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  • Time to restructure Nigeria has come, says IBB
  • The time to restructure Nigeria has come, former
    military president, General Ibrahim Babangida
    said on Monday as he launched an appeal to
    Nigerians to draw back from further campaign of
    hate the like of which he said led to the 20
    month civil war.
    Former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida
    during prayers to mark his 75th birthday
    celebration at the Hilltop, Minna, Niger State
    Noting his own historic linkages across the
    various divides in the country, the former
    military president said that there was little
    discord among Nigerians of different social
    classes as he urged Nigerians to synergise their
    different potentials towards building a great
    nation.
    Towards restructuring the country, Babangida
    called for the devolution of more powers from
    the federal level to the states even as he urged
    Nigerians to embrace the creation of state
    police. He said the fear of state governors using
    state police to run amok was not as strong as
    the greater benefit that creating state police
    would do for the nation.
    While passionately appealing to leaders of the
    different divides in the country to show more
    maturity by reining in the younger elements, the
    former military president observed that war is
    not a joke anyone should toy with.
    General Babangida said:
    Nigeria, my dear country, is not a stranger to
    crisis, nor is she immune to it. In a profound
    sense, she can be said to have been created out
    of crisis, a nation state that will continue to
    strive to subdue and transcend crises. In over a
    century of its formalized colonial architecture,
    Nigeria has grown and made remarkable
    progress in the midst of crises.
    The most tragic and horrendous episode in
    Nigeria’s history has been the 30 month Civil
    War of July 1967 to January 1970, in which
    many of our compatriots lost their lives. Indeed,
    many others also suffered terrible injuries of
    human and material dimensions.
    So, who really wants to go through the depth
    and dimensions of another Civil War in Nigeria
    again? Who does not know that that Civil War
    was preceded and started by intolerance and a
    series of hate pronouncements, hate speeches,
    hate conducts and actions that were inflicted
    upon one another by the citizens? Today, with a
    deep sense of nostalgia, I still carry within my
    body the pains of injury from the Civil War: there
    is nothing romantic about war; in any form, war
    is bad, condemnable and must be avoided.
    I need hardly say I am very worried by the
    current on-going altercations and vituperations
    of hate across the country by individuals, well-
    known leaders, religious leaders, group of
    persons and organizations. We need to remind
    ourselves that conflicts are not evidently the
    stuff of politics and governance, particularly so
    of democracy, hence we must apply caution in
    our utterances, body language and news
    reportage.
    The 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.
    Personally, 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.
    Nonetheless, it is not the place of leaderships to
    fuel and hype conflicts nor should we allow
    losers and gainers of our governance regimes to
    make pronouncements and threats that exploit
    our ethnic, religious and geopolitical construct.
    Democracy, anywhere in the world, is a work in
    progress; and one that is subject to constant
    evolution and debate. The drums of war are easy
    to beat, but their rhythms are difficult to dance.
    Starting wars or political upheavals comes with
    the slightest provocation, but ending them
    becomes inelastic, almost unending with painful
    footages of the wrecks of war. I have been
    involved and its ripples are tellingly unpalatable,
    with gory details of destruction and carnage. I
    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.
    We cannot deny or repudiate our progress at
    nation-building in spite of the limitations and
    challenges that we have continued to
    experience. As a people, we need a proper study
    and understanding of our history in order to
    correct the warped perceptions of our past so
    as to minimize the dangers of badly skewed
    stories of our democratic experience in
    governance; and to regenerate mutual
    confidence and uphold the tenets of living
    together as one country.
    No one government or administration can
    provide all the answers to the myriad of
    problems and challenges confronting us as a
    country; no matter how determined, resolute,
    committed and motivated such a government is.
    The citizens have their roles to play, and their
    obligations to fulfill in order to motivate
    government in achieving its stated goals and
    objectives. Governance is a function of the
    leadership and the followership. It is a two-way
    traffic that demands certain responsibilities from
    those involved.
    Of late, Nigeria has become so sharply divided
    with emotions running high on the least
    provocations. Once tempers are that high, the
    fault-lines become easily visible and with the
    slightest prompting, the unexpected can happen.
    But I want to believe that Nigerians are still their
    reasonable selves’, highly endowed in various
    skills and intellectually empowered to compete
    anywhere in the global arena.
    As a Nigerian, I have had the rare privilege to
    benefit from robust relationships from different
    people across the socio-political divide; East,
    West, North and South. I have also immensely
    interacted with persons from all the numerous
    tribes, cultures and ethnic configurations dotted
    across the entire gamut of Nigeria’s expansive
    lands.
    I have made friends, built alliances, nurtured
    relationships and sustained linkages amongst
    Nigerians of all shades and opinions. In fairness,
    Nigerians are great people. In 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. We deal with ourselves based on our
    character and content, and not the sentiments of
    what part of the country we hail from.
    The 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.
    That we have not fully realized our potentials 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. If we have repeatedly done
    certain things and not getting the desired
    results, we need to change tactics and approach,
    and renew our commitment.
    It is our collective responsibilities to engender a
    reform that would be realistic and in sync with
    modern best practices.
    For example, restructuring has become a
    national appeal as we speak, whose time has
    come. I will strongly advocate for devolution of
    powers to the extent that more responsibilities
    be given to the states while the Federal
    Government is vested with the responsibility to
    oversee our foreign policy, defense, and
    economy. Even the idea of having Federal Roads
    in towns and cities has become outdated and
    urgently needs revisiting.
    That means we need to tinker with our
    constitution to accommodate new thoughts that
    will strengthen our nationality. Restructuring
    and devolution of powers will certainly not
    provide all the answers to our developmental
    challenges; it will help to reposition our mindset
    as we generate new ideas and initiatives that
    would make our union worthwhile.
    The 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.
    Added to this desire is the need to commence
    the process of having State Police across the
    states of the Federation. This idea was
    contained in my manifesto in 2010 when I
    attempted to contest the presidential elections.
    The initial fears that State Governors will misuse
    the officers and men of the State Police have
    become increasingly eliminated with renewed
    vigour in citizens’ participation in, and
    confidence to interrogate power. We cannot be
    detained by those fears and allow civilization to
    leave us behind.
    We must as a people with one destiny and
    common agenda take decisions for the sake of
    posterity in our shared commitment to launch
    our country on the path of development and
    growth. Policing has become so sophisticated
    that we cannot continue to operate our old
    methods and expect different results.
    I also want to appeal to the Nigeria media to be
    more circumspect in their news reportage. They
    should 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
    emanations. The media play an important and
    remarkable role in shaping the flow of discourse.
    Their 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. If 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.
    On a final note, I really wish we see strength,
    determination, commitment and confidence in
    our diversities rather than adversities. As a
    heterogeneous country with flourishing skills
    and numerous endowments, we should dictate
    the pace in Africa and lead by example of what
    is possible amongst a people that are focused
    and determined to pursue common national
    goal.
    As a former Military President who had the rare
    privilege to travel around Africa to sustain the
    African cooperation through peace-keeping
    operations, I have come to the conclusion that
    nations are driven by a common ideal and not
    by the homogeneity of their race. I 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. Rwanda genocidal experience is not
    romantic either. But 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. When we went into peace-
    keeping operations in Sierra Leone, Somalia,
    Liberia and Congo, we had in mind to sustain
    oneness in Africa even though we are a
    continent of different countries all bearing
    different logos and identities. Our motivation
    was simply that we are Africans.
    I am therefore appealing to the sensibilities of all
    of us, young and old, leaders and followers,
    groups and organizations, that in the interest of
    peace and stability of our country, we need to
    sheathe the sword. At 76, I have seen it all. I
    have seen war. I have fought war. And I have
    survived war, even though I still suffer the pains
    and injuries of war, it is part of the selfless
    sacrifice to keep the union afloat.
    We must build a country that is forward looking
    for our children and future generations of
    Nigerians. We cannot afford to toil with the
    destinies of the 170million Nigerians by the
    shape of our discourse and the content of our
    interaction.
    We must carry out conscious attitudinal
    orientation that will change the mindset of our
    youths and the held beliefs of the elderly. We
    must explore the therapies of dialogue and
    constructive engagements in our desire to make
    life more meaningful for our people. My friends
    cut across all regions, zones and states. I am
    proud to be a Nigerian because I see hope in the
    youthful population of Nigerians.
    I see remarkable skills and raw talents that can
    stimulate enterprise and innovations.
    This is the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan, a
    month in which Muslim faithful have dedicated
    their lives to seek closeness to God, and
    forgiveness of their inequities. It is a month of
    penance; a month of prayer for physical, moral
    and spiritual rejuvenation, regeneration and
    rebirth. I urge my countrymen and women to
    use the occasion to look ahead with hope and
    renewed dedication to the service of our
    country.

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