Naked Presidents

THE SUN Newspaper

If former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) thought Nigerians would live with their war of words the way people with pacemakers learn to avoid microwave ovens, they should think again.



Angry Nigerians want them sent for psychiatric evaluation. They want them barred from Council of State meetings until they apologise publicly, among other sanctions.

Here’s what some notable Nigerians told Sunday Sun.

Expressing shock at the shameless altercation between the two former presidents, Senate Minority Whip, Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon, has recommended that both General Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo be barred from attending meetings of the Council of State until they apologise to Nigerians for their offensive altercations.


“I still can’t believe that two men who had ruled this country would descend so low as to deploy the choice of words they have openly used. These are supposed to be men we look up to; men in their 70s, grandfathers, and what’s more, they are members of the nation’s Council of State, Nigeria’s highest advisory body. Now, what are they teaching our children? I think they should be barred from attending the Council of State meetings until they apologise to Nigerians. They have hurt both our psyche and reputation. They owe the nation an apology.”

Solomon added that in the traditional Yoruba society, political figures that ran foul of accepted norms were forced into exile, and recommended the same penalty for the warring generals.

“In the olden days in Yorubaland, when elders and political figures do shameful things they are forced into exile. That is what former Presidents Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo deserve – exile. Their war of words is unbecoming of their status. These are people who went to school in the days we believed morals were taught. Is it that they didn’t learn those morals or military training obliterated everything?” Solomon asked rhetorically.


“With what IBB and Obasanjo have done to us, I think one can safely say that wisdom does not always come with age. At 70, the two former heads of state ought to know they are at the twilight of life. They are at an age they should forgive all. They ought to be concentrating on their relationship with God, not nursing grudges.

Fiery activist, Comrade Joseph Evah, and national coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), in a telephone interview said the former leaders needed psychiatric examination for virtually dancing naked in the market with their diatribe.

Babangida, who is popularly addressed as IBB, had fired the first salvo last Tuesday ahead of his 70th birthday the next day (August 17), when he told journalists in Minna that Obasanjo frittered away Nigeria’s resources during his second coming as the country’s leader between 1999 and 2007 and that the administration lacked focus.

But, Obasanjo, equally gifted with a caustic tongue and not known to suffer fools gladly, in a response on Thursday called IBB a fool at 70.

Commenting on the brickbats between the elder statesmen, Evah said the duo should not pull the wool over the eyes of Nigerians by their public spat, as both of them were largely responsible for the country’s political and economic woes.

He stated that rather than resort to name-calling, they should engage in a healthy televised debate bordering on how they spent the country’s resources during their reign.


“Let them truthfully talk about their performance in office and how they utilised Nigeria’s money during their time. I don’t expect somebody like Obasanjo to call Babangida a fool. If not for IBB, everybody knows that OBJ wouldn’t have been president for a second time. When OBJ came out of prison, IBB went even to Ota farm to convince him to run for the presidency (in 1999). We know Obasanjo is always hiding from responsibility.

“But on the other hand, you won’t blame Obasanjo because IBB is now seeing the result of imposing OBJ on the Yoruba nation and Nigerians. People like IBB will learn a lesson from this.

“Remember, when the June 12 (1993) calamity happened, the whole nation called on the Yoruba people to present a candidate as replacement for the late MKO Abiola to appease them over his death. And the Yoruba brought out Chief Olu Falae as their choice. But IBB kicked against it and went on to impose OBJ on the South West and the whole nation. Maybe that is why OBJ is now calling IBB a fool for defying the Yoruba people.”

Evah noted that IBB’s first salvo had nothing to do with the issue of fool. Rather, he said, the two leaders should continue the debate, but let it be on how they spent Nigeria’s money and not calling each other fools.

“Both of them have their secrets and now is the time to expose themselves. IBB knows that he and his cousin (General Abdulsalami) Abubakar, imposed Obasanjo on us when every Yoruba person knew that he could not represent them.

“Clearly, IBB is not the right person to accuse OBJ of wasting Nigeria’s resources. But I believe it is nemesis catching up with him. If he had not overthrown the Buhari/Idiagbon regime and deceived Nigerians with the bogus title of military president, I believe he would not be suffering the kind of disgrace he is getting now. He deceived so many activists after getting them into his government with his cowboy type of governance. It is only Wole Soyinka that was able to outwit him. It was after he brought down the Buhari/Idiagbon government that Nigeria’s madness started.”

Waxing comical, the Niger Delta activist proffered how the debate should go.

“What I expect Obasanjo to do is to invite IBB to a public debate to be televised by the NTA (Nigeria Television Authority) and other television stations and let them talk about how they spent our money. They should either go to the National Stadium or the National Theatre, for a public debate and stop this name-calling. Let it be a live programme at the stadium and let Nigerians go there like they are going to watch the national teams play. I’m serious about this. From this primary level let them take it to the secondary level, which is the public debate. From that you will see that these two people need psychiatric test,” he said.


Also speaking, former Minister of Information and National Orientation (NOA) in the regime of IBB and National Chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Tony Momoh, wondered why the two elderly men threw decorum into the wind, warning that it portends danger for the nation.

He said, “It is one of the many examples of a breakdown of due process and portends regression into anarchy. There is a difference between a country of law and a country with laws. America and England are countries of law, equity and justice. But Nigeria is a country of law, where there are many laws and you look at faces before you apply them. In Nigeria, among the military officers, there is esprit-de-corps; they don’t criticize one another openly. But they are embarrassing everybody and dancing naked in the market. But this is unlike IBB. These two personalities are not only soldiers but former heads of state.”


Former Special Adviser to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on Policy and Programmes Monitoring, Professor Julius Ihonvbere, expressed disappointment over the war of words between the former Presidents.

He said coming from the so-called disciplined Armed Forces, there is a modicum of integrity one would expect, adding that he believed the measure of solidity, discipline and responsibility among the ruling class is the way in which the leading figures treat each other based on the respect they have for each other.

“That is the only way they can play role models to the larger society, and to others coming behind them; as it is, I must say I am very, very disappointed that the two leaders would degenerate to the level of war of words. It is very discouraging for those following them, it does not show the discipline and responsibility one expects.

“I think Obasanjo was just too eager to return fire for fire. There are other ways in which he could also have put it. So, generally, I am not happy about it. I don’t think it is good for the credibility and integrity of governance in Nigeria. It doesn’t show the kind of leadership we expect of both of them and I don’t think they are showing a good example,” Ihonvbere said.

National Coordinator of O’dua People’s Congress (OPC) advised Nigerians not to be fooled by the fireworks of the two former Presidents, saying the duo are birds of the same feather.

According to him, Obasanjo and IBB share the same characteristics and traits, adding that they are both evildoers except that IBB holds the ace.

“Both of them are evildoers, but Babangida is worse,” he said, pointing out that in terms of national development Obasanjo did better than IBB.

“Babangida is more evil than Obasanjo because the foundation of the nation’s economy and system was destroyed during Babangida’s time,” he said.

He, however, faulted IBB for choosing the occasion of his birthday to initiate a war of words with Obasanjo, his former boss in the military. He added that he was happy that he (IBB) got more than equal measure of response from Obasanjo.

“I like the response of Obasanjo, because I don’t expect IBB to say such things when celebrating his birthday. He was supposed to be rejoicing. I think he got the correct response from Obasanjo,” Adams said, adding that he least expected IBB would choose insult as birthday gift.

According to him, the face-off was rooted in politics, because they are members of the same party, who must have different political sentiments, but insisted that Nigerians should not bother much about the brickbat.

The verbal war, he said, meant nothing since the duo are of the same species, adding that they would still embrace at odd hours outside public glare.


“Nigerians should not worry about them, they are both members of PDP. They may have different sentiments now, but don’t be surprised that after all this, they may still embrace each other at night because they are politicians,” he said.

The National Coordinator of National Democratic Forum {NDF), Mr. Jonathan Vatsa, described the ongoing verbal onslaught between the former Presidents as a show of shame. The activist advised the two erstwhile military leaders to sheathe their swords and take heed to the advice the late former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Major General Mammam Vatsa, once gave to the military tribunal that tried him for involvement in a coup in 1986.

“General Vatsa, during his trial cautioned members of the military to be wary of insulting one another, if they don’t want members of the public to join in launching offensive attack on the institution. I want to equally advise these two leaders to be cautious, or else members of the public will further rubbish the little respect we still have for them and the military institution.”


Vatsa, however, said the two leaders should spare the country the agony of reminding the citizenry of the profligacy that characterised their different administrations, saying: “When you talk about prudent spending and proper management of public funds, none of these two is a champion.”

“They have demonstrated to us that those leading us are not sincere to the masses. The two of them are accusing each other of mismanaging billions of dollars, even when most of our hospitals, roads and schools are in shambles. These people should bury their heads in shame.”

In a similar reaction, factional leader of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, took a swipe on the two leaders, saying they were undeserving of the position they occupied for almost two decades.

“It is shameful that our two former heads of state would engage each other in this kind of reckless mudslinging. That is what you get when you have leaders imposed on the people. And you weep for the country because we don’t know how many more fools will rule Nigeria. I am inclined to believe that the two of them are knowledgeable enough to realize the implication of what they are doing.


“Besides, both of them served in the Nigerian Army and they know who is a fool between them. It is a big lesson for Nigeria to decide the type of leaders to rule them. These two characters are not worthy of the position they occupied for 19 years. It is a question Nigerians have to resolve through a free and fair election,” Okorie said.

Chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Maxi Okwu, also added his voice, saying: “The altercation is uncalled for because there is a minimum of decorum expected of people of that caliber. IBB is vicariously liable for the bad administration of Obasanjo. It was IBB who packaged Obasanjo and imposed him on Nigerians.”

Publicity Secretary of Afenifere Renewal Group and spokesperson for the presidential candidate of CPC, Yinka Odumakin, said the development would enable Nigerians to get to the roots of its crisis. “It is good that they are doing what they are doing, washing their dirty linen in public. It only tells us the type of leaders that foisted themselves on us. And I think until these so-called leaders get to this ridiculous level, we will not get to the roots of Nigerian crisis,” he said.


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