It was confusion yesterday as former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, allegedly disowned a statement in which his aide Kassim Afegbua quoted him as asking President Muhammadu Buhari to drop his re-election bid over some negative realities in the polity. The news was already spreading rapidly and reactions were being filed into media outfits when another statement in which Babangida allegedly disowned Afegbua’s statement was issued. And as newsmen were pondering how to report the development, news also filtered in that Afegbua stood by his statement and dismissed the alleged refutal by his boss. Afegbua appeared on Sunday Politics of Channels Television to say that his boss Babangida authorised the statement.
In the alleged statement of denial, Babangida said: “My attention has been drawn to a press statement on the state of the nation, particularly 2019 general elections and beyond. “Let me categorically state that as a former president and statesman, I have unfettered channel of communication with the highest authorities without sensational public correspondence. Therefore, those views expressed over there are personal views of the writer.
“However, with due respect to individual opinion and constitutional rights, it is worrisome that political events and civil unrest in many parts of the country have raised many questions on the governance and unity. Indeed, 2018 is inundated with seasons of literatures on the corporate existence of this country. Many of such literatures have shown concerns about the corporate existence of Nigeria beyond 2019 general elections.”
He recalled his statement during the Armed Forces Remembrance Day where he expressed the dire need for proactive measures to stop farmers/herders clashes in the Middle Belt, cattle rustling, armed robbery, kidnapping, gangsterism and cultism.The former military ruler admonished Nigerians to make democracy work in the country so that the visions of the founding fathers could be realised for the benefit of all.
“Recent happenings and utterances by political gladiators are alarming and not in the interest of the common man who is already overstretched and apparently living from hand to mouth due to precarious economic conditions. “Despite all these challenges, I am optimistic that the political actors will play within the ambits of political norms and decorum to ameliorate the problems facing our society now.
“I am a realist that believes all issues in a democratic atmosphere should be sincerely discussed and resolved in the spirit of give and take. “Since after my military years and in 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 through hate speeches under the guise of religious, tribal or self- imposed mentorship. This trend of pitting the political class and the people against each other is unhealthy and skewed.”
According to Babangida, the clamour for the realignment of governance in the country as it approaches the 2019 election year is a welcome development only if the agitations are genuinely channelled through legislation and total supremacy of the constitution . “Any attempt outside this circle of democratic tenets is deceptive and a divisive idea capable of plunging our political journey into disarray.
“As a people, now is the time to come together to address all communal conflicts and criminality under any guise to further unite the country in line with the vision of our founding fathers so that as a nation, we can forge ahead in the task of building a more prosperous country.”Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described the purported advice that Buhari should forget his re-election bid as apt and yet another pointer to the fact that Nigerians across divides had reached a consensus against the president and his All Progressives Congress (APC).
The opposition party said Babangida’s position on the need for a dynamic, nationalistic and development-driven leadership was a direct reflection of the feeling and aspirations of Nigerians.The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement yesterday said the fact that Babangida’s alleged declaration on President Buhari came on the heels of a similar one by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, further vindicated PDP’s position on the alleged misrule of the Buhari administration and the APC.
The PDP further described as an understatement, the reflection that the Buhari administration and its APC had polluted the nation’s “leadership actuality”, adding that it was not unmindful of the yearnings of Nigerians to use the platform of the repositioned PDP to propagate a new coalition that would return the much- desired new atmosphere in the polity by producing the president that would be acceptable to the majority of Nigerians.
The statement disowned by Babangida reads as follows:
“In the past few months and weeks, I have played host to many concerned Nigerians who have continued to express legitimate and patriotic worry about the state of affairs in the country. Some of them have continued to agonize about the turn of events and expressly worried why we have not gotten our leadership compass right as a country with so much potential and opportunity for all.
Some, out of frustration, have elected to interrogate the leadership question and wondered aloud why it has taken this long from independence till date to discover the right model on account of our peculiarities”.
“At 57, we are still a nation in search of the right leadership to contend with the dynamics of a 21st century Nigeria. Having been privileged to preside over this great country, interacted with all categories of persons, dissected all shades of opinions, understudied different ethnic groupings; I can rightfully conclude that our strength lies in our diversity”.
“But exploring and exploiting that diversity, as a huge potential has remained a hard nut to crack, not because we have not made efforts, but building a consensus on any national issue often has to go through the incinerator of those diverse ethnic configurations. Opinions in Nigeria are not limited to the borders of the political elite; in fact, every Nigerian no matter how young or old, has an opinion on any national issue. And it is the function of discerning leadership to understand these elemental undercurrents in the discharge of state responsibilities”.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is at a major crossroads at this moment in its history; the choices we are going to make as a nation regarding the leadership question of this country and the vision for our political, economic and religious future will be largely determined by the nature or kind of change that we pursue, the kind of change that we need and the kind of change that we get. A lot depends on our roles both as followers and leaders in our political undertakings”.
“As we proceed to find the right thesis that would resolve the leadership question, we must bear in mind a formula that could engender national development and the undiluted commitment of our leaders to a resurgence of the moral and ethical foundations that brought us to where we are as a pluralistic and multi-ethnic society. Nigeria, before now, has been on the one hand our dear native land, where tribes and tongues may differ but in brotherhood we stand, and on the other hand a nation that continues to struggle with itself and in every way stumbling and willful in its quest to become a modern state, starting from the first republic till date”.