Lieutenant Babangida was posted with the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron in Kaduna, and witnessed the events of the bloody 1966 Nigerian coup d’etat, which resulted in the death of Premier Ahmadu Bello. Alongside several young officers from Northern Nigeria, he took part in the July counter-coup which ousted General Aguiyi Ironsi replacing him with General Yakubu Gowon.

In 1975, Colonel Babangida as Commander of the amoured corps was a key participant in the coup that brought General Muritala Mohammed to power. He was later appointed as one of the youngest members of the Supreme Military Council from 1 August 1975 to October 1979.

In 1976, following the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed, Colonel Babangida crushed the coup attempt almost single-handily by taking back control of the Radio Nigeria station from the main prepretrator, Lieutenant Colonel Buka Suka Dimka (a close friend of his), to prevent him making further announcements over the air waves. Dimka later escaped, and  was arrested in Eastern Nigeria before later being publicly executed in May 1976.

In 1983, Brigadier General Babangida participated in the overthrow of the Second Nigeria Republic, the coup with financial backing from businessman Moshood Abiola brought General Muhammadu Buhari into power.  Babangida was promoted and made Chief of Army Staff by the General Muhammadu Buhari.

In 1985, General Babangida orchestrated a Palace Coup ousting General Muhammadu Buhari. With help from loyalists whom he had strategically positioned within the military hierarchy such as Sani Abacha, Aliyu Gusau, Halilu Akilu, Gado Nasko, Mamman Vatsa and students from his days as an instructor in the military academy.

In a speech, General Babangida announced that a change in government was necessary as General Buhari’s dictatorial War Against Indiscipline campaign and the mismanagement of the economy had plunged the country into turmoil. Babangida established the Armed Forces Ruling Council in a bid to cement his power and promulgated his official title as the first military president of Nigeria.

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