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OKIGBO REPORT DIDN'T INDICT IBB

By NBF News
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Prince Kassim Afegbua is the acting National Chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP). He is also the official spokesman of General Ibrahim Babangida who has informally declared interest to contest next year's presidential election. In this interview he dismissed the clamour that the Okigbo panel report has nailed IBB. Excerpts:

Babangida recently declared that he wants to rule Nigeria again and I remember he was there for about eight years before; what new thing has he to offer?

Politics is a matter of interest and as a political player, if you want to present yourself several times for election as far as it is allowed under the constitution of the country, he has the right to do so. General IBB was a military President and now he wants the electorate to elect him and there is no going back in that resolve. No going back in the resolve to present himself to the electorate as a candidate in the 2011 presidential election.

What new thing does he have to offer?
He left office 17 years ago and for that 17 years, he has remained the issue in Nigeria's political discourse. That tells you he has a lot to offer.

IBB is now a democrat. He is now preaching the idea of returning this country to true fiscal federalism and that also presupposes that states should be given the opportunity to develop at their own pace; exploiting their own comparative advantage and also enjoying some level of autonomy rather than being tied to the apron strings of the federal government. He believes that the concept of sitting down in Abuja every month and sharing money at the centre is an idea that has expired given the concept of new age federalism, and the new age federalism talks of empowering the constituents so that the center would be vested with the responsibility of concentrating on defence and the economy.

Are you saying this is not the new thinking of IBB now?

Yes. He also believes in state police as part of true federalism. He realized that the present set up of the police makes it difficult to police Nigeria. Not that the police desires not to do the job but because of the complexities of the country. State police will ensure that the police officer taken from the area will understand their area better than when you post someone from Borno to Saki in Oyo State.

He will need the first six months to understand the terrain. Secondly, he will have language barrier and so he will need an interpreter to be able to communicate and that is what we are facing presently. In countries where this operates, an offence in one state might not be an offence in another. It is like that in USA. If you are practicing federalism, you have to do it to the letter. IBB is also preaching of devolution of power. There is too much power at the centre that everybody is looking up to Abuja for direction. He believes that is wrong. He believes the federal should wait on the states.

He also believes that local governments should not be tied to the apron strings of the states the way they are now. Yes, he realizes that some of the ideas, good as they might be, might not enjoy the support of some governors but the fact is the correct thing needs to be done for the sake of Nigeria. We need to face these squarely because these are the things that will make the country grow.

What happened to the gulf war oil windfall?
There is nothing like the gulf war oil windfall. I challenge those people accusing IBB of mismanaging it to come up with their figures and I will be happy. You need to look at the span of the war, which is about six months and the cost per barrel. I am giving them that assignment. Let them go and check it. The revenue of oil and non-oil as documented by the CBN is a little bit about N700 billion throughout the eight years of the IBB regime, which is just a quantum of what we got in the last eight years.

The excess crude alone is more than the entire revenue of the country since independence in 1960 up till 1999. It is easy for people to feign ignorance and then conveniently look the other way. People don't want to see anything good in people. IBB said he took responsibility for the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, but he is yet to tell Nigerians why.

Information concerning why the election was annulled is still classified and when they say an information is classified, you don't discuss the details just because some people are shouting. There are some information that if released into the public could spark off crisis so you allow it to lie low. The cancellation of the election is just an exercise in the eight years of IBB, there are others that should be looked at. We should look at those things too.

Professor Humphrey Nwosu, the then electoral commission chairman, in his book, said that despite the pressure on IBB not to conduct the election, IBB told him to go ahead.

What happened after that, I don't know to warrant him deciding to cancel the election. Maybe the pressure became so much that it could threaten the oneness of this country. It is still security information and can't be disclosed until it is declassified.

I will however want people to look at the good side of June 12, 1993 election. IBB conducted the freest and fairest election in the history of Nigeria. Since then, have we got another? If we have not, what are we going to do to get another one?

That mistake that you said that IBB made landed Nigeria in the present mess. Sani Abacha came thereafter and he caused a lot of problems for the country…

I disagree with you on Abacha. We are too tribalistic on issues.The Abacha government you are talking about was better than successive governments after it and I can back that up with statistics.

Even than Obasanjo's government?
I say governments after it. Abacha's government was better. How much was the dollar when he was on the seat and how much is it today? What is the quality of lives then and what is it today? How much was the bag of rice during Abacha's government and how much is it today? Professor Sam Aluko, a respected economist said that the economic management of Abacha was better and I remember that Obasanjo said he was senile. If such a man can say such a thing, I believe him and we should not make general statements.

The cancellation of June 12 elections gave rise to many things like pushing up Abacha, Ernest Shonekan and even Olusegun Obasanjo. Without June 12, Obasanjo would never have been President and he knows that. Whatever good you say that were derived from Obasanjo can then be said to be directly from the June 12 annulment.

Many people were equally killed while protesting the annulment

After that June 12 annulment, are you saying no one has died as a result of other protests in Nigeria? Have there not been high profile assassinations? Have people not been killed in road accidents? It is unfortunate, but I will want people to look at issues dispassionately. Governance is not an easy thing especially in a country like Nigeria. Look at the crisis that happened as a result of the sickness of Yar'Adua and the way people are taking position based on ethnicity and religion.

Mustapha Jokolo said God will stop IBB and he should not be thinking of coming to rule again.

Jokolo could not have said that IBB is evil. I remember he said that IBB was benevolent and that IBB helped him in life but the discussion should go beyond that. I won't discuss anything about Jokolo because i know him as an unserious person and I know IBB won't want to join issues with a junior in the army.

Wont IBB want to explain the circumstances surrounding Dele Giwa's death too as Femi Falana is asking?

Falana to me is a noisemaker; I don't think he needs any explanation.

He is a human rights activist
No. He is a big noisemaker. Who is he human righting? You don't say you are a human rights activist and then choose the battle you fight. Where has he been since the death of Dele Giwa and now? Is he just waking up? You don't choose battles because you just want to be relevant. The family of Dele Giwa is still angry and they are pointing accusing fingers at the direction of IBB as the killer of their son and they vowed that they will do everything to stop IBB.

They said God will stop IBB and I think I like that because I know that God is omniscient and omnipotent, he knows the hearts of everybody. So, we should allow God to handle it. If I start joining issues with Dele Giwa's family, someone will say another thing. The circumstances of the death of Dele Giwa was bad but after him so many journalists have died too and I think we should be looking at the issue of assassinations and not joining issues. I feel for them too because they lost a valued son but to point accusing fingers at the man that was on the seat then was bad because since the death of Dele Giwa so many journalists have died.

Recently you placed an advertorial on Nuhu Ribadu and it is said that perhaps IBB has a phobia for Ribadu coming back to Nigeria and staying close to those in authority; is that true?

Who is Ribadu? We have nothing against Ribadu other than the manner he pursued his own anti-corruption war. There are rules and procedure you follow when fighting corruption and you don't use corruption to fight corruption.

There is lot of people that were prosecuted on the pages of newspapers and no one has raised an eyebrow, yet we know that what he did was not good. The fact that everyone is gravitating towards Ribadu doesn't mean that he was right when he was there. Ribadu was a political executioner and in fighting corruption, you must follow procedures and standards. Yes, Ribadu enjoyed his regime as EFCC chairman and if they want to bring him back, no problem.

Is it true that some governors have endorsed the candidacy of IBB?

General Ibrahim Babangida enjoys the support of so many people including governors Obas, emirs and Obi's, I won't want to discuss that a set of people endorsed him. He is consulting with so many people and we are hoping to get more people to back him for the aspiration.

Has Obasanjo also him?
You will need to get that information from Obasanjo himself if he has endorsed him. I am not Obasanjo's spokesperson. Yes, he consulted with Obasanjo on it and they are friends and at their own level, they know how to give support for themselves.

Has the UK and USA support also secured the IBB project?

We will be seeking support from everyone but the support of Nigerians is more important to us in this project.

There is critical voters apathy and IBB coming into the race has created a lot of interest among Nigerians and we will also be asking the INEC to update the voters' register and allow those who did not register the last time to do so.