President Goodluck Jonathan has intervened in the public feud between two of his predecessors, Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida, asking them to bury the hatchet. Obasanjo and Babangida, both former heads of government and retired generals, had last week exchange words, calling each other fools.
On Sunday, a source in the Presidency told one of our correspondents that Jonathan, who was “embarrassed” by the conduct of the two former heads of state, had intervened on Saturday.
The source said Jonathan made separate telephone calls to Obasanjo and Babangida, who are also chieftains of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, on Saturday.
The source said, “Nobody should expect the President to fold his arms and be watching. He has done the natural thing to do in a situation like this.
“He has called both Obasanjo and Babangida and appealed to them to sheathe their swords.
“He urged them not to make further comments on the issue and encouraged them to settle it between themselves as they are friends and have access to each other.
“He did not take sides with anybody; there is a disagreement between two big men here and the President is playing the role of a peacemaker.”
The source however could not say what the reactions of the two former leaders were.
Babangida had stirred the hornets-nest last Wednesday at a news conference to mark his 70th birthday in Minna, Niger State, when he said that Obasanjo’s eight year tenure was a huge waste. He said Obasanjo’s administration spent $16bn on electricity without result, adding that if his own regime had the enormous revenue available to the Obasanjo government, he would have given Nigeria power.
But Obasanjo thundered back on Thursday, calling Babagida a fool at 70.
He said, “If Babangida has decided, on becoming a septuagenarian, that he will be a fool, I think one should probably do what the Bible says in Proverb Chapter 26, versus 4. It says don’t answer a fool because you may also become like him.”
However, in a swift reaction through his spokesperson, IBB retorted, “One may excuse his (Obasanjo) present outburst as the effusions of a witless comedian.”
Obasanjo who was the president between 1999 and 2007 was also a military head of government from 1976 to 1979. Babangida was military president from 1985 to 1993 when he “stepped aside” from power following the popular protests that greeted the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential poll by him.
Many at the weekend lashed at the two former leaders for “washing their dirty linen” in the public.
A former military governor of the old Western region, Vice Admiral Akin Aduwo (retd.), said the duo of Obasanjo and Babangida should be court-martialled over what he described as their indiscretion. Aduwo, who spoke over the weekend, also said the warring generals should be banned from the National Council of States.
On Sunday, the Octogenarian leader of the Yoruba social and political organization, Afenifere, Pa. Reuben Fasoranti, described the feud as a “show of shame.”
Fasoranti, in a telephone interview with our correspondent in Akure, Ondo State, noted that the two leaders behaved like “kids”.
He said, “It is a pity that the two ex-heads of state decided to throw caution to the winds and behave the way they did. They should have exercised restraints. Their behaviour is unfortunate. They should not have lost their tempers. Only kids do such things.”
Fasoranti appealed to the two leaders to exercise great caution and control over their tempers, warning them to refrain from exchanging insults on the pages of newspapers.
Aduwo had described the public exchange of words by the former presidents as a ‘complete shame, completely out of character, an international disgrace, an embarrassment to Nigeria and the military that gave those two people prominence as heads of state.”
He said, “IBB is a subordinate to Obasanjo, at all levels of service to the nation, the military, government and politics. The superior officer remains the superior officer.
“They went through all sorts of military training in discipline, leadership, mood control, conduct control. I have never been so shocked. Whoever is your superior up till retirement from active service remains your superior.”