Buhari-and-Babangida

The letter written by a former military ruler, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, less than two weeks after former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari, advising that he shelves the idea of a re-election appears to have upped the ante in the lead-up to next year’s general election, writes Olawale Olaleye

Save for THISDAY’s early confirmation of the story, former Military President Ibrahim Babangida’s letter to President Muhammadu Buhari had itself landed a controversial intervention with another letter circulating round. Many of Buhari’s die-hard supporters would rather share the other letter, allegedly written by friends and one of his sons, because the content had denied the first one, which was very scathing and called for the emergence of what he described as “digital leadership’ in 2019.

About two weeks ago, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had written to Buhari, advising him to dismount from the horse and retire honourably because according to him, the president had failed to live up to billings. Obasanjo, who broke down the basis of his unexpected intervention, argued that a lot was at stake for Nigeria and as a patriot, driven only by one thing – national interest – he was obliged to step in and share his views with “brother Buhari”, he so described.

As if inspired by the Obasanjo letter, Babangida, last week, descended into the arena and insisted it was best for Buhari not to seek re-election. In the letter affirmed by the former Nigerian leader and titled: “Towards a National Rebirth,” Babangida emphasised the need for a new breed of leadership to emerge through the electoral process, even though he did not intend to deny Buhari his inalienable right to vote and be voted for in the 2019 elections.

Interestingly, the police, who seemed uncomfortable with the letter, had immediately declared the retired general’s spokesperson, Mr. Kassim Afegbua, wanted. The dust raised by that development would later settle when the police reportedly apologised, after Afegbua had visited their headquarters in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Yet, the letter was generally deemed an uncomfortable truth by a majority of the observing public, who could genuinely discern and relate with its content. “It is what everyone already knows,” they seem to agree.

Some excerpts would suffice. “In the fullness of our present realities, we need to cooperate with President Muhammadu Buhari to complete his term of office on May 29th, 2019 and collectively prepare the way for a new generation leaders to assume the mantle of leadership of the country,” adding that he offered the advice as a stakeholder, former president and concerned Nigerian, who was desirous of seeing “new paradigms in our shared commitment to get this country running”.

According to him, “This is the time for us to reinvent the will and tap into the resourcefulness of the younger generation, stimulate their entrepreneurial initiatives and provoke a conduce environment to grow the national economy both at the micro and macro levels.

“Contemporary leadership has to be proactive and not reactive. It must factor in citizens’ participation. Its language of discourse must be persuasive not agitated and abusive. It must give room for confidence building. It must build consensus and form aggregate opinions on any issue to reflect the wishes of the people across the country.

“It must gauge the mood of the country at every point in time in order to send the right message. It must share in their aspirations and give them cause to have confidence in the system. Accountability in leadership should flow from copious examples. It goes beyond mere sloganeering. My support for a new breed of leadership derives from the understanding that it will show a marked departure from recycled leadership to creating new paradigms that will breathe fresh air into our present polluted leadership actuality,” he added.

With IBB’s letter, as the former leader is otherwise called delivered, the journey to 2019 appears a more serious concern for stakeholders than the picture presented by the 2015 elections. What this also means, according to observers, is that whilst these leaders and the elite alike are not farther from the truth on the state of the nation and seem to agree that there is need for a more dynamic leadership, they are practically speaking the minds of the populace and the voiceless in the country, thus painting the actual picture of the state of the nation in the best way possible.

Whilst it is trite to debate that the government has recorded some progress in the area of governance however insignificant it might seem, it is evident that this government lacks the capacity to deliver basic and sound leadership that would have helped undo some of the palpable yet avoidable mistakes that are currently marking it negative in practically all boxes. The capacity to make hard choices is the issue here.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the idea of Buhari’s re-election has continued to elicit diverse opinions despite the staggering goodwill that ushered in the government in 2015. But whether or not it is able to turn the tide within the short time left or could ride through on the strength of the “let him just do the remaining four years” narrative that is being sold now is a question for time and ever changing indices.

Clearly, it isn’t just that all is not well with the nation at this material time, the interesting thing is that the “owners of Nigeria” as Obasanjo, Babangida and others (who had equally contributed to the mess as it were) are called have stepped into the fray with a resolve to “save Nigeria from herself” and when this happens, too many things are at stake including ego-tripping. Everyone can only hope that this ends well at the end of the day.