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Umar's Letter To Babangida

October 1992

The President and Commander-In-Chief, Nigerian Armed

Akinola -Aguda House,



Personal observations-and suggestions on the new turn

I have the honour to crave the president's indulgence
to make a few observations and suggestion on what I
perceive to be a new turn of events, this turn in my
opinion constitutes a departure from the course, which
was mapped out at the beginning of this
administration. I am taking the liberty to do this
because of Mr. President's consistent patience with me
over the years and also because of my deep commitment
to the success of his gigantic task of changing the
destiny of our beloved nation for the better since he
assumed the mantle of national leadership in August
1985. As Mr. President knows very well, this
commitment has informed all my actions both before and
since that date.

Mr. President may recall that on 2 September 1985 I
had an audience with him. This was prior to my
departure to Kaduna to take up my new assignment as
the Military Governor of that State. At that meeting,
you advised that we should watch out for any deviation
from the mapped out course and if necessary to go as
far as advising you to withdraw. I have not yet gone
to the extent of asking the President to resign but I
have said so many things suggesting that we veered off
our course on so many occasions. I am delighted that
my counsel worked at times and corrections were made
or moves in planned directions were aborted for the
good of the country. On many occasions, I also
accepted with modesty and happiness the beneficial
results of courses of action whose adoption I had
earlier opposed. In both cases I never hid my feeling
from the President whenever I was convinced that a
particular decision was in my opinion wrong.

My commitment to the President and the high sense of
altruism that accompanied that commitment have made me
to continue to offer both solicited and unsolicited
advice to him as inputs to different policy decisions.
This has exposed me to the risk of losing the
President's ear or going out of his favour. Sometimes
I even wonder if the President would not consider me
so saucy and insubordinate as to close up entirely to
me. I am highly grateful to Allah that you have done
none of that. You have obligingly been both open and
patient with me . You have been most courteous and
encouraging. Your understanding has emboldened me to
present things to you exactly the way I perceive them.
My resolve to be candid with you always has been
further strengthened by my knowledge that you accept
in totality the philosophy that all power comes from
Allah. It is in this spirit that I wish to advise you
once again on a few very important issues. Some of
them are simply being repeated here.


I shall start sir, with agreeing that there is
nothing-wrong perse, in the decision to decentralize
the headquarters of the Service. I shall also assume
that the idea to relocate them originated from the
Chiefs of the different Services. Rightly or wrongly
however, as President Truman would say, the buck stops
at your table Mr. President. The ultimate
responsibility for whatever final decision is taken on
this issue, and indeed on any other issue of
fundamental decision in Nigeria, rests squarely on
your shoulders. In this specific instance, the fact
that you are a serving soldier as well as the
President makes that responsibility obvious to the
least informed Nigerian. It therefore behooves you Mr.
President, to objectively weigh the implications of
the relocation of those headquarters, the advice of
others who may think that they are serving you well by
recommending what they judge to be agreeable to you
personally notwithstanding.

Mr President, the planned relocation of the
headquarters of the Army and the Air force to Minna
and Kano respectively is politically unwise,
economically wasteful and morally wrong.

Political Aspect.

Firstly, too many military units and establishments
have already been located in the North. Both the
fundamentals of the Nigerian Constitution and its
specific provisions for quota system and political
balance are negated by this lopsided distribution. Any
further addition to this problem would only stoke the
members of Southern political disenchantment which are
already smoldering.

Economic Dimension.

The huge cost of building new headquarters for the two
Services and providing them with commensurate command
and communication facilities would add to Nigeria's
economic difficulties. Coming in the wake of ICAP and
Car Loan Scheme, it would strengthen the public
impression that this administration is obsessed with
investing in non-productive sectors of the economy.

Moral Implications. It is a known fact Mr. President,
that you come from Niger State while General Abacha is
an Indigene of Kana State. I need not remind you of
the popular interpretation of what motivated you to
site the capital of Delta State at Asaba. Your origins
should actually dissuade you from taking AHQ to Minna
even if other objective conditions argued in favour of
doing so. The same can be said for taking HQ NAF to
Kano. No Nigerian Head of State has ever attempted
this kind of movement to his home town.

Alternative Suggestion. If AHQ can not move to Abuja,
I beg you to leave it in Lagos. The Bde of Gds is
already there at Abuja to provide security for the
capital. An AHQ sited at Minna would depend on
electronic communication with Abuja, as one in Lagos
would equally do. Similarly, if NAF HQ cannot be
accommodated at Abuja, I suggest that it should either
remain at Lagos, or move to Makurdi. Although Makurdi
is technically in the North, nascent identification of
the Middle Belt as a political entity could be
strengthened by this move for a more stable Nigeria. I
know that Minna is also in the Middle Belt, but your
coming from that town as I have indicated earlier
seriously argues against moving AHQ there.


Mr. President, I am aware that a host of senior staff
officers exist at the Services headquarters to provide
you with policy option on ECOMOG. It might therefore
be presumptuous of me to advise you contrary to their
recommendations. However, superior headquarters have
made mistakes in history while individual officers
have been proved right. Examples can be found in the
Pentagon's role in Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Cao
Ky and the German Army High Command's concept of the
1940 Western offensive through Belgium as against
General Von Manstein's recommendation of attacking
through the Ardennes and Sedan.

We have to fight in Liberia to save our honour and to
avoid being disgraced by Charles Taylor. There is no
doubt about that. But the mode of that fighting can be
adapted to suit the terrain of Liberia, Taylor's
tactics and the kind of support that he enjoys. Taylor
is effectively fighting a jungle war. Therefore, to
beat him, we do not need a massed body of troops. We
can not afford to repeat the American experience in
Vietnam. What we should do is firstly to use a small
but very well-maintained force to fight him and
secondly to attack him diplomatically to cut off his
support from countries like Libya, Bourkina Faso and
Cote D'Ivoire. I am sure that the cost in material
terms of this foreign policy thrust would not be more
than that of maintaining a huge force in Liberia whose
strategic success cannot by any stretch of the
imagination be guaranteed. We must also fight Taylor's
use of media organs like the BBC or CNN to portray
Nigeria as a big bully trampling on a defenceless
victim. Mr. President is also advised to pay closer
attention to how well our troops in Liberia are
catered for by ECOMOG HQ.


Mr. President, it truly pains me any time I read in
newspapers and magazines, speculations on your
sincerity in handing over in January 1993 as the
Transition Programme provides. I am pained because of
the implied questioning of your integrity. I was once
reported to have said that I would follow you
blindfolded to battle. You know that I did not make
that statement out of sycophancy. I beg you to resist
any temptation from any quarters whatsoever to become
another Mobutu or Eyadema. You have bidden official
farewell to both the OAU and ECOWAS and I can tell you
that I was personally proud of that action.

Whatever history says of you, one thing it will never
deny is your courage. You have taken actions that no
other Nigerian Head of State could ever have
contemplated. The more controversial moves like our
entry into the OIC and the restoration of diplomatic
relations with Israel were made after due and thorough
appreciations I am sure. The radical attempts to
change Nigeria's political culture that informed the
creation of the two political parties must be seen by
posterity for what I am convinced it truly is and not
the smokescreen for a so-called hidden agenda which
political soothsayers are now making it out to be.


I profess without reservations Mr. President, that I
am one officer who can truly say to himself that my
support for you has never been opportunistic. That
support has been entirely based on the profound
respect and admiration which I have for you. I know
that other people can lay claim to the same sentiments
while giving you advice that is diametrically opposed
to mine. Do therefore I beg you, consider both
versions as originating from the most altruistic of
motives and weigh them as objectively as you can. I
stand to share no matter how infinitesimally in any
encomiums that history may pour on you. I equally
stand condemned if history judges you otherwise. Above
all my suggestions, in the name of Allah, I beg you,
General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, to leave the stage
while the ovation is loudest.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Yours obedient Servant,

D.A. Umar




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