From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Responding to widespread calls for secession by Biafra and Yoruba activists, former military Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd) has suggested that breaking up Nigeria will be difficult, opposing the agitators.
Gen Abubakar spoke in Abuja during the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida Legacy Dialogue 2021 organised by the Ibrahim and Maryam Babangida Library and Museum.
The event was put together ahead of the 80th birthday anniversary of former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida on August 17.
Present at the event were former Senate President, Senator David Mark; the Senator Representing Imo West Senatorial District and former Governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha; President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ambassador George Obiozor; Elder Statesman, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; former Minister of Information and National Orientation, Professor Jerry Gana; former Governor of Niger State, Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu; former Education Minister, Prof Tunde Adeniran; Emeritus Chairman, Daar Communications Plc, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi; former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Sinatu Ojikutu, amongst others.
Abubakar, addressing the concern of the agitators, said that there is strength in diversity, saying that Nigerians should try to work out how they can sink their differences and continue to live together in peace.
‘Even if you break Nigeria now, how are you going to do? When everybody, every Nigerian, anywhere you go in the village, you will find a Hausa man, a Yoruba man, an Igbo man, Itsekiri and so on and so forth,’ he said.
‘So, when you say you divide, where do you draw the line with the inter-marriages and so on and so forth? It is going to be difficult.’
On the nationwide insecurity challenge, Gen Abubakar said all hands should be on deck to address the menace, calling on Nigerians to expose perpetrators of insecurity.
He added that all culprits responsible for the security crisis, including Boko Haram, hostage-takers and other criminal elements were living amongst Nigerians, saying that they were definitely known.
‘So, let us expose them to the authorities and let us put our hands on deck to tackle the security challenges,’ Abubakar stated.
The ex-Head of State hailed Gen Babangida, disclosing that the former military Head of State had demonstrated leadership right from his childhood – from being made a class in elementary school and a head boy secondary school.
Gen Abubakar stated that after graduating secondary school, Gen Babangida joined the military and, as an officer and gentleman, the ex-Head of State, also displayed his leadership qualities.
‘Leadership is about caring and it is about managing resources, people and personnel under you. He exhibited these leadership qualities even before he became an officer,” Abubakar stated.
Speaking on the misconceptions about Gen Babangida, Mark, who was Military Governor of Niger State and Minister of Communications during the Babangida administration, said there were pros and cons, noting that Gen Babangida had supporters and those who have made up their minds that they would never ally with him.
‘And there are those who feel, like somebody said, they can be blindfolded, they will follow him to anywhere he decides to go,’ Mark said.
Mark noted that Gen Babangida had a human heart, a feeling, and a personal touch that he brought into governance.
‘The way he sympathises with people is unique and truly, it is very, very unique.
‘For people like me, I mean, he was like a protector, a mentor in the Armed Forces. And for so many of us, that is exactly what he is.
‘So, I think I am not surprised that there are people who, regardless of what he says or does, will believe him and there are those who will be against him,’ Mark said.
In his opening remarks, Chairman of the occasion Chief Raymond Dokpesi dismissed negative perceptions by some Nigerians regarding Babangida’s reputation over the years.
He absolved Babangida of blame in the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, which had produced Chief MKO Abiola as president, and the alleged missing $12 billion oil windfall while he held away as military head of state.
Speaking with Daily Sun, spokesman to Babangida Prince Kassim Afegbua said the idea behind the event was to recalibrate the Babangida phenomenon.
Afegbua, a former Information Commissioner in Edo State, said the event was intended to bring to the fore and into contemporary discourse, what he accomplished in his administration and what could also be accomplished to add value to the national narrative, particularly in a country that has become heavily polarised.