Former military president and presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, yesterday said he was planning a come-back to office because of the non-availability of capable younger people who can steer the ship of the state.
Speaking to the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) monitored in Kaduna, Babangida said: “Because we have seen signs that they are not capable of leading this country and so we feel we should help them. May be they are not given the proper education that is why. I have spent 17 years since I left office.
“But a country like Nigeria cannot be ruled by people without experience. People like the (President Barack) Obama that you are speaking about have the experience. He started from the state House of Assembly to the House of Represen-tatives and to the Senate. If our youths are like this, we will say they have the requisite experience. But we have not reached that level. Honestly, it is our wish that God will bring the younger people that will take over from us if they are available.”
Babangida, who answered questions from the BBC on almost every aspect of his administration during his eight years in office, said he was seeking a return to the Presidency, if elected next year, to contribute his quota in taking the country to the next level.
The former military President in the 15 minutes interview also absolved his eight year tenure of promoting corruption. He said the level of corruption in the country today is a far cry from what was witnessed during his time.
Asked what was attracting him to run for the office of president this time around when he declined to run in 2007, Babangida said, “I gave my reasons for not contesting in 2007 and it was published in many newspapers in the country. Therefore, Nigerians know my reasons for not contesting at that time. But now, Alhamdudillahi, things have changed.
“My position as a Nigerian. Anything that God wants me to do to help this country, I will do it. If I am given the chance, I will know what to do and by the grace of God, I will do it. Nigeria is a country of 150 million people and any of this 150 million people can be president.
Babangida told the BBC that his godfather in Nigeria was the masses when he was reminded by the BBC that the June 12, 1993 election was made possible by the masses but he still went ahead to annul it.
He then said: “But what you should take into consideration is that there has never been an election like that before. That election convinced not only Nigerians, but even the international community that it is possible to conduct free and fair elections in Nigeria,” he said adding that as head of the government at that time he takes responsibility for annulling the election.
The following is the full text of the interview:
You wanted to contest for the Presidency in 2007, but at the end of the day you didn’t submit your papers, how can you assure Nigerians that this time around, you will contest?
I gave my reasons for not contesting in 2007 and it was published in many newspapers in the country. Therefore, Nigerians know my reasons for not contesting at that time. But now, Alhamdudillahi, things have changed.
Don’t forget we are talking of helping the country. What we are talking about, is something that happened some 16 years ago. We should be thinking of what we can do to make progress.
Nigeria is facing a lot of problems, if by the grace of God; you become the president again, what are these new things you never did in the past that you will want to employ in tackling these problems.
God in His infinite mercy gave me the leadership of this country for 8 years…. Remember the Nigerian people have not changed, and since they have not changed, we are in a position to tell them that we can do it again.
There are speculations that the United States of America (USA) wants you to contest for the presidency. What do you have to say about this?
How can that be possible since it is not Americans that will vote? It is Nigerians that will vote.
But America is an influential country in the world and it has its interests in Nigeria.
Nigeria is an influential country too. If somebody wants something in Africa and he hears the voice of Nigeria, it is like he has heard the voice of Africa.
But they said the American Assistant Secretary of State paid you a visit.
Yes, he came to greet me. He is somebody I have known. He came to condole with me over the death of my wife. When we were in the hospital in America, he was coming to greet us…
The issue of the dwindling Nigerian economy is blamed on your administration. You invited former World Bank Economist in charge of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), Prof. Joseph Tigris, who you used to ruin the nation’s economy. Why did you do that?
…Today, we are talking of exactly 24 years, but SAP has not changed, they keep on modifying it. If the economy was ruined, by now, we would have been history. The Nigerian economy was not ruined.
But they say Nigerians are going through serious hardship as a result of your economic policies.
I want you to know that if you read all the books on the economy of Nigeria, you will find out that from 1960 to 1995, Nigeria made far-reaching progress. I left office in 1993. You should be asking what have those who came after us done.
Your administration was accused of massive corruption. If you become the president again, how would you address the problem of endemic corruption in Nigeria?
If you compare what is happening now with what happened during my administration, you will commend me. I sacked a governor for embezzling N300, 000 during my regime, but now, what do you see? During our time we were not enmeshed in this kind of things we see today.
During your time, there was this $12 billion made from the sales of oil. What happened to the money?
The $12 billion was the money realised from the sale of oil for 8 years. Let me repeat, it was money made from the sales of oil in 8 years. It was money that we saved in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) within those 8 years. There was an additional $1.2 billion… So all they are saying about this money are lies. If you read the Okigbo report, you will see that the money was made in 8 years.
But the Financial Times reporter who published the story was sent out of Nigeria because of the report. If it was not true, why was he sent away?
Frankly speaking, I can send the Okigbo report to you to read. I have been explaining this over and over. What I realised from oil in eight years is what somebody makes in one year.
You have been a major player in the leadership of this country for a longtime.
Honestly, it is our wish that God will bring the younger people that will take over from us if they are available. I was the one who introduced the politics of new breed in this country.
Why didn’t you step aside and give the younger generation a chance to lead since they are fresh and strong.
Because we have seen signs that they are not capable of leading this country and so we feel we should help them. May be they are not given the proper education that is why. I have spent 17 years since I left office.
Haba! The younger generation is supposed to be in charge by now.
But a country like Nigeria cannot be ruled by people without experience. People like the Obama that you are speaking about have the experience. He started from the state House of Assembly to the House of Representatives and to the Senate. If our youths are like this, we will say they have the requisite experience. But we have not reached that level.
If by the grace of God, you become the president what new thing will you do which you did not do during your eight years in power.
Which are the mistakes you would want to correct?
The politicians are asking me what I forgot in the Presidential Villa that I want to go and pick. When I left power, the naira was N22 to the dollar. Petrol was selling at 70 kobo per litre. So there are things that I did that will make me come back.
These things were not like that when you came to power. You were the one that devalued the naira.
How? During my time, the naira did not exceed N22 to the dollar. Now it is N150 per dollar.
But how much was it before you came to power?
It was N4.5 to the dollar.
So you devalued the naira.
Some people destroyed the value of the naira…
Source: This day