By Sanni Ologun:
• Ex-ruler: 2011 will determine future of democracy
• Ajibola advises Iwu to resign
Former military president Gen. Ibrahim Babangida yesterday vowed not to buy his way to power in next year’s presidential election.
Speaking on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Focus on Africa programme, Babangida said he had the experience to be president.
The popular thinking is that his wealth is the driving force in his bid to return to power.
Gen. Babangida, who annulled the June 12, 1993 election – Nigeria’s freest and fairest ever – is one of the country’s wealthiest men.
“You’ll be glad to know, I’m the most investigated Nigerian living today,” he said.
“Perhaps after 17 years it (report of investigation) ought to have come out by now, unless somebody is not doing his job.”
He spoke of his determination to run for president for a second time even if the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) does not select him as its candidate.
PDP has zoned its presidential ticket to the North.
“What I am sure of – I can always find one party out of 51 that I can pitch my tent with,” he said.
Gen. Babangida took power in 1985 in a bloodless coup, but was toppled by mass protests after he annulled the election, which was won by his friend, frontline businessman Chief Moshood Abiola. He has refused to apologise for that action which plunged Nigeria into turmoil.
The former military ruler defended his democratic credentials and said he could offer Nigerians “leadership and experience”.
“I have conducted the freest and fairest and this is attested to by the international community – elections in the history of our country,” he said.
“The fact that it was annulled is a different story altogether.”
He pulled out of the 2007 presidential election when then-President Olusegun Obasanjo declared supported President Umaru Yar’Adua’s candidacy.
Mr Yar’Adua has not been seen in public since last November last year because of his ill-health and is considered unlikely to seek re-election.
Acting President Goodluck Jonathan would not be a candidate under the PDP policy of alternating power between North and South, with each region having two terms.
At an international conference on “political stability and democratic imperatives in dynamic international environment” in Abuja organised by National Institute for Policy and Strategy Studies (NIPSS), Babangida said next year’s election would determine the future of democratic governance in the country.
Represented by former Chief of Army Staff Maj. Gen. Alwali Kazir, he said: “Nigerians and indeed the international community have concluded that Nigeria should by now have learnt a lot about democratic practices such that the 2011 elections should serve as the transitional threshold between democratic naivety and the practice of rational, intelligent, nationalistic and people focused democratic governance, starting with the conduct and outcome of election itself. All stakeholders are keenly watching the development. All eyes are on Nigeria. Many feel that ‘it’s now or never.’
“I am convinced that we all recognise the enormity of the task ahead of us. The huge enthusiasm evident in each of us and the air of readiness that is palpable across the various strata of the country is indicative of our acceptance of this challenge and the collective determination to engage the issues squarely. With this mindset and giving the unfolding events in Nigeria’s political arena, I am optimistic that we shall not fail to deliver on expectations.”
Babangida said political stability could only be guaranteed in a democracy if those elected to serve govern in accordance with the rule of law as enshrined in the Constitution.
He said: “There can only be political stability in a democracy if those freely elected rule in accordance with the rule of law as enshrined in the constitution.
“Nigeria is still a state in evolution. It needs commitment on the part of the political leadership to do the right thing for the people and to put national interest above self, sectarian and ethnic interest. Leadership is the most important element in need to build a nation.
“Nigerian politicians must demonstrate the seriousness of purpose needed to build a virile nation. For now there is still too much emphasis on religion and ethnic origin and little respect for merit and competence. Our country needs clear headed public spirited leaders at every level to propel this country to a higher stage of development than is presently the case.
“If we have the right calibre of people at the helm of affairs then it will be much easier to practise democracy in truth and in deed. The meaning of democracy is no longer in doubt. Democracy is the government of the people by the people and for the people. So there is no midway house to democratic governance.”
Babangida blamed the various ethnic and religious crises in the country on poverty.
“We need to move away from the incessant religious and ethnic confrontations sometimes leading to mutual manslaughter of our people. What is behind these eruptions is largely poverty. Idle hands are the devil’s instrument. If people are fully engaged they would hardly have time for seeing other as enemies. Religion should be a personal affair. Each person would answer for his or her misdeeds before the Almighty,” he stated.
The guest speaker and former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Bola Ajibola, urged Iwu to resign now in his own interest.
Ajibola added that the Justice Muhammadu Uwais Electoral Committee’s report is germane to credible elections.
Speaking on the theme of the conference: “Political Stability and Democratic Imperatives in a Dynamic International Environment”, the former Judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague, said: “Let me quickly chip it in here that as we have proclaimed to the world that we are embarking on electoral reforms, we should conclude that process honourably by fashioning out a more credible system from the recommendations of the Justice Mohammed Uwais Panel.
“Otherwise, the recommendations of that panel would have amounted to another waste, not only of resources but more importantly of time… We should avoid the mockery of another election. In my view, if I were Prof Maurice Iwu, I would honourably resign my appointment as the Chairman of our Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC).”
According to Ajibola, democracy presumes an atmosphere where elections are free and fair and where legislative seats are based on votes scored in an election, not by “cross-carpeting; and where there is no clear majority in the legislature, several parties may come together to form a coalition government.”
“That was the system with which our country was midwifed; the parliamentary system,” Ajibola said. “But we have since changed to the more expensive, winner-takes-all presidential system, irrespective of its suitability to our needs and yearnings.”
He noted that corruption has become “terribly endemic” within Nigeria and “fast pushing us into unstoppable backwardness … if we can stop the rate of alarming corruption, definitely poverty will be drastically reduced in our society.”
Ajibola added: “There is a widespread tendency in this country to limit the issue of corruption to financial matters alone. In as much as that remains a big problem for us in the country, corruption hinged on time, is weightier and has probably cost this nation.
To Ajibola, said Nigerian politicians are among the most-highly remunerated in the world.
He said: “It is an open secret that the Nigerian political class probably ranks among the most highly remunerated in the world. It is logical, therefore, that to whom much is given, much is expected.
“Unfortunately, the reverse is the case in our country. Reports abound on the internet and the general press of primitive acquisition of stupendous wealth and its unabashed flaunting by some politicians.’’
He said the situation highlights the emerging picture of a lack of deterrence, in spite of the giant strides recorded over the years in the administration of justice.
“The equation is quite simple. If A commits a crime and was able to mitigate his punishment or bought his freedom outrightly, `B’ may be tempted to commit the same crime and `C’ will surely not be deterred in anyway from committing the same crime.
“They will all continue to revel with their ill-gotten gains in the society as criminis participens,’’ he added.
“If we can stop the rate of alarming corruption, definitely poverty will be drastically reduced in our society,” Ajibola said.
The former minister added: “The wealth of the country is still locked in the vaults and bank accounts of a few, very few indeed, in the society.
“The average Nigerian knows that a 1.969 GDP per capita is a far cry from being truly representative of the conditions of the proletariat in the actual sense of it.”
He commended Acting President Goodluck Jonathan for his open abhorrence of time corruption and determination to deal decisively with same.
On the recent Jos crisis, Ajibola urged all the key figures involved in finding a lasting solution to the problem to expedite action on it and ensure a just and equitable resolution of the issues.
He said that the sad experience of the Niger Delta would have been avoided, if the recommendations of the Willink Commission set up in 1958 had been implemented.
On the fight against terrorism, Ajibola said governments and international agencies should, among other measures, organise orientation for youths.
The Special Guest of Honour and former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who was represented by retired Maj.-Gen. Alwali Kazir, said the 2011 elections should serve as the transitional threshold between democratic naivety and the practice of people-focused democratic governance.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Josephine Anenih, said that to ensure a stable democracy, there was the need to harness the resources of women.
She called on women to participate in the 2011 elections.
The Director-General of NIPSS, Prof. Danfulani Ahmed, had earlier said that the conference marked the beginning of another strategic window of intervention to shape the course of the nation’s resolute march to greater destiny.
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