INTERVIEW: Fighting against my friends during civil war a sad experience – Babangida

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INTERVIEW: Fighting against my friends during civil war a sad experience – Babangida

His Excellency, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd) is a former military head of state. IBB as he is fondly called, in this interview with Search FM, a Campus Radio, spoke on a wide range of issues- his childhood, military activities and the civil war. DAILY POST correspondent, Priscilla Dennis monitored the interview.

What was it like growing up in Niger State or as it was called back then, the Niger province?

Well, I think it’s…I was first born here in Minna. I can’t predict where you (students) were in 1941, but it was in 1941 in the month of August. I also started and finished my primary school education here in Minna and then went to Bida where I finished secondary school before joining the Army and received military training at the Nigerian Military Training College in Kaduna, Military Academy in India and so many other military institutions.

Your Excellency Sir, can you tell us more about your educational journey before heading to the Nigerian Military Training College?

I started here in Minna in 1950, by then it used to be called Gwari Federation Elementary School, and then later it became elementary school.

From there, I proceeded to senior primary school and on the completion of primary school education, I went to Bida Provincial Secondary School, where I spent six years before joining the Military Training College in Kaduna.

Joining the military shaped how the rest of your life turned out, what informed the decision to enlist as an officer?

Well, maybe to understand the background, in about that period there was a deliberate government policy. The government of Northern Nigeria at that time, there were not a lot of people from the North who were in the military. So, it took a deliberate policy to go around and invite the younger generation from secondary schools, [government colleges] to come and join the military and that’s what started our career in the military.

You were in active military service during the Nigerian civil war. In fact, you sustained a life threatening injury, what was that experience like?

It’s not a very nice experience I must say. First of all, you had people you went to school with, people you trained with, people who were your friends, suddenly as a result of the war, you find yourselves facing each other on opposite sides. It was not very comfortable but then, we had to do it. The purpose was to unite the country to keep it one not to break it. So that’s the uniquely sad aspect of a civil war and I pray, it never happens again

If you hadn’t joined the military what would have been an alternative career choice?

I wanted to be a civil engineer.

Your Excellency, you’ve held countless positions of authority, including being Nigeria’s number one citizen, what is your leadership style?

Just like any other style, you are placed in a leadership position. Your job is to lead people. You develop a situation where people look up to you to provide certain solutions to their problems or to their fear, whatever it is and you stand out as the person who will be able to do that. So you have to study human beings, you have to read about them and you have to be very compassionate.

Sometimes ruthlessness to get things done, but there are a lot of ways you have to develop so that you’ll be able to achieve certain things. Others you plead with, some you coerce and so on and so forth

You have a lot more free time on your hands after retirement, what do you enjoy doing now?

Watching you children grow

You have achieved so much over the course of your life and career, but if you were to rank your achievements, which would you consider your top three greatest feats?

Top three?

Top three

Number one is that I served the country the best I could, it may not be to your satisfaction, but to the best that I could. I leave that to history to judge and I related fairly well with the people of the country. I had no problem with them and I got to know the country more as I was well travelled. I made friends all over the country and I thought that was one of the greatest achievements.

What advice would you have for young people who are just about to start out in their lives?

I think my only good advice for all of you is to try as much as possible to know and understand that you are going to lead this country in the future. You have an opportunity now as young people. Get to know the country, study the country, the people and if you are able to do that or to understand that, basically I think that will go a long way to prepare you for the eventual leadership of the country

Your Excellency, on a lighter note, in 2021 a biopic was released about your life – ‘Badamasi: The Portrait of a General’, was the biopic an accurate representation of events?

Well, as a military man and man who practised both in war and peace times, I would have corrected one or two places. But, I think what they [Nollywood] are trying to project is a food for thought that could give us room for improvement.

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