The Event of December 21, 1985

On this day, high ranking military sources claimed to have foiled a plot to depose its four-month-old military government, headed by Major-General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, and that many military officers had been arrested. According to the Defence Minister, Major-General Domkat Yah Bali, three army generals and several senior air force officers were among those seized for plotting against the government of Major-General Babangida. The coup attempt was still being plotted when the arrests were made, military sources said.

The Defence Minister did not say how many officers were arrested. But he said they were from all the armed services. “Investigations so far showed they were recruiting followers and concluding plans for the violent overthrow of the government,” he said. “All those military personnel involved will be dealt with in accordance with military law” he warned. General Bali said that the plotters opposed the government’s position on human rights. They also reportedly resented the fact that some officials from the government of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari had been kept in top posts. General Babangida ousted General Buhari in a coup on August 27 same year.

Discontent with General Babangida was reported to have been growing, particularly among a predominantly Moslem group from northern Nigeria that contended that his government was dominated by minorities and southerners. Southerners were said to believe that they were, through the Babangida regime, getting their deserved share in the national government which used to be dominated by northerners.

General Bali also said at a news conference on this day that the coup plotters had opposed the government’s rejection of a 2.5 billion dollars’ loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He said they (coup plotters) had said that they saw no reason for Nigeria to reject the loan and cut military salaries instead. They said the military was not responsible for Nigeria’s economic problems.

General Babangida stopped talks with the monetary fund the previous week because of wide public opposition to the conditions for the loan.

In one of his first actions after ousting General Buhari, General Babangida released scores of detainees and set up tribunals to review stiff penalties, including death sentences. The plotters “claimed that a military government has no business pursuing a course of running an open-door policy nor upholding fundamental human rights,” General Bali asserted.

Domcat Bali

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