Sunday, August 21, 2011

OBJ vs IBB: Moves to settle quarrel fail

Moves by the Presidency and highly placed Nigerians to call a truce between former president Olusegun Obasanjo and former military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida, appear to have come to a dead end.

A peace meeting was reportedly being planned by the Presidency to resolve the bitter exchange between the former leaders on Saturday.

Obasanjo however told SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday that, “There is nothing like that.”

Just as Obasanjo was making this pronouncement on Saturday, Babangida said his political differences with Obasanjo, did not amount to a quarrel.

A newspaper publication (not THE PUNCH) had reported on Saturday that the Presidency was planning to broker a peace meeting between the feuding former heads of government who had taken their animosity to the pages of newspapers.

A close aide to Obasanjo however told SUNDAY PUNCH that he was not aware of any peace talks between him and Babangida.

“There is nothing like that. Nobody is planning a peace meeting. We are not aware of any as at now (Saturday afternoon). None,” he said.

Obasanjo had last Thursday responded to a scathing comment by Babangida that the former’s reign was a failure and visionless.

Obasanjo in his response, described Babangida’s comments as that of a foolish man, and added that between 1979 and 1999, when he returned as a civilian president, no regime had built a single power plant in the country.

IBB, he said, presided over eight of the 20 years.

Babangida, who spoke with our correspondent in Abuja through his media aide, Mr. Kazeem Afegbua, said that he was not quarrelling with Obasanjo.

When asked about the reconciliatory moves by friends of the former presidents, Afegbua, who spoke on the telephone, said, “We are not quarrelling. We just differ on the point of presentation. If you read our interview, we talked about his regime and revelations at the National Assembly. That is all.

“He was the one who decided to throw decency into the air by calling somebody a fool. When they (IBB and Obasanjo) meet, they will greet each other. They will shake hands and interact.”

SUNDAY PUNCH further gathered that ‘people in high places’ have been telling Obasanjo to sheathe his sword by shunning further altercation.

“Yes, people in high places have called Baba (Obasanjo) that he should keep quiet over the issue; that is why we are not saying anything for now. I cannot disclose the names of these people but they are influential people; they have pleaded with him not to say anything more on the matter,” the source said.

Obasanjo, in a telephone interview with SUNDAY PUNCH last Friday, insisted that he never mooted or sponsored the controversial third term bid.

He jocularly said in Yoruba, “If anyone pokes his finger into my mouth, I will bite it.”

Fresh facts however emerged on Saturday on why Babangida is angry with Obasanjo.

A member of Babangida’s disbanded presidential campaign, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said it would be difficult for the Minna-born general to forget what he called “Obasanjo’s betrayal” in 2007 and 2011.

The source said Babangida felt betrayed that Obasanjo could work against his presidential ambitions in both years, which he said was contrary to the agreement both of them had when he worked with the then Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd), to make him president in 1999.

The source said, “But rather than reciprocate what IBB did to him in 2007, Obasanjo went and brought out the late President, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua to contest against IBB.”

The source added that Babangida was more pained that Obasanjo denied him the gift of a second chance that he (Obasanjo) got.

Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Akin Aduwo (retd) has described the public exchange of words between the former presidents as a ‘complete shame, completely out of character, an international disgrace, an embarrassment to Nigeria and the military that gave those two people prominence as heads of state.”

Aduwo, who was the military governor of the Western state, said Babangida remained a subordinate to Obasanjo, “IBB is a subordinate to Obasanjo at all levels — service to the nation, the military, government and politics. The superior officer remains the superior officer.

“They went through all sorts of military training in discipline, leadership, mood control, conduct control. I have never been so shocked. Whoever is your superior up till retirement from active service remains your superior. It is also important to note that General Obasanjo never took part in planning of coups.”

Aduwo said he believed Babangida had a ‘hidden agenda to provoke Obasanjo’ during the former’s 70th birthday but that Obasanjo should have kept quiet because ‘silence is golden.’

He then recommended that both men should face the consequences of their indiscretion and their attempt to bring the nation down after ruling the country collectively for 24 years.

He said, “If I was in the position, I would recommend that the Chief of Defence Staff should seek the permission and authority of the president to convene a court martial with General Yakubu Gowon as the chairman because they are guilty of what is known as conduct to the prejudice of good order and service discipline in military law.

“As former heads of state, and members of the National Council of State, they should be banned from that assembly of eminent Nigerian rulers and their ranks stripped and withdrawn from them.”

Similarly, two main opposition parties in the country, the Congress for Progressive Change and the Action Congress of Nigeria have lambasted the warring former presidents for bringing the nation to ridicule.

While the CPC said the latest outburst of the former presidents was a calamity to the nation, the ACN said their action was undignifying and unbecoming of former presidents.

National Publicity Secretary of the CPC, Mr Rotimi Fashakin, said nobody should reconcile the two septuagenarians because their outburst was already revealing the evils they had played against the nation.

Speaking in the same vein, the National Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said there were more pressing issues in the polity the two former leaders should address their energies to rather than the latest exchange of abusive words.