BY BODE GBADEBO, Abuja and Abu Nmodu, Minna
In a bid to nip the menace of hate speeches and ethnic agitations that are generating tensions across the country in the bud, former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, has joined those advocating for the restructuring of the nation’s political structure, saying the time for doing so has come.
In his Eid-el-Fitri message to Nigerians obtained by LEADERSHIP yesterday, Babangida who is popularly known as IBB also advocated for the creation of State Police.
According to him, Nigeria cannot afford another civil war, hence all hands must be on deck to achieve a united Nigeria for the benefits of all her citizens.
The former Nigerian leader said the fact that Nigeria has not fully realized her potentials as a great nation was not “enough reason” for her citizens to want to demolish the foundation of her nationhood or rubbish the labours of her heroes past.
He added that there is need to change “tactics and approach”, even as he noted that it was Nigerians’ collective responsibility to engender a reform that would be realistic and in sync with modern best practices for the development of the country.
Babangida said, “For example, restructuring has become a national appeal as we speak, whose time has come. I will strongly advocate for devolution of powers to the extent that more responsibilities be given to the states, while the Federal Government is vested with the responsibility to oversee our foreign policy, defense, and economy.
“Even the idea of having Federal Roads in towns and cities has become outdated and urgently needs revisiting. That means we need to tinker with our constitution to accommodate new thoughts that will strengthen our nationality.
“Restructuring and devolution of powers will certainly not provide all the answers to our developmental challenges; it will help to reposition our mindset as we generate new ideas and initiatives that would make our union worthwhile”.
IBB observed that the talks about restructuring the country entails that Nigerians have agreed on their unity in diversity and that they should strengthen the nation’s structures to make the union more functional based on their comparative advantages.
He continued: “Added to this desire is the need to commence the process of having State Police across the states of the Federation. This idea was contained in my manifesto in 2010 when I attempted to contest the presidential elections.
“The initial fears that State Governors will misuse the officers and men of the State Police have become increasingly eliminated with renewed vigour in citizens’ participation in, and confidence to interrogate power”.
He pointed out that Nigerians cannot be detained by “those fears” and allow civilization to leave them behind, adding that they must as a people with one destiny and common agenda take decisions for the sake of posterity in their shared commitment to launch their country on the path of development and growth.
Babangida noted that policing has become so sophisticated that the country cannot continue to operate with “old methods” and expect different results, just as he also appealed to the media to be more “circumspect” in their news reportage.
Specifically, he urged the media to always weigh the security implications of the contents of their news and the screaming headlines that stare the Nigerian public in the face every day, especially at a fragile period of the nation’s political emanations.
“The media play an important and remarkable role in shaping the flow of discourse. Their level of influence is also not in doubt, but as the fourth estate of the realm, it has a greater responsibility to moderate public discourse in a manner that will cement inter- and intra-cultural relationships”, the ex-president said.
IBB continued: “If Nigeria works, it benefits all her citizens; if it fails, it hurts all her citizens too. The media should be patriotic in its present engagements to berth a new Nigeria of our dreams. On a final note, I really wish we see strength, determination, commitment and confidence in our diversities rather than adversities.
“As a heterogeneous country with flourishing skills and numerous endowments, we should dictate the pace in Africa and lead by example of what is possible amongst a people that are focused and determined to pursue common national goal.
“As a former Military President who had the rare privilege to travel around Africa to sustain the African cooperation through peace-keeping operations, I have come to the conclusion that nations are driven by a common ideal and not by the homogeneity of their race”.
He cited Somalia, which he described as a homogeneous conclave yet one of the most troubled countries in Africa today, and South Sudan, which he said broke away from the old Sudan, as instance of country’s that have allowed peace and stability to elude them.
Babangida further said, “Rwanda genocidal experience is not romantic either. But a President from the minority ethnic group has repositioned the country to assume its pride of place in the comity of nations. That a people share common identity, language, history, doctrine, culture, mores and values is not synonymous with development, growth, stability and peace.
“I am therefore appealing to the sensibilities of all of us, young and old, leaders and followers, groups and organizations, that in the interest of peace and stability of our country, we need to sheathe the sword. At 76, I have seen it all. I have seen war. I have fought war. And I have survived war, even though I still suffer the pains and injuries of war, it is part of the selfless sacrifice to keep the union afloat”.
Military Created Nigeria’s Problems
But in a swift reaction to the call by former military president for restructuring, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), chided Babangida and the military for allegedly throwing the nation into its current state, which has led to the subsequent rise of agitation for restructuring.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP in a telephone interview, cerebral Professor and the spokesman of NEF, Ango Abudllahi, argued that Babangida and the military in general are responsible for factors that gave rise to current agitation for restructuring.
He said, “It is they, the military and general Babangida in particular, that promoted the fracturing of the Nigerian state through the political creation of divisions based on ethnic or regional basis. Therefore the problem Nigeria has in terms of restructuring had been created by the military and he was right at the peak of it.
“So, If he wants restructuring, he should be humble enough to go back to the only structure we have in the independence which is regions because the military created all this bit and pieces of states that are responsible for the problems we are having now”
NEF insisted that any genuine effort for restructuring should attempt to wholistically correct what it referred to as mistakes of Lord Lugard.
“I want restructuring to take care of the mistakes Lugard made in 1914 because the argument is he made mistake through the amalgamation of the north and the south”, Abdullahi added.
He insisted that the restructuring should take cognizance of the fact that what Lord Lugard did by amalgamating the nation in 1914 was a mistake and hence should be addressed.
Abdullahi said once that is done, the “South will take care of the restructuring that is best suited to it and the north will do same”, adding that “if we cannot correct Lugard’s mistake, we should go to 1960 and the regions- there were only three of them- they should go as regions”.
Nigeria’s Unity Must Not Be Toyed With- Jonathan
Meanwhile, former President Goodluck Jonathan warned yesterday that the unity of Nigeria is a paramount issue that must not be toyed with.
Speaking when he played host to the forum of former ministers of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Jonathan pointed out that no country can develop under an atmosphere of insecurity and threats to its existence.
“The unity of the country is paramount, we cannot develop as a nation. No matter how people demonstrate, no president can do magic if there is so much tension in the land”, the former Nigerian leader stated.
According to him, there is the need for Nigerians to live peacefully with one another because it would help to build the nation’s economy by attracting more investors.
He said, “Immediately there is a sense of insecurity in any country investors will pull back and when investors pull back, then the economy will drop.
“What improves the economy is confidence and what makes investors have that confidence is peace. We should all pray and work towards that peace and that is the only way we can grow the economy as a nation”.
This is coming barely 24 hours after leader of the indigenous people of biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu was reported to have blamed Jonathan for the problems bedeviling the country.