IBB: Obasanjo's 1999 Presidency save Nigeria from break-up

THE NATION Newspaper- Tony Akowe

Former military ruler, General Ibrahim Babangida, yesterday claimed that only the emergence of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as President in 1999 saved the country from possible disintegration.

Babangida, a key figure in the drafting of Obasanjo into the race, said on the Kaduna-based Liberty Radio that the events in the country in the build up to that year’s election demanded a leader who was conversant with the country and ready to work hard to keep the country one.

“We have to simplify a lot of things without going back to what happened before. The emergence of Obasanjo came about as a result of what happened in the country. The country was in a very serious crisis and we had to find solution to these problems. Therefore, we needed a leader, that leader who is known in the country,” he said.

“We did not believe in foisting somebody who was not known. So we looked for a man who had been involved in the affairs of this country; who held positions either in the military or in the cabinet; who had certain belief in Nigeria.

“For all of us that were trained in the armed forces, there is one belief that you cannot take away from us and that is the fact that we believe in this country. It is part of our training and we fought for this country.

“So, when you have a situation like that, you need a leader that has all these attributes and quite frankly, Obasanjo quickly came to mind. Remember those days the fight was against the North’s perpetuation. But here, we had one who knows the North, knows the South and who fought a war, who believes and says it.

“People with that type of connection, the people recognised you, and this is what we did in the case of Obasanjo. What he did is between him and the Nigerian people; but his emergence solved a lot of problems in Nigeria. At least, we did not disintegrate because we believed he could go to war again, to keep this country together.”

He hailed the formation of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and said of its coming: “I am a firm believer in a two party system and I also studied the emergence of political parties in this country since independence and it shows that this country will be heading for a two party system. You heard about national alliances, parties coming from the North and aligning with those from the South, NEPU aligning with NCNC.

“So when we came, we introduced the two-party system and democratically, you have to have a choice and you can vote without belonging to a political party. You vote for the quality of the man you want to represent you. So, it is nothing new because I believe in two parties and I see signs of the possible emergence of two party systems. So, I welcome it because it is good for the polity as well as the unity of this country.

“When we were doing it in 1989, some of you in the media said no, it was going to be one Christian party, one Muslim party. It did not work out that way then and then you said it is going to be one northern and one southern party and it also did not work like that because everybody blended.

“The chairman of NRC was Chief Tom Ikimi, while the chairman of SDP was Ambassador Babagana Kingibe and everybody was in one party or the other. You just have to have an accommodation. I am a founding father of the PDP; one of the founding fathers of the party and I cannot disown what I founded.”

On the 2015 elections, he said “first of all we have a new party in formative stage; Nigerians have a new party in-formation. They are trying to get their act together and sell a programme to the public and use that programme to take power.

“As an ordinary citizen, I have the right to look at what they are offering this country. Based on my knowledge of what I believe is good for this country, whoever offers something similar to that or near that, I have the right, the constitution allows me just to go to the polling station and drop my ballot and say I like this.

“I will belong to those who will choose a credible candidate, a candidate that can lead this country and it is not difficult to find one out of 170 million people. There must be a candidate because that is what the constitution provides. If the party is silly and chooses the wrong candidate, the ordinary person will not be silly. He knows this man cannot lead me so he doesn’t vote for him. So if he chooses a wrong candidate you stand the chance of losing.”


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