Sam Oyovbaire

“Hate him or love him, the simple truth in today’s Nigeria is that it is difficult to ignore Babangida as a factor in Nigerian politics nor is it possible to ignore the historic import of the Babangida regime in contemporary Nigerian history”.

As the initials of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and much more as his acronym, IBB has acquired the objective status of a social phenomenon. Although he is better known by the programs, expectations and performances of his military regime between 1985 and 1993 as well as by the regime’s consequential aftermath, IBB has in fact been a social force as early as 1966 when the Nigerian Armed Forces first intervened in governance and the country experienced the traumatic confusion of the second coup d’etat of July 1966. He is an epitome of human enigma and complexity. By what he has done or continues to do, and even by what he has not done and may not do, IBB has generated so much mixture of content, inspiration, fixation and imagination in the country that one could be amazed by either the ferocity and venom or the adoration and esteemed love with which discourses and projects on him are undertaken by political foes and fanatical adherents alike, including those who may never have come across him personally or associated with his regime. This amazing paradox is excellently articulated recently by a very close observer. “Hate him or love him, the simple truth in today’s Nigeria is that it is difficult to ignore Babangida as a factor in Nigerian politics nor is it possible to ignore the historic import of the Babangida regime in contemporary Nigerian history”.

Interestingly, IBB even demonstrates the knack for adding to his phenomenal paradox. While observers correctly undertake analysis of the man as a result of having been a foremost ruler of Nigeria, he himself would deny that he never “ruled” Nigeria. As the opening quotation in this essay clearly shows, IBB is more philosophically rested with governance hindsight in assigning to himself of having been a “socio-political engineer” rather than a “political ruler”. For him, he, once upon a time, undertook an historic project or mission of having “re-designed” the country. The design mission was one of laying down the dialectical foundations of the nation’s modern market economy, and democratization and democracy with the objective of providing the institutions of statecraft for future good governance of the country. Having done this, and regardless of the seemingly objectifiable imperfections in the process, IBB leaves no one in doubt that “by the Grace of Allah” he will continue in the nation’s historical trajectory as a principal actor “in the democratic process”.

It is thus, insightful, for observers that IBB not being an ordinary leader is a phenomenon of controversy. As Chidi Amuta correctly observes, “when leaders are ordinary, public discourses resort to issues; when they are very bad or (very) outstanding (as IBB), the focus tends to be on the leader, for them the man becomes the issue while issues revolve around the man”. And it is IBB who, in an incisively funeral oration as a tribute to the late “Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1987 described Awolowo as the “main issue of Nigerian politics” the conceptual mode which IBB has, since 1993 when he “stepped aside” from governance, perfected by becoming the contemporary super issue of Nigerian politics.

When the foregoing prefatory remarks are seen against the background of his birth, professional military career, his tremendously creative exploits with political power and governance, and his complex network of social relations, it is extremely difficult to write a satisfactory essay on him. This is the reason for the title of this contribution as mere sketches. Until IBB provides his curious fellow Nigerian citizens, Africans and humanity with an autobiographical account of himself, and such an account is taken along with comprehensive research and analysis of the man and his role in the governance and history of Nigeria, there is certainly no way in which any intellectual or literary works on IBB can be complete. Friends as well as foes, admirers as well as bashers, and insiders as well as outsiders have as much to say in complimentarity as in bad taste about the man; and every writer, observer, critic or fan is entitled to his perspective of interpretation. For now we can only provide a peep.


As a child and before taking up a career in the Nigerian Army, there are three important communities in the life of IBB. These are Wushishi, Minna and Bida. IBB was born in Minna on 17th August 1941. His late father had earlier migrated from Wushishi first to Kuta where he had an uncle, and served the semi-colonial authority there as a Liaison Officer for the local community. He later moved to, and settled down in Minna. IBB lost both his mother and father before he was fourteen years old and as he was once reported to have said “being an orphan early in life, I became a man of my own as early as fourteen years in age”. His childhood, however, was not without the helpful impact and care provided for him after the loss of his parents by his uncle. IBB has only one surviving sister, Hajiya Hannatu Gambo.

His father moved him to Wushishi, his ancestral community where he stayed with and was brought up by his grand-parents, and especially under the great influence of his grand-father, Mallam Abdu Najoji who was a learned Muslim scholar and who also took care of a small community of children learning the Holy Qur’an and early livelihood under his care. Mallam Najoji, who was the Imam of Minna until his death in 1965 was a noble, dignified and scholarly man, whose influence IBB acknowledges greatly in his life. While IBB was fully cultivated in the Wushishi community, his father moved him back to Minna for western education. It was in Minna that he attended primary school and forged his early social relations.

After primary education in Minna, IBB gained admission to the Provincial Secondary School, later renamed Government Secondary School, Bida. Between the 1940s and 1950s the Colonial Government nurtured three major secondary schools in the North namely, Keffi, Zaria and Bida. It was common knowledge that the school in Zaria, later renamed Barewa College was a preserve for Muslim students. Keffi appeared to have been allocated the role of caring for the larger majority of students with Christian background. In the case of Bida, it accommodated Christians and Muslims fairly proportionately. Whether it was deliberately intended to produce a particular impact or not on the young ones in the North, the Northern internal semi-segregation of students in these three colleges made tremendously differential impact in their upbringing. As IBB once told this writer “for me at Bida, I began to grow up with a very broad attitude and cultivating a wide spectrum of friends who were of mixed ethnic and religious backgrounds. This may explain, on reflection, the nature and character of the wonderful friendship which I have grown up to cherish among fellow Nigerians”.

IBB was recruited along with other selected northern young men into the Nigerian Army in 1962. This was after he had successfully completed his secondary school education. Before joining the Army however, the impact of Wushishi, Minna and Bida had become deeply planted in IBB. The case of Wushishi had one significance namely, the migration of his grandfather from Kano, marrying into a Wushishi family which itself had history of migration form Sokoto through Kontagora before settling down in Wushishi. Once his grandfather settled in Wushishi with his family, he carried on a livelihood there as an indigene of the community. This migrant value thrilled IBB’s own father when he moved and settled down in Minna where his brothers also joined him and all of whom soon developed the character of Minna indigeneity. This family migrant value has influenced IBB’s personality tremendously. Both Minna and Bida additionally provided social forces of robustness and large horizons in the life of IBB.

There was once the lively debate early in the regime of IBB whether he is a Fulani, Hausa, Nupe, Gwari or indeed Yoruba. The latter allusion to Yoruba arose from the constant mis-spelling of his middle name Badamasi by the southwest media as Badamosi. As IBB once told this writer the Badamosi corruption actually grew from the very time he entered the Nigerian Military Training College, Kaduna. One Nigerian officer who finally carried out the recruitment of the NMTC cadets of that year, the late Brig-Gen. Samuel Ademalegun himself of Yoruba ethnic nationality continuously called him Badamosi. In fact, the telegram conveying his admission to NMTC bore Badamosi. At that time, his name was simply Ibrahim Badamasi. It was much later in the course of his military career that he added his family surname Babangida to his name.

IBB’s grandfather having migrated from Kano could easily have been Hausa. His maternal grandfather migrated from Sokoto through Kontangora and having settled down in Wushishi, he could also be Fulani. Although born by a mother and father who were both from Wushishi, having lived and cultivated tremendously traditional bearings of the Minna indigeneity, IBB could easily pass as a Gwari man. There is a sense in which his relationship with Bida could easily have rubbed some Nupe traits in him too. IBB is humorously proud about the pleasant admixture of his historical origins. Today, he is much more identifiable with Minna and Wushishi, yet he possesses an interestingly abiding combination of Nigerian humanities. The Minna community infact influenced IBB in such a manner that his social relationships cut across the structures and values of the emirate, colonialism, ruralism, urbanism and cosmopolitanism.

IBB is a deeply family man. Married in September 1969 in Kaduna to former
Miss Maryam Okogwu, he developed very intimate natural affection for her in the midst of competing affections. As is commonly known and highly acclaimed, Her Excellency, Dr. (Mrs) Maryam Babangida is a high structure of elegance and beauty. Formerly influenced by the Christian faith arising from the fact that her late father was from Asaba in Delta State by origin before settling down in Kaduna with his family, and like the historically migrant parents of IBB, the wife’s family was deeply affected by the open and cosmopolitan society of Kaduna. Mrs. Babangida’s mother is from a deeply Muslim family, and overtime the entire family became imbued with Islam. In this way, the marriage of IBB to Mrs. Babangida became, as it were, God blessed and complimentary.

IBB had four children, Aisha, Muhammad, Aminu and Halima. The first two were born in Kaduna and the other two were born in Lagos. Again, the highly mobile and cosmopolitan life of the military officer-father was complimented by the places of birth and social exposure and disposition of IBB’s children. IBB’s latter public life as President of the country was complimented by the role of the wife. She combined beauty, elegance, intelligence, creativity and the drive for achievement in the public project, which she inaugurated, propagated and managed while the husband was President. It is a matter that requires public acknowledgement and appreciation that though criticized by sections of the media and the Nigerian public the office of First Lady which she dedicatedly pioneered and the public spirited program which she inaugurated – Better Life Programme for Rural Women – have, since the exit from power, became not only a source of inspiration but also a measurement for subsequent First Ladies. In all of this, the cradle and family of IBB have combined to erect a posture for national emulation. As IBB once told this writer, “I believe that looking back, I have been singularly fortunate not only by the origins of my descent and lineage but also the fact of my upbringing, subsequent impact of Minna, and my marriage and the family. Perhaps, too, my career as a military officer tended to help my social person, and on the whole, I always feel intensely satisfied that I have been what I am with appreciation and gratitude to the Almighty Allah”.


Following his successful completion of secondary school education in Bida and obtaining the West African School Certificate (WASC), IBB like many
other Northern Nigerian young men was prompted and nurtured by the Northern Region establishment to take up a career in the Nigerian Army. He was recruited in late 1962 into the 6th Course of the Nigerian Military Training College, Kaduna, an institution that was later scrapped and replaced with the Nigerian Defence Academy. Upon completing the induction training at the NMTC, IBB proceeded to India to complete the first level officers programme at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. He was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in late 1963. As a young military officer; IBB was posted to various military locations where he demonstrated the values of hard work, fitness, intelligence and professionalism in the army.

IBB attended the Young Officers Course in Dorset, UK where he returned shortly afterwards for the Instructors Course in driving and maintenance of armoured vehicles which was the beginning of IBB’s relationship with the Army Armoured Corps. When the Nigerian Army later developed the Armoured Corps, IBB was made the pioneer officer in the growth and consolidation of this professional unit.

Before taking command for the development of the Armoured Corps as a Lieutenant, he was earlier appointed Commander of 1st Reconnaissance Squadron in 1966. He was in this rank when the Nigerian Civil War started, and was posted to the Nsukka sector in July 1968 where he was directed to form and was subsequently appointed as Commanding Officer of the 44 Infantry Battalion. IBB stayed more or less within the Infantry Battalion during the entire period of the Civil War except when he was hospitalized as a result of injury he sustained at the war front.

In August 1968, IBB was elevated to the rank of Captain and in April 1970 he was promoted to the rank of Major. He continued to peak his career with brilliance as evidenced by being sent to numerous courses outside the country. It was on the return from the Company Commanders Course in the UK that he was appointed Instructor and Company Commander at the NDA where he stayed to about 1972 and made tremendously lasting impact upon the Cadets at the NDA. The NDA provided the most productive experience for IBB where he combined practical professionalism with academic knowledge, training and contribution to the development of very many intelligent officers who cultivated deep friendship and extra professional relationships with him.

Between 1972 and 1973, IBB attended the Advanced Officers Course at the Army Armoured School in the United States and on his return was appointed Commander of 4th Reconnaissance Regiment. In 1975, he was promoted Lieutenant Colonel and appointed Commander of the Armoured Corps. In 1977 he proceeded to the Senior Officers Course at the Command and Staff College, Jaji and at the end of which he was redeployed to take command of the Armoured Corps where he remained and got promoted to the rank of full Colonel and later Brigadier-General. In late 1979, IBB attended the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru as a pioneer participant. Shortly after the Kuru course he proceeded to the Senior International Advanced Management Course at the Naval Postgraduate School in the US in 1980. In 1981, IBB was appointed Director, Army Staff Duties and Plans, a strategic position, which enabled him to contribute directly to the reorganization of the Nigerian Army. In March 1983 he was promoted to the rank of a two star General (Major – General). This was the position he held until the Armed Forces re-intervened in Nigerian governance in December 1983.

Following the return of military rule under Major General Muhammadu Buhari, IBB was appointed Chief of Army Staff, a position he jealously held on to and developed until 27th August 1985 when as a result of the palace coup d’etat which overthrew the Muhammadu Buhari regime, IBB got into the saddle of power as President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. IBB justifiably peaked his military career on October 1, 1987 when the army authorities approved his promotion as a Four Star General in active professional service. It was in this position that he “stepped aside” from being President of the country on August 26, 1993.

As a fundamental aside, IBB’s military career combined in him professionalism with growth of politically nationalistic consciousness. He was there in the great confusion of the second coup d’etat of July 1966. He was there in the critical undergrowth that sent Yakubu Gowon packing in July 1975. He was the critical arrowhead in the patriotic dislodging of the coup d’etat of February 1976 in which Gen. Murtala Muhammed was brutally assassinated. IBB courageously dislodged Colonel Suka Dimka. He was there in December 1983 when the inept regime of the Second Republic almost grounded the Nigerian economy and society and was as a consequence overthrown by the military. Of course, IBB was there as the arrow actor of the palace coup d’etat against Muhammadu Buhari. In combining military professionalism with nationalistic politics, IBB provided a rare framework of a complex political activist and gentleman officer.


IBB is a human enigma and a puzzle. He provides an engaging phenomenon for study by those competent to do so especially from the disciplines of social anthropology, psychology and political science. He combines so many traits that can hardly be understood properly. There are people who love and admire him. There are others who dislike and even hate him and bash him for very little or no objectives causes. There are yet others who simply love to hate him and yet others who hate to love him. A close friend of IBB who himself is a scholar once confided in this writer that the best way to conceptualise an understanding of IBB is to proceed with the hypothesis that the value and utilisation of his five fingers consist of not touching one another. IBB has a thorough grasp of the Nigerian state and society. It is also plausible that he fully comprehends the Nigerian economy in its growth from colonisation, colonialism, state-driven post-independence complex, effects of the civil war and the necessity to redesign and manage the economy from within the dynamics and dialects of the global market. IBB was correct when he once said that “my government was ahead of its time”. He took the Nigerian state and economy into the mainstream of the global market forces, utilising information technology and communication as driving tools, and into the global village of democratisation and democracy. IBB conceptualised and designed the framework for these forces before 1989/1990 when the Soviet Union, the Cold War, Communist Command Economy and Marxian socialism collapsed. IBB has profound hindsight, engagement insight and tremendous foresight.

Observers are quick to liken IBB to an ardent practitioner of the governance principles propounded by the well-known Italian political theorist and philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli. Such observers may be right and they may be wrong. They could be right because there are many sides of IBB which can on their surface be related to the timeless views and advice of Machiavelli to rulers; but they could be wrong because there are many other sides of IBB that do not fit into the textbook counsel of Niccolo Machiavelli. IBB is his own man. He has complex intellectual knowledge, experience, humaneness and enduring human attraction, humility yet ruthlessness, and above all the capability and human urge to do good for the sake of good. The man is quintessential enigmatic.


In a period of almost two decades between 1966 and 1985, IBB remained profoundly professional as an army officer yet very close to the thoughts, propellant forces and the inner functioning of government. He is a unique example of an intellectual officer during prolonged military dictatorship in the country who could easily have smarted into early power with the capabilities of being relevant and trusted, yet IBB kept away deliberately or advisedly from the attractiveness and limelight of early power.

IBB’s involvement in the crisis of the 1960s before the collapse of the first Republic through the mine-fields and tunnels of the civil war dropped for him enormous outlets for knowledge and experience about the complexity of the Nigerian human landscape, the interplay of national leadership forces, and the interface between domestic and external forces which helped to preserve the unity of the nation-state.

There was no doubt about IBB’s role in the scheming for the overthrow of the Yakubu Gowon regime, the emergence of Gen. Murtala Muhammed as Head of State and the subsequent appointment of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo to take over the mantle of leadership following the assassination of Murtala Muhammed in February 1976. As a Lieutenant Colonel, IBB was already deeply anchored in close observation and participatory posts of statecraft and the military regimes of the l970s, yet he was carefully clothed away from political office. He remained one of the dependable military officers behind the scene that provided the sub-structural strength for whatever successes usually displayed without acknowledgement of the professional benefactors by the regime of Gen. Obasanjo in the process of the transition from military rule to the Second Republic between 1976 and 1979. This period also enabled IBB to consolidate his social networks within the Armed Forces and the Nigerian nation and especially with the business and professional classes. It enabled him too to comprehend the strengths and the weaknesses of the Nigerian elite class. This intellectual asset was carried on by IBB in the period of the Second Republic during which the NIPSS Senior Executive Course at Kuru fostered for him the comfort of deep reflection and understanding of the Nigerian state and the Nigerian nation.

IBB’s intellectual asset had additional fillip by the collapse of the Second Republic, which resulted from the abysmal performance and devaluation of democracy by the political class. The military values of patriotism, nationalism, defence and advancement of the nation-state became even more strengthened in IBB as he observed the weaknesses of the political class and the enormous possibilities of national disintegration and anarchy. As Chief of Army Staff from late December 1983 to late August 1985 and a senior member of the Supreme Military Council in the Muhammadu Buhari regime, IBB became a rallying point for a number of professional and political causes. The carry-over of the reasons for the return of military rule in December 1983 and the bastardisation by the Buhari regime of the raison d’etre for the overthrow of the Shehu Shagari administration provided IBB the advantage of converting the position of being in the corridors into being in the saddle of power. The economy remained in tatters, society continued in hardship; the international community remained skeptical about the country’s state of affairs, and above all, the political class (both military and civilian) remained structurally and normatively divided.

By the rare advantage of being in the corridors of power, IBB understood the utmost necessity to become properly involved. In this manner, IBB is most probably the best Nigerian leader who prepared himself for the task of ruling or engineering the most populous, complex and difficult black nation-state in the world.


IBB assumed power not conventionally as Head of State but as President on 27th August 1985. There has been speculation as to why IBB chose to be accorded the status of President by the Armed Forces Ruling Council when previous military rulers were simply Heads of State. The explanation may have to await IBB’s autobiography. It seems however, that the problems confronting the nation-state and the worldview and strategies for dealing with the problems might have prompted IBB in obtaining approval for being called President although un-elected.

IBB had enunciated the problems of the country at his regime’s origin. He postulated the economic predicament of the country as being caused by the nature and practice of politics and government. Bad governance and the interface between politics and economics, between leaders and the people, between the elite and the masses, between urban and rural dwellers and between Nigeria and the rest of the world, particularly Europe and America were seen by him as the foundational predicaments of the country. His regime was accordingly set to “bring about a new political culture which, like a veritable fountain head, will bring forth a stable, strong and dynamic economy and polity”.

Fifteen years after the civil war the country was as at 1985 still in the doldrums. The structural and normative crises of this bad history pained IBB to no end. He knew from having being “in the corridors”, that power had been used nakedly and blatantly in the interest of some against the interest of others. There was the continuing overbearance of the state on the political economy; continued control and regulation of the major heights of the economy by a small self-centred elite to the detriment of the masses; continued control and monopoly of the major utilities such as power, telecommunication, electronic media and aviation without any evidence of efficient service and accountable management. There was also the historic practice of price control with attendant high costs in the provision of consumer, intermediate and capital goods and services. The country was saddled with a system of marketing boards with contrived arrangement for defrauding peasant primary producers. There was also a regime of undue subsidies and licences for import, which worked against the interest of the poor and rural dwellers. Above all, there was a lack of fit between the desire for democracy and freedom on the one hand and state regulation and domination of economic activities on the other.

The social and political landscape needed to be taken together for appreciation and design of policies and programs to change it for the better. Incidentally, the rest of the world, and particularly the previously non-democratic world was in the process of confronting similar challenges. IBB was conscious that to engineer a paradigm change successfully, it would involve costs. It was however, not clear how he would politically cope with, and manage the cost of change.

There was also the large question of human rights and the necessity to free Nigerians from the stranglehold of arbitrary governance. Civil society and the media were highly constrained in the period leading to the IBB regime. They were muzzled, and attention to institutional failures was visited harshly by the State. Under the Shehu Shagari regime the country was in total confusion and was indeed about to disintegrate in the hands of those who had falsely and grossly claimed to have been returned to power by a massively fraudulent election of late 1983. Under Muhammadu Buhari the challenge before the regime was hampered by undue rigid negativity and unwillingness to listen to the articulation of the problems by experts and other knowledgeable people other than by a small clique around Muhammadu Buhari. Rather than deal with the consequences of bad governance under Shehu Shagari, the Buhari regime got the state into being an instrument of repression with the result that the society and economy got stuck.

IBB articulated the worldview of his regime, which appeared well researched before he assumed power. The single challenge, according to IBB, was that of strengthening the wobbling pillars of the Nigerian state as well as laying the foundations for a modern nation whose society and economy could be integrated into the world free market system. “Prior to August 1985 we were hardly part of any system, neither capitalist nor socialist nor welfarist. Nigeria just existed on the world map of livelihood”. This time around IBB believed that the country deserved to have the essential foundations for a free market economy, which would be linked to a democratic political order. This is the ideational prelude to the IBB regime.


Between 27 August 1985 and 26 August 1993 IBB led a military regime in the governance of Nigeria. As had already been noted, the regime assumed power with a worldview enunciated by 1BB:

“I would like to see us build a society which guarantees the individual freedom of thought, speech and action; and protects society as a whole from threat to security of persons, family and property. In such a society, the individual should be free to seek and attain self-fulfillment within the limits of the law while at the same time voluntarily subsuming himself to the wider and greater claims of the overall good. In material terms, all citizens should have the opportunity to lead useful and satisfactory lives and make their contribution to the common good in fields of their own choice, according to their ability. In such a society, there should not exist wide disparity of wealth such that the affluent and poor classes cannot live together”.
A comprehensive analysis of the performance or non-performance or ill performance of IBB in the saddle of power cannot be done in this essay. It is however, unacceptable the tendency of some observers to equate the IBB regime with only the annulment of the Presidential election of June 12 1993. Debilitating to the cause of national stability and democratisation and indeed to the high expectations of Nigerians and the rest of the world, as that event was, the IBB regime accumulated unassailable records of performance with indelible and durable dividends. Indeed, the hypothesis has been advanced that apart from colonialism and the Nigerian civil war, the IBB regime is the only other phenomenon that has affected the Nigerian economy and society in fundamental respects.

There are obviously aspects of the IBB regime, a dictatorship as it was and notwithstanding its benevolence, that obviously infringed upon the practices of human rights, leakages in the management of the economy and dissatisfaction with elements of the Federal system. Be these as they were, the 1985 – 1993 period contains evidence of progress which can be summarised under three heading namely: economy, society, and the political process.

Under the economy, IBB radically changed the direction of primary economic activities particularly from it being controlled and regulated by the state and opening it up to deeper and more expansive private sector operation. In this manner too, the regime fostered the expansion of economic freedom and competition. Some of these elements are:

* Deregulation of, among other sectors, the aviation industry and the electronic broadcast media;

* Elimination of middle men and institutions in economic transactions such as the marketing boards and price control mechanisms;

* Establishment of investment promotion institutions for raw materials development and modernisation of the capital market;

* Boosting the financial institutions by encouraging establishment of banks, either directly by the government such as the National Economic Recovery Fund and the People’s Bank or privately owned banks and other financial and insurance institutions including community banks;

* Opening up of the rural sector of the economy through accelerated provision of infrastructure through the now defunct DFRRI and NALDA;

* Establishment and encouragement of skills acquisition in technical and managerial operations through NDE, etc;

* Promotion of self-reliance economic development.

With reference to society, the IBB regime brought forth a number of positive and productive changes among which are:

* Expansion of the media industry – print and electronic – and thereby providing impetus for more employment opportunities, market competitiveness and professionalism;

* Provision and expansion of choice spectrum for consumption of new products;

* Energisation of civil society by encouraging the activities of non-governmental organisations and increase in educational institutions.

Activities in the political process complimented those of the economy and society and thereby empowering the Nigerian nation-state. Some of these activities include:

* Enlargement of the spectrum for the exercise of freedoms and liberties within the limitations of benevolent dictatorship;

* Phenomenal activities of democratization through institutions of public enlightenment and encouragement for participation in politics;

* Encouragement for increased participation by youthful Nigerians in political activities – the new breed phenomenon;

* Establishment of institutions for the advancement of democracy and electoral agencies, which gave rise to “the much celebrated free and fair election of June 12 1993”. As it has been argued “there could not have been June 12 controversy if the processes leading to June 12 had not been successful”;

Creative innovations in foreign policy and external relations by the inauguration of economic diplomacy as a foreign policy paradigm and provision of technical manpower assistance to sister African and Caribbean countries;

* Laudable leadership in the African continent through the establishment of ECOMOG for the peace and stability of the West African Region and assistance to the United Nations for Peace keeping and peace enforcement operations abroad;

* Appointment into public offices of competent persons from communities across the country which were grossly neglected by colonial and previous Nigerian civilian and military governments;

* Enlargement and deepening of Nigerian Federalism through the creation of new states’ and local government’ components of the Federation.

The performance of IBB in the saddle of power has become a watershed for contemporary Nigerian politics and governance. While the salient element of statecraft before 1985 were changed fundamentally by the IBB regime, there has hardly been any new salient element in the governance of Nigeria since 1993 when IBB exited from power. All that has happened between the bad phase of military rule under Gen. Sani Abacha, the hand-over administration of Gen. Abdul Salami Abubakar and the present civilian regime of the Fourth Republic, is that policies and programs have not been any more than renovations and re-arrangement of “programmatic furniture items” within the framework of the political economy inaugurated by the IBB regime.


For almost eight years, IBB attempted to execute a well-crafted and thoughtful program of transition from military dictatorship to civilian rule and democracy. This program linked political, social and economic reforms to possible emergence of an enduring good governance.

Against the background of IBB’s worldview and the rather turbulent processes of policy execution during the period of transition, it is disappointing not only to IBB, but also to those who worked strenuously close to him for the realisation of the historic mission when on 17th August 1993, consequent upon the crises of the annulment of the June election, IBB addressed the National Assembly that he had decided to “step aside” from governance. There was, and has been a lively debate over the meaning of stepping aside. Was it intended to mean that IBB would return in the period immediately following his exit to complete the transition project or was it intended to mean that he gave up completely? IBB himself has likened the mode of his exit to that of a soldier in an army formation or exercise who having run out of stamina for any cause decided voluntarily or by the force of discipline to step out of the formation. The implication of this analogy is that the soldier once he regains his stamina or cure for his ailment could return to the parade ground or formation.

Be that as it may, IBB’s exit from power constituted a monumental paradox. The regime took off with all the ebullient fanfare and serious commitment to complete its self-assigned mission successfully. Indeed, the regime entertained the plausibility that after completing its mission, Nigeria would never again experience military rule. It is now a matter of history that the mission was not accomplished because the program was not completed and it was of little or no surprise that after stepping aside military rule continued in full moon for about six years. The only factor of surprise was the character of the successor military rule to IBB under Sani Abacha. The Abacha regime unleashed brutality, bestiality and sadism on the economy, society and political process. Although it attempted to destroy the super-structure of the IBB political process, the Abacha regime could not destroy the sub-structural foundations for democracy and free market economy. It is the foundations for democratisation and democracy on the one hand and for the market-based economy of the nation-state firmly undertaken by the IBB regime on the other that have become the enduring legacy of the IBB regime. Fortunately, the nation-state has continued to prod along in spite of the numerous assaults upon national consensus between the Abacha era and the Olusegun Obasanjo civilian regime. Who knows whether the dialectics of present day escalating national contradictions and difficulties could become the basis for a re-incarnation for a future experience of good governance by Nigerians?


It is plausible historically, intellectually, logically and practically to postulate that IBB is not done yet with the laudable project of actualising the erection of a system for good governance and economic development of Nigeria. Nearly nine years as at 2002 since he stepped aside from power, IBB has remained as was earlier advanced in this essay the super issue of Nigerian politics. It is not much about what he previously did wrongly or did not do properly, but what more he could do with the benefits of hindsight and insight in getting the Nigerian state and people from the quagmire of mere civilian rule in which the country is currently stuck and possibly moving it with foresight into democracy. This is not a matter of preferred viewpoint alone but one that has assumed a major force in Nigerian contemporary politics.

It is common knowledge that IBB was vitally instrumental to the quickness of pace and packaging of the contents of the return to civilian rule immediately after the death of the dreadful military ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha and his regime, and was also vitally instrumental to the arrangement of the cards that provided the elected leadership of the Fourth Republic. Yet in the present day cascading confusion about national consensus, social crises embedded in the breakdown of law and order and insecurity to life and property, and the scepticism of the international community about the durability of civilian rule, the major issue is whether the IBB project which provided the undercurrent structures and normative tenets for the Fourth Republic should not be completed.

When a journalist of the Voice of America reportedly asked IBB as to what his role could now be in the present scheme of Nigerian governance, IBB is reported to have replied. “In the first place, if God ordains one for something nobody can stop it. Likewise, if God says No, even if the whole world teemed up, it will not work. Therefore, I leave everything in the hands of God. It is He who will determine my political ambition”. In the same vein, cynically motivated, as it is, Karl Maier another American journalist has observed that Nigeria has not done with, or seen the last of IBB’.

There is everything to commend IBB continuing relevance in Nigeria politics and governance. IBB does not have to inform the media or the public what it is he could do in the future. Indeed, the future can wait for IBB, for, as Professor Karl Popper long ago counseled, if the future were known today, there could not be any future. It is on this note that the human enigma in IBB contains tremendous ingredients of positivity.