Ibrahim Babangida ruled Nigeria from 1985, when he overthrew Muhammadu Buhari in a military coup, until 1993 when he stepped aside after annulling the free and fair presidential election results without explanation. During his regime, he played a major role in West African military efforts to resolve the civil war in Liberia. 


“Babangida told Shultz that Nigeria was in need of a World Bank-IMF program because of its heavy debt load.…Babangida addressed the issue of a possible request to the World Bank and IMF for assistance with an economic reform program. He consulted the population on the issue by addressing the nation on television and requesting that discussions take place throughout Nigeria. He wanted to make sure that everyone understood that such a program would require considerable belt-tightening in return for international assistance in restructuring debt. As reported in the Nigerian press, discussion groups were formed throughout the nation, especially on university campuses. The general reaction of the Nigerian people was interesting. They expressed willingness to undertake the sacrifices associated with economic reform, but they rejected the offer of assistance from the international financial institutions. Their reasoning was impeccable. ‘The World Bank and International Monetary Fund will lend us money at favorable rates so that we can decrease our debt load. But that money will disappear into the pockets of corrupt politicians, and the Nigerian people will not see a penny of it.” (Page 110)

“In March 1993, I had a weird experience during my final days as assistant secretary. I received a call from an old Nigerian business friend, Antonio Deinde Fernandez. He was living in New York, where he was the deputy permanent representative of Mozambique to the United States. [He] had come to Washington for a short visit and asked me to meet him for drinks at the Fairfax Hotel near Washington’s Dupont Circle. He said that he wanted me to meet some visiting Nigerians. When I arrived at the hotel, I found Fernandez with two Nigerian military officers wearing the stars of general officers. When the conversation turned to Babangida’s experiment with two-party democracy, I saw the two generals tighten up visibly. One of them said through clenched teeth, ‘Those two candidates are just a couple of jokers. We in the military will not allow either of them to come to power.’” (Page 113)

Babangida’s Background

  • Born in 1941 as part of the Gwari ethnic group.
  • In 1962, he began attending the Nigerian Military Training College in Kaduna.  In 1966, he studied at the Royal Armoured Corps.
  • Achieved the following military ranks: Second Lieutenant (1963), Lieutenant (1966), Captain (1968), Major (1970), Lieutenant Colonel (1970), Colonel (1973), Brigadier (1979), Major General (1983), and General (1987).
  • Overthrew Buhari’s regime in 1985.
  • Resisted an attempted military coup in 1990.
  • Following a census in 1991, Babangida created two political parties to try to hand over rule to the people in a controlled way.
  • After losing the 1993 election, Babangida and his party prevented the results from being announced.  He annulled the election, but later stepped down.
  • He has mentioned running for president in the last few years, but has yet to win nomination.