By Ben Agande, Henry Umoru & Ndahi Marama
ABUJA—BARELY 24 hours after former Military President, Ibrahim Babangida and President Goodluck Jonathan, declared their ambitions to contest the 2011 Presidential Election; their supporters have engaged themselves in war of words in a bid to rubbish their opponents.
Firing the first salvo, Deputy Director-General of the IBB Campaign Organization, Senator Kanti Bello, faulted the decision of President Jonathan to contest the 2011 election saying the President can not be a contestant and an umpire at the same time, noting that this can not guarantee a free and fair election.
However, supporters of the President, under the aegis of the Akwa Ibom Interest Group, in their reaction, said the declaration of General Babangida was an insult to Nigerians and the nation’s democracy.
Senator Bello said the decision by President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the 2011 presidential election would seriously jeopardize the conduct of the election because it cannot be guaranteed that it would be free and fair.Speaking in an interview with journalists in Abuja, Senator Bello said by deciding to be an ‘umpire and at the same time a player, there is no way he will be fair’.
Bello said the appointment of serving governors as zonal coordinators for the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign “was another design to blackmail the governors and the impression out there is that the governors he has appointed as coordinators are those who cannot resist doing his bidding.”
He said: “The truth of the matter is that any governor you see in the Goodluck Jonathan campaign, the impression about such governor is that he has embezzled local government funds and, therefore, wants cover because he is a product of the EFCC.
“My advice again is for them to move out of this because Jonathan cannot make any of them governor against the wish of the people. In my state for instance I have gone round at least in the 12 local governments of my senatorial zone and I have discussed with ten people from every polling unit and I have told them our position and they have accepted to work for IBB.
“The governor of my state is aware of this. He is my younger brother and I am interested in ensuring that he returns as governor and I will keep advising him to get out of that Jonathan campaign and I am sure the stakeholders will do same. This is because it is not in the interest of the state and even his personal interest.
We know that Jonathan did not treat the late Yar’Adua well, he has not been honest with us and in the interest of this country we need IBB.”Speaking on the formal declaration by General Ibrahim Babangida, Senator Bello said the caliber of people that attended the event was an indication that IBB was widely accepted.
He said: “We are not looking at the crowd that attended, but the kind of the people in attendance also matters a lot. Another thing that is very important is that people who have conscience have spoken, therefore, my advice for the president is that he should step aside to allow for a free and fair election. This is because you cannot be an umpire and a player at the same time.”
Akwa Ibom Interest Group
Jonathan’s supporters, under the aegis of the Akwa Ibom Interest Group, AIG, in a statement signed by the group’s President, Sylvanus Ukpong said the ghost of June 12 would haunt Babangida and anyone who lined out behind him.
He said that President Goodluck Jonathan deserved the support for his political maturity and uncommon loyalty to late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua when it mattered most.
Ukpong who urged Nigerians support Jonathan in his move to complete the remaining one term of Yar’Adua’s ticket, said: “When Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s interest to contest the 2011 presidential election in Nigeria became a major political issue in the media, most Nigerians were still in a state of denial because it was difficult to accept the ugly possibility that the former military dictator could dare Nigerians once again, 17 years after annulling the June 12, 2003 presidential election that was considered to be the freest in the history of Nigeria’s quest for democracy.“Today, Babangida has officially declared that he is running for President in 2011. Today Babangida has urinated on the grave of late Chief MKO Abiola, the nation’s unforgettable icon of democratic struggle who died while fighting to claim the people’s mandate freely given to him on June 12 and hundreds of Nigerians who died in the same course. Today Babangida has spat on the faces of Nigerians; his message to Nigerians is clear – ‘I can rule this nation again, with or without your consent.’“We had thought, albeit wrongly, that the former military president would succumb to the numerous voices of wisdom that has cautioned him against seeking election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. “Although it is Babangida’s constitutional right like any other citizen to contest for any political office in Nigeria, but we in the Akwa Ibom Interest Group consider his declaration as another big insult on our collective psyche and our fledging democracy.“We totally condemn Ibrahim Babangida’s declaration to contest the 2011 presidential election in Nigeria. We call on all Nigerians at home and abroad to voice out their protest against Babangida’s insensitivity against Nigeria and Nigerians. Let the ghost of June 12, we invoke, begin to haunt down Babangida and anyone who line out behind him.
“In times like this, our support goes to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who had shown political maturity and uncommon loyalty to our late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua when it mattered most and was able to steer the ship of governance away from the then impending confusion and chaos.
“We call on our Northern brothers and those in other zones of the federation to rise up to the challenge of the moment by supporting the common desire to have Dr. Goodluck Jonathan finish the remaining one term of what would have otherwise been the Yar’Adua/Jonathan ticket.
“There is no better time other than now for the North to reciprocate the South South region for all the years of political co-operation and support, and for being the fat cow that has been serving the economic interests of the federation through the long years of oil exploration.
“Like millions of other Nigerians, we encourage Goodluck Jonathan to run for the President in 2011, for we are behind him. We use this opportunity to salute the South South governors and leaders especially our dear Governor Godswill Akpabio and Chief Edwin Clark for the solidarity and support they have given to President Jonathan and we in Akwa Ibom State pledge to follow in their steps. We urge Chief Edwin Clark to continue inspiring a new generation of young leaders who can stand up for Nigeria when the need arises.”
Another supporter of President Jonathan and grand patron of the people of Offa, Kwara State in Maiduguri, Borno State, Alhaji Abudulrasak Giwa, said: “It is shameful for people like the former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB, to come out at his age vying for the presidency of this country, while his past deeds when he was a President was characterized with corruption, discrimination and dictatorial which are still fresh in the minds of Nigerians and those at the Diaspora.”
Giwa who spoke with Vanguard in Maiduguri, said it was unfortunate that youths of the country who were more talented and professionals in various field were being wasted because they were not allowed to hold political offices because the older ones have refused to go.
He said it was surprising that Babangida who is now above 60 years of age was still nursing hopes for the same presidency, instead of supporting his son Mohammed who is a younger and energetic.
Giwa noted that some selfish individuals were into politics to destabilize the nation’s hard earned democracy, adding that time has come for Nigerians to stop folding their arms and watching all these enemies of progress to continue to milk the resources of the nation.
He said, if the constitution had clearly spelt out that any civil servants who had put up to 60 or 65 years should retire/ resign from the civil service, politicians also needed to retire at same age to pave the way for youths to have level playing field in moving the nation forward.
Giwa also called on women to support their fellow women in active politics, saying that, though he came from a family that were mostly politicians he had never participated in active politics in his 74 years on earth, but had always supported people he felt had something good to offer.
On Goodluck Jonathan’s ambition to contest for the 2011 presidential election, Alhaji Giwa said, it was good that Goodluck indicated interest to run, adding that the President was young and agile, and that it was time people of his age were given the opportunity to lead the country.