Military versus civilian regimes: Between IBB at 82 and Buhari at 81

December 18, 2023

Military versus civilian regimes: Between IBB at 82 and Buhari at 81

Former heads of state, Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Muhammadu Buhari

By Yushau A. Shuaib

It was on the platform of the Arewa Economic Forum (AEF) that intellectuals, business people and retired public functionaries debated which one performed better between the military regime of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) and the civilian administration of General Muhammadu Buhari. While IBB was born on August 17, 1941 in Niger State, Buhari was born on December 17, 1942 in Katsina State.

Both of them not only served in the Nigerian Armed Forces as officers and fought on the federal side during the Civil War of 1967 to 1970, they have also been fortunate to serve the country at the highest level as Heads of State, with Buhari having the added honour of serving as a two-term civilian president between 2015 and 2023. IBB was the first and only Military President from 1985 to 1993.

Strangely, Colonel Sambo Dasuki facilitated the coup that brought Buhari to power on December 31, 1983, after the Shehu Shagari-led civilian government was overthrown. Major Mustapha Jokolo, a former Aide de Camp to Buhari, confirmed this.

Interestingly, Dasuki also allegedly played a major role in the overthrow of Buhari from power on August 27, 1985, with Babangida being posed as a better and more affable replacement to the stolid Buhari. Dasuki, who afterward served as ADC to IBB, was later appointed the National Security Adviser (NSA) to President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012, in order to renew the vigour of the fight against the then rampaging Boko Haram terrorists.

While Babangida spent eight years of uninterrupted power from 1985, until his resignation in 1993 as military ruler, Buhari had a similar uninterrupted eight-year tenure as an elected President before handing over to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu earlier this year.

Immediately after his inauguration in 2015, Dasuki was the first victim of Buhari’s illegal incarcerations, which defied repeated court orders calling for his freedom, and which continued until after his re-election in 2019. It was after winning a second term in office that he decided to release the Sokoto Prince.

The administrations of IBB and Buhari are often compared in case studies on the difference between a military and a civilian government. In social media platforms of the AEF and other similar groups, the facts are evident on the performance of these leaders on our nation’s security, socio-economic and political landscape.

In their preference for the administration of Babangida, his supporters always cite the progressive manner in which he restructured the Nigerian federation through the creation of 11 states, thereby reducing local restiveness as the yoke of group dominance was reduced across the different zones of the country.

The states that IBB created comprise Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Osun, Taraba and Yobe. His enthusiasts further list the establishment of security agencies like the State Security Service (SSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) as some of his enduring legacies.

Similarly, they cite the construction of the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, the Shiroro Hydroelectric Power Station in Niger, the Toja Bridge in Kebbi, Jibia Water Treatment Plant in Katsina, the Kano Challawa Cenga Dam, Abuja Dual Carriageway, and the Aluminium Smelter Company in Ikot Abasi, as some in his catalogue of major achievements in office.

In works and housing, the Babangida administration constructed the ECOWAS Headquarters in Abuja, Aso Rock Villa, the Federal Secretariat, International Conference Centre, the National Assembly complex, Central Bank building, International Airport Phases 1 and 2, military barracks, and the opening and development of significant districts such as Asokoro, Maitama, Garki, Wuse and Jabi Districts within the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

At the state level, the administration constructed the Federal Housing Authority estates, High Court buildings, water supply schemes, specialised hospitals, nationwide offices for the then two political parties – Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC) – and branches of the Federal Mortgage Bank across the nation.

In a deliberate effort to revitalise the education sector, the regime also established the National Primary Education Commission; Nigeria Educational Research and Development Council; National Commission for Nomadic Education; National Commission for Mass Literacy; Adult and Non-formal Education; Federal School of Surveying; National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, among others.

IBB’s supporters further claim that his administration maintained the fiscal stability of the country by subsidising petroleum products in a way that helped to curtail inflation and the cost of living crisis, whilst securing the foreign exchange rate and paying the salaries and pension of workers when due.

Meanwhile, the devotees of the Buhari government list his achievements as the establishment of the most extensive Social Investment Programme in Africa to act as safety net for the poor and vulnerable, and the expansion of agricultural productivity through the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) which enabled Nigeria to become the largest rice producer in Africa within five years.

They also mention the diversification of the economy from its wholesale dependency on oil production, while providing a combination of budget support, revenue refunds and debt restructuring of more than N3 trillion to state governments to prevent the erosion of sub-national economies. More so, Buhari is routinely lauded for his comprehensive efforts in re-equipping the military to enhance security.

According to the Buhari supporters, he oversaw the most significant legislative reform programme in Nigeria’s history through the assent into law of a raft of noteworthy and progressive proposed legislation, which subsequently became the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), the Startup Act, the revised Corporate and Allied Matters (CAMA) Act, the revised Electoral Act, the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, the Business Facilitation Act, Police Act, Not Too Young To Run Act, etc.

Buhari signed over 16 constitutional amendment bills into law and issued 14 Presidential Executive Orders, launched the new Enhanced Electronic Passport, the new visa policy, and the visa-on-arrival policy. He established the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), issued the landmark Executive Order Number 7 of 2019 (Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme) and completed the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge rail line and the Apapa Port railway extension.

President Buhari completed the Second Niger Bridge, the 700MW Zungeru Power Plant, the 186-kilometre Abuja-Kaduna Standard Gauge rail line, the Abuja light rail, the new international airport terminals in the six geopolitical zones of the country, the Kashimbila Dam and Power Plant, the Dadin Kowa Power Plant, and the concession of the Onitsha River Port.

Apart from launching the Presidential Power Initiative with Siemens for a transformation of the power sector, the administration started the NLNG Train 7, the 614-kilometre AKK Gas Pipeline, the Kano-Maradi Standard Gauge Rail, and overhauled the Port Harcourt refinery. The ex-president also supported the construction of the world’s largest single-train refinery – Dangote Refinery; the first deep-sea port in Nigeria; the first large-scale commercial gold mine; several modular refineries, and over 60 fertiliser blending plants.

Further to his slew of achievements in office, Buhari approved a new extended retirement age of 65 for civil servants such as teachers, an increased length of service (40 years) and a new Special Teachers Salary Scale (TSS). He equally established the Nigeria Police Trust Fund, paid Biafra Police Pensioners decades after their pardon, and commenced the Clean-Up programme on oil spills in the Ogoni area.

One of the best decisions his administration took was in the appointment of Professor Isa Ali Pantami as the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy. Pantami spearheaded record-setting contributions to the country’s GDP from the ICT sector at the rate of 18.44 per cent in the second quarter of 2022, up from 14.07 per cent in the first quarter of 2020.

Under Pantami’s leadership, the launch of 5G in the telecom industry generated over $500 million in licensing fees at the spectrum auction to successful private companies. The establishment of the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) and Nigeria Data Protection Bureau (NDPB) are among other notable achievements of the Buhari civilian administration.

Rather interestingly, while the supporters of Buhari and IBB sought to spotlight what were the high points and massive gains made under them, I observed that most of them deliberately refused to mention the fight against corruption – possibly the greatest culprit in the country’s lack of sustained development till date – as an attainment of either administration.

This is probably because the average Nigerian was never carried away by the rhetoric of the different administrations as members of each dug their hands deeper into the commonwealth, while engaging in the game of facile generalisations. More worrisome was the fact that the anti-corruption fight became a selective game of persecution of enemies of each government and the opposition, while the cronies of those in power were accorded official protection as they went about their own prebendal activities.

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