Ejiofor Alike in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd.), has thrown his weight behind the calls for the restructuring of the country and devolution of powers to give more responsibilities to the states.
Babangida has also condemned what he described as the ongoing altercations and vituperations of hate across the country, warning that â€œstarting wars or political upheavals comes with the slightest provocation, but ending them becomes inelastic, almost unending with painful footages of the wrecks of warâ€.
Babangidaâ€™s warning Monday was re-echoed by former President Goodluck Jonathan who cautioned Nigerians against hate and divisive speeches capable of raising tension and insecurity in the country.
In his message titled, â€œI am a Nigerianâ€ to mark the Holy month of Ramadan, a month in which the Muslim faithful dedicate their lives to seek closeness to God, Babangida, who also called for the establishment of state police, argued that if the country has repeatedly done certain things and was not getting the desired results, there was the need to change tactics and approach.
Babangida, who also called for the establishment of state police, argued that if the country has repeatedly done certain things and was not getting the desired results, there was the need to change tactics and approach.
He acknowledged that though restructuring and devolution of powers would not provide all the answers to the countryâ€™s challenges, they would however help to reposition the mindset of Nigerians to generate new ideas and initiatives that would make the Nigerian union worthwhile.
Babangida advocated the devolution of powers to give more responsibilities to the states, while the federal government oversees the countryâ€™s foreign policy, defence, and the economy.
According to him, even the idea of having federal roads in towns and cities had become outdated, adding that the country needs to tinker with the constitution to accommodate new thoughts that will strengthen the countryâ€™s nationality.
The former military ruler noted that restructuring has assumed a national appeal, noting that its time has come.
â€œThe talk to have the country restructured means that Nigerians are agreed on our unity in diversity; but that we should strengthen our structures to make the union more functional based on our comparative advantages,â€ he said.
Babangida also observed that of late, Nigeria has become so sharply divided, with emotions running high at the least provocations.
According to him, once tempers are that high, the fault-lines become easily visible and with the slightest prompting, the unexpected could happen.
â€œI have made friends, built alliances, nurtured relationships and sustained linkages amongst Nigerians of all shades and opinions. In fairness, Nigerians are great people.
â€œIn those hours, moments and duration of friendship and camaraderie, no one talks about origin, geopolitical zones or even states. The issue of religion does not dictate the flow of discourse.
â€œWe deal with ourselves based on our character and content, and not the sentiments of what part of the country we hail from.
â€œThe inalienable fact that Nigerians can live in any part of the country to pursue their legitimate aspirations is a strong indication that we have accepted to invest in the Nigerian project, and are no longer driven by mutual suspicion but mutual respect.
â€œThat we have not fully realised our potential as a great nation is not enough reason for us to want to demolish the foundation of our nationhood or rubbish the labours of our heroes past; both of which are borne out of our collective efforts to build a truly great nation, and great people,â€ Babangida added.
Babangida, who revealed that he was still nursing the injury he sustained from the Nigerian Civil War, added that the war was condemnable and must be avoided.
He also condemned the current altercations and vituperations of hate across the country by individuals, well-known leaders, religious leaders, group of persons and organisations, and called on Nigerians to apply caution in their utterances, body language and news reportage.
â€œThe management of conflicts is the acid test of maturity, of mutual livelihood and of democratic governance. We cannot and we must not allow the current hate atmosphere to continue to freely pollute our political landscape unchecked.
â€œPersonally, I reject the proceedings of hate and their dissemination and urge my fellow citizens to strongly condemn the scourge and orgy of the current crisis which, in my view, is an outcome of vengeful appetites within the multiple contexts of our democratic governance and the profound inequalities that have distorted our social relations,â€ he said.
Babangida further cautioned that the drums of war are easy to beat, but their rhythms difficult to dance.
â€œI saw Somalia, such a homogeneous conclave, yet one of the most troubled countries in Africa today. I saw South Sudan, which broke away from the old Sudan, but peace and stability have eluded them. The Rwanda genocidal experience is not romantic either.
â€œBut a president from the minority ethnic group has repositioned the country to assume its pride of place in the comity of nations. That a people share common identity, language, history, doctrine, culture, mores and values is not synonymous with development, growth, stability and peace,â€ Babangida explained.
â€œI am a Nigerian, a citizen, patriot and concerned stakeholder. It is my strong belief that Nigeria can attain greater greatness if we all nurture our minds in the direction of building a nation, and accepting responsibility for its successes and failures,â€ he added.
He stressed the need for the country to commence the process of having state police across the states of the federation.
According to him, this idea was contained in his manifesto in 2010 when he attempted to contest the presidential election.
â€œThe initial fears that state governors will misuse the officers and men of the state police have become increasingly eliminated with renewed vigour in citizensâ€™ participation in, and confidence to interrogate power.
â€œWe cannot be detained by those fears and allow civilization to leave us behind,â€ he added.
He also urged the Nigerian media to be more circumspect in their news reportage, adding that the media â€œshould always weigh the security implications of the contents of their news and the screaming headlines that stare us in the face every day, especially at this fragile period of our political emanationsâ€.
He acknowledged the important and remarkable role of the media in shaping the flow of discourse.
â€œTheir level of influence is also not in doubt, but as the Fourth Estate of the Realm, it has a greater responsibility to moderate public discourse in a manner that will cement inter- and intra-cultural relationships.
â€œIf Nigeria works, it benefits all her citizens; if it fails, it hurts all her citizens too. The media should be patriotic in its present engagements to berth a new Nigeria of our dreams,â€ Babangida said.
Similarly, Jonathan Monday warned against things that could precipitate tension and insecurity in the country and cautioned Nigerians against fostering a crisis that will further drive away investments in an already stressed economy.
Jonathan, who gave the advice when he received a delegation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Former Ministersâ€™ Forum, which paid him Sallah homage at his Abuja residence, said no president could perform magic if there is so much tension in the land.
Jonathan said no nation or its economy could grow where there is no peace.
â€œWe should always use this period to know that the unity of the country is paramount. We cannot develop as a nation; no matter how the people demonstrate, and no president can perform magic if there is so much tension in the land.
â€œThis is because immediately there is a sense of insecurity in any country investors go back, and when investors go back, of course your economy will be doomed.
â€œWhat improves the economy is confidence and what makes investors to have confidence is peace. Nobody wants to invest where there is no peace, except those that invest in arms and ammunition,â€ he said.
The former president also asked Nigerians to pray and work towards the unity of the nation, as the country celebrates the Eid-el-Fitr festival.
Jonathan commended the former ministers for forming the forum and for finding time to celebrate Sallah with him and his family.
He said that he was particularly elated to see the former ministers coming together under one platform saying, Nigeria is a country that we should do everything that will bring its citizens together.
â€œWe should begin to reduce the cleavages and fault-lines and that the former ministers can come together to form a political body that will look at things from a national outlook and advocate things that will be of use to the whole nation is quite commendable,â€ he noted.
Alhaji Tanimu Turaki, chairman of the forum, said the delegation comprised of the former ministers from 1999 to 2015 and it had come to pay homage to Jonathan to mark the end of the Ramadan fast.
Also in attendance were Labaran Maku, Dayo Adeyeye and others.