President Jonathan walks a tight rope, accused of tribalism by Babangida and others

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President Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan: "We should be more nationalistic"

Ex- Military leader, President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida has pointed accusing fingers at President Goodluck Jonathan alleging that he wanted to sabotage the People’s Democratic Party’s zoning system following a statement the President made recently on the eve of G8 meeting in Toronto, Canada.

The accusation has appeared a clear testimony on how desperate Babangida is to grab power, hanging on Northern factor as his recent outburst through his spokesman shows a clear indication of attempts by him to play a race card and climb on the back of Northern power stakeholders to rule Nigeria again.

Jonathan had said recently: “We are a country where our leaders tend to play tribal sentiments, saying I am from the south south; I am from North West; I am North, I’m South, I am a Muslim and I am a Christian. All these are selfish motives to make people who probably cannot compete with others…to use these sentiments.”

President Goodluck Jonathan’s also added that Nigeria is a country peopled by ethnic bigots “who reach out to their narrow cleavages when they cannot compete,”

Apparently, the President was sending a clear message to the nation, craving for a more nationalistic approach to the nation’s leadership instead of the old tribal card play.

Babangida in a swift reaction told  Jonathan to watch his utterances.

The Ex- military ruler said on Sunday  that the zoning agreement of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party must be respected “because Nigeria is in a peculiar situation that makes zoning inevitable.”

Observers in London who want anonymity said Babangida’s swift and extended reaction carried along desperation, self- centeredness and anti nationalistic feeling.

“ We should all vie for one Nigeria and a national and devoted leadership  without any sense of tribal tilt” a legal practitioner said claiming that at 50, Nigeria should look beyond ethnism and should be more nationalistic.

Babangida’s statement also denote the former leader as a Nigerian with a special touch and therefore remains untouchable.

Babangida’s position in a statement  conveyed by his spokesperson, Kassim Afegbua noted  that the former military president was not in competition with any contender for the 2011 presidential election.

“Please, be informed that we are not in competition with anybody in 2011 presidential elections. Babangida is just in a class of his own. There is no nation in the whole world with peculiar features such as Nigeria. Given such scenario and reality, our method of power sharing, power distribution and representation has to be peculiar too,” said the statement.

Babangida’s statement said further that the issue of zoning or rotation was imperative “to keep the union stable in order to encourage and sustain developmental initiatives across board.”

“Nations work out models that suit their peculiarities. General IBB is a pan-Nigerian and given his stature as a statesman, you cannot possibly pigeon hole him into a regional leader. He only needs to ensure that the zones are well represented because any crisis in any one zone will affect the state of the union.

“You need political stability before you can talk about economic stability. Once any zone feels alienated, it would take away something from the sustainability, unity and oneness of the union.

“I feel unusually disturbed when highly educated Nigerians and lecturers discuss these issues with sentiment and biased considerations. It will help the state of our union if the zones feel a sense of belonging and not that of alienation,” said Babangida in the statement.

On his part, elder statesman and former presidential adviser to President Shehu Shagari, Tanko Yakassai, said: “It is unfortunate that of all people, it is President Goodluck Jonathan that is quoted of accusing fellow Nigerians as being ethnic bigots.”

Yakassai alleged that right from Jonathan’s inception as acting president and eventual confirmation as President, “he has been dancing to the dance of his ethnic nationality of Ijaws.”

“If Nigerians have now resorted to ethnic sentiments, it is because we are following the actions and utterances of the President. It is this presidential moral rectitude that is guiding ordinary Nigerians. If President Jonathan is ethnically biased, he is inevitably making other Nigerians tow his line of thought.

Ibrahim Babangida
Ibrahim Babangida:" Iam alway disturbed when ..."

“Immediately he became the President, he appointed someone from his Bayelsa State in the person of the Dezeani Alison Madueke as the Minister of Petroleum Affairs, which is the mainstay of the economy. What did she do, she went on to recognise the Ministry and NNPC, where over 50 percent of the key positions were given to people from her (ethnic nationality) and the President’s area,” Yakassai alleged.

He said the Northern Elders Forum should be congratulated because in whatever they did, all the ethnic tribes of the north like the Kanuri, Nupe, Gwari, Fulani and Hausas were usually accommodated.

“This is unlike what is happening in Jonathan’s Ijaw National Congress where the Ibibio, Urhobos and others are not accommodated,” Yakassai said.

Similarly, chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Gen. IBM Haruna upbraided Jonathan, noting that his comment was insensitive.

“Well, I don’t think Nigerians are scared of competition outside their ethnic groups or similar sentiment. Politics is about interests in the first place and people must be able to define those interests. It is like in a football match; there are teams. In politics too, people must define their identity before anything else because they are the basis on which the scarce resources are shared,” Haruna said.

Jonathan said, “we are a country where our leaders tend to play tribal sentiments, saying I am from the south south; I am from North West; I am North, I’m South, I am a Muslim and I am a Christian. All these are selfish motives to make people who probably cannot compete with others…to use these sentiments.”

Jonathan’s statement on Thursday in Canada is generally viewed as an attack on the various groupings who have recently backed retention of the zoning arrangement.

Over a hundred northern leaders recently converged on Abuja to demand that the zoning arrangement by the PDP be respected by all the stakeholders.

Also, prominent northern elders recently met and demanded that Jonathan must abide by the pact.

Furthermore two separate rallies in support and in condemnation of zoning would be held today in Bauchi.

While many politicians in the North insist on the zoning formula, pro- Jonathan forces are said to be working round the clock to scuttle it.