Twenty-two years after annulling the June 12, 1993 presidential elections, former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (Rtd), yesterday, said he still misses the winner of the historic polls, late Chief Moshood Abiola, who died in government detention in 1998.
To show how he sorely miss his erstwhile friend, Babangida, who turned 74 today, said last week he searched for one of the letters Abiola wrote him and re-read it.
Babangida spoke at an interactive session with journalists in Minna, Niger State ahead of his 74th birthday anniversary.
Asked if he was missing his friend, MKO Abiola, Babangida said: “Let me see, last week, I dug out one of the letters he wrote to me and I read it. So, that shows that I still miss him.”
In the engaging interview, the former military ruler also opened up on his response to the coup plot led by Major Gideon Orkar in April 1990, the Dimka coup plot in 1976, his assessment of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and comments that he is from Oyo State instead of Niger State.
Babangida, who commended the Federal Government on its renewed offensive against the Boko Haram insurgency, also gave the government high marks in terms of performance.
He said: “So far, I am confident that they are doing well. They have identified the problems and they look resolute in confronting these problems head-on and there are a lot of people in the society who are offering a lot of sound advice on what to do.”
Asked how he felt as a leader of a former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that is now in the opposition and whether the PDP could return in 2019, he said: “I think one of the good things we are experiencing in this country is that for 16 years there has been democracy and democratic practices in the country.
“A lot of things must have gone wrong somewhere and the right judges are the people and the people have spoken. I think it is natural they needed a change after 16 years and they did what is right. They did not go wild, they did not fight anybody; they used their ballot papers to change the government. I think this is the beauty of what happened.
“I look forward to such practices in the next 50 years of democratic practice in this country. I hope they learn from their mistakes, what they did wrong, what they did right and what they can do now to re-launch their party.”
On his reaction to President Buhari’s vow to recover stolen funds from the nation’s treasury, Babangida said: “During the tenure of my boss, President Obasanjo, he had a similar strategy and to be fair to him, he made a lot of recoveries. So, we should support this present Federal Government, which is trying to do the same to achieve the same objective. If that objective is pursued reverently, I believe it will achieve some degree of stolen funds.
“You talk about oil theft, I am sure President Buhari is resolute to stamp out all those and to bring to book all those who have tampered in stealing our oil.”
How I escaped Orkar coup
On how he escaped death during the Gideon Orkar coup, he recollected: “I can remember very well that I had some loyal officers, who were supposed to be my protectors and my bodyguards. Initially, they told me to leave but I told them no, I am not leaving anywhere but they remained steadfast and later I took my family outside Dodan Barracks and joined my guards.
“So, we went out of Dodan Barracks and we went to a safe house where we got in contact with loyal troops. May God bless Sani Abacha. Sani Abacha was the Chief of Army Staff. He got in touch with me, I got in touch with him and we sat down and talked on what we were going to do. Abacha and I rallied the loyal troops and then I left my safe house and joined Abacha in his house. That was how I escaped.”