We sat down with Dr. Peregrino Brimah, a public commentator and Rights advocate who regularly writes columns in several editorials. He discussed his personal relationship with late General Tunde idiagbon, the well recognized former Nigerian number two man and chief of staff at the Supreme Headquarters under the military regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari from 1983 to 1985.
What was your relationship with Late General Tunde Idiagbon?
He was a unique man with a powerful personality. I grew up knowing him as a family friend. We used to sit in his extraordinary company.
He spoke little. He never laughed, he did not even smile. He was a true soldier like very few the world has ever witnessed. One of his good friends, Alhaji Gada was a jester. A very funny man. He used to crack the most funny jokes. When everyone tumbled in laughter, Idiagbon would never laugh. he will not even crack a smile. The most he will do is nod or look to a side.
I remember when the late General first introduced me to the group. Idiagon said, this is Dr. Peregrino Brimah. I had just graduated Medical school at the time. Alhaji Gada said, “doctor of what? Of chickens?” I was very skinny and young then. Tunde Idiagbon with a very frank face responded rather chillingly. “He is a real Medical doctor.”
You talk about his character after government. Can you elaborate?
You see, many say that late General Idiagbon was the engine behind the noted integrity and discipline government of the Buhari regime. He was incorruptible to a fault. He lived his life really austere in a bungalow till he died. He had only a few cars, most were gifts. Nothing fancy.
We recall the CIA-Babangida, Abiola and Aliyu Gusau coup plotters had to make sure they took him out of the country to enact their evil plot. They could never have done it if he was in Nigeria. After the Saudis were conspired with by Abiola to invite him for the pilgrimage so the coup could happen, he had the option not to return to Nigeria where he was at risk of being killed, but he bravely returned.
I remember sitting with him and him reiterating that he never signed out of command. “I never signed,” he said. Idiagbon technically remained an active military General in command of Nigeria till his death. He never bowed down or accepted the new administration.
How was his relationship with the coup plotters?
Very notably, he never forgave the coup plotters and this was very open. In public functions, late General Idiagbon and his entire entourage never shook hands with Babangida, Abiola and the rest. It was a cold scenario.
You will see Idiagbon and his entourage walk right past Babangida and Abiola and never exchange pleasantries. That is the kind of man the late General was. may his soul rest in peace with his Creator.
I remember when Buhari took the PTF job.
Idiagbon will never take such a job. In particular, when his son, Kunle was to work on some jobs Muhammadu Buhari in the PTF thing, there is an event that stood out to me.
His son, Kunle needed funds to do his part. Late Idiagbon said he would not give him a penny. We were all shocked by this. As Kunle sourced funds from some of us, we were in amazement at why his father will not assist him or take a part in this.
You said he was a farmer and had episodes with herdsmen?
Yes, Idiagbon was a fervent farmer. He had a big farm and used to spend weekends there. He used to complain bitterly about Fulani herders invading his farm. This was as far back…in the early 90s.
I remember a particular day when he said enough was enough. He was very upset that the herds had devastated his crops one more time. He started taking his gun to the farm and then he would tell us how he killed several of their cows. It was the last war he was engaged in.
That time I did not know much about Fulani invasions of farm lands and it was news to me. The late general spent more time in his farm, armed and would kill any invading cows. I guess today they would have wiped out our area in revenge for that…and considering how vindictive they are, perhaps they are yet coming for us.
What can you tell us about his death?
I heard of his death first hand. He had two drivers, an old faithful driver who he had used for the years, Farouk and a military driver, Tanko. These drivers were my good friends. Tanko used to help drive my cars to buy petrol during the Abacha, Obasanjo and co scarcities. It was Tanko who took him to Abuja.
Tanko told me of how they could barely make the journey back. Whatever they had poisoned him with in Abuja was of quick onset. Tanko described how as he drove oga to Ilorin, the poor late General was in serious physical distress. He kept having to stop so Oga could relieve himself and throw up. Tanko described how we drove at breakneck speed to get ‘Oga’ to Ilorin.
He was admitted in his doctor’s clinic and when the severity was recognized, transferred to the Unilorin Teaching Hospital where he passed.
You remember that killing him and some others was part of the agreement Obasanjo had with the General Abubakar Abdusalami government. Everyone knew that if democracy was restored, Idiagbon was a contender that the people will want. Aliyu Tilde described this very well. Before Obasanjo agreed with the Aliyu Gusau and Babangida’s foster brother, Abdusalami proposal for him to come and assume power as their proxy with their PDP party, part of the agreement was to have threats eliminated. Idiagbon was one of the listed threats.
He is sorely missed. His burial was massive like never seen before. I can remember my disgust at the time seeing Babangida in attendance. Who invited him and who allowed him to attend? I will never make friends with the enemies of my father. At the time I could not help but be infuriated that he was allowed to attend knowing how the late General felt about him.