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The black monk (5)

Maryam Babangida

The children and wives of generals get a special mention – sometimes for the wrong reason. A case in point is the first son of General Yakubu Gowon.

As counterpoise, the camera zooms off to Otunba Niyi Adebayo, the first son of General Robert Adeyinka Adebayo who was the Military Governor of the Western Region of Nigeria from 1966 to 1971.

Following the creation of Ekiti State in 1996 Otunba Adebayo became its first civilian Governor and served a four-year term.


He is currently the Vice-Chairman (South-West) of the ruling All Progressives Congress.

As for the wives of generals, there is no gainsaying that Maryam Babangida, Mariam Abacha; Justice Fati Lami Abubakarand TuraiUmar Musa Yar’Adua were exceptionally powerful. They wielded enormous influence during the regimes of their respective husbands.

Their only rival as First Lady in terms of influence was Dame (Mrs.) Patience Jonathan whose husband, a civilian, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was acting President from 5th May 2010 to 28th May 2011 and President from 29th May 2011 to 28th May 2015.

What is remarkable though is that during Turai Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s reign as First Lady, Patience Jonathan, wife of the Vice-President was hardly visible. However, from the moment her husband became the President, she wasted no time in letting the nation and the rest of the world know that she had both power and authority in equal measures. Since her husband left office she has been locked into fierce legal battles with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] over the millions of dollars she is alleged to have stashed away in local and foreign banks and massive funds in the custody of her proxies.

As for her successor, Hajia Aisha Buhari, her longstanding grudge match is against the “Cabal” which she alleges are faceless dominant power-brokers in her husband’s government (kitchen cabinet).

While Maryam Babangida was First Lady, the cold war between her and the wife of the Chief of Army Staff/Minister of Defence, Mariam Abacha was as fierce as it was palpable. It was obviously a critical factor in General Sani Abacha’s eagerness combined with deviousness in the scheming over the debacle/fiasco of June 12 1993 Presidential election which resulted in Abacha eventually supplanting the interim government headed by Chief Ernest Adegunle Shonekan.

What is equally remarkable is that some First Ladies – Mrs. Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi; Mrs. Ajoke Murtala Muhammed; Safinatu Yusuf the first wife of General Buhari; and Oluremi the first wife of General Olusegun Obasanjo were hardly visible.

As for late Mrs. Olufunmilayo Mobolaji-Johnson, she carried on with her job as a teacher at Yaba College of Technology and the Federal Training Centre while her husband Brigadier Mobolaji-Johnson was the Military Governor of Lagos State from May 1967 to July 1975.

General Sani Abacha’s reign was turbulent in more ways than one. He firmly established himself as the absolute ruler who would brook no nonsense from friend or foe. He was ruthless in dealing with those who dared to challenge his authority – especially the leader of NADECO [National Democratic Coalition].

The list of casualties is long and intimidating – from Chief Alfred Rewane who was assassinated in his own home at 100 Oduduwa Crescent, GRA, Lagos to James Bagauda Kaltho, the journalist who was bombed in Kaduna and many others such as Alhaja Suliat Adedejiwho was brutally murdered in Ibadan on November 14, 1996 and strange objects were inserted into her private parts.

Even those who fled abroad were not spared. Not only was Lt. General Alani Akinrinade’s home in Opebi, Ikeja, Lagos bombed, he and Professor Bolaji Akinrinade missed being assassinated by a whisker in Benin Republic. The list goes on and on.

Unknown to many, the initial ring-leaders of NADECO which was set up to reclaim the mandate of Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, a Yorubaman were Ibos – Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (who had previously served as General Babangida’s number two/ Vice-President/Chief of General Staff, Supreme Headquarters) and Rear-Admiral Ndubisi Kanu former Military Governor of Lagos State. They both refused to flee the country.

Most dramatically, Abacha fell out with his number two, General Oladipo Diya over what he considered treachery and betrayal in favour of his fellow Yorubaman, Abiola. Matters deteriorated rapidly and Diya was exceptionally lucky to miss a flight on which a bomb had been planted. In his own words:

“…a plane which I was to take to Makurdi was planned to be bombed, but by the stroke of fortune, I was 10 minutes late, which was really not in my character. That lateness was what God actually used to save my life. Within those 10 minutes, those who were priming the bomb so that the plane would explode 10 minutes after take-off were killed by the bomb before I got there. I didn’t go ahead with the journey. Although everybody around me, including my chief security officer, said I should continue on the journey, I said no because if I did, the thing would have been repeated in Makurdi. So, I stopped and that was what saved my life. If those who were responsible for that bomb knew God, they would have stopped. They went on and three weeks after, I was arrested on allegation of planning a phantom coup. But I thank God that on every step that was taken thereafter, Almighty God saved me. And since the day they failed in their attempt to blow me away, I gained the confidence that, by the grace of God, I am beyond human destruction.”

To cut a long story short, General Diya ended up being charged with plotting a coup along with Major-General Abdulkareem Adisa and Major-General Tajudeen Olanrewaju.

As an interjection, the film relies on the incisive observations of former presidents of the United States of America.

  • ) Thomas Jefferson [from 1743 to 1826]

“Those entrusted with power have over time converted it to tyranny.”

  • ) Abraham Lincoln [from 1809 to 1865]

“Most men can survive adversity but if you want to test the character of a man, give him power.”

  • Concluded


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