These former generals are confusing Nigerians – but Buhari needs to listen to them

Issue a statement, then deny it, and later confirm that the denial was not to be issued but that the issues in the original statement cannot be denied- that’s how you know election season is in full gear.

Nigerians were having a quiet Sunday until the statement written by Mr Kassim Afegbua on behalf of his boss, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, appeared in the media from various news houses. The former military head of state, in the statement, asked that President Muhammadu Buhari be supported to complete his tenure on the 29th of May, 2019, by which time Nigeria would have elected another person to energetically accelerate the nation towards a new “digital” era of governance by a younger generation.

After reports of denial, ThisDay asserts that they have spoken directly to the former head of state, IBB, confirming that the initial statement was indeed authorized by him, and therefore, still stands. In like manner, Mr Afegbua confirmed to Daily Trust that the second statement written as a denial of the first was the work of “overzealous” persons.

It is, therefore, safe to authoritatively say, at this point, that two former heads of state in Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo have essentially asked President Buhari not to seek re-election in the 2019 polls. This, they say, is in the national interest and that the president would have to place his personal interest aside at this point in history.

Obasanjo was the last military head of state before Buhari and Babangida was the successor after the bloodless coup that evicted Buhari in 1985. That’s nothing more than a bit of trivia in the present circumstance, but it could give us some idea, into why both men are among the first of living heads of state to publicly give their opinions about not being in favour of a Buhari return.

Much like OBJ, the former general, who lives in and regularly gives his views on the nation from his home in Minna, is not celebrated as a saint of Nigerian political history. The confusion that has characterized his press statement is, in fact, a reminder of the confusion synonymous with him between 1992 and 1993. Whether it was the permission and cancellation of political parties’ primaries, or the infamous cancellation of the June 12 elections when MKO Abiola – who often boasted of his friendship with the head of state – was going to emerge as winner, IBB’s legacy as the “Maradona” of Nigerian politics accounts for the pinch of salt with which his every statement on the polity is taken.

However, the former leader appears to have echoed the sentiments of many Nigerians who have picked far too many holes in president Buhari’s capacity to lead the nation beyond noon of May 29, 2019. The government’s skewed responses to the subsisting herdsmen-farmer’s clashes continue to provide evidence of an apparent reluctance to engage persons from certain regions or ethnic nationalities in the country, despite the massive scale of violence reported against them.

The economy may have emerged from a recession, but it can hardly begin to reflect on the streets if people are unsafe. The government still has the Maina scandal over its head, while its stubbornness in sticking to the nomination of Ibrahim Magu has brought the Executive in a cold war with the Senate, with consequences including the inability of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank to hold its meetings due to lack of Senate-confirmed members to enable it form a quorum.

The invasion of rats, the dead appointees, the “nepotism bothering on clannishness”, and the inability of the President to organize even his own political party, moving it away from internal feuds such as that between Senator Rabi’u Kwankwaso and Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano; there have been ample reasons to be embarrassed about the present administration that the embarrassments of the former military heads of state should not prejudice a reckoning with the objectivity of their assertions.

Now that the statement has been verified as truly coming from IBB, it remains to be seen how Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Aso Rock media team will offer a response in defence of the president.

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