John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Babangida and Boko Haram

by John Campbell
February 21, 2012

Nigeria's former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida waves to the crowd during a rally marking his official declaration for the presidential bid in the federal capital Abuja September 15, 2010. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)


The bad relations between former strongman, military general, and head of state Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) and President Goodluck Jonathan are yet another sign of the breakdown of elite bargaining, which has been the traditional way elites have ruled Nigeria. If the chief of state is by definition the head of the largest patron-client network, IBB’s would be nearly as strong.

An alleged member of Boko Haram, Sheik Sani Haliru, has accused IBB of having “more than 600 men and women jihadists on his payroll.” Babangida immediately responded publicly that such accusations were not only false but were planted by the Jonathan administration.

IBB is not to be trifled with. He was involved in a string of coups during Nigeria’s generation of military rule, and was military chief of state for eight years. At the time, he pursued a policy of economic and political reform that looked toward the restoration of civilian rule. Though ultimately he failed, his government was seen as competent. The level of security for ordinary Nigerians was certainly higher than it is now. His critics – and they are legion – accuse him of fostering a political culture that led to much higher levels of corruption than in the past.

IBB still has political ambitions, and sought the presidency as a northern candidate in 2010. He withdrew when victory was not certain. He is immensely rich, and has deep contacts with the military – if not necessarily with its politicized upper reaches. He shows himself to be a shrewd and skillful politician. He can be both charming and ruthless. But, he does not like to lose, and draws back from any situation where that might be a possibility. One might have thought that Jonathan would seek good relations with him, rather than tolerating scarcely credible charges that IBB is complicit in Islamic radical terrorism.

Post a Comment 10 Comments

  • Posted by Tasiu Muhd Ringim

    I am not a supporter of IBB but the truth is that President Goodluck Jonathan and his image makers are always desperate to cover their collective incompetence by creating academy goats to every development that justifies the GEJ leadership deficiency. Nigeria is a Nation that the person in charge determines both the velocity and direction of the ship. Before now the government thought it can survive on ethno regional warriorship

  • Posted by wilson

    IBB as you rightly put it is ruthless, but more than that he is the self proclaimed Evil Genius. So how can we not rightly say IBB is behind this chaos in Northern Nigeria and not be right? To IBB and the likes of him in Nigerian, they see Nigeria as something they own and will at any cost destroy it if it not business as usual. IBB has always had a say in Nigeria right from when he left power up untill the death of former president Yaradua. Now a Southern with no root in the military or post 1982 politics is ruling Nigeria and he somehow got there not only without IBB approval but beat the entire northern elite political heavy weights. IBB greed and lose of any political invincibility is the key reason the Boko Haram upsurge and deadly attacks are raging on but knowing IBB for the evil,wicked,heartless and demonic man thinks can once again fool Nigerians and the world by masquerading his personal jihadist evil war all in the name of Boko Haram.

  • Posted by Sanusi Maikudi

    It is a pity that Cambel fall into the popular Nigeian Propaganda. The so-called sheik Sani Halliru is fictitious any body who knows him personally should prove he exist. There are many if such characters operating online as part of the succesionist infrastructures being built by irredentists.

    Cambel an authority on Nigeia should know better.

  • Posted by Ibrahim

    If only people read Ur articles with sincere understanding,and readiness to apply the teachings to practice, much would have been achieved.

  • Posted by Maduka

    Just to add.

    If it is proven that Jonathan has bad relations with Babangida, he will get my vote, should he contest in 2015. Nothing could make me happier. Babangida is a fraud and the earlier he is consigned to the dust heap of history, the better for Nigeria.

    The North is not Babangida and Babangida is not the North. There are a new breed of more principled leaders from the North like Nasir El-Rufai and Lamido Sanusi (if has better self-control!). These people and Buhari more accurately represent the aspirations of the average Northerner than Babangida.

  • Posted by femi

    It is true that IBB is immensely rich but the source of this immense wealth could have been critically analyzed and explained by the ambassador since he remains an expert on Nigerian affairs.
    The truth is the nation, as it always does, has moved on from the wanton plunder and locust like invasion of the national treasury of the IBB years.
    There are new challenges on ground for us to deal with as a Nation rather than massage the ego of one of those that brought us to this sorry pass.

  • Posted by MUSTASH

    IBB is too polished to do what the Jonathan administration is accusing him of. Somehow, Jonathan is just showing his crudity.

  • Posted by Ekeems Kim

    IBB reigned when Nigerians were in the “dark ages.” Who is interested in reading about IBB today? He is a spent force. Any day President Jonathan is observed to ally with IBB, Jonathan’s presidency becomes endangered thenceforth.

  • Posted by John Ojeah

    I couldn’t agree more with Ekeems. Ambassador Campbell’s view of spent forces such as IBB, Atiku, Buhari is a classic example of the ‘proverbial General who is well prepared for the last war’.

    The last general that fought the last war was Obasanjo. He unconstitutionally deducted funds from states to form a so-called ‘Excess Crude Account’, denied Tinubu’s Lagos state of her statutory LGA allocations. This was how he ruled as a military head-of-state and was surprised to see the opposition to these illegal deductions. Of course, when Yaradua came in, the illegal Excess Crude Account was given back to their rightful owners.

    Nigeria has moved on since the dark days of the likes of IBB held Nigeria hostage. Those days Nigeria was rule by decrees and with such acts these yesterday men were able to have absolute control over the resources of the nation. Funds were allocated to states based on the discretion of the maximum ruler or ‘Heads of State’ without any statutory allocation formula. In fact, a HOS can unilateral moved the capital from one city to the other, create more states, issue oil blocks at will, etc, borrow money from financial institutions at absurd interest rates and conditions, annul elections at will without passing it through the judiciary, takes Nigeria as a member to a religious organisation (Organisation of Islamic Countries) even when Nigeria is a secular state, etc.

    Unfortunately, those days are gone, though, I understand the nostalgia for them. I doubt, if IBB can win even the governorship elections of his home state of Minna. The son of his friend in cime (Mohammed Abacha) was also unable to win Kano state.

  • Posted by kizzo mai kwunu

    IBB = Arewa = Boko Haram You do the math!

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