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Former Military President, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida in a rare interview with a team from Zero Tolerance (ZT), a quarterly magazine published by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, at his Hill Top mansion in Minna, Niger State, reminisces on why he led a coup that toppled the regime of Muhammadu Buhari and why he approved the killing of his bosom friend, Mamman Vatsa.
Excerpts from the interview seen by Premium Times, Babaginda said: “We planned a coup towards the end of 1983 that truncated the democratically elected government and the military government came in January 1984. Then that government also suffered the same fate as the democratic government when the military staged one of the finest coup in this country, because there was no blood, nothing was lost, smooth and everybody was treated with the most civility and our administration came.
“When we came in August of 1985 there was a plan to kick us out in December 1985, it didn’t work, they went into operation again in 1990. I think the country was going through a phase at that time, it’s a developing country and we always had one reason or the other for doing what we did at that time”.
On his alleged rift with Gen Buhari, IBB said: “A coup or change comes about if there is frustration in the society. Just get that right. There was frustration in the society between 1984 to 1985. The ground was fertile for a coup. It wasn’t fertile, thanks be to God, in December, 1985 when the first attempt on me was made
“Neither was it fertile in April 1990 when the second attempt was made and we had the support of all of you sitting down here. You write, you analyze, you talk, and you demonstrated. It was not unusual then to hear, in the case of the democratically elected government in1983, a common phase was ‘the worst military regime is better than this government’’.
“So you were giving us the impetus to stage a coup. We are not dummies. If we didn’t have the support of all of you, we wouldn’t venture into it.”
On his alleged wealth, IBB simply replied that he lived on his pension. On corruption in his government IBB said: “Back in 1986, Cooperative Boards as we knew them then was an institution bedeviled by corrupt practices. An ordinary farmer brings his products, the board is there to assess it as either grade one ,two or three.
“A lot of things went wrong, so what we did was to encourage the farmer to go to the end users, negotiate. The end user will also inspect what you have. So the farmer is talking to you directly, no middle man or anything because the corruption starts where the middle man is.
“Once you have identified areas that are prone to corruption, the next thing is to eliminate them and get the people educated. In the case of foreign exchange for example, you needed to go to the Central Bank or to the banks before you could get foreign currencies but by establishing the bureau de change, you could walk in there, exchange the money and put it in your pocket, go on with your business and you are not robbing anybody.
“One of the things to avoid, especially in government institutions, is too much control, where there is a lot of control corruption easily manifest itself. So you look at where there is a lot of control, try to do away with it and then things will work for the people”.