Court Clerk: Before Your Lordship stand the accused, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, former military President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He is charged before this Court of Common Pleas of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the Year 2018 with offences of treason and gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office between 1985 and 1993.
Judge: Read the charges to the accused.
Court Clerk: 1st Charge: “That you, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida on 31/12/83 and 27/8/1985 participated in military coup d’état that toppled democratically elected government of Alhaji Usman Shehu Shagari and the military government of General Muhammadu Buhari.
IBB: Not guilty.
Court Clerk: 2nd Charge: That you General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida between 27/8/85 and 26/8/1993 committed gross act of misconduct in the performance of your office as the Military President of Nigeria.
IBB: Not guilty.
The Judge: This case proceeds to hearing immediately and shall not be adjourned as requested by accused as this court is one of summary jurisdiction. So let the prosecutor lead evidence to establish the offences alleged. Prosecutor field your witnesses.
Prosecutor: The prosecution has only one witness, Balogun Obiora Musa, a journalist and with the leave of court, we proceed.
The Judge: Go ahead.
The Prosecutor: Court Clerk, please swear Prosecution Witness One (Pw1).
Court Clerk: Prosecution Witness One (Pw1) Sworn.
Pw1: On the early hours of 31/12/83 the accused together with other military officers overthrew the democratically elected government under the leadership of Alhaji Usman Shehu Shagari and suspended the operation of 1979 Constitution. They enacted a decree installing a military government. Also on the early hours of 27/8/85 the accused together with other military officers overthrew the government of General Muhammadu Buhari and got the accused installed as the Military President of Nigeria. He ruled from 1985 to 1993.
Being the military President, the accused ruled autocratically by handpicking the members of the Armed Forces Ruling Council and even sacked them at will. He set up Presidential Committee on IMF Loan and the SJ Cookey Political Bureau to study and recommend socio-political and economic system. From the reports government introduced the policies of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) that ended up impoverishing Nigerians. The Political Transition Programme designed and implemented by him was not meant to succeed as he employed all kinds of tricks to elongate the implementation which made it to run interminably from 1988 to 1993 during which period over billions of naira were sunk into it and at the end the accused annulled the presidential election held on June 12, 1993 and dissolved all the ‘democratic’ structures such as the National and State Assemblies and dismissed the governors already functioning under the 1989 Constitution then being operationalized piecemeal under various decrees. His government promoted corruption and destroyed rule of law as individuals take law into their hands as exemplified by the culture of assassination starting with Dele Giwa. Having dissolved the political transition programme, the accused inaugurated the Interim National Government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan which was overthrown by General Sani Abacha who unfurled the most vicious and corrupt government ever witnessed in Nigeria. That is the case of the prosecution against the accused.
The Judge: The accused having listened to the case made against him by the prosecution has the right to cross-examine the witness.
IBB: I have only two questions for the witness. The first question is: Did you witness the events you narrated to this court?
Pw1: No, not at all. I witnessed some but others I got from informants.
IBB: Did I commit the events/actions you narrated in my personal capacity or in the capacity of a public officer under the Law and Constitution of Nigeria?
Pw1: I do not know when you are acting under your personal capacity or under a public duty.
IBB: That is all for the witness!
The Judge: The accused may enter his defence.
IBB: Even though, I do not have a lawyer to represent me but mere looking at the case put up against me, I would have entered a no case submission, but for the sake of posterity I will make my defence.
This is my defence.
My Lord, my defence will centre first, on my tour of duty as a military officer and second, as a public servant at the apex level of governance of our dear country, Nigeria. The account I am about to render in defence of the charge against me by a representative of my fellow countrymen is not being offered to acquit me but to habituate it in the court of history and posterity which is the best judge even as I know that this Honourable Court has the power to acquit me if my submission being a layman will suffice in the absence of legal defence.
I will not bore Your Lordship with my personal history except to say that I was born into the humble family of Muhammadu and Aishatu Babangida in Minna on August 17, 1941. I had my primary and secondary education between 1950 and 1962 from where I enlisted into the Nigerian Military Training College and was commissioned in the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in 1963. I underwent several courses and earned the rank of Captain in 1968 and Major in 1970.
It was as a colonel and the commander of Army Amoured Corp in 1976 that the unfortunate abortive coup of Col. D.S. Dimka occurred and I summoned the courage to confront him at the Radio Station, Ikoyi. Therefore, my involvement in military coups was more out of fortuitous circumstances than deliberate design. After the Dimka Coup I was made a member of the highest ruling body, the Supreme Military Council. I was part of the group that overthrew the regime of Alhaji Shahu Shageri in 1983 and installed military government headed by General Buhari. Unfortunately, General Buhari as head of state did not carry his colleagues along in the governance of Nigeria and this forced my colleagues and I to overthrow him. In my maiden address on August 27, 1985 I declared: “Regrettably, it turned out that Major-General Buhari was too rigid and uncompromising in his attitude to issues of national significance. Efforts to make him understand that a diverse polity like Nigeria requires recognition and appreciation of differences in both cultural and individual perceptions only served to aggravate his attitude.”
My defence to the accusation of treason is to state that interventions in government through unlawful means of coup d’état is never lightly made for the fun of it. Such weighty decision must be actuated by patriotic reasons for the preservation of the country.
Nigeria in 1983, and subsequently in 1985 was clearly challenged with present danger necessitating our intervention to arrest the drift. By way of legality, which it is not my intention to make, there is body of jurisprudential and legal authorities to effect that revolution if successful in any political community is lawful. I refer My Lord to the Pakistani case of State v. Dosso and the other case, Madzimbamuto v. Lardner Burke which held that “a change is, in law, a revolution if it annuls the Constitution and the annulment is effective.” On the basis of this authority, I pray the court to acquit me on the first count of the charge.
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