Re: Nigeria and Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB)
We, the undersigned Nigerians, would like to express our profound dismay over reports that, as Nigeria prepares to go to the polls in 2011 to elect public officials into different levels of government, your government may be tacitly or overtly encouraging or supporting General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida to run for the office of President.
We wish to make it clear that your government’s perceived support for a Babangida presidency would be viewed by the vast majority of Nigerians in your country as a hostile attempt to frustrate the socio-economic and political development of their country.
Your government must be aware that Mr. Babangida was once a military ruler in Nigeria and his country continues to suffer from the grave effects of some of his atrocious policies while in office:
1. Military Coups/Subversion of Democracy: Babangida was a principal participant in almost all the military coups that have taken place in Nigeria. These coups stultified the nation’s democratic growth, enthroned a culture of usurpation of constitutional governance without accountability, and led to the avoidable death of many Nigerian soldiers and civilians. As a military dictator, Babangida also wasted over N40 billion of his nation’s scarce resources on an ostensible transition to democratic rule that was patently fraudulent and programmed to fail. After a series of annulments of election primaries, he compounded his false transition program by annulling the June 12, 1993 presidential election, adjudged by local and foreign observers as the most exemplarily free and fair election in Nigeria’s history. The widely acclaimed winner of that election of June 12 1993 later died in detention under mysterious circumstances. Mr. Babangida is an established foe of democracy.
2. Corruption: Excessive corruption in high circles is widely seen as the single most powerful factor militating against Nigeria’s effort to achieve its potential in economic development and social progress. In his years in office, Babangida gained the reputation as the most corrupt Nigerian ruler, a reputation he shares only with his military successor, the late General Sani Abacha. During Babangida’s dictatorship, Nigeria earned an unexpected windfall of more than $12 billion as a result of the first Gulf War and its disruption of crude oil supply. A panel of inquiry that investigated his regime’s handling of this revenue indicted him as well as Mr. Abubakar Alhaji, his appointee as Central Bank governor, for misappropriation of these funds through creation of a "dedicated account”. The probe found that the illegal account “limited the authorization process for its operation to the approval of the President or Head of State, which was communicated directly only to the CBN Governor.” The probe report concluded that the procedure adopted by Babangida “created considerable room for abuse of procedures, abuse of application and reduced accountability.” During his administration, the culture of corruption became pervasive and endemic, and Nigeria is still entrapped by that malaise that Babangida helped to entrench. Instead of encouraging his run for the Presidency, your government, we suggest, should be offering support for Babangida’s prosecution for financial crimes. Such a trial would send a strong signal to Nigerian public officials to resist the temptation to pilfer public funds and stash them away in foreign and local banks.
3. Human Rights Abuses: Babangida’s term as military ruler was marked by widespread violation of Nigerians’ basic human rights. His abuses included frequent unlawful detention of journalists as well as human rights and pro-democracy activists. When Nigerians protested the treachery of Babangida’s annulment of the June 12 presidential election, he unleashed the military on the unarmed protesters. His attempts to use military force to suppress peaceful protests led to the loss of many lives.
In fact, a human rights commission headed by a respected jurist, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, reached a damning conclusion regarding Babangida’s role in the use of a parcel bomb in the October 1986 assassination of Dele Giwa, a hugely popular Nigerian journalist. The Oputa panel stated: “on General Ibrahim Babangida, we are of the view that there is evidence to suggest that he and the two security chiefs, Brigadier General Halilu Akilu and Col. A. K. Togun, are accountable for the death of Dele Giwa by letter bomb. We recommend that this case be re-opened for further investigation in the public interest”. Twenty-five years later, Nigerians still await action to compel Mr. Babangida to answer for his role in Giwa’s gruesome assassination. Surely, your citizens would be appalled if their government is perceived as championing a man like Babangida who has a murder case hanging on his neck. The presidential office certainly should not be the abode and reward of such a man.
4. Economic Disaster: The Babangida administration introduced the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP). That program exacerbated Nigerians’ harsh economic condition just as it enabled Babangida and his coterie to bask in unconscionable fortune. One mark of the essential fraudulence of Babangida’s rule is that he was able to build himself a 50-room mansion on a hilltop in Minna while millions of Nigerians were left in dire homelessness and crushing poverty.
As Nigerians who have felt, and continue to experience, the consequences of Babangida's adventure in Nigeria's governance, we are strongly opposed to his second coming. His presidency would spell certain doom and critically damage the fabric of an already tottering and weakened Nigeria.
We urge foreign governments like yours to stand on the side of suffering and enlightened Nigerians who want to achieve a country able to serve their legitimate aspirations and meet its potential for greatness. Nigerians wish to strengthen our democracy and to elect only visionary, honest, upright, credible and competent Nigerians to run our affairs in order to transform our country into a prosperous and respectable member of the community of nations. We urge that, if your government has no inclination to support these aspirations, it should, at the very least, avoid alienating the vast majority of Nigerians by boosting a negative and despised figure like Babangida.