THROWBACK: INTERVIEW: Ex-President Ibrahim Babangida speaks on June 12 and the Abacha coup

Ibrahim Babangida
Former Military President, Ibrahim Babangida

In January 2015, Kadaria Ahmed, widely regarded journalist cum broadcaster, interviewed former Military President, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) on a wide range of national issues, including why his administration nullified the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

That election, widely described as the freest and fairest in Nigeria’s history is believed to have been won by the late multibillionaire businessman cum politician, Moshood Abiola.

Below is a transcript of the question and answer session between Ms Ahmed and Mr. Babangida on her then Wednesday night programme on Channels Television, “Straight Talk with Kadaria”.

We are republishing this today as part of our coverage of the 24th anniversary of the annulment of that historic election.

Kadaria: Mr. President, will June 12 be something that with hindsight, when you look back, you may kind of regret?

IBB: You will find that history will one day come and apportion various blames to various actors in the whole saga. There are lots of people today in this country who supported what we did at the time we did.

Kadaria: But what’s the rationale behind the annulment?

IBB: You see, we discussed extensively about security. We were worried about putting up a government that will not last long, and as a government…

Kadaria: What were the conditions that existed that raised those concerns?

IBB: There was the security problem. It was very dicey, and the only people who will tell you what could happen were those of us in government. Those of us the practitioners of violence by our profession. We knew the nation was becoming more, eh eh.. There was frustration in society. And once this exists within society, it provides a very fertile ground for either a coup d’etat or whatever.

Kadaria: But in the end, was that not what happened? Because after you left office …

IBB: In the end we were right. We speculated rightly.

Kadaria: Was it a plan?

IBB: No. It couldn’t have been a plan. But it was thought of. You see, don’t forget the history. We lived in this country where there were speculations by prominent people, the media that the the worst civilian government is better than this contraption. Nigerians said all that sort of things. That  gave confidence to whoever wanted to take over government.

Kadaria: The reason why I asked whether it was planned is because you said you were worried about the possibility of a coup and you had other security concerns. Then you put an interim government in place. You did not retire General Abacha, a man who had been a central player in many successful coups in this country. And you left him in charge of the army more or less. And that’s why we have to ask whether it was a plan for him to take over.

IBB: When we put in place that interim government, we wanted to give it strength. We wanted to give it teeth so that so that whoever is there now has the believe that he has the military behind him.

Kadaria: It never crossed your mind that he had ambition to take the number one job for himself?

IBB: It never crossed my mind quite honestly.< Kadaria: So when he executed this coup, what did you think?

IBB: It didn’t come to me as a surprise because all of you in this country gave him the wherewithal to do it. I always say a coup will only succeed if there is frustration in society. And that frustration was seen, which was orchestrated. At that time if you will remember, you hear statements like, coming from very prominent people, that its a contraption, that is the interim government. That the worst civilian government is better than this contraption….

Watch the rest of the interview here https://youtu.be/h-vWxrspj8U?list=PL9oGCeOg1ewq0saa-cnuxK0dQaudAqG4i