigeria. We haven’t built train tracks (covering the country), we haven’t done anything. But if you go to his house, there is gold everywhere. This is how you know that the way you pick your leadership is not by what they have but by the vision they can sell.
Babangida has no vision for the Nigerian people, what he is trying to do is secure his own selfish interests, his own name and legacy, and I’m telling you that God has a way of doing things. Abiola has passed away, but my father’s name looms larger than any of these five babas that have put themselves on hilltops because my father stood for something. These people will never stand for anything, and they are supposed to be soldiers; my father wasn’t even a soldier.
These are supposed to be men who would give their lives for their country but Babangida would never do that. He won’t give his life for anything, he would rather just sit down on his hilltop and make grandiose statements about ‘a cabal’ or people who put a gun to his head. I thought you were a warrior; if you are still president of a country and people are threatening you, don’t you have the Department of State Services or military to address them? If I was sitting in that office, and somebody told me I shouldn’t (rightfully) hand over power to an Igbo person, I would say, ‘Okay, just come and see me in the Villa.’ When he gets to the Villa, if he leaves the place alive, he would be lucky.
Anybody that is against the interest of the country should be considered a terrorist and it should be seen as a treasonable offence, it should not be tolerated. He has shown that he was able to be duped by the so-called elite—because where are the people that make up this elite today? He should name them! For him to be seduced by them, then that shows that he didn’t have any backbone to begin with. Sometimes, when I even tell that he’s my godfather, I’m happy that I don’t have any relationship with him because if I’m able to sit down with him and I talk to him, I would tell him for a fact that he’s a failure and for the rest of his life, he would be considered as such.
What do you recommend Nigerians do to elect a worthy president in 2023?
We should be shunning them. Let us even make our own mistakes. I’m tired of making the same old mistakes made by the same old people telling us what they don’t know anything about. What do they even know about the Nigeria of today? When you live on a hilltop, I don’t believe you have any right to tell me about the situation of the country. When was the last time he went to the market to see what inflation is? Does he even know what money really is? These people are the problem and should not be allowed to give us a leader. What the Nigerian people need will be found in the youths and what we just need to do is be calm, composed and ready, come 2023. Even I will leave no stone unturned and galvanise as many people as I know. I implore the Nigerian people to do the same, so that 2023 will not be another situation where we will be complaining.
Source: The PUNCH
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