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Are we as a people fair to those who put down their lives so that we remain united ? — IBB

•Says Nigerians may not believe him due to June 12 saga
•Relives cordial relationship with Abiola even during the crisis
•A young Nigerian in the mould of Awo, Zik, Ahmadu Bello, OBJ must lead in 2019
•Afenifere, Junaid Mohammed, Osuntokun react

By Dapo Akinrefon & Gbenga Oke

LAGOS—Former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, Monday night, reminisced over his role in aborting the June 12, 1993 elections won by late business mogul, Chief M.K.O. Abiola, saying he may go down in history as a leader without an autobiography.

Former military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida

The June 12 presidential election annulment, which put the country on edge, is still generating controversies in the country nearly 25 years after.

Leaders worldwide are known to give account of their lives in written form, with a view to reflecting on their past and keeping the present generation informed.

Babangida, who spoke in an interview on Channels Television programme, ‘Roadmap 2019′, expressed doubts that Nigerians will find his book interesting and inspiring.

According to him, Nigerians have a wrong impression of some of his actions in office between 1985 and 1993 when he served as Military President, citing the annulled June 12, 1993 elections.

Babangida, who also spoke on the need for a new generation of Nigerians to take over the reins of power in the country in 2019, said:  “People may not read it (autobiography) because it is coming from a dictator. A lot will say dictator, he cancelled June 12 and that will kill the book.

On June 12 election

“If God spares my life, I will discuss about June 12 election because I still believe people don’t get what we were trying to put across. Nobody has ever sat down to say the two persons involved are friends, what went wrong? We tried to rationalise why we had to do what we did but nobody is prepared to listen to us.

“I have never seen anybody write anything on this to try to give people a different version altogether.”

The elder statesman wondered why people have been saying the election was the freest and fairest in the country’s history and yet failed to credit his government for the record.

“They keep saying ‘he cancelled the freest election’ but why not give us credit for conducting that election,” he asked.

Babangida said the public misconception did not affect his relationship with Abiola, saying they were in touch, even during the June 12 crisis.

“He (Abiola) knew my feelings, I knew his feelings on the country generally because we do talk about Nigeria with the presumed winner of the truly democratically freest election, we talked about it, we even talked about it during the crisis itself.

“I’ll hate to say that despite all that, two of us understood ourselves very well, that the level of friendship is so strong that we value our relationship very much but like I said of the typical Nigerian, it’s always the people. If you try to educate them, it sounds boring, or if you try to reason,” he said.

Abiola and June 12

The late Moshood Abiola, a philanthropist and successful businessman, had won the election which was later annulled by the then military government headed by Babangida.

The poll, which was adjudged as one of the freest and fairest in Nigeria’s democratic history, was the first presidential election held in Nigeria since 1983 when the military took power in a coup.

Abiola of the then Social Democratic Party, SDP, had defeated Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention, NCP.

Nigeria needs a young leader — IBB

On the need for the country to be led by a young Nigerian in 2019, Babangida said:  “I want to see a young man with the vision of Obafemi Awolowo. I want to see a young man who has the charisma of Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello. I want to see a young man who has the eloquence, education, and powers of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe; and I want to see a young man who has convictions like General Olusegun Obasanjo, retd.

“If these two parties, (APC and PDP) are not options, then somebody should be sitting down to think about what to do, surely not to add  90 more political parties, but a constructive outfit that is durable because we have a free press.

“I haven’t seen arguments why these two are not options. I may have my own opinion but I think the arguments have not been well articulated.

“During the war of national unity, at least, two or three million people lost their lives in the course of keeping the country one. Are we as a people fair to those who put down their lives so that we remain united?

“I think to be fair to them, we have no option but to accept what they have done because they sacrificed their lives for us to remain united. We shouldn’t negotiate anything about the unity of Nigeria.”

On the ongoing insurgency perpetrated by Boko Haram in the country, Babangida said:  “What we tend to forget is that the insurgents have also got tacticians or people who think for them, and once they do that, then you have a problem.

“You have to find a way of countering the information they dish out.  There is no way other than good equipment, training, psychological operations to win the war.”

His statements should guide us—Afenifere

In its reaction, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said Babangida’s remarks should guide everyone in the future.

Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said: “I read Babangida’s statement and I think those are the remorse of his twilight which should guide all of us to weigh our actions before they are taken. If there had not been annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, he (IBB) would have written his memoirs. The lesson for all of us is that we should not take actions that we will not be able to correct.”

Babangida is absolutely right — Mohammed

Also, a Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammed, said the former Military President was right that he conducted a free and fair election in 1993.

Mohammed said: “I will say that, under the two party systems that was available to Nigerians, the elections were credibly fair, otherwise, it would not have been possible for someone like M.K.O. Abiola to win elections, landslide, especially in places like Kano.

“I think the General has every right to say that. I do not believe in the people who want to demonise Babangida, I think he should do his autobiography if he feels like and I am sure Nigerians will read him. But I totally agree with him on what he said that he conducted the freest elections in Nigeria.”

It’s unnecessary self pity—Osuntokun

On his part, Political Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr Akin Osuntokun said: “This is unnecessary self-pity. In the first place, people do not read autobiographies only because they love the author. Big time controversies sell biographies as much as identification with the author. So, on the contrary, I am sure a lot of Nigerians will like to hear the whole saga of the annulment debacle from the horse’s mouth.”


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