Written by Shola Adekola and Olayinka Olukoya:

• Reiterates call for true federalism

THOSE insinuating that former President Ibrahim Babangida may be eyeing the presidency in 2011 may not be totally wrong as the General, on Thursday, said he was still consulting on whether to contest or not. Babangida, at the presidential lounge of the Murtala Muhammed Airport,
Lagos, on his way from the birthday lecture to mark the 54th birthday of the Ogun State governor, Chief Gbenga Daniel, at about 6.30 p.m., said in a brief interview with airport journalists that he would make his decision known to Nigerians after his consultations.

The former military leader, who said he did not belong to the school of thought that saw him as the solution to the country’s social political problem, declared: “No, there is no such thing, absolutely nothing like that, but if Nigerians are convinced that I have a contribution to make, surely this is the only country I have and I will do it. I am still doing some consultations and honestly, I will hint you on that when I have finished doing that. I will give you a feedback very soon.”

When further asked if the general opinion indicated that he should run, Babangida replied: ”I will be directed by the general opinion.”

On his position on the attitude of politicians to governance, he replied: “What I want is for all of you, people like you, me and politicians to be very tolerant and if we are tolerant, we will be able to move the country forward.”

Speaking on the clamour for Professor Maurice Iwu’s removal as the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Babangida said he does not comment on individuals.

General Babangida, had earlier said that he would only vote for an advocate of true federalism as president of Nigeria in the next general election.

He said this as the chairman at the 54th birthday anniversary lecture of Governor Daniel, where Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State was the special guest of honour, at the Valley View Auditorium, Government House, Abeokuta. Only true federalism, Babangida said,  would solve the multifarious problems confronting the country.

He said, “I want to say here that anybody who believes in some of those things will have my vote in 2011. Everything that was said here today on federalism is the true reflection of what this country was, is and will be.”

He noted that some critical national issues which had been settled since the nation attained independence about 50 years ago needed not to be further discussed to draw the nation back.

The former president said, ”I believe that true federalism is the issue for this country. Many of us who are very close to 70 years are very proud that we are leaving Nigeria in safe hands. There are lots of things called settled issues in the country’s political system. We don’t have to look back. Why clamouring whether we want to call ourselves republic and so on? Those are the issues that are settled.”

He added that he believed more in confederacy than a federal system of government whereby the impact of governance could be easily felt by the people, saying “I believe more in small government than big government.”

While eulogising the celebrant, Babangida said that he (Daniel) was a rare potential of the nation’s younger generation who truly had vision and sterling leadership qualities.

He told the gathering that he was attracted to Governor Daniel based on the fact that he had domineering presence everywhere he went.

“When he invited me for this occasion, I promised him that I will be here. My coming to Abeokuta is indeed home-coming, having been here 44 years ago. There is an established romance between me and OGD.  I am glad and proud of him,” Babangida added.

He made his remarks after various speakers like Governor Amaechi, ace broadcaster, Chief Yemi Farounbi, and former Director-General, Voice of Nigeria, Chief Taiwo Alimi, had spoken extensively on the need for the country to practise true federalism.

Amaechi, in his own remarks insisted that Nigeria was not operating a true federal structure, rather it only had an “independent confused federal structure.”

He was of the opinion that federalism as being practised in Nigeria was distinctively different from what obtained in advanced countries, noting that the federal structure in Nigeria today was by servitude.

Governor Amaechi added that Nigeria was bereft of a productive economy, saying that government economy whereby the rich wanted to be sure of who became the governor or president because their existence depended on that government economy had become the order of the day.

The occasion had in attendance eminent Nigerians, including the Yeye Odua, Chief (Mrs) HID Awolowo, represented by her daughter, Reverend (Mrs) Tola Oyediran; former Senate President, Senator Adolphus Wabara; Chief Rasaq Okoya and his wife, Sade; Sir. Kesington Adebutu; Nigeria’s Ambassador to Zambia, Chief (Mrs) Folake Marcus-Bello; Chief Abiola Dosunmu; Chief Raymond Dopkesi, Dr. Oba Otudeko and Reverend Jide Awosedo.

Others included Ambassador Segun Olusola; Dr Yemi Ogunbiyi; Mr. Emeka Obasi; Secretary, Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide; Honourable Lola Abiola-Edewor; Mrs. Doyin Abiola; Dr. Sunny Kuku; Prince Bola Ajibola; Alhaji Lateef Adegbite, amongst other personalities.

The guest lecturer, Dr. Don Kroah, while delivering his lecture entitled: “The Personalities, the Institutions and the Future of Democracy,” contended that the future of the country was at stake, if credible leaders were not put in place.

He explained that certain steps such as transparent electoral process; better political participation; tested and trusted personalities, with good character and sound health, would make the nation’s democratic experience sustained.

Kroah said, “The dilemma of Nigeria’s democratic experience is that even though distinct and clear functions are highlighted for these critical institutions, the personalities that execute the functions negatively impact on the institutions.

“Credible executive leader and credible legislature made up of qualitative personalities can sustain democracy. Until Nigeria has such personalities, the future of its democracy will always be at stake,” the American broadcaster said.

He commended the celebrant for allowing his personality to influence the democratic institutions by securing the future of people of the state.

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