Confusion as IBB disowns statement on 2019 issued by spokesman

Written by on February 5, 2018

There was confusion on Sunday over two statements purportedly written by a former military dictator, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, which bordered on the 2019 elections, the herdsmen/farmers’ crisis and other issues plaguing the nation.

In an earlier statement titled, ‘Towards a National Rebirth’ and signed by the Media Adviser to the former dictator, Prince Kassim Afegbua, Babangida advised Nigerians to do away with analogue leaders and embrace those of the digital age.

In the statement, Babangida was quoted as saying that while Buhari reserved the right to seek re-election in 2019, the time had come for Nigerians to unite behind a younger candidate.

The statement read in part, “In the fullness of our present realities, we need to cooperate with President Muhammadu 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.

“While offering this advice, I speak 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.

“While saying this also, 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 an environment conducive to growing national economy both at the micro and macro levels.”

According to the statement, Babangida said the All Progressives Congress had failed to honour its many campaign promises.

The former dictator said he was tempted to ask the ruling party to present Nigerians with the evidence of ‘change.’

He maintained that restructuring, especially devolution of powers, was the best way to address the myriad of problems plaguing the nation.

The ex-military ruler, however, advised political parties not to use the issue of restructuring to hoodwink voters ahead of the 2019 elections.

The statement added, “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.

“By now, in line with her manifesto, one would have thought that the APC would give a fillip to the idea of devolution of powers and tinker with processes that would strengthen and reform the various sectors of the economy.

“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.”

The former dictator, who ruled from 1985 to 1993, was also quoted as asking the Federal Government to encourage herdsmen to set up ranches instead of encroaching on farmlands.

The statement said Babangida expressed shock over the killings in some states especially Benue, which he described as a pogrom.

It added, “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.”

However, in a statement issued hours later in Minna, the former dictator said the earlier statement was Afegbua’s personal opinion.

Babangida, who annulled the June 12 presidential election in 1993, said he had unfettered access to Buhari and could therefore meet him in person without resorting to open letters.

The statement read in part, “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 necessarily going public with a sensational statement. Therefore, the views expressed in the alleged statement are not mine but the writer’s.”

The former dictator, however, expressed worry over the state of the nation, adding that there was a need for Nigerians to embrace unity.

He said as democracy continues to grow in Nigeria, the country would do well by returning to the two-party system as this would ensure a more effective system.

Babangida added, “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.”

He called on Nigerians to embrace unity as this was the surest way to ensure progress.

Babangida said that he believed that all issues in a democratic atmosphere should be sincerely discussed and resolved in the spirit of give and take.

“Since after my military years that metamorphosed to 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,” Babangida said.

He, however, noted that some people found the freedom as an avenue for “eroding democracy by antics of hate speech under the guise of religion, tribal or self imposed mentorship.”

According to him, the clamour for re-alignment of governance in the country as we are approaching 2019 election year is a welcome development.

However, Afegbua stood by the statement, insisting that he sat with the former dictator before he issued the statement.

He said as one who had been doing the job for over 14 years, he could not issue such a statement without the permission of his principal.

The spokesman said it was some overzealous people around Babangida that issued the rebuttal.

Afegbua, however, said the former dictator had not withdrawn his statement.

He said this during an interview on a Channels Television programme tagged ‘Politics Today,’ on Sunday evening.

Afegbua added, “I have been doing this job for 14 years now and I have never issued a statement on behalf of former President Babangida and get a rebuttal. I extracted commitment from him and authorization before I issued the statement and it was in process but of course you know, IBB is for everyone and so people want to love him more than he loves himself.

“When the statement was sent and some of his friends saw the twist of the reportage on the social media and how they sensationalized it and all of that, taking away the kernel of the content of the statement, they felt that we were just trying to put the former President on a collision course with the present President and so to that extent, they went to write a statement to deny that but I have since spoken to him.

“He has called me to say that statement stands and the kernel of that statement should inform public discourse and not people necessarily personalizing it as if it were against the sitting President.”

Afegbua said Babangida was calling for the emergence of a young President in 2019.

When asked if the former ruler would be supporting a third force, Afegbua said Babangida would support any credible young candidate.

He added, “From the statement you could easily deduce that General Babangida wants a new set of leaders from the younger generation of Nigerians who in his view have the resourcefulness and the capacity to manage governmental affairs.

“For him, he says at his age, which is 76 plus, he has already paid his due and that whether we like it or not, we should even blame his generation for being part of the problems of the country but having realized that, they should be able to create a platform to engage a younger generation that can translate all our potential to opportunities for the greater good for the generality of Nigerians. He is not personalizing his statement against the current President.”

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party on Sunday commended the statement issued on behalf of Babangida by his media aide.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement in Abuja on Sunday, said the fact that the statement was coming on the heels of similar declaration by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The party further described as an understatement, Babangida’s reflection that the Buhari administration and its APC had polluted the nation’s “leadership actuality.”

When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi simply said, “We need time to study the letter.”

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