Former presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, has spoken on the controversy surrounding the statement credited to former military head of state, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) against President Muhammadu Buhari.
In an article on Tuesday titled, ‘What exactly is Babangida saying?’, Abati expressed displeasure at the IBB’s denial of the first letter that asked Buhari to resign.
He noted that the controversy, the confusion, attended by seeming cowardice, that grew around the statement was absolutely unnecessary, unfortunate and utterly avoidable.
Abati wrote: “Being a statesman thus comes with responsibilities – the responsibility to speak with clarity and conviction is one of these. With the confusion over what President Babangida said or did not say about the state of the nation and the state of health of our democracy, it is now obvious that he still has a lot to learn, despite his experience and stature.
“Coming after the impactful and unambiguous intervention by the Ota farmer, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, calling for a change of direction and a reaffirmation of people power in Nigerian politics, Babangida’s follow-up intervention, which could have strengthened an emerging symphony of public thought, has now ended up as mere spittle.
“Babangida must take responsibility for what clearly comes across to me, as a lack of coherence and organization in the management of his office after office. Statesmen should not speak with both sides of the mouth. They should not play games with their views.
“They must not toy with public emotions. I don’t now what to make right now, of what Babangida said or didn’t say about our country and our nation. I am sure there are many others who are just as bewildered, and who feel short-changed and are asking: What exactly is Babangida saying?
“This Babangida statement didn’t ask Buhari not to run, I mean not so expressly, but it said we should move beyond the crossroads by voting for leadership that is inclusive, consultative, interactive, accountable, competitive and competent.
“Whereas Obasanjo was direct, this Babangida statement was full of innuendo and sarcasm. He went a step further by raising issues such as campaign finance, community policing and new paradigms. Like Obasanjo, he stressed the need to rebrand Nigeria and rebrand politics, the power of the vote, and the value of security and inclusivity.
“Years after leaving office, he has had enough time to make up his mind who he wants to be. It is therefore for this reason that he owes us a second or third statement, stating clearly, where he stands in the matter of Nigeria at this moment. Without that clarity, it would have been better for Babangida to keep quiet, rather than to open his mouth and cause confusion as to what exactly he is saying.
“Out of office, a political leader or statesman does not necessarily have to speak through a spokesperson. If he is big enough and his message is big enough, he should be able to speak with his own voice and in his own voice.”
Abati further advised former Nigerian leaders to speak up on the state of the country.
“We expect more statesmen to speak up. When will Gowon, Shagari, Shonekan, Abdusalami Abubakar, Jonathan and Danjuma speak up? Their silence is not golden in this instance. It amounts to an abdication of responsibility. For a country that has done so much for them, they cannot afford to sit on the fence,” he said.