OBJ, IBB, Clark: The sayings of our elders: Ka-ta-ka-ta, bla-bla-bla
Three of the country’s foremost elder-statesmen: Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida and Edwin Clark have, in the last few days, given significantly opposite postulations on their thoughts on the federation. The language of the builders of the Tower of Babel is seemingly not different from that spoken by these fathers of modern Nigeria!
LAST Sunday’s unprecedented joint statement from former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida would have jolted many.
The joint declaration from the two elder-statesmen asserting their belief in the inviolability of the existing structure of the polity was received with shock. Not for the content or the message, but for the fact that the two men could produce a common message.
Nearly a year ago, the two former leaders had thrown rubbish at one another in a public spat over the superiority of the legacies they left behind in office.
So when the two supposed enemies sat down together to discuss the fate of Nigeria, inevitably the two men must have been pushed by superior fears of the fate of a common love for Nigeria as it is. The two former leaders according to sources close to them met in Abuja last week prior to the release of the unprecedented statement on Sunday.
Remarkably, just four days after their joint declaration, another man in their age group, Chief Edwin Clark, a former Federal commissioner of information, former senator, and presently the reputed godfather of the incumbent President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan intervened.
The joint statement from Obasanjo and Babangida was principally directed at an appeal for the cessation of hostilities presently being waged against the Nigerian state by the insurgent Boko Haram group.
What could be distilled from the joint statement was the deep concern of the two former leaders on the progress of the nation and the impact of the recurring insurgency on the stability of the nation. “For us, and we believe for millions of other Nigerians, the continued unity of this nation is not only priceless but non-negotiable,” the duo asserted.
Not too long ago, Babangida was widely quoted as saying that he was ready to put his military uniform on again to fight for the continued existence of the country as it is. Obasanjo on his part has in his attitudes and actions asserted as much and has won praise from far and wide for putting Nigeria even above his own sectional interests.
But what was remarkable in the joint statement was the complete absence of the mention of President Jonathan by name or by direct inference. That was an issue for some, given the fact that both men are reported to have issues to grind with the president.
Babangida lost out in his drive for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the run up to the 2011 presidential election while Obasanjo is alleged not to be too happy with the actions, attitude and affinities of the incumbent who he almost single handedly ferried from his position as deputy governor to the presidential villa.
Conspicuously missing in the joint statement of the two former presidents was the matter of corruption as a threat to the fabrics of the society. It is an issue which some have picked to attack the two former leaders.
However, the joint declaration was welcomed by a significant section of the society including the Arewa Consultative Forum, Afenifere, though the Ohaneze Ndigbo flayed the two former leaders for what it claimed was their hypocrisy.
Engr. Ralph Ndigwe, National Publicity Secretary of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation told Vanguard: “There is nothing special about Obasanjo and Babangida calling for national dialogue or constructive engagement. When Obasanjo was in government for eight years, people were clamouring for national conference.
Odi people reacted, they went and finished the whole village, ransacked every where and killed everybody because they killed one soldier.
Today, he is out of government and talking about dialogue. Babangida did the same thing. “Babangida and Obasanjo are senior members of the Council of State. Let them go to the Council of State and ask the council to call for dialogue; they don’t have to continue to deceive us through all these paper talks”.
The only other former ruler that is presently engaged in politics, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, has, however, shied away from joining the duo. Engr. Rotimi Fashakin, spokesman of the Buhari led Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, said Buhari would not join them as he insisted that Buhari has already made his mind known on the Boko Haram insurgency.
“These people have not said anything new, except we want to be economical with the truth. Quite a number of people have said it in the past,” Fashakin told Vanguard.
“The unfortunate thing is that there are many people who are waiting to hear what Gen. Buhari says and use it for cheap political points and that is why the man has often refrained from making statements because he knows that we are not dealing with sincere people but we are dealing with very dishonest people, the party said.”
“Buhari is not like one of the normal Nigerian people that are ready to lie through their teeth. Buhari has never believed that getting political power is a do-or-die affair. He behaves in true service to the Nigerian people.”
Noting why Nigerians should not expect a statement from Buhari again, he said: “You don’t need to expect a statement from him because he has said Boko Haram is in three variants and one of the variants is the political variant which the Jonathan government represents.”
Perhaps that may have galled Clark who in his own shoot out on Wednesday hit at Buhari, Babangida and Obasanjo. Speaking at the State of the Federation lecture organized by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in Abuja, Clark pooh-poohed the joint declaration of Obasanjo and Babangida alleging that some northern leaders were behind the insurgency and that their ambition was to unsettle the Jonathan presidency.
He specifically challenged Buhari and Babangida to openly come out and condemn the activities of the Boko Haram insurgent group, a group that has killed hundreds of innocent people in its attacks against security agencies and churches in the north.
Growing level of insecurity
Clark had said: “Two former heads of state recently made this kind of appeal against the growing level of insecurity in the country, as if they were not part of the system when Boko Haram was formed. I had expected that somebody like Babangida should have spoken since. I thought he would have spoken with his friend Buhari. Two of them have
been meeting. So why is he now with Obasanjo?
“At 72, Babangida said he will wear uniform and fight for the unity of Nigeria, he should, therefore, stand up now and condemn Boko Haram from the bottom of his heart, not with Obasanjo. Obasanjo has gone to Maiduguri to meet the people, why has Babangida not gone?”
Remarkably, Clark did not overlook the matter of corruption as a threat as was done by Obasanjo and Babangida. In a stunning rebuke of the lackadaisical prosecution of crimes committed by former governors, Clark called for the diligent prosecution of their cases lamenting that in one case one of the former governors, even obtained a perpetual injunction against prosecution.
Remarkably, while Obasanjo and Babangida called for the sustenance of the structure of the polity in its present configuration, Clark demanded the convocation of a national conference to discuss the fate of the country.
With our elders yet divided on their thoughts for Nigeria and confusion in their ranks, it is not surprising that the nation continues to totter.