By Kolade Larewaju:
* IBB, roots for true federalism
* I prefer a small cabinet, he says
ABEOKUTA – FORMER Military President Ibrahim Babangida, speaking yesterday, on his ambition to take another shot at the Presidency next year, said he was still consulting with his political associates on how to prosecute the 2011 presidential election.
He warned that for the Nigerian nation to make any appreciable progress, it must practise true federalism saying “true federalism is the issue for this country.”
Affirming that the country needed to implement the report of the Muhamadu Uwais report on electoral reforms, Babangida said the report was the way forward in resolving the country’s myriad of political challenges.
In apparent reference to the new cabinet being put together by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, the former President said that he believed in small governments and not big ones.
Also, Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State who was the guest of honour at the Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel’s birthday lecture in Abeokuta harped on the issue of true federalism
Babangida on true federalism
Babangida who spoke in Abeokuta as chairman of the Governor Gbenga Daniel’s birthday lecture series said the issues creating problems for the country must be addressed urgently.
He said: “Some people have tagged me an advocate of confederalism. True federalism is the issue for this country. We have lived together for 50 years and there are issues that must be addressed. Some of them are settled: Presidential system and whether we remain a republic; those are settled.
“But we must try to look at those creating problems. I believe in small governments, not big governments. We do not have to say government must do everything. Some of the best brains in the world are Nigerians, so why can’t we make use of them. I want to say that whoever believes in true federalism will have my vote in 2011.”
Babangida who was heralded into the auditorium with a huge applause said that his coming to Abeokuta was like homecoming, noting that when he lived in Abeokuta 44 years ago, he established an ancestral home there with people who make Ogun State including the traditional rulers.
He then charged some media personalities including Chief Mrs. Doyin Abiola, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi and Chief Taiwo Alimi who were present at the lecture to establish a media outfit that would try to change the thinking of the people positively.
He said: “You should set up a media outfit to change the thinking of the people. When I was a young boy, I read Tai Solarin Column and it impacted on us as young people. That is what we are lacking. I will be there as usual as a patron.”
Babangida on 2011 ambition
Babangida who also spoke to reporters on departure to Minna at the presidential wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos said as a former military president and dictator, he was anxious over the clarion call for him to offer his contributions to national development.
The former military leader who flew into Lagos aboard a private jet with registration number ZS-KBS was dressed in a blue agbada. He rode into the expansive presidential wing in an 18 car convoy amid tight security. He rode in grey colour Toyota Land Cruiser 2009 model, with no number plate.
After a few minutes of prayer, which he joked over as supplication to God to save him from the problems of journalists, IBB as he is fondly called said: “As far as the 2011 presidential elections are concerned, I am still doing consultations. I am still doing wide consultations with my political associates, I will give you feedback very soon.
“There is no such thing that I am the only solution to Nigeria’s problems. I am not the absolute solution to Nigeria’s problems, but I can only make my contributions.
“Nigeria is the only country I have, at least I have a contribution to make.”
On whether he was convinced about his role in bringing about socio-economic re-engineering of Nigeria, IBB said: “That is your own opinion which I very much appreciate, and if it is the general opinion, I will be dictating by the general opinion.”
On his assessment of the quality of leadership in Nigeria, IBB said: “What I want is for all of us, politicians, to be very tolerant. If we are tolerant we will be able to move the country forward.”
On the clamour for the removal of the INEC chairman, Maurice Iwu, IBB said: “At the level of Babangida who was the former military president, dictator, I do not comment on individuals, I comment on national issues. Change is permanent in the world.”
On the Uwais electoral reform report, he said: “I read it, I think it is a good job, done by very credible Nigerians. If you see the list of people who produced that document, they are very credible.”
On the solution to the ethnic crises in the country, Babangida said: “ True federalism is the solution. “
The Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who was guest of honour, also harped on the issue of true federalism and lamented that the country was bereft of productive economy because everybody was relying on government patronage.
Confused federal structure
Noting that the nation was “a dependant confused federal structure,” he insisted, adding that Nigeria was not practising federalism.
He said: “In Nigeria, power has been personalized, instead of the structure being institutionalized. The political space should belong to the people. When men begin to play god, God should reassert Himself. I am a product of conflict between some people playing god and God.
“The rich is a non-productive rich depending on oil. Once you grab oil, you have made it. This is evident in the number of people struggling to be governors of oil- rich states and Lagos. How can there be free and fair elections when the rich know that a village man can become President. These are contradictions of realities in Nigeria.
“Nigeria is not a federalism. We are a dependent confused federal structure, a marriage of convenience. The next election would be determined by issues. Questions would be raised. Why do we produce the oil and the Federal projects go elsewhere. We run a government of servitude, leader-servant relationship with the President.”
In the lecture titled “The Personalities, the Institutions and the Future of Democracy in Nigeria,” founder and president of Salem Communications in the United States of America, Dr. Don Kroah said that until Nigeria could get credible executive leaders in both the executive and legislature, the future of its democracy will always be at stake.
“Credible executive leaders and credible legislatures made up of qualitative personalities can sustain democracy. Until Nigeria has such personalities, the future of its democracy will always be at stake.”
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