In this interview monitored on Channels Television, former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, reflects on his experience during the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War. He also bares his mind on the unity of Nigeria and the need for quality leadership in the country.
Experience of the civil war
I was a very young officer just trying to become a captain in the Nigerian Army. When the war broke out, I was away on a training in United Kingdom. We stayed there for a very short period and then we came back. I was posted to one division in the Nigerian Army. We served together with people from other parts of the country, and then suddenly, you discover that you are fighting against one another. I can recall a case of one of my very good colleagues; we faced each other and I saw him die. It was very a horrible experience for a young officer at that time. It was tragic that somebody with whom you trained together, went to India Military Academy together, and suddenly, in July of 1967, we found ourselves fighting one another. It was a very pathetic experience. It is something I pray we never experience again in this country.
Thoughts on fighting against former colleagues
That showed us how things can go wrong in the running of a country. There were some civil disturbances that began to manifest at that time. Immediately after independence, elections were not going properly, there were riots in various parts of the country. These culminated into the civil war. The leadership at that time believed very strongly that nothing should be done to break the unity of the country and we were all brought up and trained to believe that we should be able to defend the integrity of the country. So we resisted any effort to disintegrate the country because of our training and political indoctrination.
Reaction to end of the war
Yes, I got a sense of relief. I was somewhere in Ukigwe when my commander, General TY Danjuma, brought the news to us that the war was over. It brought a sense of relief. What I wanted to do immediately I heard the war was over was to reach out to my colleague who was fighting on my front. I trained with him in the Nigeria Training College, Kaduna, as we used to call it then. I really wanted to see him so that we can shake hands. He eventually turned up and we greeted ourselves, talked about our days as cadets and so on. And then, jokingly, he asked me ‘Ibrahim, is it you fighting me’ and I also asked him, ‘Amos are you fighting me’. But today we have every reason to thank God because none of us was killed during that war and we become friends again.
On the policy of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation (Three Rs)
I think we were informed enough to know that quite a number of countries in the world – we studied military history – went through civil wars and that afterwards, they came back together, settled down and integrated the people into the main stream of the society. This is what was in our minds and fortunately our head of state then. General Yakubu Gowon brought the Three Rs. He was a passionate believer in the unity of this country. So I think having finished the war, since he said there is no victor and no vanquished, we quickly began to adjust to remaining as Nigerians.
State of the military after the war
It was small in size. When we started, the military was not more than five battalions, not up to 10,000 soldiers. By the time the war was over, we had 250,000 because of the obvious mobilisation. So from a small number of 10,000 to 250,000, the immediate problem was how to reorganise the army into a much more manageable size, cohesive, well-trained and well-oriented for the purposes of building a stronger nation.
Perception of Nigeria’s unity among his contemporaries
The way we saw it, the unity of Nigeria, as far as we were concerned, was an article of faith amongst my generation. Nobody would like to see this country go through another civil war, nobody will like to see this country disintegrate because we will be unfair to those who put their lives on the line and died for the purpose of keeping the country one. So if we let it go, we will not be fair to them. Millions of thousands of people were killed and maimed. Some were permanently disabled. So we will not be fair to those people who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the country, that is why we are so passionate about the unity of this country.
The Three Rs 50 years after
Well, quite frankly, I think we did well. Again, if you compare other countries that went through a civil war, you will find out that we have done reasonably well indeed because the war finished in 1970. We had a military government from 1966 to 1975. Another military government took over from 1975 to 1979. We had a civilian government from 1979 to 1983. We later had a military government from 1983 to 1984 and from 1984 to 1993. We succeeded in keeping the civilian administration in place. This is all thanks to the military for it’s determination to install a democratically elected government in the country.
On NYSC and Unity Schools as a means to foster integration
To a certain extent, I think we have succeeded, especially with the NYSC programme because, most of the people who went into NYSC are students from universities and other tertiary institutions. They were intelligent enough to read about what happened at the time. They were able to go through history and even mingle. So it was quite easy. It is a very good thing that it was done at that time. So if you find the generation of 1973 up till now, they are mostly very strong believers in the unity of Nigeria. So that is one thing that those polices succeeded in doing. At the secondary school level, students, at a young age were taught about the country and the civil war. So they grew up with history of the country in their minds, so I think it was good for the country.
On the post-war Nigeria and pressure on government to enhance national unity
I think old habits die hard like they say. There has been this tendency to recline and go back to the old habits. If you find yourself in politics, for example, people tend to recline into their own cocoon because we didn’t have what I will call a re-orientation on what politics is all about. We didn’t do much in trying to get people indoctrinated through political interactions and so on. So the moment you reintroduce politics, the first thing that came to our minds was what political parties and systems used to be before the civil war. People saw that as a starting point and once you see that you could hardly change it.
On Rwanda’s post-war integration model
In the case of Rwanda, I will say that it is leadership. They have a very strong person as a leader who believes very strongly in that country and therefore would like to see the country united. It is the leadership that can change the whole environment.
On whether the Rwanda formula can work in Nigeria
If you get a strong leadership at the national and state levels, I think we should be able to do it.
His experience on managing Nigeria’s diversity
I think you should build supporters who believe strongly in what you are trying to do. We tried it with NYSC and Unity schools. I think we did not push it hard. We should have pushed it harder so that we will have people who attend unity schools together not having problems interacting with one another. So that they don’t have to return to their cocoons saying this is where I come from. I think we allowed it to slacken a little bit.
Creation of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja to ensure cohesiveness
I think we did. Don’t forget that the whole idea of Abuja came about in 1976 by General Murtala Muhammed. He had a vision because of the sheer size and ethnic groups in the country. He wanted to keep the country one so that they can have something to call their own such that everybody belongs to it. I think the idea was good and the whole concept came about in 1976. Those of us who came after Murtala Muhammed believed very strongly that that vision was the correct vision for the country and so we pursued it, including the civilian regime. Shehu Shagari tried to make it realisable. And when the military came because we believed in it strongly, we made sure that it remained what it was designed to be.
The place of military in Nigeria’s unity
You cannot convince me for example that this country should break. I would not talk to you for a long time because I know that people died in keeping the country one. I got maimed keeping the country one. So my generation will always insist that this country remains one. We fought for it, we know the consequences of war, we know the pains people went through. It is not too much demand on us to keep the country together.
On how leaders inclined to unity of Nigeria can emerge
The whole thing depends on the leadership election. One of the things I would loved to see is that if you want to pick a leader, you should be able to assess his thoughts about the unity of the country, that he will not jeopardise it and he will try to use everything within his power, legitimately to make sure that the country remains one. We have more than 200 million people in this country. My generation and the generation below mine will always believe in this country and they will move this country forward.
Nigeria’s unity after his generation
My generation is committed and they will use everything possible, including applying logic and advise to make sure that the country remains United.
On military and civil relations
Immediately after the second world war, the military became more civilized and more educated. There is a need for us to understand that the soldier knows that he is supposed to be obedient to the democratically elected government because it represents the people. I can tell you now that only a stupid soldier will think of a coup because it is no longer in their psyche. It is no longer acceptable in Africa, West Africa and in the whole world generally. So the soldier is intelligent enough to know that if he does that the country will be ostracised from the community of nations. For example, the people you want to represent will rise against you in your own country so it is no longer fashionable to stage a coup.
On deepening national cohesion, reconciliation and reintegration
Our selection of leadership is the most important thing. By this I mean leadership at all levels be it political, military and economic. Once this is done and every sector believes in it, I think we will have no problem.
On success of federal character principle so far
To some extent I think it worked because, it created some sense of belonging and balance in what government strives to do. But you cannot carry it on to a ridiculous extent. You cannot take a mediocre to do a job because of federal character. It shouldn’t be so. We have now reached a stage where in every part of the country and in any community, there are graduates and professionals. So you cannot sacrifice quality in the name of federal character and put an unqualified person in a position.
On his administration and legacy
belong to Winston Churchill’s school of thought when taking about about historical legacy. He said history will be fair to him because he is going to write it himself. So maybe because I share that view, I will write my legacy by myself, and I believe God will lead me. So I want to write by myself so that history will be fair to me.
On the current state of insecurity in the country
I think a lot needs to be done quite frankly because if what we read in the papers and hear on radio is true especially in most of those areas that we assumed that the security situation has been stabilised. I read in the papers of the young governor of Borno State telling the defense minister that there are still few places that people can’t go in the state. He said so because that, at least, will give the military high command some way of thinking. The governor is the security officer of the state and he knows the people. There are a lot of challenges. What they need to do is to get a lot of intelligence. It looks to me that there are people who are thinking for the insurgents. There are people who think for them. We need to find out those who are thinking for them, leading them and supplying them with weapons, and put a stop to that. That is probably the way I access it.
Lagos: Celestial Leaders Arraigned By Police Over N85m Fraud
The Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department Annex, Alagbon, Lagos, on Monday arraigned three Celestial Church of Christ leaders before the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja over alleged N85m fraud.
The defendants, John Omotosho aka Jorotom, Boye Olaniyan and Folashade Ogundipe were arraigned on four counts bordering on conspiracy, obtaining under false pretences and fraud before Justice Ayokunle Faji.
The defendants, who were arraigned alongside a company, Folafunmi Integrated Limited, were alleged to have defrauded the church’s headquarters at Imeko, Ogun State, of the sum of N85,914,500, under the pretext of using the money for the church’s development.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The offences were said to be contrary to sections 8(a),1(1)(a) and 1(1)(a)&(b)of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2010 and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.
Following their pleas, the prosecutor asked for a trial date and urged the court to remand the defendants pending the hearing and determination of their bail applications.
The presiding judge, Justice Faji, asked the prosecution if the defendants were on administrative bail and if they had jumped the bail before being charged to court.
Granting the defendants bail, Faji ordered three church members to file an undertaking, affidavit of means and produce a bond of N350,000 for each of the defendants before they would be allowed to go home.
He said, “These members of the church, Adeosun Israel Oladipo, Assistant Shepherd, CCC, Jerusalem Cathedral, Shasha; Afolabi Tolorunloju and Surakatu John, workers at CCC, Jerusalem Cathedral, Shasha, shall file an undertaking to produce the defendants at the next adjourned date.
“In view of the issue, church and personalities in the matter, they shall be handed over to the three church members, who will also produce a bond of N350,000 each and a means of identification.”
The case was adjourned till March 3 for the hearing of the bail applications.
Zamfara cleric detained in Saudi for 3 years over mistaken case of trafficking regains freedom
An Islamic cleric, Ibrahim Ibrahim detained for three years over alleged drug trafficking has finally regained freedom from Saudi Arabian authorities.
Mr Ibrahim had faced drugs trafficking charges, following the discovery of some hard drugs planted into a luggage that was traced to him after his entry into the kingdom.
According to Section 1 of Act 37 of anti-drugs law of the kingdom, such offence, if found guilty, is punishable by death. Court documents sighted by this newspaper indicate that Mr Ibrahim was accused by Saudi authorities of trafficking of 1,497 red capsules carrying an (R) sign suspected to be Tramadol trafficked via Ethiopian Air Flight 402.
Upon the discovery of the bag in question, the documents stated that the Public Investigation and Prosecution Bureau, Jeddah, in conjunction with the Anti-drug Agency, also in Jeddah, then charged Mr Ibrahim for drug trafficking, an offence punishable by death.
This newspaper also reports that during the first trial, two of the kingdom’s lower courts had cleared the Islamic cleric of the said allegation, stressing that the office of the Prosecutor-General had failed to convince it beyond reasonable doubt.
Dissatisfied by the judgement, the Prosecutor-General appealed the ruling at a higher court, heard the matter and acquitted him on Tuesday (today). At the appeal court hearing today, Daily Nigerian gathered that the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NIDCOM, and Zamfara State Government delegations arrived in Jeddah and presented to the Saudi court some documentary evidence in defence of Mr Ibrahim.
Some of the documents presented by the NIDCOM, it was gathered, included a written statement by the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, stating that they had arrested and charged to court three persons who planted the drugs in Mr Ibrahim’s luggage.
NIDCOM also presented to the Saudi authorities a certified true copy of the two-count charge sheet from the Federal High Court sitting in Kano State. Subsequently, the Saudi court became convinced that Mr Ibrahim was only a victim of circumstance who had no intention of carrying drugs into the country.
Speaking to this newspaper, the lawyer to Mr Ibrahim, Abdullahi Bello, said the acquittal of his client was a result of prompt and diligent action by the Nigerian authorities.
The case of Mr Ibrahim is also similar to one Zainab Aliyu, a Nigerian student falsely accused of drug trafficking in the kingdom. Recall that On April 30 last year, Ms Aliyu was arrested on December 26, 2018, a day after her arrival in Saudi Arabia for lesser hajj, following the discovery of luggage filled with drugs in her name.
Nigerian authorities later arrested and prosecuted the actual traffickers who tagged the contentious luggage in her name at Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.
Amaechi loses Chief Security Officer in Kaduna
The chief security officer to Rotimi Amaechi has died in Kaduna.
The officer, who was described as a senior intelligence personnel, died on Monday morning while on a trip with the transport minister. Peter Afunanya, chief spokesperson for the SSS, on Tuesday morning said that the officer was electrocuted at his hotel room.
“He died at his hotel during an electric accident,” Mr Afunanya said. His death occurred hours after reports said Mr Amaechi’s convoy was attacked in Kaduna while leaving from a train station to the city centre.
Mr Amaechi pushed back against the report on Twitter Sunday night, saying it was fake news as no attack on his convoy occurred.
A source close to Mr Amaechi also said the officer died at a hotel in a case of electrocution, dismissing strongly any insinuation that it was from an attack.
The source could not speak openly because he was not authorized by Mr Amaechi to speak on a matter that is being handled as sensitive. Mr Afunanya did not disclose the name of the hotel in Kaduna where the attack happened. But sources said it was from injuries he sustained from the attack.
Some of the sources include colleagues of the departed officer, although we have not been able to independently corroborate the official or private version of how the orderly died.
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