Babangida, who spoke to journalists yesterday ahead of his 72nd birthday today, maintained that former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s comment on Tuesday in Ibadan, Oyo State, might not mean that the younger generation has failed but an expression of high expectation the older leaders have of their successors.
“I am not sure I heard what he said, neither am I sure it is the young men that failed the nation, but our expectations on the new younger generation are very high and there are other young men who have done very good. So, I don’t think the young generations have failed us. The young generations are not doing badly,” he said when asked to comment on Obasanjo’s statement that the leaders that came after him, especially from 1999, have failed.
Babangida stated that, in the military, leadership quality was being instilled in them at all levels of training, which accounts for why a military officer by training is a leader who believes in the cohesion and unity of the country; this, he noted, Obasanjo exemplified.
He said: “I will give you one example: we talked about my boss, Obasanjo; there is one thing you cannot take away from him — he believes in the unity of this country. You cannot take it away and this is what we all believe in; so only those who believe in the unity of this country at any level, I think, are leaders.”
IBB continued: “I think there are leaders who have the unity of the nation at heart. There are quite a number of them, but if you want me to give you names, I will not, but everyone can observe — and you are listening to them. You know what they say, you know what they stand for and so on. There are a lot of them that are real nationalists; maybe they don’t have a chance, but you need to do so, interact with them and you will recognise and see the virtue in them.”
Asked whether he still believes that the military is the most cohesive institution in Nigeria, he replied: “The military is the most cohesive organisation that the country has, because all our training from day one to cadet to retirement is just about leadership. That is all what military training entails. Also, leadership is about the country and we used to teach those of us who were teachers before cadets to get them not to think of region, but should know that they are going to lead soldiers into war and that bullets coming from the other end, nobody’s name is written on it. Bullets are bullets, so we may as well work together.”
On the fear of a crisis engulfing the country in 2015 and lead to the country’s disintegration in line with the prediction of the United States, Babangida said: “Honestly, I think you should forget disintegration in 2015. I cannot see it happening; we cannot think about it. A country that will disintegrate, you will know it. It is not something that happens in one or two months. It is just out of the question. People say all sorts of things to instill fear. If you believe that the majority of the people believe in the unity of the country, why do you worry about someone saying that we will disintegrate? I know it would not be something you should give prominence, especially those of you in the media.”
The former Nigeria leader said that a book on him written by a veteran journalist, Dan Agbese, would soon be launched and that the book would capture his entire life and what surrounded him.
Also yesterday, the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) felicitated with Babangida on his birthday.
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“General Babangida’s life symbolises statesmanship, patriotism, vision and courage which are some of the excellent leadership virtues that have guided him through his years of active public service life,” chairman of the Forum and governor of Niger State Dr Mu’azu Aliyu said in Minna yesterday.
The Forum, in a statement signed by Aliyu’s chief press secretary Danladi Ndayebo, said the former military leader excelled in his chosen profession and went on to preside over Africa’s most influential country during which period he showed rare vision, courage and exemplary leadership.
The governors noted that Babangida has consistently remained on the path of promoting national unity, integration and development with his influential networks cutting across the length and breadth of Nigeria and beyond.
They also said the history of Nigeria will always be incomplete without paying tribute to IBB’s contributions and achievements to the socio-economic and political development of our country.
It listed the achievements of the former leader to include the realisation of the vision of Abuja as the Federal Capital City by providing the most vital infrastructure and moving the seat of power from Lagos in 1991.