Why Babangida overthrew, detained me — Buhari

Former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari

Former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari, has spoken up on the high-wired intrigues that, in 1985, terminated his barely two-year-old government, blaming his ouster on an attempt to fire Ibrahim Babangida, the then army chief, and Aliyu Gusau, the army intelligence chief.

Mr. Buhari, a retired General, said he had tabled proposal for the retirement of Mr. Gusau, the Director of Military Intelligence and a close ally of Mr. Babangida’s, and it became clear to Mr. Babangida he could be the next target.

The move alerted Mr. Babangida who soon mobilized the military and forced the Buhari regime out, before detaining Mr. Buhari for three years, the retired general said in a rare interview with the Sun newspaper published weekend.

“I moved to retire his Director of Military Intelligence,”  Mr Buhari said. “I took a paper to Army Council. Babangida was there… Idiagbon was there, Bali was there as Minister of Defence, and I was there as the head of state and commander-in-chief. And reasons for him to be removed was in that memo. Go and find out from him or from Babangida. They are both alive.”

He continued, “…But if you touch Gusau, his intelligence chief, invariably, you were going to inch towards the Chief of Army Staff, Babangida. Eventually, he might have been touched. I didn’t know but at that point, it was Aliyu Gusau.

“Yes, we were inching closer. You could say that.

Mr. Buhari’s revelation corroborated Mr. Gusau’s narrative of his military career.

In a bio published on his website, Mr. Gusau said he was Director of Military Intelligence (DMI) from November 1979 to December 1983 and played an important role in the coup that ousted President Shehu Shagari and the corrupt National Party of Nigeria, NPN, from power on 31 December 1983, bringing Mr. Buhari to power.

He said following the coup, he was proposed as overall head of Intelligence, with the support of Babangida, who was then Chief of Army Staff, but that his appointment was opposed by Mr. Buhari.

Mr. Buhari later confirmed Mr. Shagari’s appointee, Muhammadu Lawal Rafindadi, as director of the National Security Organization (NSO). He removed Mr. Gusau from the DMI, replacing him with Colonel Halilu Akilu. Mr. Gusau was then sent on training at the Royal College of Defence Studies in Britain.

Mr Gusau felt badly treated and the Buhari regime suspected he was planning an insurrection. In response, Mr. Buhari moved fast by trying to retire him from the army, an action Mr. Babangida resisted.

Mr. Babangida then teamed up with Mr. Gusau and a few other disgruntled officers to topple the Buhari regime.

Mr. Buhari said he felt betrayed by Mr. Babangida, and felt even more upset after his detention made him miss his mother’s funeral in 1988.

The general however said he has forgiven Mr. Babangida, although the events remained unforgettable. He also wished President Shehu Shagari, who he had earlier toppled and detained too, will forgive him.

Mr. Buhari, who served as petroleum minister under the military government of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, said he still begrudged Mr. Obasanjo for mobilizing voters against him during past elections.

“No, I haven’t forgiven him,” he said of Mr. Obasanjo.

The lengthy interview, commemorating Mr. Buhari’s 70th birthday, provided rare details about the former head of state’s upbringing, military career, politics and life as a flirting youngster who smoked and kept girlfriends.

He said he quit smoking in 1977.

Since leaving office August 1985, Mr. Buhari maintained a low profile before taking a role as head of the Petroleum Trust Fund under Sani Abacha government, and then joining politics in 2003 when he first contested for president on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party.

He said he would continue with party politics as long as “I have breath in me”, but was not certain about running for president in 2015.

That decision will be taken after the outcome of the alliance plan between his party, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and other opposition parties, he said.

Mr. Buhari said his turning point for democracy came in 1991 after the former Soviet Union split into more than a dozen countries.

“I have said this so often that an empire in the 20th century, collapsed and a lot of people ran back home, leaving strategic installations behind, like missile sites, nuclear formation and so on,” he said.

“It was then that I believed, personally, in my own assessment, that multi-party democratic system was and is still superior to despotism.”

But the new convictions altered none of his draconian convictions about media restrictions, and basic rights, he said, offering no regret for his government’s suppression of the media- a reference often cashed upon by critics to taunt his presidential ambition.

He said the infamous Decree 4, under which his administration jailed journalists, and refused clemency for drug traffickers, was merely enforcing what the highest military council agreed upon at the time.

While the regime received accolades for its anti-corruption stance and discipline, it came under severe criticism for its high-handedness and violation of rights.

The anti-media law and the administration’s penchant for summary executions typified those excesses. Mr. Buhari said he had no regrets.

“What we did was that you must not embarrass those civil servants.  If you have got evidence that somebody was corrupt, the courts were there. Take the evidence to court; the court will not spare whoever it was. But you don’t just go and write articles that were embarrassing,” he said.

“Those who did it, the editors, the reporters, we jailed them. But we never closed a whole institution, as others did.”

Asked if he regretted the decision, he replied: “No regret, because we did it according to the laws we made.  We neither closed a whole institution nor caused job losses.”

Mr. Buhari also denied N2.8 billion oil money disappeared while he was minister of petroleum. He said the allegation was politically motivated.

“At that time, Nigeria was exporting about 1.82 million barrels a day. And the cost of barrel a day was about $18. You work out N2.8billion. How could N2.8billion be missing and we still have money to run the country?”

The general gave a telling portrait of the military coup that brought him to power, and that which saw him pushed out of office and thrown into detention.

He denied ever participating in coup plotting, and said he was merely invited as the most senior officer to take over the reins of governance after Mr. Shagari, the second republic president, was sacked.

Those backers later “changed their minds” and booted him out of office, he said.

A key reason for this, he said, was his attempt to retire Mr. Gusau, and potentially, Mr. Babangida. Mr. Gusau, a well-connected intelligence officer, has remained a long standing associate of Mr. Babangida.

As a retired officer, he repeatedly held the office of the National Security Adviser under civilian regimes, the latest under President Goodluck Jonathan.

At each turn too, Mr. Gusau has taken a shot at the presidency, and in 2007, Mr. Babangida stood down from the contest citing his relationship with Mr. Gusau and the late Umaru Yar’adua, who won the election.

Mr. Buhari said he took the papers for Mr. Gusau’s retirement to the army council which had Mr. Babangida as a key member. He said with the move, he was “inching closer” to Mr. Babangida.

On a light note, Mr. Buhari said he smoked and had affairs while a young officer. He said he didn’t touch alcohol because his religion, Islam, forbids him from doing so.

He added for effect that he was surprised that not many women had interest in him despite his position and looks.

“I thought women ought to have taken more interest in me but I don’t know why they didn’t. I must have something they didn’t like. I assure you of that. I didn’t drink, I smoked, I had girlfriends; it was true.”

Then the former head of state jokingly told the interviwers they would be doing him a lot of good by not printing that aspect of the interview, saying “because my wife will read the interview”.


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  • Enemona

    The people’s general.

  • TheSilentObserver

    Sometimes in time …Nigerians will regret that they never voted this man into power! Please run in 2015 so we can vote again for you … we can now see and feel the difference!

    • Ahmus

      I support you all your statement. Thanks my Bros

      • Mallam Musa

        Are U Stupid?

        • john

          Buhari Idiagbon.. (the best brothers, the most proffesional soldiers of all times!) I love u guys and ready to die for you two.. R. I .P Idiagbon the stern looking no smiling of the duo

          • guest

            Pls, come and take over Nigeria again buhari and instill serious diciplne into that godsforsaken country full of devilish people

    • Sani

      Shut up u goat. Regret voting for this killer and father of killers?

      • Mallam Musa

        Ur Father Is The Goat U Irresponsible Son Of A Whore!

        • bibi

          long live the peoples general I’m from south south and i tell you if PDP can allow a free and fair election Jonathan would not ve won Buhari. i love u buhari.

      • FXGoon

        Pls let us be moderate in our submissions…We can drive points wtout abusive langs

  • Muphagal

    This man is the type of leader Nigeria needs at this time. Even though he was a General, but all his beheviours was not like other Generals of his time, who acquired wealth in a fraudulent ways. Long Live the Peoples General and Nigeria. Wish you many many many more years to come.

    • Umaru

      What do u expect this goats to say, all they want is their Buhari, the blood tasty man. They can continue to praise him but Nigerians know better, they cannot never vote for a sadist.

    • FXGoon

      Can Buhari deny the statement that “If I lose this election, I will make Nigeria ungovernable”…If he can deny it..then I will vote himm….

      • AbTee

        can you also proof beyond reasonable doubt that Buhari actually made those statement you re crediting to him?

  • Abuhanifah

    Buhari shall ever remain a shining example to our leaders. He symbolises anti-corruption and his detractors will only put themselves to shame sooner or later. I pray he is able to find his type in his party’s circle to carry on with this goodness. You are one in a million my dear General.

    • I refuse to be part of the group of people who simply think that corruption is all about embezzlement of money. No, it is not. In fact, it is not the most miserable of corrupt practices. Corruption is also about power. By that yardstick, General Muhammadu Buhari is almost unmatched by anyone in the history of modern Nigeria.

      All I ask from people is to have a memory slightly longer than the 13 or 14 years of “democratic” rule that we have had. I am one of those who values history and records and I feel that they do not exist simply to aide the weakness of memory, but rather to be guides for the future. Hence, when people speak of Buhari’s incorruptible past and records, I would like them to be more objective.

      When Buhari conducted a coup d’etat, which he sacked an elected government of this country, can anybody tell me if that was not a self indictment of corruption of power?

      When Buhari used his position as Commander in Chief to yield the power of life and death over Nigerians using his military decrees, which are not laws by the way, can anybody tell me if that is not a preposterous use of power and atrocious abuse of the human rights of the Nigerian citizenry? Do I really need to mention names? It’s not so difficult. Go research about Lawal Ojuolape, Bernard Ogedegbe, Bartholomew Owoh, and Tai Solarin, whom I cannot believe is easily forgotten. Nigerians must have an appalling disease of short memory.

      Worst of all, when the people’s General issued his decrees, he made them retroactive. On that grounds, he ordered people who had earlier been convicted for drug consumption to be executed. Yes, what a way to instill discipline and honesty indeed. If the death of those imprisoned cannot be termed as murders then I don’t know what a murder should be.

      Now, I don’t think Buhari is an Islamic fanatic. But, the damage has already been done. He has been painted with that image and it didn’t occur out of the blue. The people’s General, as his advocates like to call him today, registered Nigeria in the Organization of Islamic Conference, which was strictly then accommodating Islamic states. The non-muslims in Nigeria were not consulted and they constitute half of the population of the country if not more today. Now, you tell me if there is a better way to describe the corruption of power.

      For me, the corruption of power is more spine chilling than money-corruption. But, I am just an individual and everyone should make their own choices, after all this is a democracy. But I maintain my position that history is not meant to thrown away.

      • MUSTASH

        I guess you are a beneficiary of the crassness in society. You are downplaying corruption as it relates to public funds? Sorry, you don’t know what corruption is then. And have you forgotten the push to stop the spread of hard drugs in society, the effort to curtail exam malpractices etc?

        • izelakhe

          please can you tell us more about curruption

        • FXGoon

          Pls tell what corruption is Professor

      • Proudly Ishmaelite

        Anybody that read your post will think you made sense but in the actual fact, you didn’t make any sense.

        • FXGoon

          Then read it again to see the sense in his post

  • Mai Gaskiya

    Pls General Buhari tell us why you overthrow Shagari and also detained him?????you are not elected and he was elected so for you to overthrow him is a crime but for IBB to overthrow you is a result of your action against Shagari

    • Aminu Nass

      IS not Buhari that overthrow Shagari go and found from the full interview!


    I am sorry for all of you that are supporting a coup plotter like Buhari @70 to contest in 2015.

    When will you guys think and be analytically?

    Buhari overthrew Shagari, a democratically elected govt and did nothing to give back power to the civilians rather he was concerned in removing other senior military guys that could overthrow him, which they eventually did.

    How then do Nigerian want the same Buhari and trunked our democratic journey as a nation for more than 30 years to come back as a democracy ( a system he never supported before). The developmental set back Nigeria suffering today was caused by the military, including Buhari.

    Let’s be aware that Buhari is not coming back to work for Nigerian people as he is claiming but to fight the like of IBB and Gusau that removed him from power.
    My Dad is a retired general, so I know what I am talking about….Nigerians be wise.
    No former military man can deliver dividend of democracy in Nigeria.

    • mr me

      you fool, read the content first, he didnt plan no coup

    • Mallam Musa

      U Be Mumu I swear. Where Did U See He Planted Coup. Irresponsible He-goat. Fooooooooooooool Illiterate. We Want Buhari To Be Our President! Insha Allah One Day He will Become Our President

      • izelakhe

        voting will take some time the best thing is to carry buhari and put him on the president sit.

    • Ademoye

      its a pity that we still have enemy of progress like you in this country,we want a Nigeria that is free of corruption,that light will be available,that refineries will be working at full capacity,a Nigeria where a minister will not be spending 20billion naira in a year on private jets,a nigeria where 20billoin dollars will not be missing,a nigeria where indicted NNPC official that is involve in the missing 1.6billion dollars as reported in the KPMG investigation will be brought to book,a Nigeria where 7 is not more than 19,a Nigeria where citizens will die in bomb blast and the president will feel the peoples pain and not go dancing on the podium next day.please reflect and lets make NIGERIA a great Nation

  • MUB

    Well, point of correction, Buhari did not overthrow Shagari, he was not part of the coup plot against Shagari. 2. He is not a killer and he has never ordered his supporters to kill in his name.

    • kiss

      No politician is a killer, you can tell us that again

  • Heno

    Buhari needs to stop backing Nigeria up. We are in 2013.
    You reaped what you sowed. Over take met takeover . You detained Alex Ekwueme in Kirikiri or wherever and left Shehu Shagari in house arrest.
    To me the earlier you give up this your dream of ruling Nigeria this time, the better How do you see yourself as the only person qualified in you party to contest .We want a president who will see all Nigerians the way he sees himself.

    • kiss

      I wish all this idiots will be killed. If not 9Ja will never no a good government. Like he said, if I loss the election, I will make northern Nigerian ungoverned. Today what are we seeing ? Boko haram or whatever they called themselves. And you want to rule your father idiot

  • bibi

    i love this man called BUHARI

  • osemwengie

    Down to earth indeed

  • Doc Souvy Dam

    Buhari needs to be tried and jailed again for using our mandate to go after personal enemies of many years. How can a man with such an unforgiving spirit lead any country. He is so little-minded. Forgive your offenders and look forward to a brighter tomorrow.

    • kunle

      Why do ignorant people like you keep writing shit on the internet? Are you so daft and dumb to the amount of evidence brought up so far against the thieves he has gone after? Did he tell his so-called personal enemies to steal from Nigerians? You are too dumb to answer these questions, so I don’t expect a reasonable answer from you, so don’t even bother, Jonathan -The -Thief Supporter!

  • Lawrence Efana

    After you have read the story. Take time to reason, evaluate and if you like understand. But do so because you see the need to wake-up for change if your country must be free, peaceful and progressive. What you read about is the load of what we call politics. It has such loads and you know it. It was raw in the military era. It is not so now. So how can we all join to drive the need for change calling on us. In the first place we have a leader: President. He can perform and deliver, but the qualms must be put aside. The next in the name of politics is: how we are to use of universities, the media and other relevant set-ups to make politics work in the country! I am coming in with the suggestion that our universities look among themselves for quality political scientists, sub-group themselves here and there within the country, then task themselves with the job of a difficult project plan to span the sub-fields: (i) party studies; (ii) political recruitment; (iii) voting; (iv) political campaign culture; (v) political election war-fares and effects on the illiterate masses; (vi) political anticipations of party members and the public; (vii) remunerations and office holding in politics; (viii) Drum more about dysfunctions of ethnicity – curious as a theme); (ix) Politics and corruption – why is Nigeria so central and badly plagued? (x) The Comparative insights to the meaning of the Presidential system of government in Nigeria; etc. There are many other ways to reformulate these titles. Presumably there are enough basic research materials which could make it easier for engagements with above-listed to take the form of “quick-fix” measures, creating “scientific” information to smartly re-culture a) understanding, b) practices, etc., against the realities types of failures identified with what looks the Nigerian political dilemma. The Research sub-groups spread, should work as teams across and if need be bring in selective top SSS staff and journalists of media houses. The purpose should be to quickly produce materials able to heal Nigerian political culture and practices, fertilize freedom with functional sense of multi-party politics: an effort to make the process of aggregating interests smoother, less quarrelsome, divisive and chaotic – with eyes too on resource disposals and avoidance of wastes as well as closing possible loopholes of corruption. Where the constitution at either the federal, the state and or the local government levels needs to be re-examined in the interest of the rule of law, it should be done. The idea should be driven as a quick fix – mission-oriented challenge whose effect can be seen even in the next election. It is a duty in the time of economic crunch so those involved do not need to request extras other than what’s most necessary. Its budget could come under “social-engineering” political behavior, practice and sanity in Nigeria; possible to cover with the vote from the Ministry of Science and Technology and other sources. It is service to Nigeria to rid her of political crisis of the alarming types driven by hate and not reason. May you all be blessed. You can save and upgrade your nation rather than destroy and shame her! You have men and the resources.