BY HENRY UMORU
ABUJA — FORMER Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), yesterday, warned those who are harbouring the thought of disintegrating the country to have a rethink as he would not hesitate to re-enlist in the military and fight if the issue of secession rears its head.
Speaking at the Ninth Daily Trust Dialogue held at the Congress Hall of Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, Babangida, who chaired the event said as much as people were entitled to agitate for self-determination, the issue of disintegration was a no go area
He said: “There is always what you call the struggle for self determination and is quite easy for people to come out with. This same country we fought the war for almost three years for the purposes of living together. I carry a bullet in my lap, so nobody will talk to me about secession or breaking away. If you do, I will call a tailor, take my measurement, get back in to khaki to go and fight even at age 71.”
The former head of state, who said he had quit partisan politics, urged the media to de-emphasis issues that divide the country.
He also lashed Niger-Delta leaders over their possessive comments on President Goodluck Jonathan with disregard to the sensibilities of other Nigerians, who voted overwhelmingly for Jonathan at the polls.
Babangida spoke as Senate President David Mark and Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole urged media professionals to put the interest of the country above other interests.
No go areas
Insisting that Nigeria has come to stay as an independent country, Babangida listed critical issues, which he said were not negotiable in a united Nigeria, irrespective of challenges and perceived differences. They are indivisibility of the nation, capitalistic nature of Nigeria and states as federating units.
According to him, these issues must not be touched as the doctrine of Nigeria settlement had come to stay, adding that for three years during the civil war, Nigerians fought for the unity of the country.
The former military leader urged the media to desist from reporting stories that centre on Christian South and Moslem North because “wherever you go in this country, you will find in the North there are Christians as much as we have Muslims. In the South, it is the same but I think the emphasis is on Christian South , Muslim North.”
IBB quits politics
Bidding farewell to politics after trying to return to power since 2003, Babangida said he would no longer seek any political office though he might be involved in advising up and coming aspirants. He said the good news he had for the media was that with this declaration, he would no longer be kicked around and sought for by journalists for stories.
His words: “What I find difficult to understand however is that even after leaving office and not seeking any public position, a man is still the subject of insinuations and battering by the news media. I think I know what to do. I want to borrow a leaf from the former American president, Richard Nixon.
In 1962, when he lost the race for Governor of California, Richard Nixon decided to retire from politics and he told the pressmen, “I have news for you. You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.
‘’Today, I also have news for the Nigerian press. Although I may continue to be involved in advising up and coming aspirants, I have decided not to seek any political office again in this country. Therefore, my dear Nigerian journalists, you won’t have Ibrahim Babangida to kick around anymore!”
Babangida who noted that he had received the biggest media bashing in the last 30 years, told the audience that he was prepared for that following the advice he received from the Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr Sam Amuka, that he should develop very thick skin as the leader of the country because he would be bashed by the media, adding that he learnt a great lesson from what his friend, Amuka, told him.
Chides Niger Delta leaders
The former Military berated some Niger Delta leaders, who describe President Goodluck Jonathan as their son and saying that Nigeria would break if anything happened to the President. He noted that as elders and leaders from the President’s zone such comments were not expected from them, adding, ‘’anything that touches on our sensibilities as people, anything that touches on our unity as country, I will want to suggest that those are what I’ve always referred to as a settled issue in our Nigerian politics. We should not encourage those sort of things.
Also speaking at the event, Senate President Mark, who was the Special Guest of Honour and represented by Senate Majority Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, noted that the country was passing through its most challenging moment and urged the media not worsen the situation, adding that democracy was must for Africa and it must be deepened by the media.
Also, Comrade Oshiomhole stressed that media and politics were interwoven as they must exist together and enjoined media practitioners to put the interest of the country above other interests.
The dialogue attracted leading politicians, media owners and executives and prominent Nigerians such as Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, who represented the Senate President; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal who was represented by Imam Imam, his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity; Governor Adams Oshiomhole; Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega; Mr Sam Amuka, Publisher of Vanguard and former Minister of FCT, AVM Hamza Abdullahi.
Also present were former Minister, Idi Hong; representatives of Niger, Bauchi, Katsina, Gombe state governors, representative of Minister of Information, Labaran Maku; Former Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Patrick Adaba; Hon. Abubakar Bawa Bwari; Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua, former president of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN); Vice President, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Issa Aremu; South Africa High Commissioner to Nigeria; and representative of ECOWAS Commission, among others.