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IBB HITS OBJ

Posted by By STEVE NWOSU on 2008/03/28 | Views: 1085 |

IBB HITS OBJ


Former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, has broken his silence over recent goings on in the polity, expressing great discomfort over the sleaze emerging from the National Assembly over what transpired during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

ē My aim is to assist YaríAdua, not succeed him
ē Why I support G-21
ē Warns Ogbulafor

Former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, has broken his silence over recent goings on in the polity, expressing great discomfort over the sleaze emerging from the National Assembly over what transpired during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Babangida, in an exclusive interview with Saturday Sun at his Hilltop mansion in Minna said nothing would have stopped him from giving Nigeria her first nuclear power station if he had a quarter of the billions of dollars squandered on NEPA and the IPP project by the last administration.

The Minna-born General who was also linked with the push of the G-2I group within the PDP to force some reform in the party also spoke extensively on the state of the PDP, how Ogbulafor can succeed, and his resolve to rest his own presidential ambition to ensure that President Umaru YaríAdua succeeds in office. It is vintage IBB. Excerpts:

Sir, looking at the post-convention PDP, especially, giving that G-21 moved to stop the convention but suddenly withdrew the suit, now we hear you have a stake in G-21, how do you view the out come of the convention? Is PDP still the problem of Nigeria?
Itís not really a matter of having a stake. Far from it! But, quite frankly, I like what G21 is doing because their actions seem to support the whole concept of internal democracy within the PDP. They are members of the PDP. I think, the world over, this is how it should be. I believe in what they are doing and I think it is in the interest of the larger party to come and sit down and talk to them as members of the same family, to see how best they could proceed.

The idea of someone saying that all G-21 members would be jailed or expelled is not the issue. What they are doing is what obtains even in the rest of the civilized world. Letís give the example of India: there is a Congress Party, at one time or the other they disagree. But they bring them together again. Congress party is forever running into one internal crisis or the other. But they continue to bounce back from it because there is tolerance and internal democracy. You see, these are overseas. Such internal pressure groups will always spring up. You look at the issues and see how best to address them for the eventual benefit of the whole party. You see, we have a way of settling internal crisis within the party and this the way I look at G 21. I think they are patriots. They are good politicians and we should listen to them.

But they suddenly backed down and withdrew their case from the court. Do you think that was the right thing to do, especially as they withdrew and PDP still produced a consensus chairman instead of voting?
Well I think its not backing down. They made a point and maybe, felt the need to restrategise! I try to visualize why they had to do that and I tend to agree with them, in the sense that I believe very strongly that if you want to change a system you must belong to the system, otherwise you canít change it. And I thought: if that is the way they are thinking, then I think its fair. They want to change the PDP, they must belong to PDP. They canít change it from outside. So I think its fair they withdrew the case. But the point they are making still remains very strong, very relevant and I believe we should listen to them.

Sir, youíre talking of changing the PDP, in your last interview with Saturday Sun you said the problem of Nigeria is the PDP, with this convention they just held, do you think that the journey to restructuring the PDP has begun?
Now, what they have done is what you may call changing the executive members of the federal working committee, changing their executives. You know thatís what happened. Itís only the new man in charge who would now bring a change. I know Vincent Ogbulafor, I think he is a very careful person and I suspect he has a lot of work to do. If he intends to sit down and work on the structure as it is now, he is not going to find it easy. But, like I said, I have confidence in him and I think he is an experienced person in handling this. He has to do more. To change this system he has to be strong and he has to have a radical approach towards how to restructure PDP.

What I am saying is: the PDP has been in existence since 1998 till now. So everybody there now tends to be a product of what happened in the past. Those in the top, those at the bottom and those who are coming up. Unless we do something quickly to change those values that people inherited, we may never get high again, because we still have the same mentality like they had in the past. But we donít need that. PDP is a very very good party, but it needs to refocus. In fact, without sounding immodest, I want to see the PDP or the politics in this country in the form of the SDP and NRC party system that we had. And with these two parties we had internal democracy and internal cohesion and people settled their problems and they donít force candidates that are not popular on these two parties. You know they were credible and well organized parties and this is the type of political parties I want to see.

If I am to advise Vincent Ogbulafor, I would advise he should listen to people. Those who would tell him to discard the G-21 would be misleading him. What the G-21 and other such pressure groups within the party are doing is what well meaning Nigerians are saying. He should listen to them, call them and talk with them. They can work together towards achieving a common objective. I will support him if he does that. I will encourage him for the adoption of the G-21 or whatever, to come together and build a good political party, especially with the electoral reform. I think we have a very good opportunity that we can get it right in the political sector in this country now.

You were talking of a two-party system; several people believe that much as it was good, it was literally forced down peopleís throats. Today, even in the PDP, we still have this collection of strange bedfellows. Now, if you force these 50 or so political parties into two political parties, donít you think we would have more internal combustion?
No. Something went wrong with the current arrangement. I think what I believe went wrong, and that is why we had 50 parties or more, we did not follow to the strictest, minutest details about what needs to done in establishing political parties. There have not been enough checks to find out that whatever a political party tells the authority is the correct information. So there has not been proper crosschecking of facts. The authorities have not gone round to make sure that these parties are existing in quite a number of local governments and finding visible physical people who are minding the offices. They just go and organize their wives and children and call it one party name and get it registered. So I believe, if you remember, we had 23 and we were able to make two out of them. Fifty can still be pruned down. Itís no big deal. Itís just to get what we have now to a much more manageable system. I always try not to talk too much about two-party arrangement because everybody associates two-party to the military under Babangida. And the military under Babangida never did anything for them. So, the moment you talk about it, people will say no! no! no! But I donít mind 2 or 3, or preferably, 4 or 5. But surely, for a country as diverse as we are, 51 political parties is absolutely bad for our development.

You mentioned that the military under Babangida never did anything right, the Babangida administration was virtually the architect of opening up the Nigerian economy, privatization, commercialization and all that. With the benefit of hindsight, would you say the privatization and commercialization that went on in the last eight years was in tandem with the vision?
I am happy that we saw things before a lot of you did. I think it was one of the political leaders from the South-west who once said that "you will eventually do the right thing after you have exhausted all the options that were made available to you". And we are reaching that stage now. When we started in 1986 to 1989, nobody ever believed that privatization was doable when we started it. All we heard was: It would not work! It would not do this! The regulation of the economy, everybody thought we were crazy. Now everybody is coming back to it. So I feel satisfied that eventually, people are saying we in the military were right then. That if you take a second look, there is sense in what they have been trying to do. That gives me a lot of satisfaction. And it gives everybody who worked under my administration a lot of satisfaction Ė that we were not dormant at all.

Do you feel uncomfortable with the current revelations from the House of Reps public hearing on the power sector, the fraud, the mess, and the comatose state of power supply in the country?
To be honest I feel uncomfortable from what I read. I feel uncomfortable because I know that, during our time, even if he had a quarter of the amount of money and funds that are being bandied around today, maybe, I would have established a nuclear power station for this country.

You have been accused of institutionalizing corruption in the governance of Nigeria; now that the Obasanjo administration is turning out to be a lot more corrupt than the Babangida government was ever thought to be, are you relieved that someone has taken the corruption medal from you?
No am not relieved. You know the thing is everybody in the administration has some personal pride. They are proud of who they are. They are proud of where they come from. They are proud of what they stood for. They are proud of what the authorities stood for. I know they would not do something to undermine those values that they so much inherited - either from their profession or background and I think that they did not betray the confidence reposed on us by the Nigerian people at that time. If anything, I am happy that Nigerians are realizing that we did our honest best.

In Gen. T.Y Danjumaís recent interview, he said something about you and the Dimka coup and how you were supposed to go flush out Dimka, but youÖ
(Cuts in) No, no you just said it. First of all I know Danjuma very well. He was my boss. I still respect him and he was one of the finest soldiers. I worked with him during the war. I know him as a front line combatant. I also know him as a peacetime commander of the army. So if I talk about Danjuma, what I am saying is true. He is one of finest officers we have in this country and he has got a lot guts and a lot of courage. He has convictions in what he says, so I donít think he might have said this. But, as regards the Dimka episode, one day, I will open my library too and you will find every event minute-by-minute, what happened, what transpired, what did what, who did what. But the most important thing is that he was the commander at that time and the success will be attributed to him as a commander and not to a subordinate. That is how it must be.

Yes, you succeeded in carrying out the instruction that was given, but we learnt you were protecting the man instead ofÖ
No. You know it all depends. As a military officer, I have been trained to minimise my own casualty at all time and to inflict maximum casualty on the enemy. If he, as the commander had given orders, and you know, we always respect the decision of what we call in the military, Ďthe man on the groundí. So if I tell you: Ďboy to go capture Minna marketí. As far as I am concerned, I sit down here and I want Minna market captured. I have given him all the resources he needs. Now my little commander will get to Minna market and discover some underestimation or he can vary the order that I gave him. But he will still achieve the same objective. So, even if I go back and say this is what I found, and this is what I did, then the commander will accept your judgment or what we call the person-on-ground. So that is why I said that the credit should go to Danjuma and not Babangida. I was a loyal officer. He told me to do a job and that job was done.

Talking about corruption, you spoke about your regime being the most investigated entity?
Yes.

Now with what we are saying, will it be right to say you would be having a last laugh?
No, no. First of all, I give credit to members of the National Assembly, especially the young men and women in the House of Representatives who, if you asked me, are only doing their job in the first place. They are not after anybody. They are carrying out their oversight functions and the rest of them. Thatís their constitutional role, because they are there. We are getting to know more facts about these things. And the public is hearing people who are out to put this thing in true perspective. But I feel a bit happy. Am proud to say that such controversies did not happen during our own administration because we knew what we were doing.

We must be accountable to people at certain times in our lives Ė even after our term. You know something could always crop up. We were very very conscious of these things. In fact, Iíll tell a story: One of my boys allegedly messed up. I think there was a little investigation during the Abacha regime about a project and this minister got worried. He came to me, he said why should I allow this to happen. The media was awash with information on the supposed fraud and so on. So I sat him down. I said: Look, I read one report that said I gave you N10 billion. So I asked him; did I ever give you N100m? He said no.

Then I said: whatís your problem? Let them go and say N30 billion or N40 billion, at least somebody should have asked. And if nobody found any such money given or taken, the accuser may have to eat his words back. And he said he doesnít have the patience that I have. And I said no, you would laugh last on this issue. So later the report was submitted and I remember very well. I felt very proud of him. Abacha praised the whole idea about the concept of the project and praised the professionalism with which people in that ministry carried out the job.
But everybody was made to believe that the minister, and by extension, Babangida stole N30b on that particular project. But, in the end, Abacha didnít even cancel the project. He said the project should be done and so on.

Talking about project, whatís your take in the things we are hearing about the Ajaokuta steel project?
Again, I feel uncomfortable. But I will be unfair to the investigating agencies looking into the matter. I think whatever I say will very much depend on what the investigators find out when investigations are completed. I donít want to develop some prejudice on what is happening.

There is this allegation that the South-west appropriated MKO Abiola soon after the June 12 1993 presidential election, even though you were closer to Abiola than most of them
The answer is true. Yes I was very close to Abiola than all of you except those of his immediate family. After his immediate family, I will claim that I am one of the closest three persons after his family.

So why couldnít you change the fate that befell him?
Fate! Even you have called it fate

Why couldnít you change the course of June 12, since you were not only in government, but also in power?
I think one day, the facts will emerge. But each time I think about it, I feel the political management at that time was the undoing. I think June 12 was mismanaged. We had people who handled the whole issue about June 12, they didnít apply a lot of political common sense. Now I can sit down and tell you it ought to have been done this way. I will give you an example. Moshood Abiola came out to me during the crisis - in the heat of June 12 - and he said: Ďwhat can you doí. He asked me that. I said there are a lot of things I can do. Just as you said, he said he knew me.

That if there is a mountain here, I can go through if I wanted. We laughed. But I said Ďnoí, as a soldier if there is a mountain here, I have been taught to go round it. We all laughed. So I pleaded for some time to think about it and then I also promised I was going to call him to tell him what we were going to do. Unfortunately his handlers, they tried to make interpretations of my discussion with him. Fortunately for him, it was only two of us in the meeting. We didnít bring any other person in. This was at the instance of very prominent traditional rulers. I said I will inform my team. The moment he left, those forces around him took over the whole thing. And they went on and on, saying donít trust him, he is not going to do this, he is going to do that and I think he got carried away by them.

Chief Gani Fawehinmi is one of those who hold you totally responsible for the bungling of June 12 and he has tried to bring you to justice ever since. How do you view his campaigns?
Well, there are two ways I look at it. Chief Gani Fawehinmi is a lawyer. A professional lawyer, one of the finest and thereís no problem with that. He is one of the vibrant activists that we have in the country. He is doing that because he has a belief, he has a conviction. You cannot fault him on that issue. But I know he is not a politician. So if he tries to get himself into politics, that is where he draws some fire across. But, I said it before, I respect him and I donít have any problem with him. But to him, he thinks I am a devil, when I know I am not. So, my position usually is: Keep your own views, and I keep mine. I have no problem with that. But I still respect him because he has a conviction.

Have you heard that he is a little ill at the moment?
Yes. So I was told. And I will keep on praying for him for a speedy recovery. I have one thing in common with him and therefore by the virtue of what I have in common with him, I cannot wish him evil. He is a Muslim and I am a Muslim, and Muslims donít wish their brothers evil. So I will pray for him.

What is the problem between you and Soyinka? Why all the furore over the LNG lecture? When did you fall out with him?
Really I donít think there is any problem. Itís unfair, if he says he is bitter. I think the whole thing boils down to perception. I donít even think he said many of the things you people in the media ascribe to him. Believe it or not, I spoke to Soyinka about a month or two ago Ė that is after the Lagos LNG thing. Yea, we spoke.

So what did you talk about?
We re-confirmed to ourselves that at least I wasnít carried away. What I heard people say he said about me, I donít believe that. And I still respect him. If he walks in here now, you will never feel thereís anything wrong between the two of us.

Have you dumped your presidential ambition? How are you going to be reconscripted into the presidency race?
You donít need to reconscript me. Now, what you are going to do is to make sure you tap from some of the experiences we have had in order to build a future.

Does that mean youíre no longer interested in the presidency? Are you tired already?
I am old. And I am not looking at it from the point of view of somebody at 66 years. I want to say that there is a government in place and that government will be there for, letís say, eight years. And if you add 66 years to it, then you will get 74 years.

But McCain is still strong and running in the US?
Yea, McCain is running strong. They have a system that works. While here, we are just trying to build a system. With that you can even have McCain still in charge at 80 years. He can still run at 80 because his system, the American System, is very strong. He can work. He can stay if he likes. All they need from him is just his brain. To direct people who would do the job. We havenít reached that stage yet, and so it will be too tasking for me at the age of 74. In any case, McCain is 70. I will be 74 years.

People donít seem to understand where you belong, people are still thinking that perhaps you are showing apathy in government because you are still angry since you were screened out
I think it is very unfair and I want to say it is also wrong. Wrong in the sense that before I checked out, when I checked out of the race, I wrote. I gave my reasons for it and still today, those reasons are still very valid and nothing has changed those arguments. Now because I said so, because of my conditions, my aim will be to assist YaríAdua and not to succeed YaríAdua. And that is how it will be.

Sir, how did you feel when Obasanjo, a retired president and BOT chairman of your party, pitched tent with one candidate and went round the country campaigning for him to be chairman of the party?
I wouldnít do that as a former president.

What would you do as a former president?
Advice. Be father to all. Not take sides.

But since Obasanjo left office, he has not visited and you have also not visited him
We have conflicts in our schedules. But am glad to say that since he left weíve talked - not necessarily about the matter.

If you actually want to restructure the system why wonít you drive it? You have been so removed that we now wonder if you are still in the PDP
You can inspire people to do the right thing. You see, they have the energy. They have the intellect, they have the time. All you need is to provide them a support base. Let them be launched into this thing. Instead of you struggling for power with them, thereís a time to take the back seat.

You are in PDP, why is it that your name pops up in some two, three, four or five political parties, including NDP?
I keep recurring in them because I have friends in virtually all parties and I donít disown them because they donít belong to the party I belong.
At my level, I will be doing a disservice to Nigeria if I restrict myself to PDP.

There is this talk about removing Obasanjo as BOT chairman and replacing him with you.
Me! BOT chairman? The Igbo man would say tufiakwa!

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