Prince Ademola Ayoade, former governorship candidate of the National Democratic Party (NDP) in Oyo State, in this interview with OLUSEYE OJO described former military president of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, as the best president Nigeria ever had.
How would assess Babangida’s regime of 1985 to 1993, would agree it was a failure?
I disagree 100 per cent. It is possible that the people that have such notion are never students of history. When Babangida came to power, he came prepared. He had prepared himself that he was coming to rule. He had his own plans on how to move Nigeria forward.
When Babangida was inaugurating his Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC), he called himself military president. He never said he was head of state. This meant he had a purpose, mission and vision.
Babangida assembled the best brains in Nigeria to work in his government. He picked the best brains in commerce, academia, politics, management, economy, finance, social services and so on. He picked people like Prof Ojetunji Aboyade, Prof Akin Mabogunje, Idika Kalu and Rilwanu Lukman.
Chief Olu Falae was the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), under Babangida. The late Dr. Tai Solarin, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof Jerry Ghana and Prof. Babs Fafunwa worked for Babangida. The list is endless.
Babangida ran a participatory regime. When he wanted to borrow money from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he took the issue to the public and everybody discussed it before taking a decision.
Most of the projects Babangida brought into governance in Nigeria are still what the regimes and administrations after him have been running up on till today. He came with the Office of the First Lady with the popular pet project – Better Life for Rural Women, which encouraged Western education for rural women. Since then, wives of presidents been having their own pet projects.
Babangida started the development of rural areas under a special programme called DIFFRI. The regime opened up rural areas. It also provided social amenities such as boreholes for the grassroots. School certificate holders were encouraged to learn vocations, and the government would give them start-off funds.
Babangida liberalised the Nigerian economy. It was a free market a situation. In the process, many banks sprang up and economic activities picked up. Babangida brought the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), which is still in existence till date. He also brought Mass Mobilisation for Self-Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), renamed National Orientation Agency (NOA). So, there was no particular project or programme during Babangida regime that has been cancelled or that bas not been functioning by the governments that came after his regime.
He brought the best political system to Nigeria. He came up with a two-party system, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC). He organised election and it was different from elections Nigerians have had. He introduced open ballot. Chief MKO Abiola came up from SDP and won the election.
But before the election was conducted, there was a court order, which was never vacated by a higher court. There was no appeal against the court order. In the process of announcing the results of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, there was another court order that stopped the electoral umpire from announcing the results of the election. Again, there was no appeal against the court order. The notion that it was Babangida who annulled the election was not a fact. Babangida only obeyed the court order.
Recently, the judge who gave the said order came out publicly and said he annulled the election. He gave the order that they should stop the announcement of the election. There was no appeal or request to vacate the order. If Babangida did not obey the court order at that time, people would say he disobeyed the court order. So, what was the offence committed by Babangida?
You said Babangida assembled the best brains in the country. If you take a cursory look at the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari, you will discover that many of the ministers and other aides doing fine in their professions before their appointments.
So, that is why we are having problems in our economy. If you are the best and the economy is bad, for us to believe you are the best, you have to turn the economy around.
For instance, can you compare former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, with the incumbent Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun? When Okonjo-Iweala came in as a minister, she used her experience where she came from to make sure that Nigeria got debt relief, which helped Nigeria a lot.
People have been saying Buhari has good intention for Nigeria. Do you agree?
Yes, I agree. But can he work the way he wants to work, with those people that are working with him?
What would suggest that the President should do to move the country forward?
If you decide to run an organisation and you find it extremely difficult to run the organisation effectively, the best thing for you is to throw in the towel.
Corruption led Nigeria to the present economic quagmire, and Buhari has been doing well in his anti-graft campaign.
He has been doing well in fighting corruption. The only set of people being pursued are members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Most of the important people in his government are from PDP. Are you saying there no people in the All Progressives Congress (APC) who are more corrupt than people in PDP? Why is that anybody that runs to APC has become a saint? People who were once power brokers in PDP but ran to APC for cover are now saints. That is why you have false assets declaration and budget padding.
Buhari is a good man when it comes to fighting corruption and when it comes to doing what is right. But you cannot compare Major General Muhammadu Buhari, the Head of State of Nigeria between 1984 and 1985, with President Muhammadu Buhari, a civilian president. When he was Head of State, he had executive powers, he was younger and more articulate. Buhari is giving us his best, but his best is not good enough for Nigeria presently.
What is actually your relationship with IBB?
I am defending IBB because he did well. I am defending IBB because I saw sincerity in his government. I did not know what is called borehole, even with my level of education, until Babangida came to power. I know him very well because he is my friend. But I am not doing this for friendship.
If not for Babangida, what do you think the situation in Lagos would have been by now? He constructed the Third Mainland Bridge. But for the bridge, the traffic situation in Lagos would have been very terrible. His plan was to have a fourth mainland bridge that would start from Victoria Island and land in Ikorodu. If you are going to Ketu or Ikorodu from Victoria Island, you do not need to pass through Ebutte-Meta on Ikorodu Road.
Babangida built the Ibadan-Ife-Ilesa Expressway. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo started Ibadan-Oyo-Ogbomoso-Ilorin Expressway.
Has it been completed? Now, tell me which of the projects started by Babangida was abandoned?