The Palace Coup of August 27, 1985 (PART 3)
Continued from http://www.gamji.com/nowa34.htm
arrival back to Lagos from Minna, Major General Babangida returned to the Flag
Staff House, located in a cul de sac on Second Avenue, Ikoyi.
It was at that time the official residence of the Chief of Army Staff.
It was from this location that he made the following broadcast to the
When in December 1983, the former military leadership, headed by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, assumed the reins of government, its accession was heralded in the history of this country. With the nation at the mercy of political misdirection and on the brink of economic collapse, a new sense of hope was created in the minds of every Nigerian.
Since January 1984, however, we have witnessed a systematic denigration of that hope. It was stated then that mismanagement of political leadership and a general deterioration in the standard of living, which had subjected the common man to intolerable suffering, were the reasons for the intervention.
Nigerians have since then been under a regime that continued with those trends. Events today indicate that most of the reasons which justified the military takeover of government from the civilians still persist.
The initial objectives were betrayed and fundamental changes do not appear on the horizon. Because the present state of uncertainty, suppression and stagnation resulted from the perpetration of a small group, the Nigerian Armed Forces could not as a part of that government be unfairly committed to take responsibility for failure. Our dedication to the cause of ensuring that our nation remains a united entity worthy of respect and capable of functioning as a viable and credible part of the international community dictated the need to arrest the situation.
Let me at this point attempt to make you understand the premise upon which it became necessary to change the leadership. The principles of discussions, consultation and co-operation which should have guided decision-making process of the Supreme Military Council and the Federal Executive Council were disregarded soon after the government settled down in 1984. Where some of us thought it appropriate to give a little more time, anticipating a conducive atmosphere that would develop, in which affairs of state could be attended to with greater sense of responsibility, it became increasingly clear that such expectations could not be fulfilled.
Regrettably, it turned out that Major-General Muhammadu Buhari was too rigid and uncompromising in his attitudes to issues of national significance. Efforts to make him understand that a diverse polity like Nigeria required recognition and appreciation of differences in both cultural and individual perceptions, only served to aggravate these attitudes.
Major-General Tunde Idiagbon was similarly inclined in that respect. As Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, he failed to exhibit the appropriate disposition demanded by his position. He arrogated to himself absolute knowledge of problems and solutions, and acted in accordance with what was convenient to him, using the machinery of government as his tool.
A combination of these characteristics in the two most important persons holding the nation’s vital offices became impossible to content with. The situation was made worse by a number of other government functionaries and organisations, chief among which is the Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO). In fact, this body will be overhauled and re-organized.
And so it came to be that the same government which received the tumultuous welcome now became alienated from the people. To prevent a complete erosion of our given mandate therefore, we had to act so that hope may be rebuilt.
Let me now address your attention to the major issues that confront us, so that we may, as one people, chart a future direction for our dear country. We do not pretend to have all the answers to the questions which our present problems have put before our nation. We have come with the strongest determination to create an atmosphere in which positive efforts shall be given the necessary support for lasting solutions.
For matters of the moment which require immediate resolutions, we intend to pursue a determined programme of action. Major issues falling into this category have been identified and decisions taken on what should be done.
Firstly, the issue of political detainees or convicts of special military tribunals. The history of our nation had never recorded the degree of indiscipline and corruption as in the period between October 1979 and December 1983.
While this government recognises the bitterness created by the irresponsible excesses of the politicians, we consider it unfortunate that methods of such nature as to cause more bitterness were applied to deal with past misdeeds. We must never allow ourselves to lose our sense of natural justice. The innocent cannot suffer the crimes of the guilty. The guilty should be punished only as a lesson for the future. In line with this government’s intention to uphold fundamental human rights, the issue of detainees will be looked into with despatch.
As we do not intend to lead a country where individuals are under the fear of expressing themselves, the Public Officers Protection Against False Accusation Decree 4 of 1984 is hereby repealed. And finally, those who have been in detention under this decree are hereby unconditionally released. The responsibility of the media to disseminate information shall be exercised without undue hindrance. In that process, those responsible are expected to be forthright and to have the nation’s interest as their primary consideration.
The issue of decrees has generated a lot of controversies. It is the intention of this government to review all other decrees.
The last twenty months have not witnessed any significant changes in the national economy. Contrary to expectations, we have so far been subjected to a steady deterioration in the general standard of living; and intolerable suffering by the ordinary Nigerians have risen higher, scarcity of commodities has increased, hospitals still remain mere consulting clinics, while educational institutions are on the brink of decay. Unemployment has stretched to critical dimensions.
Due to the stalemate, which arose in negotiation with the International Monetary Fund, the former government embarked on a series of counter-trade agreements. Under the counter-trade agreements, Nigerians were forced to buy goods and commodities at higher prices than obtained in the international market. The government intends to review the whole issue of counter-trade.
A lot has been said and heard about our position with the International Monetary Fund. Although we formally applied to the fund in April 1983, no progress has as yet been made in the negotiation and a stalemate has existed for the last two years.
We shall break the deadlock that frustrated the negotiations with a view to evaluating more objectively both the negative and positive implications of reaching a mutual agreement with the Fund. At all times in the course of discussions, our representatives will be guided by the feelings and aspirations of the Nigerian people.
It is the view of this government that austerity without structural adjustment is not the solution to our economic predicament. The present situation whereby 44 per cent of our revenue earning is utilised to service debts is not realistic. To protect the danger this poses to the poor and the needy in our society, steps will be taken to ensure comprehensive strategy of economic reforms.
crux of our economic problems has been identified to centre around four
A decrease of our domestic production, while our population continues to
Dependence on import for both consumer goods and raw materials for our
A grossly unequal gap between the rich and the poor.
The large role played by the public sector in economic activity with
hardly any concrete results to justify such a role.
are the problems we must confront.
Nigeria’s foreign policy in the last 20 months has been characterised by inconsistency and incoherence. It has lacked the clarity to make us know where we stood on matters of international concern to enable other countries relate to us with seriousness. Our role as Africa’s spokesman has diminished because we have been unable to maintain the respect of African countries.
The ousted military government conducted our external relations by a policy of retaliatory reactions. Nigeria became a country that has reacted to given situations, rather than taking the initiative as it should and always been done. More so, vengeful considerations must not be the basis of our diplomacy. African problems and their solutions should constitute the premise of our foreign policy.
The realisation of the Organisation of African Unity of the Lagos Plan of Action for self-sufficiency and constructive co-operation in Africa shall be our primary pursuit.
The Economic Community of West African States must be reborn with the view to achieving the objective of regional integration. The problems of drought-stricken areas of Africa will be given more attention and sympathy, and our best efforts will be made to assist in their rehabilitation within the limits of our resources. Our membership of the United Nations Organisation will be made more practical and meaningful. The call for a new International Economic Order which lost its momentum in the face of the debt crisis will be made once again.
hereby makes a renewed request to the Non-Aligned Movement to regroup and
reinvigorate its determination to restructure the global economic system, while
we appeal to the industrialized nations to positively consider the debt plight
of the developing countries and assist in dealing with the dangers that face us. We shall remain members of the various multilateral
institutions and inter-governmental organisations which we belong to and do what
must be done to enhance the membership and participation within them.
Fellow Nigerians, this country has had since independence a history mixed with turbulence and fortune. We have witnessed our rise to greatness, followed with a decline to the state of a bewildered nation. Our human potentials have been neglected, our natural resources put to waste. A phenomenon of constant insecurity and overbearing uncertainty has become characteristic of our national existence.
My colleagues and I are determined to change the course of history. This government is determined to unite this country. We shall not allow anything to obstruct us. We recognise that a government, be it civilian or military, needs the consent of the people to govern if it is to reach its objective. We do not intend to rule by force. At the same time, we should not be expected to submit to unreasonable demands. Fundamental rights and civil liberties will be respected, but their exercise must not degenerate into irrational expression nor border on subversion.
The War Against Indiscipline will continue, but this time, in the minds and conduct of Nigerians, and not by way of symbolism or money-spending campaigns.
This government, on its part, will ensure that the leadership exhibits proper example. Criticisms of actions and decisions taken by us will be given necessary attention and where necessary changes made in accordance with what is expected of us.
Let me reiterate what we said in 1984: This generation of Nigerians and indeed future generations have no other country but Nigeria. We must all stay and salvage it together. This time it shall be pursued with deeper commitment and genuine sincerity.
There is a lot of work to be done by every single Nigerian. Let us all dedicate ourselves to the cause of building a strong, united and viable nation for the sake of our own lives and the benefits of posterity.
I wish to commend the members of the Armed Forces and the Nigeria Police for
their mature conduct during the change.
thank you all for your co-operation and understanding.
the scenes, though, from the time of his return to Lagos continuing into the
following morning, officers were horse trading and jockeying for positions in
the new dispensation. The next day, at Dodan Barracks, coup planners and key
storm troopers, along with a few co-opted officers met to discuss the initial
shape, velocity and direction of the new regime. It was after this inner process
of consultation that membership of the new AFRC, federal cabinet and council of
states was announced. The IBB era had begun.
THE AUGUST COUP HAVE FAILED?
coups planned and executed by Army Chiefs have succeeded in history but, as was
noted earlier, there have been some spectacular failures.
Passing reference was made to the Soviet and Venezuelan coup attempts of
1991 and 2002. However, what
transpired in Ethiopia in May 1989 is well worth recalling in some detail.
February 1989, during the Ethiopian civil war, the Tigray Peoples Liberation
Front, with support from the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front, launched an
attack against the town of Inda Silase in western Tigray, nearly annihilating a
20,000 man Ethiopian force. This forced a humiliating tactical withdrawal of
Ethiopian units from much of the rest of Tigray province without a shot being
fired. The embarrassment and frustration of this defeat was a major factor in a
subsequent unsuccessful coup attempt against Lt. Col. Mengistu.
On May 16, as he departed on a State visit to East Germany, the Armed
Forces moved against him. Air Force
General Fanta Belay, supported by the Air Force Chief, General Amha Desta,
coordinated the coup. Those
involved included the entire Ethiopian Army Headquarters Heirarchy led by the
Chief of Staff, General Abiy Negussie. In
addition to the Army Chief, the Commanders of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th
revolutionary armies in the field took part.
And yet it failed! Why?
failed for several reasons. First
the plotters failed to arrest Mengistu on his way out of the country or shoot
down his plane - an error it is said, that resulted from miscommunication
between two Air Force commands. Secondly, plotters assumed that opposition to Mengistu was
universal in the Ministry of Defence. So
they made the mistake of involving the Minister of Defence, Major General Haile
Giorgis Habte Mariam in the scheme. While they were debating further measures in his office (such
as whether or not to kill Mengistu now that they were in power), General Habte
Mariam secretly alerted Mengistu's political deputy, Fikre Sellassie Wogderes,
who had not been arrested. Wogderes
in turn alerted East German authorities as Colonel Mengistu's plane began the
final landing approach in their country. Mengistu
landed, got his plane refueled and then turned around to return to Ethiopia to
crush the rebellion. Meanwhile,
aided by reliable intelligence from East German military advisers on the ground
inside Ethiopia, Mengistu maintained surveillance on coup activities but the
plotters did not know his whereabouts and movements.
He also had the loyalty of the Presidential Guard, which, incredulously,
had not been neutralized. Using the
plane as a command center, Mengistu ordered the Presidential Guard, supported by
militia units, to surround the Ministry of Defence, isolating the key plotters.
Upon arrival he proceeded to detain the entire Ministry of Defence as
well as the Commanders of the four Ethiopian Armies; grounded the Ethiopian Air
Force and summarily executed hundreds of officers.
The Commander of the 2nd Army, General Demissie Bultu, was beheaded.
Needless to say, the decimation of entire generations of officers
eventually led to the collapse of the Ethiopian war effort and Mengistu's
eventual fall from power two years later. But it shows that a ruthless despot
can take on his entire defence establishment, aided by a few key personalities
and critical units, supported by a foreign intelligence outfit.
contrast, General Buhari of Nigeria was isolated early in the game in August
1985, and had no foreign intelligence outfit on ground to shield himself from
the intrigues of Army Intelligence, which was able to cocoon itself from the
prying eyes of the NSO. Like many
Nigerian leaders before him, intelligence at his disposal from other sources was
vague about the impending coup. He
had no independent foreign security guard outfit either, and “sleepers” at
battalion level had long undermined his control of the indigenous Brigade of
Guards. Units he could rely on in
Jos - particularly if he had chosen early enough to leave Lagos for Abuja - were
neutralized. It is not clear either
that he was cut out of the kind of ruthless protoplasm Lt. Col. Mengistu was
made of. Otherwise, based on vague
intelligence, with enough paranoia, he may well have moved pre-emptively against
the Army, declaring a state of emergency, freezing movements and ordering
massive redeployments, followed by a purge.
AND SECURITY IMPLICATIONS OF THE COUP
Games and Body Guards
than the initial decisions to release politicians and accused drug peddlers,
while repealing draconian decrees and throwing open the debate on an IMF loan,
the new Babangida regime singled out the Nigerian Security Organization (NSO)
for humiliation. Led by Deputy
Inspector General of Police Mohammed Gambo, the dungeons of the NSO were thrown
open to the Press and plenty of hay made out of its alleged abuses – even as
arrangements were being quietly made for security reorganization that would
later prove to be much more malignant. Its
erstwhile Director, Alhaji Lawal Rafindadi, not particular popular within the
organization anyway, was detained for three years.
No. 27 of 1976 had originally created the NSO after the failure of the so-called
Dimka coup in which General Murtala Muhammed was killed.
The Inspector General of Police at the time, MD Yusuf, explained to the
then C-in-C, Lt. General Obasanjo, that the Police Special Branch could not
legally conduct intelligence operations within the military in parallel to
Military Intelligence. Although
the Special Branch was highly effective in civil society in collaboration with
the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Internal Affairs, he suggested the creation
of a new, less compartmentalized agency – the NSO – to take direct and
coordinating responsibility for domestic and international intelligence
and security. Because the
initial objective was to specifically enhance intelligence within and about the
military, the first Director appointed was Brigadier Abdullahi Mohammed. Recalled from his position as former Military Governor of
Benue-Plateau, he was a member of the clique that removed General Gowon from
power in July 1975. He was also a
former Military Intelligence operative who served as General Staff Officer II (Int)
and later Director of Military Intelligence at various times from 1966 to 1975.
He serves the current civilian government of President Olusegun Obasanjo
as the Chief of Staff in the Presidency.
1979, however, President Shagari appointed Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, a
sophisticated Policeman and Lawyer with a background in Intelligence and
Interpol, to the position. Thus the
original rationale for the creation of the NSO and intent for the position to be
held by military officers, parallel to military intelligence, got lost between
General Buhari came to power, he appointed a career diplomat, Ambassador
Rafindadi to the post, further confusing issues – although the Ambassador
obviously had some strengths on the external intelligence front, having
previously served in the “special intelligence unit” of the Ministry of
External Affairs. But as Buhari’s relationship with the military deteriorated,
the relationship between Rafindadi and the military (specifically Aliyu
Mohammed, Babangida and Akilu) correspondingly deteriorated, amplified by his
peculiar background as a “bloody” civilian diplomat, intensely personal
loyalty to Buhari and image as an upstart in the domestic intelligence
community. His lack of previous military service later proved to be a
disadvantage when Military Intelligence began playing games – complicated by
internal NSO purges he carried out which cost the organization the service of
some very highly qualified and experienced Shinkafi-era operatives.
by the pervasive nature of its operations, including wire taps which allegedly
even recorded telephone conversations made by his daughter, Babangida’s first
instinct when he came to power was to crush the organization. But as Blair noted in the movie “Power Play”, the new
regime soon discovered that it too would need a security apparatus.
In June 1986, therefore, following an inquest led by Umaru Shinkafi,
Babangida finally issued Decree Number 19, disbanding the NSO (under Brigadier
Aliyu Mohammed and Lt. Col. AK Togun) and decentralizing Nigeria's security
community. Three new organizations
were codified. They were:
1. The State Security
Service (SSS) responsible for domestic intelligence (under Ismaila Gwarzo and
Lt. Col. AK Togun);
2. The National
Intelligence Agency (NIA) for external intelligence and counterintelligence;
3. The Defence
Intelligence Agency (DIA) for military-related intelligence both outside and
inside Nigeria (under Rear Admiral B. Elegbede and Colonel MC Alli).
all reported to the Adviser for National Security and Chairman of the Joint
Intelligence Board, Brigadier Aliyu Gusau Mohammed – who had himself been the
first Director of the embryonic, some say experimental DIA under Buhari.
the aftermath of the August coup, acutely aware of the way he had undermined
Buhari, Babangida ensured that sensitive positions in the military were occupied
by hand-picked officers who were either “IBB Boys” or apolitical types with
no known membership of other client networks within the Army.
He did not risk performance evaluation driven random (or not so random)
assignment from the Office of the Military Secretary under the COAS, then Major
General Sani Abacha. A good example
was the way the new Officer Commanding the 6th Guards Battalion in
Bonny Camp was selected to replace Lt. Col JM Madaki who had been
elevated to the Command of the Brigade of Guards.
JM Madaki had been a reliable ‘IBB Boy’ not only during the
coup against Buhari but also during the coup against Shagari back in 1983.
And so Major Tobias Akwashiki,
a pleasant apolitical officer who was in the
process of making arrangements to take up a new
assignment as a Battalion commander in Minna was personally approached outside
normal military channels by the new C-in-C’s ADC and offered the command of
the sensitive 6th
battalion. As things happened, this
‘opportunity’ almost cost him his life on trumped up charges during the
Vatsa conspiracy trial.
method of personalizing Army appointments and extracting debts of appreciation
was to become a pattern in the years to come.
But it did not stop there. Babangida
knew he had to build a wall around himself to insulate the regime from the same
Army he had used so skillfully to undermine others.
In addition to a liberal policy of patronizing pay-offs (also
known as “settlement”) he, therefore,
toyed with creation of new paramilitary organizations
such as the National Guard. This
was commanded until he left office in 1993 only by the likes of his most
intimate loyalists like Gwadabe and Aminu, for example.
He invited Israeli security experts to help him train personal security
men at Ojo cantonment. The Ministry
of Internal Affairs under Col. Shagaya was encouraged to maintain an independent
Security and Civil Defence Force. Indeed,
Babangida even granted the Minister of Internal Affairs the authority to arrest
and detain suspects without trial, independent of the Chief of General Staff and
the Inspector General of Police. He
also resuscitated the old concept of a Lagos Garrison Command.
Subsequently, in 1989, after a review by Rear Admiral Murtala Nyako, the
Federal Investigation and Intelligence Bureau (FIIB) was set up to replace the
Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation of the Nigeria Police. Babangida
also tried to decentralize (regionalize) the Defence HQ by relocating the Army,
Air Force and Naval Headquarters to Minna, Lagos and Kano, respectively, a
decision that was stoutly resisted by many retired officers who looked in
bewilderment as he was systematically dismantling, disorienting and distracting
the Defence establishment. The
worst was yet to come, however. The
Ministry of Defence HQ, housed in the historic Independence Building in Lagos
was nearly destroyed in a mysterious fire. A C-130 Hercules aircraft accident
– allegedly caused by fuel contamination - claimed the lives of approximately
150 middle ranking officers in September 1992.
In later years, when he became the C-in-C, General Abacha, having patiently understudied Babangida, acted in much the same manner when it came to stifling the Defence establishment. He purged the more dangerous coup addicts among his fellow IBB boys (whom he had never trusted anyway). He also defanged the National Guard but then later replaced it with the Special Bodyguard Unit and Strike Force, a well armed Korean and Libyan trained parallel security organization under his Chief Security Officer, Major Hamza.
August 27 coup had other short and long term consequences.
Former Army Chief General MC Alli is of the opinion that the Army, in
collaboration with a vocal minority in the civil class, sold its soul to the
highest bidder. The core coup planners, he says, "introduced an upcoming
bunch of coup d'Etat practitioners, mostly junior officers of the rank of Major
and below" whom he called "political officers or 'militricians'." The core membership of this curious group were known (as
noted previously) as "IBB Boys", a collection of characters whose
relationship with the Boss varied from the intimate to the opportunistic.
General MC Alli says membership of this exclusive club "opened all material
and official doors to them. They were a hotchpotch of scramblers for notice,
office and bootlickers with a convoluted understanding of their obligations to
the constitution and the state. Loyalty to an individual was their credo, and
self interest was their tenet."
eloquent characterization of the so-called "IBB Boys" not
withstanding, I respectfully disagree with General Alli that the 1985 coup in
particular "introduced an upcoming bunch of coup d'Etat practitioners,
mostly junior officers of the rank of Major and below".
Many of the company grade officers of August 1985, particularly in Lagos,
had already taken part in the coup against President Shagari in 1983.
In other words they had already been "introduced" into the
business - if it may be so called. Indeed
the heritage of coup merchants of the 1980s can be traced back to 1966.
Most of the subalterns of July 1966 were the main field grade officers of
July 1975. Infighting among the original July 1966 coup cabal led to the
February 1976 shoot-out - otherwise known as the Dimka coup.
The field grade officers of July 1975 were the Brigadiers of 1983.
Infighting among the Brigadiers of 1983 gave birth to August 1985.
In other words, over a twenty-year period, the same group of officers and
men provided the infrastructure for repeated coups and coup attempts and
(knowingly or unknowingly) established a pipeline to sustain the tradition.
the day of, and shortly thereafter, details of what transpired on coup day
became the stuff of conversations in officers messes and mammy markets all over
the country. Many of the
stormtroopers of August could hardly hold back from flaunting their
"gallantry". Tales of how
this or that road junction was "seized", or how the Police was
"overrun", or how civilians looked on in awe of Tanks on the move
became the stuff of legends laced with hyperbole.
Particularly disturbing though were bravado accounts of how specific
officers were arrested, beaten and/or humiliated.
Obviously, these officers, specifically Major General Muhammadu Buhari,
Brigadier Salihu Ibrahim, Colonel
Sabo Aliyu, along with Majors Mustafa Jokolo and Adesina, were luckier than the
unfortunate Policemen at Ikeja who were killed and many of their military
forebears in previous coups in Nigeria who were brutally murdered.
And most could not have failed to recognize the fact that the notion of
arresting, stripping, beating or killing senior officers - or looting their
property - was not by any means new, as had been graphically demonstrated in the
January and July rebellions of 1966.
Those with even more distant memories will also recall that there were
several discrete investigations of looting by Nigerian officers and soldiers
during UN peacekeeping operations in the Congo from 1960-64. During the civil
war, looting was common too. In
December 1983, President Shagari's personal effects and life long records were
plundered after the coup.
the culture of bragging about it publicly and toasting to such a serious assault
on the ethos and value system of the military was bound to undermine the
institution. It was followed by
thinly disguised rewards for participants in the form of juicy political and
military appointments. A few examples will suffice.
General Ibrahim Babangida became President and C-in-C and two years later, a
full General. He “stepped
aside” under tense circumstances in August 1993.
Brigadier Sani Abacha was promoted Major General and became Chief of Army
Staff, later Chairman, Joint Chiefs, Defence Minister and Head of State – as a
full General. Colonel JN Dogonyaro
was promoted Brigadier and became GOC, 3rd Armoured Division in Jos,
and later GOC, 2nd Division, Ibadan.
Although his desire to be Chief of Army Staff was frustrated by Babangida
he later commanded ECOMOG in Liberia, as well as the tri-service Command and
Staff College, and was Chief of Defence Staff (as a Lt. General) for about 24
hours in 1993 before Abacha outmaneuvered him.
Colonel Aliyu Mohammed Gusau was recalled from retirement, promoted
Brigadier, and became National Security Coordinator, later a GOC of the 2nd
Division, Chief of Army Administration and much later, Chief of Army Staff under
Ernest Shonekan as a Lt. General. He
too fell out with General Abacha during the Abacha years. Lt. Col. Halilu Akilu was promoted Colonel, retained
Directorship of Military Intelligence and became a member of the Armed Forces
Ruling Council (AFRC). He remained
a power broker and one time Coordinator of National Security until Abacha
cynically redeployed him to command the uninspiring Army Resettlement Scheme at
Oshodi in 1993, before booting him out of the Army altogether.
Col. Tanko Ayuba was promoted Colonel, later became a Minister for
Communications and Kaduna State Governor. He eventually retired as a Major
General. Lt. Col. David Mark was promoted Colonel, later commanded the Signals
Corps, gained membership of the AFRC and also held the position of Minister for
Communications. Following the
emergence of General Abacha in 1993, retired Col. Mark escaped into exile for
his own safety. Lt. Col. John
Nanzip Shagaya was promoted Colonel and became Minister for Internal Affairs and
later, as a Brigadier, GOC, 1st Division. He too, got the short end
of the stick from General Abacha in 1993. He
recently celebrated his 60th birthday, publicly announcing that he
was proud to be called an IBB Boy. Lt.
Col. Chris Abutu Garuba was promoted Colonel and became Governor of Bauchi for
three years before returning to the Army to hold a string of good local and
foreign appointments, eventually rising to the rank of Major General.
Lt. Col. Raji Alagbe Rasaki was promoted Colonel and became Commander,
Corps of Signals and later Governor of Ogun and Lagos. He was retired as a
Brigadier. Col. Anthony Ukpo became
a Federal Minister, later Governor of Rivers and then Principal Staff Officer to
the President. He was retired as a Brigadier.
Lt. Col Joshua M Madaki was made Commander, Brigade of Guards, promoted
less than two years later to Colonel and later became a Governor of Plateau
State. He was retired as a Major General. Major
John Y. Madaki was initially left at the 123 Battalion, then later promoted Lt.
Col. became Governor of Katsina State and later returned for two tours of duty
as Commander, Brigade of Guards. He was retired as a Colonel.
Major Abdulmumuni Aminu was promoted Lt. Col. and became Governor of
Borno. After being cashiered as a
Colonel in 1993, he found solace in the Nigerian Football Association. Major Lawan Gwadabe assumed Chairmanship of the National
Shipping Line, was promoted Lt. Col., then became Governor of Niger State and
later Commander of the embryonic National Guards before a stint as Chief of the
Gambian Army, succeeding another IBB Boy, late Brigadier Abubakar Dada. He
returned to Nigeria after the Yahya Jammeh coup in Gambia, was briefly PSO to
General Abacha and later Commander of an Armoured Brigade in Yola.
He was tortured, convicted and jailed for the so-called Gwadabe/Bello-Fadile
conspiracy of 1995.
Abubakar Dangiwa Umar left the Federal Housing Authority to become Governor of
Kaduna State and was later promoted Lt. Col. In the turmoil that followed the
annulment of the June 12 elections in 1993 he was detained but not charged on
suspicion of another coup conspiracy. He
later resigned his commission – as a Colonel and Armoured Corps Commander.
Major Mohammed Sambo Dasuki became ADC to the Head of State, but was
later shepherded out of the country for Staff College training at Fort
Leavenworth, followed by a US based degree program in part to insulate him from
the wrath of General Abacha with whom he clashed.
His father became the 17th Sultan of Sokoto under Babangida,
only to be deposed later by General Abacha.
As a Lt. Col., Sambo Dasuki was declared wanted in connection with the
1995 Gwadabe/Bello-Fadile conspiracy and found solace in Brunei.
Major Maxwell Khobe was later promoted Lt. Col, and went on to
distinguish himself during ECOMOG operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone,
eventually dying from encephalitis as a Brigadier. Major UK Bello was later
promoted Lt. Col and became ADC to the Head of State.
He was killed during the so-called Orkar coup. In addition to these overt
appointments, numerous not so overt appointments of junior officers into Federal
Parastatals followed. Many other more discreet “IBB Boys”, like Buba Marwa,
Zakare, Ogbeha, Dada, Hart, Daku, and others were also quietly rewarded.
A “Caucus” of middle ranking officers was formalized outside the
Armed Forces Ruling Council. This
caucus was more powerful than the AFRC.
Majors could decide the fate of Generals.
surprisingly, this arrangement badly affected the morale of the more regimented
apolitical professional element in the military.
It may be recalled that after the July 1966 rebellion then Lt. Col. M.
Muhammed urged the innermost members of the conspiracy to keep sealed lips about
what they had accomplished. Muhammed reminded them that coup plotting, even when
allegedly forced by circumstances, was hardly honorable and did not have the
moral status of a war against an external enemy.
There was nothing, he remarked, to be proud about.
But for the players of August, nearly 20 years later, such high-minded
considerations did not rise to the level of consciousness.
It was bad enough that many officers who were not involved thought the
circumstances of and reasons for the coup were dubious at best.
But coup planners and their collaborators broke bottles of champagne and
toasted. In fact, in years to come
they would repeatedly confront the authority of the traditional Army hierarchy
and would one day arrogate to themselves the right to decide who could rule or
not rule Nigeria.
cracks within the coup merchant family of ‘IBB boys’ appeared many years
later. General Abacha, instrumental
to the annulment by Babangida of the June 12, 1993 election that might have
resulted in the assumption of the Presidency by Chief MKO Abiola, turned on many
of his former fellow coup conspirators. He
first did so during a series of deft purges in August 1993 (Dogonyaro, Aliyu
Mohammed, Akilu, JY Madaki, etc..) and then later when, tipped off by Colonel
Shuaibu, he arrested and/or declared a group of officers wanted on
charges of conspiracy to overthrow his government in March 1995 (Gwadabe, Dasuki,
Bulus, Mepaiyeda etc..). Interestingly, therefore, ten years after the events of
August 27, 1985, most of the officers who carried out the coup and toasted their
success with champagne were in exile, had died, been jailed, retired or
dismissed from the military. General
Abacha also deposed the 17th Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim
Dasuki, who, some people felt, had been installed by General
Babangida over the wishes of the Kingmakers.
In June 1998, General Abacha himself died in furtive circumstances,
followed soon after by Chief MKO Abiola.
May 1999, shortly after taking office as Nigeria’s new President, Olusegun
Obasanjo, as part of an uphill task to re-professionalize the military, purged
the Armed Forces of most of the few remaining IBB and Abacha Boys. On account of
lobbying and informed political hesitation, however, a few former personal
assistants to key figures in those regimes remain within the establishment.
Given the depth of professional decay over the years, combined with clouds over
the political horizon, insightful observers and military historians continue to
hope that the Nigerian Military’s re-professionalization effort will not
merely prove to be a reenactment of the myth of Sisyphus.
back to 1985, the initial resentment within the military against the August coup
created the climate for later came to be known as the Vatsa conspiracy. Shortly
after Major General Vatsa's return from Mecca, Lt. Col Musa Bitiyong of AHQ
visited him. A conversation allegedly developed, primarily driven by moral
outrage about what had happened - and perhaps, as alleged by some, irritation
(on the part of Bitiyong) that such a huge scheme had transpired right under his
nose in Army Headquarters without his knowledge. Armed with Ministry of Defence documents which allegedly
would have formed the basis of a probe by the defunct Buhari government into
high level corruption in the military, Bitiyong contacted Lt. Col. Mike Iyorshe,
a Directing Staff at the Command and Staff College. Iyorshe, a brilliant, patriotic, idealistic and highly
professional officer - perhaps one of the best of all time - was deeply
disturbed by the threat of professional decay in the Armed Forces heralded by
the events of August. By his own
account, he was worried by what seemed to be emerging as a cycle of repeated
coups carried out by the same characters for reasons that often had little to do
with the national or institutional interest.
he had never supported the idea of coup making, Col. Iyorshe became disenchanted
with what he observed as a worsening and possibly irredeemable professional
situation for the Nigerian Armed Forces. Another
highly respected apolitical officer, Brigadier Salihu Ibrahim, former GOC of the
3rd Armoured Division, who became his boss at the Command and Staff
College after the coup, had been arrested and humiliated – and would later
describe the Army as an Army of “Anything goes”.
But the straw that allegedly broke the camel's back and pushed him into
the "Vatsa conspiracy" was the looting, by Nigerian soldiers, of
General Buhari's official residence.
allegedly hooked up the third member of the inner triad of the so-called Vatsa
Conspiracy, Lt. Col. Christian Oche, then Colonel GS at the Military
Intelligence HQ, with Bitiyong. Sources
suggest that Oche, like many officers, was already quietly ambivalent over the
turn of events. He had served in
Supreme Headquarters under Major General Idiagbon as a Staff Officer for
Intelligence and Security. In this position he was privy to confidential
documents - which General MC Alli has obliquely mentioned - regarding plans by
the former government for a defence probe and some decisions - which General
Buhari has since confirmed - that had already been taken.
Therefore, Oche regarded the August take-over with skepticism right from
the outset. Unconfirmed reports say
that any doubts he had were eroded by two factors.
First it is said that his Boss, Colonel Akilu, directed him to establish
surveillance over the very officers who had just carried out the coup which
brought Babangida to power, noting that just as they had successfully removed
Buhari, they could also remove Babangida. Second,
there was apparently a chance meeting with Chief MKO Abiola at the FlagStaff
House in Lagos just after the coup. Apparently, two very senior officers present told Abiola that
Oche was the officer who carried out the seizure of newsprint and may have had a
hand in the controversial cocaine investigation when Buhari was in power. As
these two senior officers laughed, Abiola allegedly rebuked him for allowing
himself to be 'misled' by the Buhari-Idiagbon dyad. Sources claim Oche did not find it funny.
so-called Vatsa conspiracy was compromised early in its evolution by a mole and
aborted in mid December 1985. On
March 5, 1986, following confirmation of sentences handed down by a
court-martial, Major General Mamman J Vatsa and nine others were shot.
They were Lt. Col. Musa Bitiyong, Lt. Col. Christian A. Oche, Lt.
Col. Michael A. Iyorshe, Major D. I. Bamidele, Commodore A. A. Ogwiji, Wing
Commander B. E. N. Ekele, Wing Commander Adamu C. Sakaba, Squadron Leader Martin
Olufolorunsho Luther, and Squadron Leader A. Ahura.
years to come, however, what primarily drove the conspiracy – the threat of
another cycle of destruction of the Nigerian military as a professional
organization - came to pass. Several
other officers were imprisoned and hundreds of fine officers, most with no
connection to the conspiracy whatsoever, purged.
Lt. P. Odoba, the young Guards officer who graduated from the Nigerian
Defence Academy in June 1983, and, as a Duty Officer at the Radio Station,
witnessed two coups in 20 months was also jailed, bringing his career to an end.
It was alleged that his uncle, Lt. Col. Christian Oche, tipped him off
about the so-called Vatsa conspiracy in early December 1985.
WEEKEND’S MUSINGS IS DEDICATED TO THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CRASH OF THE
C-130 AIRCRAFT, NAF 911 AT EJIGBO, NEAR LAGOS ON SEPTEMBER 26, 1992.