Barely too weeks after former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek reelection in 2019, ex-Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), yesterday reaffirmed this position, asking the president to complete his current term of office and pave the way for a new breed leadership that will lead the country in the digital age.
In a statement released on his behalf by Prince Kassim Afegbua, his official spokesman, Babangida said inasmuch as he would not deny Buhari his right to vie for election, there comes a time in a nation’s life when national interest must override personal ambition.
This is coming in the midst of another statement purportedly issued by Babangida, disowning the first one, wherein he said it was not his style to go public when he has unfettered access to the highest authorities in the country.
Afegbua, however, insisted, in a counter-statement, that Babangida stood by the earlier position, declaring: “Please, this is to affirm that the earlier statement issued and signed by me on behalf of General IBB stands. We regret the mix-up in a rebuttal issued to contradict the statement. The statement stands.”
Also speaking on a television programme last night, he said: “I spoke with General Babangida after the second statement and he said the earlier statement stands and that the kernel of the statement should be the thrust of discussion.”
Emphasising that his statement was authentic, Afegbua said: “Those are his thoughts. We sat down together and articulated them. I don’t know why anybody would think I generated a statement without his authorisation.”
In the earlier statement by Afegbua, Babangida said the incumbent administration had shown lack of capacity in addressing security concerns and widening disunity in the country and, therefore, should go in 2019.
Said he: “I do not intend to deny President Buhari his inalienable right to vote and be voted for, but there comes a time in the life of a nation, when personal ambition should not override national interest.
“This is the time for us to reinvent the wheel and tap into the resourcefulness of the younger generation, stimulate their entrepreneurial initiatives and provoke a conducive environment to grow national economy, both at the micro and macro levels.
“In the fullness of our present realities, we need to cooperate with President Buhari to complete his term of office on May 29, 2019, and collectively prepare the way for new generation leaders to assume the mantle of leadership of the country.”
Echoing Obasanjo’s position, Babangida lamented that the incumbent administration’s handling of herdsmen/farmers conflicts, which have resulted in deaths, has been unsatisfactory.
He wrote: “The unchecked activities of the herdsmen have continued to raise doubt on the capacity of this government to handle with dispatch, security concerns that continue to threaten our dear nation; suicide bombings, kidnappings, armed banditry, ethnic clashes and other divisive tendencies.”
Still on killings in the country, Babangida further lamented: “In the past few months also, I have taken time to reflect on a number of issues plaguing the country. I get frightened by their dimensions. I get worried by their colourations. I get perplexed by their gory themes.
“From Southern Kaduna to Taraba State, from Benue State to Rivers, from Edo State to Zamfara, it has been a theatre of blood with cake of crimson. In Dansadau in Zamfara State recently, North-West of Nigeria, over 200 souls were wasted for no justifiable reason. The pogrom in Benue State has left me wondering if truly this is the same country some of us fought to keep together.
“I am alarmed by the amount of blood-letting across the land. Nigeria is now being described as a land where blood flows like river, where tears have refused to dry up. Almost on a daily basis, we are both mourning and grieving, and often times left helpless by the sophistication of crimes.”
On how to solve the herdsmen/farmer clashes, he said: “We need to bring different actors to the roundtable. Government must generate platform to interact and dialogue on the issues, with a view to finding permanent solutions to the crises.”
Warning on the consequences of the clashes, the former military president said: “The festering nature of this crisis is an inelegant testimony to the sharp divisions and polarisations that exist across the country. For example, this is not the first time herdsmen engage in pastoral nomadism but the anger in the land is suggestive of the absence of mutual love and togetherness that once defined our nationality.
“We must collectively rise up to the occasion and do something urgently to arrest this drift. If left unchecked, it portends danger to our collective existence as one nation bound by common destiny; and may snowball into another internecine warfare that would not be good for nation-building.”
He emphasised the need for the nation to have new leaders that can reinvent the country, saying: “The next election in 2019, therefore, presents us a unique opportunity to reinvent the will and provoke fresh leadership that would immediately begin the process of healing the wounds in the land and ensuring that the wishes and aspirations of the people are realised in building and sustaining national cohesion and consensus.”
Babangida said though APC raised hopes of changing the parlous stats of things in the country, it is yet to redeem the promises.
According to him, “when the ruling party campaigned with the change mantra, I had thought they would device new methods, provoke new initiatives and proffer new ways to addressing some of our developmental problems.”
He lamented that things have not changed for the better, stating: “We are still experiencing huge infrastructural deficit across the country and one had thought the APC-led Federal Government would behave differently from their counterparts in previous administrations. I am hesitant to ask; where is the promised change?”
Calling for the restructuring of the country, the former military president said: “Like I did state in my previous statement late last year, devolution of power or restructuring is an idea whose time has come if we must be honest with ourselves.
“We need to critically address the issue and take informed positions based on the expectations of the people on how to make the union work better.
“Political parties should not exploit this as a decoy to woo voters because election time is here. We need to begin the process of restructuring, both in the letter and spirit of it.
“For example, I still cannot reconcile why my state government would not be allowed to fix the Minna-Suleja Road, simply because it is called Federal Government road, or why state governments cannot run their own policing system to support the Federal Police.”
In concluding his statement, Babangida said he was speaking as a “stakeholder, former president, concerned Nigerian and a patriot who desires to see new paradigms in our shared commitment to get this country running.”
Meanwhile, another statement purportedly by Babangida, which Daily Sun gathered, was issued by his friends, said the earlier statement was the opinion of Prince Afegbua.
The statement said: “My attention has been drawn to a press statement on the state of the nation with a particular reference to 2019 general elections and beyond.
“Let me categorically state that as a former President and statesman, I have unfettered access and channel of communication with the highest authorities in the country without necessary going public with a sensational statement. Therefore, the views expressed in the alleged statement are not mine, but that of the writer.”
On the state of the nation, the statement said it was “worrisome that political events and civil unrest in many parts of the country have raised many questions on the governance and unity of our great nation,” adding:
“Indeed, 2018 has been inundated with political clamours and hot debates over the corporate existence of this country. Many of the contributions, including constructive criticisms and engagements, have shown greater concerns for the corporate existence of Nigeria beyond 2019 general elections.”
It said recent happenings and utterances by political gladiators were “alarming and not in the interest of common man that is already overstretched and apparently living from hand to mouth due to precarious economic conditions.”
The statement however, expressed optimistic that the “political actors will play within the ambits of political norms and decorum to ameliorate the problems facing our society now.”
On his belief in democracy, the statement said: “I am a realist that believes in all issues in a democratic atmosphere are sincerely discussed and resolved in the spirit of give-and-take.
“Since after my military years that metamorphosed to being the only Military President in the history of Nigeria and my civilian life, I always have one clear objective that freedom can only be achieved through democracy.
“Some people find this freedom as an avenue for eroding democracy by antics of hate speeches under the guise of religion, tribal or self-imposed mentorship. This trend of pitching political class and the people against one another is unhealthy and must be discouraged by all and sundry.”
Supporting two-party system, he said: “I have been an advocate of a two-party system, but in our present reality in Nigeria, our political parties can fusion into a strong political association or party that can form a formidable opposition to a ruling party.
“As students of history, we are aware that many advanced democracies have two distinct ideological political parties, with a handful of smaller political groupings that serve as buffer whenever any of the known political parties derailed or became unpopular. I still believe in a two-party system as the best option for Nigeria.”
The statement urged Nigerians “to come together to address all communal conflicts and criminality under any guise, so as to unite the country, in line with the vision of our founding fathers.”
Speaking with Daily Sun last night on telephone, Mahmoud Abdullahi, former Chief Press Secretary to ex-Niger State Governor, Abdulkadir Kure, insisted that the rebuttal signed by IBB remained the authentic statement.
He said: “I was with General Babangida in the presence of Brigadier-General Halilu Akilu and Mohammed Babangida, when he denied the statement written and signed by Afegbua.
“He did not get IBB’s consent to release the statement and IBB is really upset that he even went ahead defending himself on television.
“When I saw Afegbua’s statement, I went to see IBB and he told me to write a rebuttal which I did, and he signed it.
“He said he never authorised Afegbua to release such statement, that is the reason for the rebuttal which he personally signed.”