By Soni Daniel
ABUJA— Former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (retd), has said that he should be regarded as a saint given the level of corruption that pervades the Nigerian society today.
Babangida also scored himself high in the management of the economy during the eight-year period of his administration, claiming that he actually worked hard to end the menace of corruption rather than promote it.
According to Babangida, those who held contrary opinion about the activities of his regime did so out of ignorance of what he did while in office.
Babangida’s claims are contained in the latest edition of the Economic and Financial Crimes quarterly magazine, Zero Tolerance, a copy of which was obtained by Vanguard in Abuja yesterday.
The former president said he was able to manage the economy and still left surplus in the treasury with a paltry $7 billion oil revenue compared to what is being earned by the government today.
He stated: “Maybe I have to accept that but anybody with a sense of fairness has no option but to call us saints. I give you an example, in a year; I was making less than $7 billion in oil revenue but in the same period there were governments that were making between $200 billion and $300 billion.
“With $7 billion, I did the best I could but with $200 billion there is still a lot to be achieved. I don’t have all the facts but if what I read in the papers is what is currently happening, then I think we were saints.”
Babangida further claimed that he did his best to stabilise the Naira, leaving the exchange rate at N22 to the dollar, saying that the current exchange rate in the country was not his making.
The Naira is exchanging for between N193 and N200 depending on where and when, following the slight devaluation of the Naira in the wake of plummeting oil prices.
$12.4 Gulf War oil windfall
Asked what he did with the $12.4 Gulf War oil windfall, Babangida further said that he used the money wisely on what he described as “regenerative investment,” giving examples with the building of Abuja City and the Lagos Third Mainland Bridge as some of such investments.
He also stated that contrary to insinuations in many quarters, the oil windfall revenue was not stolen as, his administration channelled the money into the provision of critical infrastructure that Nigerians were using today.
He said: “I am not an economist but I have an understanding of what this is. Our argument then was if you have the money then why keep it and be looking at it when you have a lot of things to do that will benefit the ordinary man? So that money was not stolen.
“Let us take Abuja for example. I built it. Today, we have a brand new capital; we used that money. I gave you a Third Mainland bridge, Lagos, which you cannot build today with all the money that Nigeria is making.”
Most investigated ex-president in Nigeria
The former leader, who recently hosted President Goodluck Jonathan in his expansive mansion in Minna, the Niger State capital, said he was not worried over the corruption toga being bandied about him and his administration, claiming that it was a mere perception thing.
He said he remained the most investigated former president in Nigeria but was happy that nothing incriminating had been found against him to justify the claim that his government was corrupt.
According to him, “now, even our fiercest critics give us credit for certain things we did. I have been the most investigated president Nigeria has ever had. By now somebody should have come forward to say here it is. Every government that came after me investigated me because of that perception because they wanted to retrieve the billions that I stole.”
On June 12 election
On why he annulled the June 12 election won by his late friend, Chief M.K.O. Abiola, IBB said he had given the reasons in the past but pointed out that the very people who claimed to support the election were the same who turned round to work with the military junta and made it to perpetuate itself for many years.
He said: “All those who fought for June 12 ended up serving the military government they didn’t like and that perpetuated a longer stay of the military in government.”