Nigerians yesterday expressed divergent views about the stance of former military president, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, on issues of national interest, including the reasons he gave for annulling the June 12 presidential election.
Babangida who spoke yesterday morning in an interview with Arise Television said if he had not annulled the June 12 presidential poll adjudged as the freest and fairest in the country’s history, a coup d’etat would have occurred.
“If it materialised, there would’ve been a coup d’etat — which could have been violent. That’s all I can confirm. It didn’t happen thanks to the engineering and the ‘maradonic’ way we handled you guys in the society. But that could’ve given room for more instability in the country,” he stated.
He also noted that Nigeria needs someone in his 60s as the next president of the country in 2023, even as he stressed the need to vote for a leader with mental capacity, economic knowledge, and physical strength.
“If you get a good leadership that links with the people and tries to talk with the people; not talking on top of the people, then we would be okay.
“I have started visualizing a good Nigerian leader. That is, a person, who travels across the country and has a friend virtually everywhere he travels to and he knows at least one person that he can communicate with.
“That is a person, who is very versed in economics and is also a good politician, who should be able to talk to Nigerians and so on. I have seen one, or two or three of such persons already in their sixties,” he added.
He further commended president Muhammadu Buhari administration’s handling of economy for the fact that it didn’t collapse. “I think they are trying to keep it moving but to move the economy forward they need to mobilise the people towards achieving this common objective. The resource are there, you are there to provide the leadership and to support them.”
Asked whether his tenure was substantially characterised by corruption, he said corruption under civilian rule is now than the one witnessed during the military regimes.
“Well you can compare it with facts on ground. I think we are saint compared to what is happening under democracy. I sacked a Governor because of 13000.”
In its reaction, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, supported the former military president’s call for the next president of Nigeria to be someone in his 60s.
National publicity secretary Ohanaeze, Alex Ogbonnia, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that as much as capacity in formulation and implementation of policies are important in governance the agility of youth cannot be overemphasised.
“Formulation and implementation of policies are important. But there is no way you can compare the agility of the youth. People in their sixties, vibrancy of youthful age cannot be lost. It is better for a youthful person to be president,” he stated.
Ohanaeze also agreed with the former military president’s perception of corruption under the current administration.
On corruption, Ogbonnia who referred to the State of Africa Martin Meredith
Nepotism, said the bane of African countries is nepotism which breeds corruption.
“In Nigeria it is also the case, nepotism breeds corruption. The Buhari-led government has a lot to do with nepotism which has bred corruption.
“One is an independent variable and the dependent variable. Nepotism gives rise to corruption and incompetence. So we agree with him,” Ogbonnia said.
Ohanaeze however disagreed with Babangida on the annulment of the June 12 election, urging the former military president to desist from trying to justify his action, which it described as catastrophic.
He added that the things he wanted to avoid ended up catching up with the country.
Also, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, Abia State chapter, agreed with the former Nigerian leader that there should be an age limit to the office of the presidency.
“That it is exactly what we require now to catch up the lost grounds the country has witnessed under the present situation,” president of the state chapter of Ohanaeze, Chief Okey Nwankwo, stated.
He however disagreed with Babangida that corruption is worse in the country under civilian government than the military era.
Nwankwo insisted that Babangida’s era recorded the highest rate of corruption ever in the country, expressing surprise that “he could make such an allegation as if we all have forgotten what we passed through under him.”
Also, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) described the former military president’s stance on who the next president should be as timely and commendable.
The forum said the call by former military President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) to have someone in his 60s as Nigeria’s president in2023 is an indication that he is committed to genuine democracy.
The youth group said, “Former President IBB has proved that he is committed to genuine democracy and has demonstrated patriotism. It’s a call to inject fresh blood into the democratic space of today’s Nigeria. We call on all elder statesmen to cue behind IBB for the good of this nation”.
A statement signed by the group’s National President, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, noted that the former military president spoke the minds of millions of Nigerians who have been quietly disturbed by “the political culture of recycling old, tired citizens as presidents of the nation”, saying this was partly responsible for the current stagnation afflicting the country.
Shettima continued: “We are all aware that in terms of leadership/governance globally, the trend is having young, healthy and intellectually vibrant young people at the helm of affairs.
“We are calling on all political parties in the country to shun the culture of recycling old and incompetent candidates for the nation’s presidency, because the youth will no longer support that dangerous trend anymore”.
He further stressed that the era of having old people holding the reigns in Nigeria should belong to the past and “anyone who thinks this stagnation should continue, should perish that negative thought.
“Going forward, the AYCF will never allow the recycling of old, weak and sick citizens as leaders of this nation, more so in a fast-changing and competitive world.
“Much as democracy give everyone the right to contest for any elective office, it does not encourage the emergence of tired, weak, politically compromised, sick and overly unproductive persons as leaders of this modern society” Shettima added.
On its part, the apex northern sociocultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), urged Nigerians to take Bangida’s advice very seriously.
National publicity secretary of the forum, Emmanuel Yawe said, “IBB is an experienced military politician who ruled this country for eight years as the one and only military president.
“Additionally, he is one of the Patrons of ACF. Whatever he suggests for this country we believe is for the good of the country. He is also a man imbued with patriotic ideas. We hold him in ACF in very high esteem and we urge Nigerians to take his ideas seriously” he said.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) threw its weight behind Babangida on corruption, saying the former military president stated the obvious about the extent of corruption in the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
The national publicity secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that the Buhari administration has become the most corrupt in the history of Nigeria.
Ologbondiyan said, “Who doesn’t know in Nigeria today that the most corrupt administration in the history of our county is the Buhari administration. So the former military president, Gen Ibrahim Babangida, has stated the obvious as it concerns this government.
“The APC government claimed that it was coming to fight corruption yet; it has not prosecuted any of its own members not even one for corruption. Look at all the corruption cases that we have in NEMA, NHIS, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and so on. And all the president can say is that he has a way of easing corrupt people out of his administration without prosecuting them for corruption.
“People just come into his government, loot our commonwealth and then they are eased out and continue to enjoy their loot. Is that fighting corruption? Is that what he promised Nigerians? So, Gen Babangida has stated the obvious,” PDP added.
A source within the camp of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar dismissed insinuations making the rounds that Babangida’s preference for persons under the 70 year old mark to emerge the next president of Nigeria.
Attempts to get Atiku’s media aide to comment on the matter proved abortive as calls and text messages to his line were ignored.
But the highly placed source within Atiku’s team who asked not to be mentioned said, “It is important to interrogate what His Excellency, Ibrahim Babangida said. And what was the essence of what he said? The essence of what he said was that at this point in time Nigeria needs a leader who understands the economy, has friends in every nook and cranny of the country.
“That to me looks like Atiku Abubakar personified, and much more: astute business man, job creator, detribalised and compassionate; social democrat and consummate politician”.
Also commenting on the interview the former military president granted ARISE TV, the pan yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, said by annulling the June 12 presidential poll lost the opportunity of being the hero of democracy and father of a new Nigeria.
Afenifere’s secretary-general, Chief Sola Ebiseni, said annulling the election which was adjudged to be the freest and fairest in the history of the country under the pretext of avoiding violent coup does not make sense.
He stated: “Babangida has not said a new thing worthy of any reaction in respect of his treasonable acts of the annulment of the adjudged freest and fairest election in the country’s political history. Nigerians are not interested in any excuse being now given by IBB.
“It is even most preposterous that IBB whose regime’s hands were stained with the blood of vibrant middle-level officers who were massacred in an obviously organised plane crash on suspicion of planning a coup; who headed a regime which killed his colleagues.
“He lost the opportunity of being the hero of democracy and father of a new Nigeria, an eternal regret that no whitewashing on television can redeem.”
Another chieftain of the Afenifere, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, also berated the former military president for what he called his renewed excuse as justifying the criminal annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election won by late Bashorun Moshood Abiola.
Okunrounmu who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend on phone emphatically declared that responding to IBB’s confession on the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election would amount to dignifying the General for his action, as he was known for evolving different excuses to cover his action.
His words: “General Babangida does not worth to be dignified with any response because he will continue to look for excuses to justify his action on the annulment of June 12, 1993 Presidential election.
“But just like a miscreant, who would feign excuses to make the society believe that what he did was right, what IBB said on the annulment of the June 12 Presidential election should exactly be discarded and regarded as an excuse of a miscreant and any response would amount to dignifying him of the criminal act of that exercise”.