Why I Love Peter Obi, My Expectations For 2023 – Former President Babangida

Why I Love Peter Obi, My Expectations For 2023 – Former President Babangida

Somebody must have told you that I died long time ago. That’s normal. That’s typical Nigerian. You just have to understand the psyche of a Nigerian.

Former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, has broken the ice on the viral speculations that he, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, ex-Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, former National Security Adviser, General Aliyu Gusau, and chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, are the big masqueraders behind Labour Party’s presidential standard-bearer in the 2023 election, Mr. Peter Obi.

Babangida shredded the veil, last week, in Minna, in a rare interview he granted The Crest CEO, Shola Oshunkeye, and Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The New Xpress newspaper, Steve Nwosu.

The former Military President played no Maradona as he sensationally confessed that he admired Peter Obi, but never admitted endorsing his candidacy, contrary to the soaring notion on social media…CONTINUE READING

Babangida, who disclosed that he and the former two-term Governor of Anambra State had been friends since his gubernatorial days in Anambra State, said some things impressed him about “the young man.”

“He was a young man, but he is passionate about development, passionate about our Nigerianness,” Babangida disclosed. “From then, we kept contact for a long time. We talk to each other and so on.

“So, it is only fair that when he decided to be the president or a candidate, he should come and let me know. That’s the essence of the relationship. It’s like ‘don’t read it in the papers, I am going to run.’ And whatever advice I have, I will give it to him based on my own experience. Hopefully, that will help him to mobilize all of you.”

Peter Obi

Babangida shot straight from the hip when asked to categorically respond to the notion that he, Obasanjo, Abdulsalami, Gusau and Abdullahi were the unseen hands behind the Peter Obi candidacy, saying the group had been actively involved in Nigeria’s current shot at democracy right from its embryonic stage in 1998.

“I am hearing it now for the first time from you,” he told the two media executives. “Somebody sent me what Sowore said. That Obasanjo, Abdulsalami, Aliyu Gusau, Ango Abdullahi and myself are promoting Peter Obi. But I’m glad that the answer you said they gave Sowore was that he was jealous.”

Still, General Babangida did not quit. After tracing the genesis of his involvement with Nigeria’s current democracy, his relationship with Peter Obi, he also spoke, no-holds-barred, on how he predicted the defeat of Osun State Governor Adegboyega Oyetola and what he likes about the state’s governor-elect, Senator Ademola Adeleke.

He also revealed how he responded to the fake news purporting his ‘death’, amputation of his legs, and other related stories-all of which he said were the infantile wishes of the authors.

The interview is quintessential IBB.

Please fasten your fasten your belt, sit back, relax and enjoy the cruise with the General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.

He is passionate about development, passionate about our Nigerianness.

In another month, you will be 81.

You are just reminding me. I seem to have forgotten (laughter). God willing, yes.

God will continue to sustain you, sir.

Amen.

Between last year when you celebrated your 80 and now, how has it been?

We thank God because I have been able to keep fairly reasonably well; obeying the doctors all the time. And we thank God, between then and now, I enjoy relatively good health.

You obey your doctors and that’s very critical for everybody regardless of age. Isn’t it? 

Yes, it is. But I do I follow their instructions meticulously.

For those of us, who are trying to grow old like you, and I am not saying you are old sir (general laughter).

There is nothing wrong in saying I’m old.

What are those things that you will recommend, that will sustain us and help us to get there?

Remain your natural self and don’t get agitated quite easily. Remain very free and open-minded all the time. This is my experience.

When you say ‘don’t get agitated easily’, people will always step on your toes. Are you saying we shouldn’t get angry when that happens?

No, you should accept it as one of those things in life. I hardly get angry and I think that helps a lot. You live well with virtually everybody. And people get to appreciate that you don’t get angry, you try to calm down things. If you see others getting angry, calm them down. But you don’t get angry.

In summary, if you are going to tell us, the young ones, the checklist of things we have to observe to stay healthy, would you say: number one, you have to peace; you must not be agitated; you have to obey your doctors; you have to eat well…

(Cuts in…) Sleep well.

What are the other things?

And don’t overdo anything.

Like what?

Sports

Indoor or outdoor?

Both indoor and outdoor (hearty laughter). Naughty boy (laughs again).

Peter Obi with IBB
Peter Obi with IBB

Are you worried that when you open the papers today, you read about people dropping dead like pawpaw, not because of any other thing but because of the stress of living in Nigeria?

That’s right.

It is happening everywhere. How you feel about that?

I feel reasonably bad and I think we have to do something about that, especially when it is about medical issues–how we take care of ourselves. We need to do more; we need to talk to ourselves, and learn more about living healthy.

I can aspire to be healthy, but what if the prevailing environment does not allow me. For example, I struggle for food, water, light, passable roads, insecurity. I struggle, struggle, struggle. You’ve been there before sir. How do we ensure that the purpose of government, which is to provide happiness…?

(Cuts in…) And welfare of the people…

Exactly. What is the way out? How do we ensure this is achieved?

The way out is for the leadership to be able to situate themselves into the position of the ordinary persons. I will give you an example. When that man (points to Mohammed, his first son) was a young man, I was once traveling with him and we got into heavy traffic, and people were walking. He said there were too many people. He was about five or six at that 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, quarreling and so on. I said, you know, God has been kind to us. You are in a car with me now, air-conditioned, and you play music and all that. I want you to know that before God, you and I are the same with those people walking. So, don’t think that because you are in a car, you are better than them. God knows they are there.’

What I was trying to put in him is that everybody is equal. God created us differently and gives us His grace in one way or the other. Other are not so lucky. But we are lucky and we must also appreciate that. I said that because I didn’t want him to think that ‘Okay, they are not in a vehicle, we are in a vehicle; therefore, we are better citizens or better human beings.’ I said no. This is just the way I think. I developed some of this ability to tolerate or absorb a lot of inconveniences.

I am glad that Nigerians are now talking about competence. Everybody you hear these days, whether you are talking about a senator, or governorship, or even the president, they talk about competence, not the state of origin, not religion, or things like that.

Nigerians are generally hardworking, honest people; positively aggressive when it comes to existential matters. What words would you have for them at a time like this when it seems their universe is collapsing around them?

Hope. They should continue to remain hopeful that things will eventually change either by divine intervention or by something we ourselves will do. Like, saying, no, we can’t tolerate this. Let’s change the narrative.

Shola Oshunkeye and IBB during the interview (Photo: The Crest)
Shola Oshunkeye and IBB during the interview (Photo: The Crest)

How would they change the narrative?

By agreeing among themselves. Somebody has to provide the initiative. Somebody has to provide the leadership. I am one of those who believe that one tree can make a forest. You know, they say one tree can’t make a forest. But I believe it can.

How?

Simple. I always give the example of the Hutus and the Tutsis (in Rwanda). If you ask anybody in Rwanda, a Rwandese: are you Hutu or Tutsi? He will tell you ‘No, I’m a Rwandese. Period.

After the 1994 genocide?

Yes, he is Rwandese. You can’t call him Tutsi or Hutu; he will be angry with you. That’s because they have changed the narrative of their country. It is like what we were talking about earlier. If you ask somebody 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 a Nigerian.’ Therefore, since we have agreed to be Nigerians, we should see ourselves as one.

Are you saying that we should obliterate things like state of origin, local government, religion, quota system from our list of national priorities and considerations?

I think even the quota system itself was an effort to get the country together as one because the general complaints existed that certain group of people are more in, let’s say Ministry of x, or y, or z. So, we introduced that system. Now, I will give you an example: before, you didn’t have graduate unemployment in places like Kano. Now, you have. Therefore, that policy is bringing people to come at par in terms of level of education and so forth. It has helped in the last 50 years or so. As we move on, nobody is going to talk about quota system. This time, I am glad that Nigerians are now talking about competence. Everybody you hear these days, whether you are talking about a senator, or governorship, or even the president, they talk about competence, not the state of origin, not religion, or things like that. So, I think it’s a matter of time. If we stick to this, gradually things will change.

Earlier, you said the people themselves can say enough is enough. How will they say that?

People like you and I, the elite, should find a way of drumming it into people by any means – social media, conventional media, to say that if we truly believe that we want to be a country, these are the things we should do and make sure that people are imbibing them. In the last election in Anambra, for the first time, somebody was given money, he refused it. And this time, we have vote buying, fine. But it wasn’t so prevalent in Osun like it was in Ekiti. So, things will change. But we have to keep on hitting it hard for the ordinary person, or the masses to imbibe.

…Being a president doesn’t mean anything to a man in the village. What he is interested in is education for his children, security for his well being, and food on his table. If he gets those ones, you can go and argue the whole lot, he doesn’t give a damn.

The youths constitute 40 per cent of the population and that’s a powerful bloc.

They are below 60 percent.

Okay, how do you suggest to them to harness their inherent powers to help this country achieve the greatness it deserves because all over the world, the youths, new voters are the agents of change?

I think the government or the leadership has a role to play in this. There has to be a communication between the government and the governed. The leadership should be able communicate easily, profess something to the followership and keep doing it. I think it’s a matter of time, they will pick it up.

Steve Nwosu and Gen. Babangida during the interview
Steve Nwosu and Gen. Babangida during the interview

Please, let’s digress a bit. Somebody accused you of working for a specific presidential candidate-Peter Obi to be precise, ahead of the 2023 election. 

Specific candidate?

The allegation was that you and retired Generals Obasanjo and Abdulsalami are working to actualize the presidency of Peter Obi. How true is that?

No. I will 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 also will 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 the Vice President; and Hausa-Fulani president, vice president. If we have this at the back of our mind, and we are working to achieve it, it is possible because being a president doesn’t mean anything to a man in the village. What he is interested in is education for his children, security for his well being, and food on his table. If he gets those ones, you can go and argue the whole lot, he doesn’t give a damn.

So, anybody that can give Nigerians that, you will queue behind him?

That’s right.

Why did you pick interest in Peter Obi?

I have known Peter for sometime.

You are in PDP. I know that you have strong passion and affection for PDP?

I will tell you what happened. If you remember, before 1999, around 1998, there was this remnant of the military trying to bring about the democratic process. So, we have been involved in trying to get the political system right. We started it in 1989 – if you remember the NRC, the SDP, which now became the PDP, the APC and so on. We were involved in monitoring and setting up a political system. That’s how we became interested.

Is that when you met Peter Obi?

No. I met Peter before then. I met Peter when he was a governor and few things impressed me about him. He was a young man, but he is passionate about development, passionate about our Nigerianness. From then, we kept contact for a long time. We talk to each other and so on. So, it is only fair that when he decided to be the president or a candidate, he should come and let me know. That’s the essence of the relationship. It’s like ‘don’t read it in the papers, I am going to run.’ And whatever advice I have; I will give it to him based on my own experience. Hopefully, that will help him to mobilize all of you.

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 also will 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 the Vice President; and Hausa-Fulani president, vice president.

Do you recommend him strongly to Nigerians?

No, I recommend every Nigerian who expresses desire to be a president of this country. Because he has something to give to Nigeria, that is why he has come out. Every one of them has something that he thinks he can give to Nigerians. So, if anybody is going to give me something that will attract me, of course, I will listen to him.

The perception out there is that you support Peter Obi and your party, PDP, has a candidate and they are construing or misconstruing it to mean that you are ditching your own candidate and transferring your love to another party’s candidate. Have you heard that?

No, I haven’t heard that. I am hearing it now for the first time from you. Somebody sent me what Sowore said. That Obasanjo, Abdulsalam, Aliyu Gusau, Ango Abdullahi and myself are promoting Peter Obi. But I’m glad that the answer you said they gave Sowore was that he was jealous.

So, what is the answer you are going to give to them?

I don’t have to give an answer. Nigerians will say no to everything at the first mention. If I say my name is Babangida, he will tell me no, your name is not Babangida. That’s typical Nigerian, and if you are used to it, why do you bother?

(L-R) Shola Oshunkeye, Steve Nwosu, Salman Yusuf, Special Aide of Gen. Babangida during the interview
(L-R) Shola Oshunkeye, Steve Nwosu, Salman Yusuf, Special Aide of Gen. Babangida during the interview

Sir, but how do you feel about people who go out there and malign the Babangida phenomenon or the person of Babangida and still come here either in the day or in the night seeking your blessings for one thing or the other?

That reinforces my belief about the Nigerian character. A Nigerian shouldn’t let you to go to sleep.

Still talking about health, there are a lot of rumours out there about your health; so many funny things being said about your health. Even when we were coming to Minna, somebody said something…

(Cuts in…) Somebody must have told you that I died long time ago. That’s normal. That’s typical Nigerian. You just have to understand the psyche of a Nigerian. He will want to say no to everything. If I told him this is your name, he will tell me, no, it is not your name. And you have to accept it because he likes to argue. He wouldn’t allow me to say I know you.

Have you also heard the rumour that your legs have been amputated?

I heard it. I heard that I died. I heard that I was amputated. I just laugh.

You just laugh?

Oh yes, that’s what makes this country great.

You don’t think it’s worth what your media managers should react to?

No, it is not the work of my enemies like they would say (laughs).

So, do you enjoy some of these rumours?

Yes. They keep me going.

People have also said so many things about your long absence from the Council of State meetings?

Well, I may have to ask you, maybe you can tell me. You are in the media. How many times have there been Council of State meeting?  Not many. So, until they call us, we go. If they don’t call us, we don’t go.

Has there been any held without an invitation sent to you?

No. If, let’s say there should be a Council of State meeting once every three months, then, I can understand. But it hasn’t been very regular. So, sometimes when it comes, we are either not in the country, or somebody is indisposed.

What are your expectations for 2023?

There would be a free, fair and credible election. And I hope that Nigerians will be much more educated than before on the process of politics and voting.

Senator Ademola Adeleke
Senator Ademola Adeleke

Do you have a gut feeling that there could be a shocker? I mean, something happening against the projections of the people. Like Osun, for instance, people thought it was going to be a walk-over for the incumbent? 

For Oyetola?

Yes, the incumbent governor; then, the shocker.

I predicted that he (Governor Oyetola) was going to lose because in the campaign train, I saw Adeleke. I like him. I know his elder brother. He served as Governor when I was office, Isiaka Adeleke. So, my interest in him goes back to his elder brother because I was very friendly with his elder brother when I was the military president. And he is a good politician.

I’m talking of Ademola Adeleke sir?

Yes. He is a good politician. He is somebody who relates to the people. He talks to them; they listen to him. He dances with them; he eats with them. So, he is a good politician.

Many people thought he is a clown?

No, no, no.  He is a good politician.

Why I Love Peter Obi, My Expectations For 2023 – Former President Babangida

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