OBJ, IBB FACE-OFF
A former Minister of Aviation in the Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration, Femi Fani-Kayode, yesterday said it was wrong for his former boss to have attacked ex-military president Ibrahim Babamasi Babangida (IBB).
Ex-military governor of Katsina State, Col. John Madaki (rtd), called on the duo to sheathe their swords in the interest of peace.
Fani-Kayode was one of many Nigerians and groups who reacted to the face-off between the two Army Generals. Babangida fired the first salvo on Tuesday while marking his 70th birthday in Minna, Niger State when he said that the Obasanjo's government was a failure. The papers feasted on it. Less than 24 hours after the report, Obasanjo said Gen. Babangida was a fool at 70. He spoke to reporters in Abeokuta, Ogun State. But the Babangida's camp replied Obasanjo immediately, saying that Nigerians know the bigger fool.
Reacting to what seemed to be the war of Generals, Fani-Kayode said: 'I have the honour and privilege of knowing both of these elder statesmen and I have tremendous affection for them both. I served in President Obasanjo's government and I gave him my all. He, in turn, gave me the opportunity to serve my country and for that I am eternally grateful to him. However, we must put sentiment aside when looking at this issue. Whilst I do not subscribe to the view or accept the notion that the Obasanjo administration was a failure and that it did not achieve anything, I do believe that Obasanjo made a grave mistake and indeed inflicted a deep spiritual wound on himself by insulting General Ibrahim Babangida in the way that he did.
'Calling Babangida a fool at 70 does not help matters and frankly, it befuddles and beclouds the issues. Obasanjo should have responded to the issues raised by Babangida with far more restraint and he should not have insulted him.
'I am not in the least bit surprised that Babangida responded to those insults in the way that he did. You do not call me a fool at 70 the day after my birthday and expect me to keep quiet and smile, no matter what or who you think you are and no matter what may have provoked you.
'Those that are around Baba today should have told him that. He left himself wide open for a solid counterpunch and a devastating right hook there. I have said it before and I will say it again, you cannot repay good with evil and get away with it for long. The bible says, He who repays good with evil, evil will never leave his household'. Let me give you two reasons why I am referring to this scripture in this context. The first reason is because President Obasanjo would never have become military Head of State in 1976 had it not been for the fact that Col. Babangida (as he then was) courageously and single-handedly disarmed Lt.-Col. Dimka and foiled his coup attempt after the latter and his group had successfully assassinated the then Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed.
'Had that coup been successful, Obasanjo would have been shot by Dimka as well and he would never have gone on to succeed Murtala Muhammed.
'Had it not been for Babangida's unflinching loyalty to the government of the day and his decision to follow General T.Y. Danjuma's orders to the letter and courageously confront Dimka at the radio station, disarm him and crush the coup, Obasanjo would not have been in a position to do all those wonderful things that he mentioned that he did when he was military Head of State between 1976 and 1979 because he would have been shot. That is the first reason that he should be grateful to Babangida. For the second reason let us fast forward by 20 years from 1979 to 1999.
'Again, President Obasanjo has to be eternally grateful to General Babangida because had it not been for the latter, he would not have been released from jail, pardoned, rehabilitated, funded and installed as President in 1999. This is an incontrovertible fact. Obasanjo went on from there to become one of the greatest presidents in our history and his record of performance between 1999 and 2007, in my view, is first class and second to none. The records are there for all to see and the facts speak for themselves. Yet, the truth is that Babangida must take some credit for that too because he was instrumental in making him President in 1999,' he said.
Meanwhile, Col. Madaki, at the weekend joined scores of Nigerians urging Obasanjo and Babangida to sort out their differences and discontinue the verbal war, which, he said, is rapidly smearing Nigeria's image.
Madaki, who spoke with aviation journalists on Sunday at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Terminal 2 Lagos, said burying the hatchet would enhance peace and unity in the country, describing the warring duo as 'two of Nigeria's great living statesmen, who devoted the greater part of their lives to service of the country.
'I beg them in the name of God to sheathe their swords. It is not unusual to disagree, but the polemical words coming from our two former leaders are capable of heating up the polity to a boiling point. Both of them fought a civil war to preserve Nigeria.
A group, Civic Duties Awareness Initiative (CIDAI) yesterday described the face-off between the former presidents as disgraceful and a sad commentary in Nigeria's history of leadership.
On behalf of the teeming population of youths in the country, who they have traumatized by their disgraceful conduct, the group demanded for an apology from the two former leaders.
Lamenting their behaviour, in a statement in Abuja, CIDAI stated that at this crucial period of the nation's development, the two elder statesmen are supposed to bring positive influences on the direction the country should take rather busy putting up disgraceful behaviour. An example youths of this country should never be encouraged to take.'
The group's Executive Director, Emmanuel Ulayi, said in a statement that the acts put up by the former leaders 'are the very negative effects of leadership in any system, where the people are not properly enlightened and mobilised to make the right choices on how their true leaders should emerged. What we have witnessed by these two elders is the fallout of a bereaved system manipulated by some selfish few, who want to impose their negative ways on the country.'
Also, the youth wing of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has described the war of words between the two former presidents as the height of monumental disgrace, embarrassment and disappointment.
According to the national youth leader, Miriki Ebikibina, the face-off between the two supposedly statesmen, who are expected to be role models to youths, is a national shame. He said the open confrontation has just shown to Nigerians how the country was misgoverned by the duo when they were at the helm of affairs at different times in the country.
While stating that though the exchange of words was a big let down, he enjoined the youths of the country to see the failure of the two leaders as an opportunity to restate their commitment to the development of Nigeria.
Ebikibina said instead of trying to convince Nigerians on whose performance was better; the two leaders should bury their heads in shame for wasting the golden opportunities for development during their tenures.
His words: 'The face-off had further confirmed how Nigeria was misgoverned by the two leaders. Though, a bit let down to Nigerian youths, it is also a welcome development for the younger generation to see themselves better qualified and repositioned in reshaping what is left of leadership of the likes of Babangida and Obasanjo.
'Both were rulers who ruled the country with the barrel of the gun and Obasanjo had another opportunity to rewrite the wrongs of military dictatorship but wasted the eight years to destroy a democratic process that would have enthroned a credible process which would have ensured transparency in governance and service delivery to the people. They should both bury their heads in shame as their face-off is of no consequential effect on Nigerians as the nemesis of their misdeeds to Nigerians is hunting them and they should rather apologize to Nigerians,' Ebikibina stated.
However, it was gathered that there were moves at the weekend by the Presidency and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to intervene. Obasanjo is currently Chairman of the party's Board of Trustees (BoT) while Babangida had wanted to contest the April 2011 general election as a presidential aspirant of the PDP.
Feelers from Babangida's camp pointed to the fact that there is no mood for a ceasefire yet.