M.K.O. ABIOLA: THE AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY OF CHIEF MOSHOOD KASIMAWO OLAWALE ABIOLA PRESUMED WINNER OF JUNE 12, 1993 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN NIGERIA
By MOSHOOD FAYEMIWO
Continued from Chapter Seven Last Week
M.K.O ABIOLA AND THE AUGUST 27, 1985 COUP
The Buhari-Idiagbon regime was characterized by acrimony, suspicion, intrigues and power play from Day One. The Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari who should have provided much needed leadership was too dour. To many Nigerians, the picture painted of General Buhari was that of a no-nonsense tough military officer but beyond the façade, General Buhari was a weak military leader. In his maiden interview with the trio of Yakubu Muhammed, Ray Ekpu and Dele Giwa of the Concord Group of Newspapers owned by Chief MKO Abiola, he timorously replied when asked about his wish as Head of State; “My prayer is to leave this place in one piece.” That sent a message to his subordinates. A soldier who was afraid to die? To be sure, he did not plan the coup that brought him to power in the first place but he would not be the first military leader to come to power that way. In 1975 when Cols. Joe Garba and Shehu Musa Yar’Adua staged the coup that toppled Gen. Yakubu Gowon, late Gen. Murtala Ramat Muhammed who emerged as Head of State didn’t plan the coup yet he provided good leadership within the six-month period he ruled the nation so Gen. Buhari had no excuse. When he was finally toppled on Saturday August 27, 1985, it was no surprise because, as a compromised Head of State, he came to power with no clear-headedness. But other factors contributed to his fall.
The first faulty step made by the regime was its composition. Why Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon had to be appointed the Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters while Major-General Ibrahim Babangida became the Chief of Army Staff was hard to explain. In the military set up then, the CSSHQ was politically and administratively powerful and indeed the “de facto” No2. Man to the Head of State. But the COAS controls the Army. If the CSSHQ was not in good terms with the COAS, there would be constant friction. This was the case between Idiagbon and Babangida. The latter was commissioned in 1962, the former a year later, so Babangida regarded Idiagbon as his junior but Idiagbon held a very powerful political post which eclipsed the position of the COAS which was only military. It was a faulty arrangement even noticed by some civilians and politicians. As soon as the arrangements were announced in 1984, Dr. Junaid Muhammed, a Kano medical practitioner and a politician/parliamentarian under the platform of the defunct Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) in the cursed Second Republic of Alhaji Shehu Shagari decried the set up and called on Gen. Buhari to do something about it. Muhammad later became the national chairman of the People Salvation Party (PSP) in 2007. He was ignored and it became Gen Buhari’s undoing. There were constant clashes between Idiagbon and Babangida. Normally, Idiagbon was supposed to give a salute to Babangida if the twain met but as the powerful CSSHQ, Idiagbon would just ignore Babangida. The latter would be mad. To quickly paper over this power play between the two, Idiagbon was quickly promoted from Brigadier to Major-General in early 1984 but the chasm between the CSSHQ and the COAS had deepened.
In this scenario, a strong and decisive Head of State would have stepped in and pull all the stops, lamentably Gen. Buhari was no such leader. He deferred more to Idiagbon even than all joint decisions taken by the then Supreme Military Council (SMC). Consequently, with each passing day, Idiagbon became so powerful and strong that he practically consigned Buhari to a mere figurehead. The other ambitious military officers, and they so many, resented this arrangement. With time, three powerful blocs emerged in the SMC thereby effectively splitting the ruling body into cleavages. The first power bloc consisted of Buhari, Idiagbon, Mamman Vasta, Magoro, Rafindadi; the Director of the National Security Organization (NSO) now renamed State Security Services (SSS) who was Buhari’s uncle. The second power bloc consisted of Babangida, Abacha, Dogonyaro, Aliyu Muhammed and Co. In between these two antagonistic forces were those in the middle mediating. Here you have Domkat Bali, Ebitu Ukiwe and other “floating pacifists. In those days, Ukiwe would go to Babangida’s house at night to plead with him while in daytime he would defend the Buhari-Idiagbon policies since the latter group had the reins of power. Among the civilian ministers, only one of them was an SMC member, Chief Chike Offodile, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. He was routinely called in to explain the legal aspects of policies to the military boys; he was their legal brain-truster. Ambassador Lawan Rafindadi, the NSO Director-General was a full-fledged member of the SMC. The Supreme Military Council was the highest decision-making body in the land; the locale of power supposedly but it was also the hotbed of high politicking, intrigues, power play, suspicions and manipulations.
In order to put a stop to these acrimonies, power play and intrigues in the SMC, Major-General Mamman Jiya Vasta nicknamed “Emperor” by his colleagues, counseled Gen. Buhari and Idiagbon to retire Babangida immediately thereby liquidating his rebellious and antagonistic group. Vasta warned that Ibrahim Babangida was a crafty fellow who was up to no good and the earlier he was flushed out of the military, the better. While the consensus among the Buhari-Idiagbon group was that Babangida had to go, they were also mindful of the backlash and its implications. Babangida was the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), you don’t appear on television and announce the sacking of the No. 3 man in your administration without valid and convincing reasons. So what to do? The NSO boss, Ambassador Rafindadi was mandated to dig into General Babangida’s past activities; somehow something incriminating would turn up which the administration could use to nail the COAS. Meanwhile, Rafindadi proceeded to put Babangida under security watch. His official residence at Ikoyi, Lagos was under surveillance twenty-four hours while all his visitors were closely monitored. His telephone was bugged by the NSO. The ding-dong continued…
As the Buhari-Idiagbon regime was fighting for its life on both fronts, an opportunity suddenly presented itself in first quarter of 1985 to fix one of its enemies within, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. Alhaji Lawan Rafindadi’ NSO went to work immediately it became apparent that Babangida was planning to move against the regime. All security reports turned out to be on Babangida’s hobnobbing activities with the discredited politicians, his link with MKO Abiola who the regime had declared its enemy, Babangida’s Abuja contracts awarded to his wife, Maryam by the Shehu Shagari administration and other lesser issues that could not warrant his retirement. Then suddenly a young lady named Gloria Okon was arrested by security operatives for drug trafficking. While the lady was being drilled by the NSO operatives, the lady began to “sing” and mentioned Maryam Babangida (nee King) as her sponsor. On further probing, names of other notable Army Officers began to crop up in the notorious drug business including their civilian “boys.” Lt. Gen.(then a Brigadier) Aliyu Mohammed who later became National Security Adviser to Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007 was mentioned. This Mohammed later changed his name to Aliyu Muhammed-Gasua was the orchestrator of the assassination of Mr. Dele Giwa, founding editor-in-chief of Newswatch magazine and a boyfriend to Senator Florence Ita-Giwa who later married Giwa but because she know a lot about Babangida, Aliyu Muhammed and how her won husband was killed, Aliyu Muhammed-Gusua brought her to Aso Rock as Presidential Liaison Officer. (Next week we shall expose the part played by Giwa in the assassination of her husband and how she was warned by her ex-lover, Aliyu-Muhammed to shut up).Apparently, Okon had squealed thinking by mentioning those influential names behind her drug business, she would be let off the hook oblivious of the wrangling and power-play going on at the apex of Nigerian military leadership.
Babangida staged a coup against Buhari on August 27, 1985 because Lawan Rafindadi, NSO (now SSS) Director had reports that Babangida was dealing in hard drugs and his retirement from the Nigerian Army was to be announced by Buhari on October 1, 1985.
How happy the Buhari-Idiagbon group! Now they had the smoking gun they would use to nail and liquidate the Babangida renegade group. Immediately, a meeting of the SMC was hurriedly convened. By that time, Mr. Gray Longe, Secretary to the FMG had started to take minutes of meetings at all SMC and he was ably assisted by my late uncle, Festus Adetula from Owo, Ondo State who was one of the most hard-working permanent secretaries ion Nigeria throughout the administrations of Buhari-Idiagbon and Babangida. Major-General Tunde Idiagbon had become so strong and powerful by this time that he was in effect the one running the show while Gen. Buhari, the Head of State towed his line. “Whatever Tunde said” Buhari would nod his head and even before any SMC meeting, the duo would have met at Doddan Barrack to craft their agenda for the SMC to rubber-stamp. That was why Ibrahim Babangida was constantly referring to the administration as Buhari-Idiagbon because it was actually “a -two-man show.”……………………………………
Major-General Ibrahim Babangida knew his days in the Nigerian military were numbered because he was able to ferret out information from the Head of State’s office that his retirement would be announced on October 1, 1985. The premature retirement of his buddy, Brigadier Aliyu Muhammed was so displeasing to him that he knew he must move fast. Already he had his back to the walls and with his career on the line; he must stage a coup to turn the tide against the Buhari-Idiagbon camp. As COAS, he had all his men in virtually all strategic positions in the military. He had the Infantry, Artillery, Signals, Communications, Armored and other vital Army Corps to stage a successful coup. While Buhari and Idiagbon were busy receiving foreign dignitaries and politicking; and generally absorbed in administration without knowing what was happening in the military barracks, Babangida was busy posting his men and women in vital military installations for his move to topple the regime. These men and women soon became known as “IBB Boys.” The women were hardly mentioned some of them civilians who were girlfriends to the military men minted by Babangida.
MKO Abiola provided $10m cash for Babangida’s coup of August 27, 1985 which toppled the Buhari-Idiagbon regime.
Babangida had already figured everything out. No coup could succeed then without Ikeja Cantonment’s support. At any rate, all his boys had already positioned themselves. John Shagaya, Joshua Dogonyaro, Yohanna Madaki, Anthony Ukpo, Raji Rasaki, UK Bello, Anthny Nyiam, David Mark, Lawan Gwadabe, Abubakar Umar, Abdul Mumuni Aminu, Tunji Olurin, Haliru Akilu and several others. Having decided to strike before October 1, 1985 to nip in the bud the planned announcement of the retirement of Babangida by the Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Babangida now approached his bosom friend, Chief MKO Abiola. The military boys needed money and needed it in cash. Abiola had money, plenty of it and had it in cash. Because Babangida was already under security watch and MKO Abiola himself was being watched by the Buhari-Idiagbon regime, the discussions between Abiola and Babangida took place in Chief MKO Abiola’s expansive and palatial house at MKO Abiola Crescent, Ikeja, Lagos. It was during the naming ceremony of one of the new born babies of several Abiola’s wives. Chief Ebenezer Obey and other Yoruba juju musicians were playing that night at the naming ceremony while Babangida and Abiola including few of the military boys retired to the back of the magnificent house to receive the money in cash. That was the only way Babangida could meet with Abiola since the NSO operatives were tailing him everywhere.
Every coup is expensive. Contrary to layman’s conjecture, not only is a military coup risky, it is also big business. Coup plotting is a matter of life and death. It’s even more dangerous than war because in a war situation your enemies are identified but in a coup, you are fighting from within. It is even riskier when the coup is meant to unseat fellow Army Officers. There would be bloodshed. If you failed, you are gone. If you succeeded, you come on top. But no success of a coup is guaranteed until you’re firmly in the saddle. Those military boys following you are also risking their lives, at times the lives of their loved ones as well so they must be “settled”-easy cash for them to bolt out of the country in case everything goes sour. This is why ready cash must be made available. Poor people don’t stage coups only the rich and Abiola was rich, very rich indeed.
Although, Babangida, as the COAS felt he had everything under wraps but he was scared of one man: Gen. Tunde Idiagbon. Their dislike for each other was both personal and …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
INSIDE THE BABANGIDA COUP OF AUGUST 27, 1985: WHO’S WHO
THE KEY COUP PLOTERS OF AUGUST 27, 1985
1.Major General Ibrahim Badamsai Babangida – Chief of Army Staff (COAS)
2. Brigadier Sani Abacha – GOC, 2nd Mechanized Division, Ibadan
3. Colonel Joshua Nimyel Dogonyaro – Director, Department of Amour, Army HQ
4. Colonel Aliyu Mohammed Gusau – former Director, Defense Intelligence Agency
5. Lt. Col. Halilu Akilu – Director of Military Intelligence
6. Lt. Col. Tanko Ayuba – Commander, Corps of Signals
7. Lt. Col. David Mark – Military Governor, Niger State
8. Lt. Col. John Nanzip Shagaya – Commander, 9th Mechanized Brigade
9. Lt. Col. Chris Abutu Garuba – Commander, 34 Self Propelled Artillery Brigade, Jos
10. Lt. Col. Raji Alagbe Rasaki - Commanding Officer, AHQ Garrison and Signals Group, Lagos
11. Col. Anthony Ukpo – Deputy Director, Defense Intelligence Agency, Lagos
12. Major John Yohanna Madaki – Commanding Officer, 123 Guards Battalion, Ikeja
13. Major Abdulmumuni Aminu – Military Assistant to the COAS
14. Major Lawan Gwadabe - just back from US Armour School, Fort Knox, TN and made Chairman, Nigerian National Shipping Line, Lagos.
15. Major Abubakar Dangiwa Umar –General Staff Officer (1), Department of
Armour, AHQ, then Chairman Federal Housing Authority
16. Major Mohammed Sambo Dasuki, Staff Officer, HQ Corps of Artillery (and son
of Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, who later became the 17th Sultan of Sokoto).
17. Major Maxwell Khobe – Commanding Officer, Armour Headquarters Company
(201 “Administrative” Unit) Ikeja
18. Major UK Bello – Commanding Officer, 202 Armoured Battalion, Kaduna
19. Major Kefas Happy Bulus – Acting Commanding Officer, 245 Recce Battalion, Ikeja
20. Captain Nuhu Umaru – 2ic, 202 Armoured Battalion, Kaduna
21. Captain Sule Ahman, Supply and Transport, Ikeja Cantonment, Ikeja, Lagos
22. Captain Musa Shehu (2ic to the Commanding Officer, Recce Battalion in Jos)
THE SECOND TIER COUP PLOTERS WHO PROVIDED LOGISTICS
1. Lt. Col. Ahmed Daku
2. Lt. Col. Abubakar Dada
3. Major IB Aboho (Staff Officer at Defense Intelligence Agency)
4. Major Friday Ichide (Staff Officer to Colonel Dogonyaro)
5. Major Simon Hart
6. Captain M. Bashir (Lagos operations, in support of Bulus)
7. Major S.B. Mepaiyeda
8. Captain Victor Scott Kure (physical security for the COAS).
NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS FROM ARMOURED CORPS
1. WOII Sule Ayinla
2. WOII Billy Adekunle
3. WOII Army Sweet
4. WOII Yerima
5. S-Sgt Bazaria Kabara
6. Sgt. Hitler Bongo
7. Corporal Sule Owoicho, and others.
SLEEPER COUP PLOTERS WHO KNEW BUT DID NOT TELL
1. Brigadier Peter Ademokhai (Director of Army Staff Duties and Plans)
2. Brigadier Abdullahi Bagudu Mamman (Director of Army Training and Operations)
3. Brigadier Yohanna Yerima Kure (GOC 82 Division, Enugu)
4. Brigadier Ola Oni (GOC, 1st Division, Kaduna)
5. Lt. Col. John Mark Inienger, Commander, 4thMechanized Brigade, Benin
6. Lt. Col. Tunji Olurin, Commander, 1st Mechanized Brigade, Minna
7. Lt. Col. A. Abubakar, Commander, 3rd Mechanized Brigade, Kano.
BUHARI’S MILITARY GOVERNORS WHO KNEW BUT DID NOT TELL
1. Brigadier Garba Duba (Sokoto State)
2. Brigadier Ike Omar Sanda Nwachukwu (Imo State)
3. Brigadier Jeremiah Timbut Useni (Bendel State, now Edo State).
Chief Abiola already had enough reasons to join forces with other group seriously regrouping to remove the Buhari-Idiagbon regime. He had fallen out of favors with the duo so he gladly teamed up with his friend, Gen. Babangida to topple the regime. Chief MKO Abiola provided the sum of US$10m (going by the foreign exchange rate of 75kobo to one American dollar in 1985) for the coup that toppled Buhari and brought Babangida to power. In addition, he provided his own private jet which would be used to convey the coup leader, Gen. Babangida from Minna, Niger State to Lagos on coup day. Meanwhile, political players of the future Babangida regime were to be given publicity by Abiola’s Concord Newspapers. So by and by, we saw Major Abubakar Umar, then Director, Federal Housing Authority, Festac Town, Lagos appearing at the Concord Forum espousing radical ideas. Ditto for Lawan Gwadabe who was then Chairman of Nigerian Shipping Line who also appeared at the Concord Forum personality Feature Interview crafted by Chief MKO Abiola to raise the visibility of his co coup plotters in the military. So were many Babangida Boys who would assist him in coup plotting.
Did the then Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari know about the Babangida coup? Yes, he did, at least three weeks before the coup took place, as early as August 3 rd, 1985 Lawan Rafindadi came to Doddan Barrack to inform Buhari that there were reports of military jeeps, ammunition and artillery at Army Depot at Ikeja Cantonment and things were not right in the military barracks across the nation. Rather than share the security report with his deputy, Buhari kept it to himself and decided to tour Army formations to solicit the support of his comrades. But Buhari was aghast at how the footprints of Babangida had gone in all the Army Barracks he visited. In one instance at the military barrack in Benin-City, he was stupefied at the cold reception offered him by Col. Mark Inienger but Buhari could not do anything about the impending coup……………………………
A week to the Babangida coup, Chief MKO Abiola paid an unscheduled visit to Concord Newspapers offices in Ikeja, Lagos. Although, it was his style as Publisher and Chairman to breeze into Concord Newspapers premises once in a while, chat with his wife Doyin, at times make love to her in her office, visit his MD, and say hi to Tom Borha old Tom Bee, Executive Director and Chairman, Editorial Board, enter Duro Onabule’s office who was editor of the Daily or send for Ismaila Mohammed, Daily Concord deputy editor but this visit seemed to be different. All gates leading to the Concord Newspapers premises were ordered to be put under lock and key, no visitor was to be allowed in or out of the premises until Chief Abiola’s departure. All employees of the Concord Newspapers’ and Concord Press Limited sharing the same premises were enjoined to stay at their desks because Chief MKO Abiola as Chairman/Publisher would be going round all departments to greet and shake hands with all of us-because during this time, I was a feature writer at the Concord Newspapers having left the University of Lagos for a session because of students union politics and Chief Abiola had given me a note to go and work for Concord. M other colleagues at the Features Desk during this time were: Mr. Ola Amupitan, Features Editor; Mrs Betty Irabor(nee Bello-Osagie) Deputy Features Editor, Alhaji Liad Tella, Foreign Editor; Dupe Ajayi,Mr. Bayo Onanuga, now Editor-in-Chief of The News magazine, Moshood Fayemiwo all Features Writers; Miss Wale Abiri (now Wale Shokumbi); Pauline Walley; Mr. Bunmi Craig-Production Editor. Those in the Newsroom were: Mr. Femi Onayemi, Mr. Chris Mammah who later became Editor-in-Chief of TheWeek and Press Secretary to Mr. Abubakar Atiku, former Vice-President under Obasanjo; Mr. Folrunsho Ishola, Mr. Bosco Ikeakanam, Concord State House Correspondent, Mrs Labake Adebiyi, Consmuer Affairs Desk rumored to be sleeping with Chief Abiola, Ms. Titi Oshodi, Joyce Okonofua, Mr. Waheed Odusile, Goke Odeyinka, and other reporters. Mr. Akinpelu Alaja-Browne, Wale Ojo and a host of others were on the Production Desk. Mr. Okechukwu Ifionu was managing the Editorial Page Desk; Mr. Joe Nwokedi” Big Joe” was Group Energy Editor. The following people worked for the then Concord Weekly (later renamed African Concord): Mr. Lewis Obi, Editor, Banji Adeyanju, Okey Anthony Ndibe now here in the United States who currently writes for Sahara Reporters, Milie Adisa, partly Nigerian and partly Ghanaian who was also rumored to be sleeping with Chief MKO Abiola. On the Sunday Concord were Mr. Sina Adedipe as Editor, Maduka Ugwu, his deputy, Mike Awoyinfa, writer and now Editor-in-Chief of The Sun, Emmanuel Adichie, late Lewis Omotosho who taught me newspaper productionand later worked for briefly when I was publishing Razor magazine, Gabriella Osamor who was related to Dr. Emmanuel Osamor, Minister of Police Affairs under Alhaji Shehu Shagari, and Moshood Adebayo, production assistant, and Ms. Aboaba, photographer related to Dr (Mrs) Doyin Abiola, MKO’s wife and Editor-in-Chief and Managing Director of Concord Newspapers. On the Business Desk were Mr. Nsikak Essien, Mrs. Rose Umoren, Eserunene Mojaye, Leke Fakorede and Lat Ogunmade, Kunle Solaja, Muyiwa Daniel and co were on the Concord Sport desk. On the Editorial Board were Nnamdi Obasi, Leke Ogunlesi, late Chike Akabogu-he came to Concord through Ismaila Muhammed because the two of them served on the NYSC together at Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Chike came here to the United States for his masters degree and returned to Nigeria but was initially put on the Business Desk till a position was found for him on the Editorial Board……………………………………………………………………………………………….………………………………………………………………………………………
MKO ABIOLA AND THE BABANGIDA REGIME
- THE ASSASSINATION OF LATE DELE GIWA AND WHY: See for the first time the Full List of Nigerian Journalists Who Knew About The Plot of Gen. Babangida to Kill Giwa and Why They Aren’t Talking Yet.
- WHAT FLORENCE ITA-GIWA KNEW ABOUT THE DEATH OF HER HUSBAND AND WHY GEN. ALIYU MUHAMMAD-GASUA MADE HER PRESIDENTIAL LIAISON OFFICER FOR 8 YEARS UNDER OBASNAJO
- WHAT DID GIWA KNOW THAT LED TO HIS DEATH AND WHY NIGERIA WOULD KNOW NO PEACE UNTIL BABANGIDA ‘S DEATH
PLUS MANY MORE
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