Nigeria: Presidency warns IBB, Obasanjo

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THE verbal umbrage between former military president Ibrahim Babangida and former executive president Olusegun Obasanjo has attracted the attention of the nation’s highest security apparatus and has also caused concern among serving and retired military officers.

Babangida had lashed out at Obasanjo, his former boss in the army describing his tenure as democratically elected president as abysmal failure. Not one to suffer such insolence gladly, Obasanjo responded by referring to Babangida as a fool at 70 years.

National Daily sources disclosed last week that military officers and the nation’s security apparatus were miffed that the two elder statesmen threw decorum aside and decided to dance naked in the street.

The service chiefs according to sources have advised the National Security Adviser to caution Babangida and Obasanjo against their reckless statements. The Chief of Army Staff, General Azubike Ihejirika was said to be disappointed with the two elder statesmen.

Some of the retired senior officers including a former administrator of Ekiti State under State of Emergency was said to have reached out to Obasanjo, a fellow Ogun State indigene and expressed indignation at the exchange of vitriolic between him and Babangida.

On the other hand Babangida sources was said to have been excoriated by a former military Head of State from the North Central who cautioned him against heating up the polity.

National Daily learned that some retired generals who were unhappy with the feuding former Nigerian leaders reached out to both of them and pleaded that they should sheath their sword to avoid causing embarrassment to the military institution.

“It is ridiculous that two five star generals and former Heads of State should be seen abusing themselves openly in the pages of newspaper.

They chose to denigrate each other instead of showing good example to serving junior officers and members of the public by exhibiting good conduct,” one furious source close to a retired general from the North said, adding “The two former Heads of State used to enjoy a very cordial relationship, we don’t know what went wrong that they now despise each other. I think something should be done urgently to reconcile them before it is too late. You know it is said that when two elephants fight, the grass will suffer.”

Unwholesome development

It was gathered that the National Security Adviser, General Andrew Azazi was uncomfortable with the unfolding schism between the influential figures from the North and South West of the country. The bitter exchange between Babangida and Obasanjo is said to be a serious cause for concern in the nation’s seat of power, Presidential Villa, Abuja.

“The federal government is already bathing serious security issues, Boko Haram and Al Qaeda influence, non-interest (Islamic) Banking. Those with huge socio-political influence should be careful in their speech and conduct so as not to raise tension in the land. We don’t want additional security problem at this time. The two old men must desist from using uncouth language to address each other,” sources close to the NSA said, adding: “The State Security Service (SSS), is watching the activities of the two men closely. The operatives have been firmly instructed to discretely approach the Babangida and Obasanjo and advise them to avoid further unpleasant exchange. The SSS was instructed to ensure that they deliver the message to the elder statesman before Saturday last week.”

National Daily sources disclosed that Babangida and Obasanjo enjoyed a very cordial relationship dating back to their days in the Nigeria Army until politics and ambition tore them apart.

Obasanjo’s patronage

“Obasanjo was like a godfather to IBB in those days in the military. It was Obj who made it possible for IBB to become the youngest member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) in 1975 after General Yakubu Gowon was toppled and Murtala and Obasanjo came to power. The SMC consisted of Generals and Brigadiers. IBB was just a Lieutenant-Colonel. Obasanjo saved IBB from being court-martialed in 1976 when he allegedly failed to carry out instructions given to him by his boss, the Chief of Army Staff, General Theophilus Danjuma. Infamous coupist Bukar Surka Dimka has taken over Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Ikoyi, from where he announced his failed coup. Danjuma, the COAS allegedly ordered Babangida to gather his troop and go and demolish everything at FRCN. Babangida used his discretion and cajoled Dimka to accept face to face discussion instead of shoot out. Dimka eventually escaped to the old East Central State. Danjuma was angry that Babangida had the audacity to flaunt his orders.

Danjuma according to informed sources had raise the Babangida alleged insubordination issue at the Supreme Military Council meeting and was said to have argued that Babangida should be tried along the coup plotters for showing sympathy to the coup badger, Colonel B. S. Dimka and allowed him escape from the premises of Radio Nigeria after he had held discussion with him. Danjuma therefore allegedly insisted that then Lt-Col. Babangida should either be tried for Accessory to the fact of coup plot or at least he should be made to face the Provost Marshal’s court-martial.

National Daily learned that security investigation had uncovered the close relationship between Babangida and Dimka dating back to when they were yet Cadet Officers. The security report inferred that it is always difficult for officers not to inform their trusted members of the SMC sources said were sharply deviled on Babangida’s culpability, but Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo ruled in his favour. He stated that Babangida must not be adjudged susceptible to the whims and caprices of Dimka because of their friendship. After all, he was friendly with Chukwuma Nzeogwu and yet he did not divulge his 1966 coup plans to him.

Babangida tried to reciprocate Obasanjo’s kind gesture towards him when in 1997 he initiated the resolve by retired Army General like former Head of State, Generals Abdulsalam Abubakar, T. Y. Danjuma and Mohammed Aliyu Gusau and influential politicians like Atiku Abubakar, to ensure the release of Obasanjo from prison in order to make him the civilian president.

Though, critics disagree that Babangida’s initiative was an altruistic act of patriotism rather than a determination to set a precedent that a former military Head of State returned to power as democratic elected president. Babangida was allegedly working on the possibility of contesting the 2007 presidential election after Obasanjo’s second term in office.

Friendship sours

The seemingly chummy relationship between Babangida and Obasanjo began to crack during the constitutional amendment saga in 2007 which was popularly referred to Obasanjo’s Third Term Agenda.

Obasanjo according to an informed source had discretely invited Babangida in his personal capacity to Aso Rock and tried to woe him to lend his support to the constitutional amendment debate. Babangida allegedly declared on the grounds that his Northern Constituency are opposed to the controversial idea. Obasanjo did not give up. He allegedly tried again to have his way by inviting Babangida, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former NSA Aliyu Gusau for a discussion on the tenure elongation issue. Babangida once again refused to oblige Obasanjo’s request.

However, Obasanjo denied he was nursing a third term agenda. He said why answering a question on his last appearance in a radio programme. The president explain: “If I sought a third term, and I wanted it, I would have got it, I have not said this before. God would have given it to me. I did not want it. If I had wanted a third term, I would have prayed for it, I would have worked for it and God would have given it to me. I know this because there is nothing I wanted that God did not give,” Obasanjo reportedly said.

However, Babangida’s aides believe that Obasanjo took his revenge against their principal’s opposition on his tenure elongation scheme by allegedly ensuring that he did not emerge the PDP presidential candidate in 2007 and again in 2011.

PDP reacts

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Headquarters is reportedly disturbed about the bitter feud between the two elder statesmen. Obasanjo is the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BOT) while Babangida is a respected party chieftain from the North.

Senate President David Mark worried by the war of words between the two former Heads of State cautioned them to refrain from making inflammatory remarks capable of destroying all the efforts they have sunk into building the nation.

“You cannot afford to resolve your differences on the pages of newspapers. You have contributed immensely to the growth and development of this nation. Your responsibility is to advise those coming after you on the challenges confronting our nation today and in the future,” the Senate President said.

Some elders of the PDP and close associates of the two leaders have urged President Goodluck Jonathan, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon and former President Shehu Shagari to intervene in the bitter exchange between the two eminent citizens.

“We are employing and begging elders and their friends to step into this matter before it becomes too late. We are indeed worried when elders that we respect start to wash their under wears in the public. It is not good omen,” a member of the PDP National Working Committee who pleaded anonymous said.

However, former Presidential Liaison Officer to the National Assembly, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, in his own reaction said the altercation is worrisome and only General Gowon who is senior in the military to Obasanjo and Babangida and also President Jonathan could also intervene because he is a friend to both leaders. Yakassai however gave more clues on why Babangida is angry with Obasanjo. “He singlehandedly initiated an Obasanjo presidency and membership of the PDP, as well as the presidential pardon granted to him by the former Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar. Together with late Chief Sunday Awoniyi, Babangida worked through the North and South West to ensure that Obasanjo was acceptable. Even when some Yoruba kicked against his presidential ambition and voted against him and ensured he lost the local government election in his ward in 1999, Babangida insisted that Obasanjo must contest for the 1999 presidential election. He (Babangida) personally ensured that funds were made available for the presidential campaign of Obasanjo.” Yakassai said, adding; “rather than reciprocate, Obasanjo stabbed Babangida in the back by allegedly using the Economic and Financial Crime Commission to frustrate Babangida’s presidential ambition in 2007.

It was an open secret that Obasanjo used the EFCC on his good friend and even to the extent of getting Babangida’s son, Mohammed, arrested.

Open tirade

President Olusegun Obasanjo and former military President Ibrahim Babangida descended from the platform of statesmen into an acrimonious mutual war of words, accusing each other of foolery.

Brickbat flowed from an earlier interview by Babangida on the eve of his 70th birthday on Tuesday last week where he reportedly said “in my eight years in office, I was able to manage poverty and achieved success while somebody for eight years managed affluence and achieved failure.”

Obasanjo who was President for eight years responded accusing Babangida of threading the path of foolishness at seventy even as he defended his administration against allegations of ineffectiveness couched in the earlier interview granted the press by Babangida. He said that Babangida should rather be pitied and shown sympathy rather than anger or condemnation.

Babangida’s response was swift and severe as he tackled Obasanjo on both his performance record while in office and decency in his dealings even with his household and daughter in-law. He accused Obasanjo of being a witless comedian whose eight-year double term was characterized with human rights violations and mishaps including plane crashes.

Obasanjo who spoke with news men in Abeokuta during the visit of an American Team on an inspection of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) said that his initial thought was not to respond but that on second thought he decided to reply Babangida so that he (Babangida) would not consider himself wise.

He said: “Well, normally when I read these things I don’t believe them. Yesterday when somebody phoned me and said this was said, I said I don’t believe it. He said check on all the papers and I said get me all the papers; they got me the papers and I read; it’s a little bit unlike Babangida. But if Babangida had decided on becoming a septuagenarian, that he will be a fool, I think one should probably do what the Bible says in Proverbs chapter 26, verse 4. It says, don’t answer a fool because you may also become like him.

“When you go to the same Proverbs chapter 26, verse 5, it says answer a fool so that he will not think he’s a wise man. So, I am now torn between which of the two verses I should follow in this respect. Some of the things he said unfortunately were not well thought-out.

“For instance, he talked about our energy. When I was the military head of state, I built Jebba dam; built Shiroro dam, I prepared the foundation of Egbin plant which President Shagari completed and commissioned. That time the money we were making was not up to the money Babangida made annually for his eight years and yet we built two dams. Because it was important, you know that power is the driving force for development and for any developing country. But since the building of Egbin power plant, until I came back in 1999 there was not any generating plant for almost 20 years and Babangida spent eight years out of that. Now, he has the audacity to talk about anybody; I think that is unfortunate.”

“I also read where he said in his time, he gave the dividends of democracy and at the same time he regretted. When I read that, well I said Babangida should be pitied and shown sympathy rather than anger or condemnation because the old saying says a fool at 40 is a fool forever and I would say a regret at 70 is a regret too late. Well a regret at 70 is a regret to the grave.

“Then as elected president, I built Papalanto, Omotosho, others and I started five of what they called Independent Power Stations which were stopped for two and a half years. Now the present administration has started building a new power project at Uyo. As a country, Nigeria should be adding nothing less than 1,500 megawatts annually. South Africa with a population of 50 million generates 50,000 mega watts. Nigeria with a population of about 165 million we are not generating, we as at 1999 met 1,500 mega watts before we took it up to 4,000 mega watts. What we started they are now allowing it to go on. I believe if they continue with the programme that we left, In another two years, we will get to 10,000”.

Commenting on disclosures by erstwhile Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai that he, Obasanjo stopped the sale of Nigeria Airways as President, Obasanjo said:

“I blocked the sale of Nigeria Airways, not that I attempted to block the sale of Nigeria Airways. When I was military head of state, Nigeria Airways had 32 aircraft, by the time I came back as elected president of Nigeria, Nigeria Airways had only one aircraft.

“One of the 32 was a wide-bodied aircraft, they had all gone and the report on which we worked is here, the amount of money we will have to pay if Nigeria Airways was sold, what we would get out of it is less than 10 percent of the debt we have to pay. That would be the debt Nigeria tax payers will have to pay; that will not be the way to run the affairs of this country. I won’t run my own affairs that way, so I opted for liquidation. So, it was bankrupt, it was liquidated; in which case whatever you gain from liquidation which is also a form of sale, it means the burden will be shared by all the creditors and everybody. So, if I owe you 10 dollars and what I sell when I am liquidated is two. That’s what you get. So, I did not allow normal privatization or sale because it would have put very heavy burden on Nigeria.

“So, Nigerians should know that and in fact my administration should be commended for that. It’s not that I did not allow the sale because the law establishing it says sale and liquidation is also a form of sale”.

Babangida in a riposte through a press statement issued by his spokesman, Prince Kassim Afegbua said:

“It is certainly not in the tradition of General IBB, such a refined gentleman officer; to join issues with his subordinates’ and superiors, but for the price we owe history, this riposte becomes appropriate and necessary. We expected Chief Obasanjo to react to the substance of General Babangida’s submissions and not deploy this distractive strategy to shy away from the real issues at stake. The statistics of the government they both ran at different times, speak for them.”

“The history of Chief Obasanjo is an open sore that is irredeemably contrived in several incongruities and contradictions. When he pleaded with IBB to be given another chance to extend his tenure, IBB was not a fool then. When he was released from prison and granted state pardon, bathed in cerebral ornaments and clothed in royal beads and later crowned as President of Nigeria, IBB was not a fool then. Now that he is at the extreme of his thoughts and engagements, he can decide to dress IBB in borrowed robes.

But the histories of both of them, when put to public scrutiny comparatively, IBB is far glowing and instructively stands poles apart from Obasanjo. In terms of decency, finesse, class, distinction and general conduct, IBB could be described in the superlatives but for Obasanjo; God bless Nigeria.”

“For a man who cannot possibly tell his true age, one may excuse his present outburst as the effusions of a witless comedian trying effortlessly to impress his select audience.

On the issue of performance, Obasanjo cannot contemplate a comparism of his conquistadorial and largely acquisitive regime that plundered our hard-earned state resources, with that of IBB government with verifiable record of achievements. Despite the fact that he carried out a clinical investigation of IBB’s regime, what did he establish against him? Nothing!

We wish to refer Obasanjo to the National Assembly to give his own side of the story to the several revelations that have become themes of his orchestra when he held sway as President of Nigeria. Perhaps, he would be able to tell the world how he managed Nigeria’s resources during his regime.

“Chief Obasanjo should ponder on these incontrovertible facts: The revenues that accrued to former President Obasanjo during his eight years are more than those that accrued to the nation from independence till 1999 before he took over.

Despite such stupendous wealth of the nation, what was his performance profile? The number of high profile deaths by assassinations and politically motivated killings during Obasanjo’s eight years is more than any other in the history of this country.

Besides, is it not curious that after Obasanjo’s exit, there has not been any reported case of plane crashes? What was his human rights record? The people of Odi in Bayelsa State and Zaki-Ibiam in Benue State are yet to recover from the massacre visited on them by Chief Obasanjo.

Again Crude Oil sold for as much as $180 dollars per barrel for the better part of his eight years, what benefit did Nigerians derive from such excess crude? With the revelations coming from the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly, Nigerians are now coming to terms with the profligacy of the Obasanjo era.

“Against the backdrop of the above, it is ludicrous for him to raise any intellectual debate on the achievements of the governments they ran at different times in the life of the nation. Calling IBB “a fool at 70” is at best a compliment. Nigerians surely know who is truly a fool or the greatest fool of this century.”

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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