From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
An associate of General Ibrahim Babangida, Prince Ademola Ayoade, has come out to stand in defence of the former military leader, as he turns 80 years today.
He spoke with Daily Sun in Ibadan, Oyo State: “People have been saying IBB did not talk on why he annulled the June 12, 1993, presidential poll. Now, he decided to talk and they are criticising him. He does not talk anyhow. He decided to keep silent all these years because he wanted to collate the opinions, comments, criticisms and ideas of a lot of people in respect of the annulment of the election, after about 28 years.
“What baffled me is that people are saying that he gave a reason that there was likely to be a military coup, if he had handed over to MKO Abiola. We should know that IBB, with his position in the country then, had access to lots of intelligence that most of us did not have.
“At that time, some Nigerians were not happy, though the majority of them were happy about Abiola becoming the President of this country. The majority were happy because it was the fairest election we conducted in Nigeria and they voted for Abiola massively.
“But coup is usually decided by a negligible number of people. Coup can be started by five to seven persons. So, for you to get that information that a coup would come up means that you have super intelligence gathering methods.
“At that time, too, there were some civilians who did not want Abiola. Some people in the military too did not want him in government. Also, some in the international community did not want him. This was as a result of security reports.
“They probably chose not to talk during the election process because they, perhaps, believed Abiola would not win the election. So, his winning the election was a great blow to most of them. Those jubilating that he won were not happy but they could not say it.
“IBB did not want crisis after he might have left government. The coup might not have taken place while he was there as the military president. The coup-plotters might take over government two to three months after Abiola must have taken over the reins of power.
“At that point in time, Abiola might not have been in total control of the security, intelligence and military networks. Then you must know that the international community would not want somebody who knew their secrets like Abiola to head a government in Africa, particularly Nigeria. They could create crisis in Nigeria.”
Babangida, being born on August 17, 1941, joins the league of octogenarians today, August 17, 2021. He was also criticised for speaking in favour of a younger person to become president of in 2023.
But Ayoade noted that the country made meaningful progress when young persons administered the nation. He mentioned former Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa; former military heads of state, Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Muhammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari, IBB, Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar.
He said Nigeria was governed by young persons from 1960 till 1999, with the exception of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who administered the country from 1979 to 1983. The young persons, he said, had strength and agility when they were in power. He also noted that, since 1999, most of those that governed the country have been in the category of old people, adding that President Buhari is a good man, but age has caught up with him.
“When you are above 60 years, you will begin to experience old-age ailments. You will not be as strong as you were when you were under 60. This is why I throw my weight behind IBB on the need for production of a younger person to become President in 2023,” he said.
On allegations of corruption, Ayoade said: “When IBB introduced value added tax (VAT), people criticized him. Go and check how much Nigeria is making from VAT. You will be amazed. It gives government a lot of money.
He brought National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Federal Road Safety Corps and many others.
“Can you imagine what Lagos would have been if Babangida did not construct Third Mainland Bridge? Have they constructed the fourth mainland bridge in Lagos since he left power 28 years ago? He constructed Shiroro Power Plant, Ibadan-Ife-Ilesa Expressway, Kano-Kaduna Road, federal capital in Abuja, secretariats in Abuja and the Abuja Airport.
“He left power 28 years ago, why has it been difficult for successive administrations to right the perceived wrongs of his regime? We have had about seven heads of state after Babangida. All of them put together have not done up to 60 per cent of what IBB did. So, he has done well.
“Babangida gave opportunities to a lot of people to serve in government. When he discovered that you were not doing well, he would replace you.
“Babangida’s regime has been investigated many times, and they have nothing to say against this gentleman. His regime liberalised the economy. And in free market, there are so many suppliers of the same products.
“You need to have one incentive or the other to beat other competitors. That is what is happening in the telecommunication industry. If you buy airtime, some telecommunication companies will double the airtime for you. Is that not an incentive?
“Most successful businessmen in Nigeria today came up during Babangida’s regime. He opened up the banking industry, broadcasting industry by issuing licences to a lot of radio and television stations. There are so many newspapers that came up during his regime. After the regime of IBB, how many serious businessmen came up, except consultants and commission agents?
“When Babangida left power, the exchange rate was N22 to a dollar. Now, it is above N500. He employed the best brains in Nigeria to work in his regime. If you say Babangida’s regime was bad, it means Nigeria’s best were bad because they were the ones who advised him.”