What I expect from Nigerian leadership – IBB
Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, BWI for style, former military president, has expressed what he expects from Nigerian leaders as the country moves forward in its political culture and moves closer to the general elections of 2023. Indeed, a countdown is launched everywhere.
In an interview, IBB reveled that he would like to see a situation in this country where two things will happen. “I want to see a situation where a minority – whatever they call a minority in this country – where a minority is the president or a minority is the vice president. I would also like to see a situation where a Christian is the president and a Christian is the vice president or a Muslim is the president and a Muslim is the vice president; and President Hausa-Fulani, Vice President.
He added, “If we have this in mind and work towards it, it is possible because being president means nothing to a village man. What interests him is the education of his children, the security of his well-being and the food on his table. If he gets those, you can go argue, he doesn’t care.
There must be communication between the government and the governed. Leadership must be able to communicate easily, profess something to followers and keep doing it. I think it’s only a matter of time they’ll take it back.
Below is the interview published by Ridge
In a month, you will be 81 years old.
You just remind me. I feel like I forgot (laughs). God willing, yes.
God will continue to support you, sir.
Between last year when you celebrated your 80th birthday and now, how did it go?
We thank God that I was able to maintain myself quite reasonably well; obey doctors all the time. And thank God, until then, I’m relatively healthy.
You obey your doctors and this is very important for everyone, regardless of age. Is not it ?
Yes it is. But I meticulously follow their instructions.
For those of us trying to age like you, and I’m not saying you’re an old man (general laughter).
There’s nothing wrong with saying that I’m old.
What are these things that you will recommend that will support us and help us get there?
Be yourself and don’t get agitated easily. Stay very free and open-minded all the time. This is my experience.
When you say “don’t get fussed easily,” people will always step on your toes. Are you saying we shouldn’t get angry when this happens?
No, you should accept it as one of those things in life. I hardly get mad and I think that helps a lot. You live well with almost everyone. And people appreciate that you don’t get mad, you try to calm things down. If you see other people getting angry, calm them down. But you don’t get angry.
In summary, if you were to tell us young people the checklist of things we need to observe to stay healthy, would you say: number one, you need to make peace; you should not be restless; you must obey your doctors; we must eat well…
(Intervenes…) Sleep well.
What are the other things?
And don’t overdo it.
Indoor or outdoor?
Inside and out (hearty laughter). Naughty boy (laughs again).
Are you worried that as you open the newspapers today you will read stories of people dying like papayas, not because of anything else but because of the stress of living in Nigeria?
It happens everywhere. How do you feel about this?
I feel reasonably bad and think about it, especially when it comes to medical issues – how we take care of ourselves. We need to do more; we need to talk to each other and learn more about healthy living.
I can aspire to be healthy, but what if the prevailing environment does not allow it. For example, I fight for food, water, light, passable roads, insecurity. I struggle, struggle, struggle. You’ve been there before sir. How do you ensure that the purpose of government, which is to provide happiness…?
(Cuts…) And the well-being of people…
Exactly. What is the output? How to ensure that this is done?
The solution is for management to be in the position of ordinary people. I’m going to give you an example. When this man (shows Mohammed, his first son) was a young man, I was traveling with him once and we found ourselves in heavy traffic, and people were walking. He said there were too many people. He was about five or six years old at the time. So I told him a story. I said, ‘Yes, there are a lot of people in the city. But you observe that some people are sweating, arguing, etc. I said, you know, God was kind to us. You’re in a car with me now, air-conditioned, and you put on music and stuff. I want you to know that before God, you and I are the same with these walking people. So don’t think that because you’re in a car you’re better than them. God knows they are there.
What I was trying to make him understand is that everyone is equal. God created us differently and gives us his grace in one way or another. Others are not so lucky. But we are lucky and we have to appreciate it too. I said that because I didn’t want him to think, ‘Okay, they’re not in a vehicle, we’re in a vehicle; therefore, we are better citizens or better human beings. I said no. It’s just the way I think. I developed some of this ability to tolerate or absorb a lot of inconvenience.
I am happy that Nigerians are now talking about competence. Everyone you hear from these days, whether you’re talking about a senator, or a governorship, or even the president, they’re talking about jurisdiction, not state of origin, not religion, or things like that.
Nigerians are generally honest and hardworking people; positively aggressive when it comes to existential issues. What words would you have for them at a time like this when it seems their world is collapsing around them?
Hope. They should continue to hold out hope that things will eventually change, either through divine intervention or through something we do ourselves. Like, say no, we can’t tolerate that. Let’s change the story.
By agreeing with each other. Someone has to provide the initiative. Someone has to provide leadership. I am one of those who believe that a tree can make a forest. You know, they say a tree can’t make a forest. But I believe it is possible.
Simple. I always give the example of Hutus and Tutsis (in Rwanda). If you ask someone in Rwanda, a Rwandan: are you Hutu or Tutsi? He will tell you ‘No, I am Rwandan. Period.
After the 1994 genocide?
Yes, he is Rwandan. You cannot call him Tutsi or Hutu; he will be angry with you. It is because they changed the narrative of their country. It’s like what we were talking about earlier. If you ask anyone here, ‘Are you a Nigerian?’ He will say ‘Yes, I am’. Then you ask him, ‘Are you Hausa?’ He will tell you: No, I am Nigerian. Therefore, since we have agreed to be Nigerians, we should consider ourselves as one.
Are you saying we should erase things like home state, local government, religion, quota system from our list of national priorities and considerations?
I think even the quota system itself was an effort to bring the country together because the general complaints existed that certain groups of people are more into, say, the ministry of x, or y, or z. So we introduced this system. Now, I’ll give you an example: before, there was no graduate unemployment in places like Kano. Now you have. Therefore, this policy brings people to be at the same level in terms of education level and so on. It has helped for the last 50 years or so. As we move forward, no one will talk about the quota system. This time, I am happy that Nigerians are now talking about competence. Everyone you hear from these days, whether you’re talking about a senator, or a governorship, or even the president, they’re talking about jurisdiction, not state of origin, not religion, or things like that. So I think it’s a matter of time. If we stick to this, things will gradually change.
Earlier, you said that people themselves can say enough is enough. How are they going to say that?
People like you and me, the elite, should find a way to make it clear to people by all means – social media, mainstream media, to say that if we really believe that we want to be a country, it’s the things we should be doing and make sure people imbibe them. During the last elections in Anambra, for the first time, someone received money, he refused it. And this time we have vote buying, fine. But it wasn’t as prevalent in Osun as it was in Ekiti. So things will change. But we have to keep hitting hard so that the ordinary person or the masses get in on it.
Young people constitute 40% of the population and it is a powerful bloc.
They are less than 60%.
Okay, how do you suggest they harness their inherent powers to help this country achieve the greatness it deserves because all over the world, young people, new voters are the agents of change?
I think the government or the leaders have a role to play in this regard. There must be communication between the government and the governed. Leadership must be able to communicate easily, profess something to followers and keep doing it. I think it’s a matter of time, they’ll take care of it.
Please digress a bit. Someone accused you of working for a specific presidential candidate, Peter Obi to be specific, before the 2023 election.
The allegation was that you and retired generals Obasanjo and Abdulsalami were working to actualize the presidency of Peter Obi. Is it true ?
No. I would like to see a situation in this country where two things happen. I want to see a situation where a minority – whatever they call a minority in this country – where a minority is the president or a minority is the vice president. I would also like to see a situation where a Christian is the president and a Christian is the vice president or a Muslim is the president and a Muslim is the vice president; and President Hausa-Fulani, Vice President. If we have that in mind, and we work to achieve it, it is possible because being president means nothing to a man from the village. What interests him is the education of his children, the security of his well-being and the food on his table. If he gets those, you can go argue, he doesn’t care.
So whoever can give this to Nigerians, you will line up behind him?
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