After setting off the latest fireworks in the polity Sunday by releasing a press statement calling for a younger, more dynamic leader in 2019, former military President Ibrahim Babangida appeared to beat a retreat by releasing a rebuttal hours later.
In an earlier statement titled, ‘Towards a National Rebirth’ and signed by the Media Adviser to the former dictator, Prince Kassim Afegbua, Babangida called on Nigerians to do away with analogue leaders and embrace those of the digital age in light of the present challenges.
Highlighting the herdsmen/farmers’ crisis and other burning national issues, Babangida submitted that while Buhari reserved the right to seek re-election in 2019, the time had come for Nigerians to unite behind a younger, innovative candidate with a mandate to foster nation building.
Hours after the statement went viral and deepened the discourse on the 2019 general elections following another explosive open letter by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo a fortnight ago, Babangida released a statement saying the earlier statement was Afegbua’s personal opinion, Punch writes.
The former military ruler averred that he had unfettered access to Buhari and could therefore meet him in person without resorting to open letters.
The statement read in part, “Let me categorically state that as a former President and statesman, I have unfettered access and channel of communication with the highest authorities in the country without necessarily going public with a sensational statement. Therefore, the views expressed in the alleged statement are not mine but the writer’s.”
He however expressed worry over the state of the nation, while calling for a ‘more effective’ two-party system to deepen the country’s democracy.
“As students of history, we are aware that many advanced democracies have two distinct ideological political parties, with a handful of smaller political groupings that serve as buffer whenever any of the known political parties derailed or became unpopular. I still believe in a two-party system as the best option for Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, Afegbua stood by the initial statement, insisting that he sat with the former dictator before he issued it.
He maintains that the statement stands, while dismissing the rebuttal as the handiwork of some overzealous people around the former dictator.
“He (Babangida) has called me to say that statement stands and the kernel of that statement should inform public discourse and not people necessarily personalising it as if it were against the sitting President,” Afegbua said in an interview on ChannelsTV Sunday.
Expectedly, the Peoples Democratic Party has commended the statement issued on behalf of Babangida, saying it couldn’t agree more that the Buhari administration had polluted the nation’s “leadership actuality,” while the All Progressives Congress, through its National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi said it needed time to study the letter.