Olisa Agbakoba, former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), says Babagana Kingibe benefitted from the June 12 struggle despite not being a part of the agitation.
Kingibe, alongside MKO Abiola, was recently conferred with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON). He was the running mate of Abiola during the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
In an interview with PUNCH, Agbakoba, a prominent human rights activist, described Kingibe as “a big-time traitor”.
He berated Kingibe for accepting a foreign minister position in the government of Sani Abacha, late military head of state.
Agbakoba said he warned Abiola that Kingibe could not be trusted but he did not listen to him. He said Abiola would have been president if had heeded his warning.
He said: “He is a traitor; he is a big time traitor. I warned Abiola. Abiola didn’t listen to us, that was the problem. If he had listened to us, he would have been the president. We said this guy, we were not sure about him o. But Abiola is also at fault because he was so driven to become president that he lost sight of some very fundamental points. Then, he made a mistake of not following the advice of the pro-democracy community. Rather, he was listening to the politicians who wanted to be ministers. That was all they wanted.
“So having failed to follow advice, he very quickly fell into many errors, the first being that he now kowtowed to Abacha.
“It was Kudirat who had a great sense of decency; Abiola was a bit a too ambitious in wanting to become president. He went to Aso Rock to meet with Babangida in the course of which Babangida’s wife and Kudirat started fighting. It led to a fight. Babangida and other people had to rush out to separate them. My point is that Abiola really failed to see some of the pitfalls.
“I had meetings with Kingibe to say ‘don’t you think that being appointed foreign minister under Abacha’s government when the mandate was still alive and being pushed for, betrayed the mandate?’ He tried to justify it by saying it was Abiola who caused it. He said Abiola was not communicating with him, strategy, what to do, blah blah blah. So (he) said okay, ‘if Abiola himself has virtually rubbished the mandate, then why would he be fighting for it?’ Those are the circumstances under which he took the appointment.
“I said ‘I don’t think anything justifies it, I think you should have stood by the mandate notwithstanding what Abiola did. But you see, the irony today is that he is benefitting from something he did not fight for even for one day. That is the irony of life. He didn’t fight for it for one day, but well, he is entitled since he was Abiola’s running mate.”
When asked if Kingibe deserves the national honour, Agbakoba said: “I would say he should not have been given because he didn’t believe in June 12 and why would I give somebody who didn’t believe in June 12 an honour? For me, it is an irony.”