Ibrahim Babangida

General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida KGCB GCFR (born 17 August 1941) popularly known as IBB, is a Nigerian general and statesman who served as military President of Nigeria from 1985 until his resignation in 1993. He also served as the Chief of Army Staff from January 1984 to August 1985. Babangida rose through the ranks in the military and fought during the Nigerian Civil War, he has been a key plotter of military coups in Nigeria.[1]

Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida

8th Head of State of Nigeria
In office
27 August 1985 – 26 August 1993
Preceded byMuhammadu Buhari
Succeeded byErnest Shonekan
( as Interim President of Nigeria)
Chief of Army Staff
In office
January 1984 – August 1985
Preceded byMohammed Inuwa Wushishi
Succeeded bySani Abacha
Personal details
Born (1941-08-17) 17 August 1941 (age 78)
Minna, Northern Region, British Nigeria
(now Minna, Nigeria)
Political partyPeople's Democratic Party
Spouse(s)Maryam Babangida
(1969–2009, her death)
ResidenceMinna, Nigeria
Alma materGovernment College Bida
Nigerian Military Training College
Indian Military Academy
United States Army Armor School
Command and Staff College, Jaji
National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies
Military service
Nickname(s)Evil Genius
Allegiance Nigeria
Branch/serviceFlag of the Nigerian Army Headquarters.svg Nigerian Army
Years of service1962–93
Battles/warsNigerian Civil War

Early lifeEdit

Ibrahim Babangida was born on 17 August 1941 in Minna to his father, Muhammad Babangida and mother Aisha Babangida.[2] He received early Islamic education, before attending primary school from 1950 to 1956.[3] From 1957 to 1962 Babangida attended Government College Bida, together with classmates Abdulsalami Abubakar, Mamman Vatsa, Mohammed Magoro, Sani Bello, Garba Duba, Gado Nasko and Mohammed Sani Sami.[4]

Military careerEdit

Babangida joined the Nigerian Army on 10 December 1962, when he attended the Nigerian Military Training College (now Nigerian Defence Academy) in Kaduna. Babangida received his commission as a second lieutenant as a regular combatant officer in the Royal Nigerian Army (a month before it became the Nigerian Army) with the personal army number N/438 from the Indian Military Academy on 26 September 1963.[5] Babangida attended the Indian Military Academy from April to September 1963. From January 1966 to April 1966, Babangida attended the Younger Officers Course at the Royal Armoured Centre in the United Kingdom – where he received instruction in gunnery and the Saladin armored car.[6]

Civil warEdit

Following the outbreak of the civil war, Babangida was recalled and posted to the 1st Division under the command of General Mohammed Shuwa.[7] In 1968, he became commander of the 44 Infantry Battalion which was involved in heavy fighting within Biafran territory. In 1969, during a reconnaissance operation from Enugu to Umuahia, the battalion came under heavy enemy fire and Babangida was shot on the right side of his chest.[8] He was then hospitalized in Lagos, and was given the option of removing the bullet shrapnel, which he refused and still carries with him.[9] Away and recovering from his wounds, Babangida married Maryam King on 6 September 1969. He returned to the war front in December 1969, commanding a battalion.[10] In January 1970, Babangida was informed by his sectional commander General Theophilus Danjuma of the capitulation of the Biafran Army to the federal military government in Lagos, signaling the end of the war.[11]

After the warEdit

In 1970, following the war Babangida was promoted twice and posted to the Nigerian Defence Academy as an instructor. In 1973, he was made commander of the 4 Reconnaissance Regiment. In 1975, he became the commander of the Nigerian Army Armoured Corps. Babangida attended several defence and strategy courses. From August 1972 to June 1973, he attended the Advanced Armoured Officers Course at the United States Army Armor School. From January 1977 to July 1977, he attended the Senior Officers Course at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji. From 1979 to 1980, he attended the Senior Executive Course at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies. In 1981, he became the Director of Army Staff Duties and Plans.[12]

Coup d'étatsEdit

The military career of Babangida was marked by involvement in all the military coups in Nigeria (a feat later surpassed by General Sani Abacha). Lieutenant Babangida was posted with the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron in Kaduna, and witnessed the events of the bloody 1966 Nigerian coup d'état, which resulted in the death of Premier Ahmadu Bello. Alongside several young officers from Northern Nigeria, he took part in the July counter-coup which ousted General Aguiyi Ironsi replacing him with General Yakubu Gowon.[13]

In 1975, Colonel Babangida as Commander of the Amoured Corps was a key participant in the 1975 military coup d'état that brought General Murtala Mohammed to power. He was later appointed as one of the youngest members of the Supreme Military Council from 1 August 1975 to October 1979.

Following the 1976 military coup d'état attempt that resulted in the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed, Colonel Babangida crushed the coup attempt almost single-handedly by taking back control of the Radio Nigeria station from the main prepretrator, Lieutenant Colonel Buka Suka Dimka (a close friend of his), to prevent him making further announcements over the air waves. Dimka later escaped, and was arrested in Eastern Nigeria and later publicly executed in May 1976.

In 1983, Brigadier General Babangida as Director of Army Staff Duties and Plans plotted the 1983 military coup d'ètat which overthrew the Second Nigerian Republic, with financial backing from businessman Moshood Abiola. Babangida alongside his other co-conspirators later appointed the most senior serving officer at the time General Muhammadu Buhari as military head of state from 1983 to 1985, and Babangida was promoted and appointed as Chief of Army Staff.[14]

Seizure of powerEdit

Further information: 1985 Nigerian coup d'état

Following the 1983 military coup d'état, General Babangida (then Chief of Army Staff) started scheming to overthrow military head of state General Muhammadu Buhari. Exploiting his closeness with allies: Sani Abacha, Aliyu Gusau, Halilu Akilu, Mamman Vatsa, Gado Nasko, and younger officers from his days as an instructor in the military academy (graduates of the NDA's Regular Course 3), he strategically positioned his allies and gradually within the military hierarchy.[15]

The execution of the coup was initially delayed due to General Tunde Idiagbon the 6th Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters and ruthless second-in-command to General Muhammadu Buhari. On 27 August 1985, General Babangida and his co-conspirators orchestrated the palace coup with four Majors: Sambo Dasuki, Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, Lawan Gwadabe, and Abdulmumini Aminu detailed to arrest the head of state.[16] In a speech, General Babangida justified the coup describing General Muhammadu Buhari's military regime as "too rigid".[17]

Presidency (1985–1993)Edit

Consolidation of powerEdit

Babangida placed General Muhammadu Buhari under house arrest in Benin until 1988. He established the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) in a bid to consolidate his power and promulgated his official title as the first military President of Nigeria. In December 1985, Hundreds of military officers were arrested, some were tried, convicted and eventually executed for conspiring to overthrow the General Babangida – the conspirators were alleged to have been led by General Mamman Vatsa, who was Babangida's childhood friend.

Babangida restructured the national security apparatus, appointing General Aliyu Gusau as Co-ordinator of National Security directly reporting to him in the president's office he created the: State Security Service (SSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA).[18] In 1986, Commodore Ebitu Okoh Ukiwe, was removed as Chief of General Staff after opposing Babangida's decision to join the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.[19]


Babangida's administration has been considered the most corrupt, and responsible for creating a culture of corruption in Nigeria.[20]

National politicsEdit

In 1986, shortly after coming to power General Babangida established the Nigerian Political Bureau of 1986. The bureau was inaugurated to conduct a national debate on the political future of Nigeria, and was charged amongst other things to "Review Nigeria’s political history and identify the basic problems which have led to our failure in the past and suggest ways of resolving and coping with these problems." The exercise was the broadest political consultation conduced in Nigerian history.

In 1989, Babangida started making plans for the transition to the Third Nigerian Republic. He legalized the formation of political parties, and formed the two-party system with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC) ahead of the 1992 general elections. He urged all Nigerians to join either of the parties, which the late Chief Bola Ige famously referred to as "two leper hands." The two-party state had been a Political Bureau recommendation. In November 1991, after a census was conducted, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) announced on 24 January 1992 that both legislative elections to a bicameral National Assembly and a presidential election would be held later that year. A process of voting was adopted, referred to as Option A4. This process advocated that any candidate needed to pass through adoption for all elective positions from the local government, state government and federal government.

The 1992 parliamentary election went ahead as planned, with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) winning majorities in both houses of the National Assembly, but on 7 August 1992, the NEC annulled the first round of 1992 presidential primaries. Babangida annulled the 7 August presidential primaries which Shehu Yar'Adua emerged as the SDP presidential candidate and Adamu Ciroma as the NRC candidate order to get rid of the old guard in both parties. In January 1993, Babangida rejigged the ruling military junta – the AFRC – replacing it with the National Defence and Security Council, as the supreme decision-making organ of the regime. He also appointed Ernest Shonekan Head of the Transitional Council and de jure Head of Government. At the time, the transitional council was designed to be the final phase leading to a scheduled hand over to an elected democratic leader in the slated for 1993 presidential election.

On 23 September 1987, Babangida created two states: Akwa Ibom State and Katsina State. On 27 August 1991, Babangida created nine more states: Abia, Enugu, Delta, Jigawa, Kebbi, Osun, Kogi, Taraba and Yobe.[21] Bringing the total number of states in Nigeria to thirty in 1991. Babangida also increased the share of oil royalties and rents to state of origin from 1.5 to 3 percent.[22]


Between 1983 and 1985, the country suffered an economic crisis. In 1986, Babangida launched the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), with support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, to restructure the Nigerian economy. The policies involved in the SAP were:

Between 1986 and 1988, these policies were executed as intended by the IMF, and the Nigerian economy actually did grow as had been hoped, with the export sector performing especially well. But falling real wages in the public sector and among the urban classes, along with a drastic reduction in expenditure on public services, set off waves of rioting and other manifestations of discontent that made sustained commitment to the SAP difficult to maintain.[23]

In 1987, Babangida launched the Mass Mobilization for Self Reliance, Social Justice, and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), following a recommendation from the Political Bureau, to increase self reliance and economic recovery. The mass mobilization policies involved in the MAMSER were:

  • re-orient Nigerians to shun waste and vanity, promoting economic recovery
  • shed all pretenses of affluence in their lifestyle, promoting self reliance
  • propagate the need to eschew all vices in public life, including corruption, dishonesty, electoral and census malpractices, ethnic and religious bigotry, promoting social justice.

Babangida contributed to the development of national infrastructure. He constructed the Third Mainland Bridge, the largest bridge on the continent at the time. His administration also saw the completion of the dualising of the Kaduna-Kano highway. Babangida also completed the Shiroro Hydroelectric Power Station. He had the Toja Bridge in Kebbi constructed. He also created the Jibia Water Treatment Plant and the Challawa Cenga Dam in Kano. Bababngida also founded the Federal Road Safety Corps in order to better manage the national roads.

Foreign policyEdit

Babangida strengthened the foreign relations of Nigeria. He rejected apartheid in South Africa, involved Nigerian troops in the Liberian Civil War, hosted the Abuja Treaty which gave rise to the African Union and enhanced relations with the United States and United Kingdom.[24]


In 1986, Nigeria joined the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. The body is an international organisation considered the "collective voice of the Muslim world". This move was welcomed in Northern Nigeria, where there is a majority Muslim population. However non-Muslims criticised the move likening it to an Islamisation agenda of Nigeria, a secular country. In the 1987, serious outbreaks between Christians and Muslims occurred in Kafanchan in southern Kaduna State in a border area between the two religions, propagated by extreme leaders who were able to rally a young, educated group of individuals who were feared that the nation would not be able to protect their religious group. The leaders were able to polarize their followers through speeches and public demonstrations.

Exploitation of the media used to propagate the ideas of the conflict, thereby radicalising each force even more. Media was biased on each side so while places like the Federal Radio Corporation discussed the idea of defending Islam during this brief moment of terror, it did not report the deaths and damage caused by Muslims, galvanising the Muslim population. Similarly, the Christian papers did not report the damage and deaths caused by Christians but rather focused on the Islamic terror. Other individuals leading these religious movements use the media to spread messages which gradually became more intolerant of other religions, and because of these religious divisions radical Islam continues to be a problem in Nigeria today.

Human rightsEdit

Babangida administration initially differed greatly from General Muhammadu Buhari's in terms of human rights, initially releasing journalists and political prisoners. In 1986, Dele Giwa, a magazine editor critical of Babangida's administration, was killed by letter bomb at his Lagos home. In 1986, Babangida was believed to have ordered the assassination of Dele Giwa. Giwa a magazine editor was critical of the Babangida administration. He was killed by a letter bomb in his home in Lagos, after two men dropped the parcel with the inscription – "From the office of the C-in-C" and was marked "secret and confidential" – opening the parcel, an explosion occurred and Dele Giwa was subsequently killed, investigations were conducted into the assassination but the murder remains unsolved.

In 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo established the Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission headed by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa to investigate human rights abuses which occurred during the military junta's of 1966-1979 and 1983-1999. However, Babangida repeatedly defied summons to appear before the panel to answer allegations of humans rights abuses and questioned both the legality of the commission and its power to summon him. He was however represented by counsels, Mustapha Bashir Wali and Yahya Mahmoud. His right not to testify was upheld in 2001 by Nigeria's court of appeal which ruled that the panel did not have the power to summon former heads of states.[25] The Oputa Panel Report would conclude that: "On General Ibrahim Babangida, we are of the view that there is evidence to suggest that he and the two security chiefs, Brigadier General Halilu Akilu and Col. A. K. Togun are accountable for the untimely death of Dele Giwa by letter bomb. We recommend that this case be re-opened for further investigation in the public interest."[26]

1990 coup d'état attemptEdit

Further information: 1990 Nigerian coup d'état attempt

On 22 April 1990, Babangida's government was almost toppled by a failed coup led by Major Gideon Orkar. Babangida was at the Dodan Barracks, the military headquarters and presidential residence, when they were attacked and occupied by the rebel troops, but managed to escape by a back route.[27] Orkar and 41 of his conspirators were countered, captured by government troops. They were convicted of treason.[28] On 27 July 1990, they were executed by firing squad.

Seat of governmentEdit

Ministers of the Federal Capital Territory: General Mamman Vatsa, AVM Hamza Abdullahi and later General Gado Nasko, led the Babangida administration relocation of the seat of government from Lagos to Abuja on 12 December 1991.[29]

June 12 and resignationEdit

Further information: 1993 presidential election

On 12 June 1993, the presidential election was finally held. The results though not officially declared by the National Electoral Commission – showed the duo of Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) defeated Bashir Tofa and Slyvester Ugoh of the National Republican Convention (NRC) by over 2.3 million votes in the 1993 presidential election.

The elections were later annulled by military head of state General Babangida, citing electoral irregularities. The annulment led to widespread protests and political unrest in Abiola's stronghold of the South West, as many felt Babangida had ulterior motives, and did not want to cede power to Abiola, a Yoruba businessman. Babangida later admitted that the elections were annulled due to national security considerations, which he didn't specify.[30]

The lingering June 12 crisis led to the resignation of General Babangida in August 1993. Babangida signed a decree establishing the Interim National Government led by Ernest Shonekan. As interim president, Shonekan initially appointed Abiola as his Vice President, who refused to recognize the interim government, the crisis lingered for months culminating in the seizure of power of General Sani Abacha.


From his hilltop residence in Minna, Babangida has cultivated a patronage system which cuts across the entire country. In 1998, Babangida was instrumental in the transition to democracy. Babangida is one of the founders of the Peoples Democratic Party alongside other prominent military generals such as Aliyu Mohammed Gusau. They were said to have supported General Olusegun Obasanjo in the 1999 Nigerian presidential election in order to springboard themselves back to power.

In August 2006, Babangida announced that he would run in the 2007 Nigerian presidential election.[31][32] He said he was doing so "under the banner of the Nigerian people" and accused the country's political elite of fuelling Nigeria's current ethnic and religious violence.[33] On 8 November 2006, General Babangida picked up a nomination form from the Peoples Democratic Party headquarters in Abuja. This effectively put to rest any speculation about his ambitions to run for the Presidency. His form was personally issued to him by the PDP chairman, Ahmadu Ali. This action immediately drew extreme reactions of support or opposition from south west. In December, just before the presidential primaries, it was widely reported in Nigerian newspapers that Babangida had withdrawn his candidacy. In a letter excerpted in the media, IBB is quoted as citing the "moral dilemma" of running against Umaru Yar'Adua, the younger brother of the late General Shehu Yar'Adua, as well as against General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, given IBB's close relationship with the latter two. It is widely believed that his chances of winning were slim.[34][35]

In September 2010, Babangida officially declared his intention to run for the presidency in the 2011 presidential election in Abuja, Nigeria.[36] Babangida was later urged by his military inner circle to withdraw his candidacy. President Goodluck Jonathan later emerged as the parties presidential candidate.

In 2015, following the election of his long-time rival General Muhammadu Buhari as President, Babangida has maintained a low profile. In 2017, Babangida had a corrective surgery.[37] At 78, he is considered a foremost elder statesman. He has called for a generational shift in leadership to allow for a new crop of leaders to replace the 1966 military class.[38]

Personal lifeEdit


Babangida was married to Maryam Babangida from 1969 until her death in 2009. They had four children together; Aisha, Muhammad, Aminu, and Halima. On 27 December 2009, Maryam Babangida died from complications of ovarian cancer.[39]


Babangida is rumoured to be worth US$5 billion.[40] He is believed to secretly possess a multi-billion dollar fortune via successive ownership of stakes in a number of Nigerian companies.[41] In 2011, according to a Forbes article, Babangida is estimated to be worth US$12 billion.[42] Babangida has rejected these claims, and insists his government "were saints".[43]


Military ranksEdit

During his military career, Babangida attained the following ranks:

Year Military rank
1963 Second Lieutenant
1966 Lieutenant
1968 Captain
1970 Major
1970 Lieutenant Colonel
1973 Colonel
1979 Brigadier General
1983 Major General
1987 General

National honoursEdit

Year Country Decoration Presenter Notes
1983 Nigeria Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR);   Shehu Shagari Third highest national honour in Nigeria
Nigeria Defence Service Medal (DSM);   Nigerian Army Military award
Nigeria Forces Services Star (FSS);   Nigerian Army Military award
Nigeria General Service Medal (GSM);   Nigerian Army Military award
Nigeria National Service Medal (NSM);   Nigerian Army Military award
1985 Nigeria Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR);   Himself Highest national honour in Nigeria

Foreign honoursEdit

Year Country Decoration Presenter Notes
1989 United Kingdom Knight Grand Cross of the Bath (KGCB);   Elizabeth II Fourth-most senior of the British Orders of Chivalry
1989 Zimbabwe Freedom of the City of Harare Robert Mugabe Prestigious national honour in Zimbabwe
1990 Equatorial Guinea Grand Collar of the Order of the Independence Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo Highest national honour in Equatorial Guinea


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  28. ^ Omoigui, Nowa. "The Orkar Failed Coup of April 22, 1990 Part 2". Urhobo Historical Society. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
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External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Mohammed Inuwa Wushishi
Chief of the Army Staff
Succeeded by
Sani Abacha
Preceded by
Muhammadu Buhari
President of the Armed Forces Ruling Council of Nigeria
17 August 1985 – 26 August 1993
Succeeded by
Ernest Shonekan