Oriade Daniel was a schoolboy when the June 12 presidential election of 1993 was annulled by IBB. He couldn’t make head nor tail of the rationale behind that move. That incident boiled in his heart until he met IBB in Minna perchance three years ago. His interaction with him led to this latest biography of General Ibrahim Babangida (retd), IBB: The Misunderstood General, which details his role in Nigeria’s political evolution. Most shocking is the revelation that IBB was pushed to annul the June 12 election by a group of people respected in the country.
IBB: The Misunderstood Patriot is your first book, what triggered your interest?
When the June 12 saga happened, I was much younger, and I told myself, one day, “I am going to meet him to ask him why he annulled an election widely acclaimed to be free and fair.” To me then, coupled with the reactions of virtually everybody in Nigeria, IBB must be a bad and wicked leader who had never done anything good for the country. So, the opportunity to see him one on one for the first time came in 2017 in his house in Minna. My team paid him a courtesy visit shortly after the wedding of his daughter. Truly, I was amazed by the way he received us and chatted with us.
By the time we were discussing about what was going on in the country, I could see an intelligent and patriotic man with passion for the country despite what happened in the past. Quickly, I used the opportunity to ask my burning questions, among other things, most especially pertaining to June 12. As result of his responses, I said, “Can we put all these together as a book?” And he said, “Why not? When do you want to start?” Above all, before writing this book, I discovered that there was a missing link pertaining to the way IBB was being projected in the affairs of Nigeria.
The title of your book, IBB: The Misunderstood Patriot, might create mixed reactions among Nigerians, how convincing is this title?
I am not speaking for IBB, but, based on my findings, he is judged partially. Like what he said, if things happening in Nigeria was to continue the way they were during his regime, what we didn’t expect could have happened. At the same time, people pushed him to cancel June 12 presidential election. But IBB has said, if he should mention some of the individuals involved some of the people we are celebrating today would be stoned. But, as a leader, every criticism goes to him; he is the one who bears the brunt. He has accepted it. Yes, IBB made mistake (s) just like every other leaders who has ever led Nigeria. I don’t know if you can tell me a particular leader in Nigeria who hasn’t made any mistake before, either for personal interest or for national interest.
What does this book intend to achieve?
This book is targeted at all Nigerians. Our politicians have a lot to learn from this man, and these are contained in this book, both his achievements and mistakes. Nigerian students also should read this book. History is gradually being phased out. A younger other of mine came back from abroad, and asked me, “What’s June 12?” He was perhaps a year old during the June 12 election, and didn’t know what transpired. For people like him, this will serve as a history book. It is also a history material for students in secondary, tertiary and those unborn. I need to appreciate Prophet Wale Olagunju for facilitating my meeting with IBB and Captain Jalingo, IBB’s Personal Assistant, for making this book possible; lest I forget, Brig-Gen John L. Wilkinson (retd) of US Air Force for forwarding the book, among others.
What sort of man is IBB from a close range, given that he is perceived as a hard man?
I had a similar mindset before meeting him. But, by the way we interacted with him, we noticed a different person. He embraced us and related with our team, everybody amazed. Surprisingly, IBB’s Hilltop Manson is always open to visitors. Both politicians out of government and those still there, governors, senators, both from PDP and APC members, always flock together. Looking for a leader who knows every nook and cranny of Nigeria, IBB is number one. The way he talked about states in Southwest down to the local governments, mentioning how he met some individuals, I want to believe he has more of Yoruba people as friends. IBB, till today, still reverences Baba Obasanjo as his boss. There was a particular person who wanted to go for governorship position in Ogun State then, who we met in his house. All he just told him was, “Go and meet my boss”. You understand what that means!
As a youth, there are some people we must aspire to meet. IBB is key among them all. Those who have met him can tell you better, most especially if you are fortunate to interact with him one on one for few minutes. However, don’t go with the mind of getting Ghana-must-go bag (laughs). There’s no Ghana-must-go bag anywhere. But I can assure you, what you are going to gain is more than money. Again, we have an adage that we shouldn’t a bay and the bath water. Yes, IBB made mistakes, just like every other leader that has led Nigeria. He did so many positive things that we all can borrow a leaf from.
Like what and what?
He was the one who created two party system in Nigeria. It’s what, I think, Nigeria should go back to because of Option A4. If we go back to that, the issue of godfatherism will be eliminated. Today, in Nigeria, before any election, there is what we call “election before election”. With Option A4, electoral malpractice and rigging will be totally removed, because you will be queuing behind the person you are voting for. It will also curtail the way we are wasting money to conduct elections in Nigeria. When I know that this person doesn’t support me, why giving him money? Option A4 is part of the good things which IBB did during his regime.
At a point, restructuring Nigeria was a topical issue in the country, but it was when IBB gave his own voice regarding restructuring that northerners now said, “We need it.” Also, let’s not forget that IBB started restructuring Nigeria when he created twelve new states. Beyond that, he achieved a lot for Nigeria.
You mentioned IBB’s passion for Nigeria earlier, what kind of passion does he have for the country post-June 12?
During our visit, he kept on saying, “If our leaders and the entire nation can come together as one to believe in oneness of Nigeria, both northerners and southerners, Nigeria is going to be great.” He wants to see a better nation, even beyond his time.