Former military head of state, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB, has stated that while President Muhammadu Buhari reserved the right to seek re-election in 2019, Nigerians should do away with analogue leaders and embrace new breed of leaders in tune with the digital age.
The retired general, in a statement issued on Sunday by his official spokesman, Kassim Afegbua, said the All Progressives Congress, APC, had failed to honour its many campaign promises, adding that he was tempted to ask the ruling party to present Nigerians with the evidence of ‘Change’.
While expressing shock over the killings in some states especially Benue, which he described as a pogrom, Babangida asserted that the present administration’s handling of herdsmen/farmers conflicts has been unsatisfactory even as he called on the federal government to encourage herdsmen to set up ranches instead of encroaching on farmlands.
The statement entitled ‘Towards a National Rebirth’ reads, “The unchecked activities of the herdsmen have continued to raise doubt on the capacity of this government to handle with dispatch, security concerns that continue to threaten our dear nation; suicide bombings, kidnappings, armed banditry, ethnic clashes and other divisive tendencies.
“In the past few months also, I have taken time to reflect on a number of issues plaguing the country. I get frightened by their dimensions. I get worried by their colourations. I get perplexed by their gory themes.
“From Southern Kaduna to Taraba State, from Benue State to Rivers, from Edo State to Zamfara, it has been a theatre of blood with cake of crimson. 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.”
On how to solve the herdsmen/farmers clashes, he said: “We need to bring different actors to the roundtable. Government must generate platform to interact and dialogue on the issues, with a view to finding permanent solutions to the crises.”
Warning on the consequences of the clashes, the former dictator said: “The festering nature of this crisis is an inelegant testimony to the sharp divisions and polarisations that exist across the country. For example, this is not the first time herdsmen engage in pastoral nomadism but the anger in the land is suggestive of the absence of mutual love and togetherness that once defined our nationality.
“We must collectively rise up to the occasion and do something urgently to arrest this drift. If left unchecked, it portends danger to our collective existence as one nation bound by common destiny; and may snowball into another internecine warfare that would not be good for nation-building.”
He emphasised the need for the nation to have new leaders that can reinvent the country, saying: “The next election in 2019, therefore, presents us a unique opportunity to reinvent the will and provoke fresh leadership that would immediately begin the process of healing the wounds in the land and ensuring that the wishes and aspirations of the people are realised in building and sustaining national cohesion and consensus.”
Babangida observed that though APC raised hopes of changing the parlous stats of things in the country, it is yet to redeem the promises.
According to him, “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.”
He lamented that things have not changed for the better, stating that: “We are still experiencing huge infrastructural deficit across the country and one had thought the APC-led Federal Government would behave differently from their counterparts in previous administrations. I am hesitant to ask; where is the promised change?”
The ex-military president, who canvassed the restructuring of the country, said: “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.
“For example, I still cannot reconcile why my state government would not be allowed to fix the Minna-Suleja Road, simply because it is called Federal Government road, or why state governments cannot run their own policing system to support the Federal Police.”
Concluding his statement, Babangida said he was speaking 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.”
This statement come amidst another statement purportedly issued by Babangida, disowning the first one, wherein the former dictator said it was not his style to go public when he has unfettered access to the highest authorities in the country.
While discrediting the earlier statement issued on his behalf regarding the political future of Buhari, another statement emerged which quoted IBB as saying, “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 necessary going public with a sensational statement. Therefore, the views expressed in the alleged statement are not mine but that of the writer.
“However, with due respect to individual opinions and constitutional rights, it is worrisome that political events and civil unrest in many parts of the country have raised many questions on the governance and unity of our great nation.
“Indeed, 2018 has been inundated with political clamours and hot debates over the corporate existence of this country. Many of the contributions, including constructive criticisms and engagements, have shown greater concerns for the corporate existence of Nigeria beyond 2019 general elections.”
He however called for dialogue to resolve lingering issues, stating that “It is high time we engaged in constructive dialogue on national issues in order to have a political solution to our myriad of problems. It is sad that Nigeria had its fair share of conflicts, and we cannot continue to fall back to those dark years of bloodshed.
“As a people, now is the time to come together to address all communal conflicts and criminality under any guise so as to unite the country in line with the vision of our founding fathers so that we can forge ahead in the task of building a more prosperous nation.”
Babangida nevertheless called on the security agencies to up their game, stressing that “Our security agencies have to step up surveillance with more efforts on intelligence gathering towards ensuring maximum security of life and property.
“Recent happenings and utterances by political gladiators are alarming and not in the interest of the common man that is already overstretched and apparently living from hand to mouth due to precarious economic conditions.
“Despite all these challenges, I am optimistic that the political actors will play within the ambits of political norms and decorum to ameliorate the problems facing our society now,” the statement read.