FORMER Military Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, says he did not regret taking part in the July 1966 coup d’etat, which was in revenge of an earlier coup in January 1966.
Babangida said this during a no-holds-barred interview with The Crest which was published on Saturday. He said that though the coup “went out of hand” as many of those who took part could not control themselves, he did not regret taking part in it because many of the people he and his colleagues at the time held in high esteem, were all killed in the January coup.
“Most of the people we revered were murdered (in the January 1966 coup). Even in the military, people like (Brigadier Samuel) Ademulegun (and his wife), Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari, (Colonel Kur) Mohammed, and so on. To us, the young officers, these people were our role models,” Babangida said when explaining the role he played in the coup.
“Then, politically, leaders like Sir Tafawa Balewa (Nigeria’s Prime Minister at the time), Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto (and Premier of the Northern Region), and Chief Ladoke Akintola, Premier of Western Nigeria, were killed.
“The atmosphere was conducive for a revenge coup… So, when the plot came, it didn’t take time to sit down and plan it.”
The July 1966 revenge coup is regarded as the bloodiest in the history of Nigeria, and Babangida said it was because “because it went out of hand”.
“There was no control. The officers allowed things to go out of hand. Even other ranks were taking laws into their hands. It is unfortunate it happened,” he said.
Asked whether regrets taking part in the coup, Babangida’s answer was a curt “No”.
Banbangida also talked about how he was able to get the best brains in their various fields of endeavours to join his administration, albeit with some resistance. These included the legendary Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, a Professor of medicine whose works to strengthen Primary Healthcare in Nigeria are still being recognised to date, and Godwin Ezekwe, a Professor of Science and Technology and the brain behind the Ogbunigwe bombs, which was used by the Biafran soldiers during the Nigerian civil war.
On the kind of leader that Nigeria needs at the moment, Babangida said the country needs someone that has “the sagacity and eloquence of Zik; he must have the knowledge of Awo and he must have the charisma of Sardauna, Tafawa Balewa”. Such a man must also possess a deep passion and love for Nigeria like Olusegun Obasanjo. “He doesn’t compromise on anything Nigeria. No matter the situation, OBJ is going to stand for Nigeria.”
“I called them four-in-one; (such a man must be) one man with four qualities,” Babangida said.
The former President also spoke on why he cancelled the June 12, 1993, general election which is believed to be the freest and fairest in Nigeria’s history.
He said there could have been consequences if allowed the election to stand. He refused to say what those consequences could have been, saying, rather that they would be contained in his memoir which he is already working on and it will be out “very soon”.
Babangida, however, refused to admit that Moshood Abiola won the June 12 election, saying, rather, that “he was on the verge of winning the election”.
“By the time it was assumed that he (Abiola) won, officially, the official thing was not done. Results were still coming in, and it wasn’t declared. So, I think I would be deceiving myself if I say he has won.”
Recall that on June 12 this year, President Muhammadu Buhari conferred a posthumous national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on Abiola, and during the ceremony apologised, on behalf of the Federal Government, to the Abiola family, for denying him the mandate. He also declared that going forward, June 12 will be observed as Nigeria’s Democracy Day, and no longer May 29. The House of Representatives, on Wednesday, gave a formal approval to this.
When asked what was his thoughts on this, Babangida said he had “no comments”.
You can read the full interview here.