“Yes, Babangida Killed Dele Giwa” – Major Debo Basorun, Rtd
**Babangida’s ex-Chief Press Secretary opens up, says ‘Yes, IBB killed Dele Giwa’
Twenty-seven years after the brutal murder by a parcel bomb of the journalist Dele Giwa, the fog surrounding those behind his death has been substantially cleared by 70-year-old Major Debo Basorun (retd.), former Chief Press Secretary to ex-military President Ibrahim Babangida. In an interview published this morning in National Mirror, Basorun was asked: “Are you saying categorically that it was Babangida who ordered the killing of Dele Giwa?” His answer: “Yes, yes and yes.”
The septuagenarian had yesterday broken down in tears as he recalled Giwa’s dastardly murder during the launch in Lagos of his book, ‘Honour for Sale: An Inside Account of the Murder of Dele Giwa’.
In the explosive interview, Basorun also accused his erstwhile boss of bringing corruption to the highest level in the country and of committing a lot of atrocities. Please read on:
Question: What informed your decision to write a book about some salient events in the nation’s history?
Immediately I left this country for exile in United States of America in 1989, I gathered all the materials for the book. I started making jottings on long hand. By 1994 the book was ready and the transcript was given to Prof. Wole Soyinka during the NADECO struggles. But for one reason or the other, I could not put it through
Why did you go on exile?
I had to run when my life was in danger. I was then the Chief Press Secretary to General Ibrahim Babangida, the former Head of State. Since I know some facts surrounding the death of Dele Giwa, the government was uncomfortable with me, therefore they were looking for how to eliminate me.
Babangida’s government was involved in the planning and assassination of Dele Giwa. And because I was privy to that information, the government was unhappy, unsettled; it was jittery and wanted to get rid of me. It suspected that I could say the truth. When I saw the handwriting on the wall and between life and death, I ran for my life. I had to escape from the country after I took them to court. I was the only principal officer serving that will take the government to court.
Despite several injunctions, at the Lagos High Court, the military government then just refused to come to the court to present their side of the story. The court said they should leave me alone, but they were hunting for me everywhere and since my life was no longer safe, I had to leave.
What are the salient facts that you have in your custody that made you think the government was looking for you?
These facts are hidden in the book and if you get a copy, you will see the intrigue that was woven round the killing of Dele Giwa. You will see the role certain characters played in the murder. I was even induced with money, but I refused, that was the time I had to run away. Now I believe it is better to state the fact the way it was no matter whose ox is gored. It is better to run away than to collect money from the devil.
Are you saying categorically that it was Babangida who ordered the killing of Dele Giwa?
Yes, yes and yes.
What about the involvement of Cols. Haliru Akilu and A. K. Togun?
Yes, these guys were in the military intelligence. They were all involved. If there is any dirty job to be done, the military intelligence would do it. I am a dramatic personae in that unit, therefore there is nothing they are doing that I would not know. The bitter truth is that Dele Giwa was killed by the Babangida regime. The whole thing was surrounded by mystery of our government. It is unfortunate that nobody has been brought to book.
Are you not afraid of your life now that all those you implicated in your book are still alive?
That was then that I used to fear, I am old enough to die now. That is the reason why I wrote this book, ‘Honour for Sale’. If eventually it leads to my death, I have no regrets.
Why did they tag you a rebel while in the army, especially on the issue of a strong memo you wrote to your superior officer. What happened then?
That was when I was in the army. The issue that forced me out into exile was that Babangida was the President. There were two different scenarios here. One of the things that endeared Babangida to so many troops was his sense of fairness and sense of accommodating, no matter where you come from. After I became his spokesperson in the army, I realised that most of our gadgets in the army had inscriptions written on them in Arabic.
Despite the fact that I was a Muslim, I found it offensive that English was our lingua franca and that those things ought to have been written in English. I raised a memo and sent to him. He did not want to act on it, when Akilu, who was the Director of Military Intelligence got wind of it, he was bitter with me. He called me all sorts of names and came to accuse me for initiating such a memo.
Was there any sinister move from Akilu over what you did?
He was just harassing me, but Babangida shielded me, and told me that I should lie low. There was a time he told me that I should not mind him. I was doing a good job and the image of the army, which had been battered, was being restored gradually.
Don’t you think that the society will blame you for concealing such information you are divulging now for many years?
No; they will not, against the backdrop of what went wrong then. I knew why I went to court and refused to be posted to where they can kill me. There was a precedent, they have killed people in that unit before and nothing happened, therefore I didn’t want to be killed. If I did not have my facts, I will not go to court. That was why they muzzled everybody including the court. They were very powerful and there was nothing they could not do.
Was that the reason why all the cases of glaring assassinations the country have been witnessing after the killing of Dele Giwa cannot be traced?
It is only now that the police investigate cases of assassination and other organised crimes. Those days, the police cannot investigate anything. In fact, during the time of Babangida, the police was just a toothless bull dog. They were just there at the beck and call of the powers that be, then and there was nothing the rank and file could do.
Is it true that the IBB you know can do anything to bribe his way out of any situation?
I can tell you authoritatively that Babangida was a corrupt man. He was very corrupt. Several times, I had collected bribe for him. I am not claiming to be a saint, because I was a part of that government.
It is ‘obey the last order’ in the military. I know bribery is not good, but it was a military assignment that you must carry out; it is a duty that you must do. If the society wants to blame me for that, I will take up the blame. IBB introduced a new dimension to corruption in Nigeria on a large scale.
Recently the same IBB came out to condemn corruption in the country, how do you react to that?
It is very unfortunate that he, who took corruption to the highest level, could do so. Every Head of State in this country, apart from Muritala Mohammed and Muhammadu Buhari, were all corrupt.
The idea behind the book is just to call on Nigerians that they should not allow impunity to continue, enough is enough. After Dele Giwa, a lot of people, including journalists have been killed by the powers that be, yet nobody has unravelled the killings. What that is telling us is that the media is not doing enough to come out with such investigative stories, one day nobody knows who could come next as their target.
That is the challenge I pose to them now; let them come and kill me. I no longer fear for my life. I am old enough to die now if that is the sacrifice to pay for telling the truth and exposing all the hidden facts in our past brutal political history. I don’t want to go to my grave with this heavy load on my chest, today I have children and grandchildren, so if death comes now, I have left a legacy for the next generation to ponder on. They offered me money to keep quiet, but I refused, knowing full well that a day like this will come.
In 2010, Babangida wanted to use the Chief of Army Staff as they came up with spurious charge that cannot withstand the test of time against me that I stole money in the army. I took them to court, but they could not defend it.
After that all other Chiefs of Army Staff who had sat on that chair realised that the issue was a political one and decided not to dabble into it. They did not want to dabble into it for the fear that a day like this may come where all the hidden facts will be in the open. They did all that could be done to rubbish my image and harass me publicly but it all failed.
Was there any specific attempt on your life in the course of this crisis?
When I was in exile, Babangida wanted to eliminate me, but all his attempts failed. He used the Nigerian Embassy in America to prosecute all these atrocities, he even got in touch with some corrupt US agencies to do the shady deal for him, but all failed. I was forced to go to court there before I was vindicated. Babangida was afraid of this day, when all his misdeeds of the past would be laid bare in the open to the public through my book.
As an insider, do you believe that there were few cabals that were controlling the destiny of this country?
Yes, Babangida is one of them. Let me tell you the bitter truth: all those who have been controlling the political power of this country are few cliques who are re-cycling themselves, either military or civilian. Most of them are in government by proxy; all their agents are in government.
Let me give you an example, there are some people, who were with me in Dodan Barracks and who are still in the present government. For us to move forward, let all the old brigade hands off, including myself. Let the young people take over the reins of power and run it. With all these dead woods around, former this and former that, we are not going to get anywhere.
Would you say we need revolution to make things right?
Revolution is the last resort. Yes things are not going as it ought to go, but Nigerians can endure a lot, however there is limit to human endurance. When Nigerians are pressed to the wall, revolution will come naturally. The handwriting is clearly on the wall.