Hate campaigners got a bloody nose yesterday. Former President Ibrahim Babangida protested against attacks by President Goodluck Jonathan’s supporters on his person and others.
He cited other generals under attack as former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the late ex-Head of State Gen, Sani Abacha, ex-Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and a former Minister of Defence, Gen. T.Y Danjuma.
Although Babangida did not mention names, First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan, Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi and Peoples Democratic Party Campaign Council spokesperson Femi Fani-Kayode have been criticised by many for championing hate campaign.
He said those promoting hate documentaries are “intellectually delinquent or they suffer memory loss”.
He said nothing forbade former military leaders from contesting presidential elections, adding that leadership training is better grounded in the military than any other profession.
Gen. Babangida, in a statement he personally signed and released by his media office, said the stigmatisation of past military leaders accounted for “espirit de corps amongst ourselves in support of our military institution and colleagues when the stakes are high”.
The statement said: “In clear attempts to whip up support for President Goodluck Jonathan, certain persons, groups and individuals have embarked on several campaigns of calumny against former military Heads of State and presidents who have had the opportunity to govern this country.
“Of particular reference is a one-hour documentary aired on Silverbird Television on Tuesday night; 24th March, 2015 that deliberately impugned the integrity of Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari, my humble self; Ibrahim Babangida, the late Sani Abacha, Abdulsalami Abubakar, and T.Y. Danjuma; all of whom have had the privilege of presiding over the affairs of this great country at various levels.
“It is either that those promoting the hate documentary are intellectually delinquent or they suffer memory loss; or a combination of both.
“I have my very strong reservations about the contents and thematic focus of the said documentary. Apart from promoting hate campaign which clearly undermines the modest contributions of these former presidents, the commentaries in the documentary against the former presidents leave a sour taste in the mouth.
“Nobody is stopping anyone from campaigning for their preferred candidates contesting various positions in the elections, but to do that at the expense of the reputation, contributions, patriotism, loyalty and sacrifice of former presidents to the Nigerian state is, to say the least, immature.”
The ex-Military President said nothing forbids ex-military leaders from contesting presidential election.
The statement said: “The military is at present combating the dreaded Boko Haram sect to restore Nigeria’s territorial integrity. What law under a democracy forbids retired military personnel from participating in politics and presenting themselves for election? Over 90 per cent of American Presidents have military background.
“Leadership training is better grounded in the military than any other profession. And the military parades some of the best brains in any country, including Nigeria.
“In fact, some of my military students that I tutored have Doctorate Degrees.
“It is, therefore, callous, wicked, out-of-sync, cynical and a show of crass ignorance for anyone to undermine the military institution by embarking on mudslinging campaigns against former presidents and leaders with military background.
“While those campaigners are pointing their accusing fingers at us, they forget to recall that the present Director-General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation is actually a retired military officer.
“It is this form of demonisation and stigmatisation that often compels us to exhibit esprit de corps amongst ourselves in support of our military institution and colleagues when the stakes are high.
“As disciplined military officers, we are patriotic Nigerians and must be treated with utmost respect and decorum.”
He said irrespective of any insinuations against the military, he remains proud of the institution.
Gen. Babangida said: “The military is an institution that is so dear to my heart. It is an institution that nurtured my growing up and my achievements in life. I am not only sold to the military institution and by extension the Nigerian state, I am betrothed to it.
“As a profession, retirees are bound to participate in politics and democracy as an all-inclusive process, same way that doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, and civil servants get involved in it. It is the reason why I ventured into politics in 2003 before I quit in 2010. It is the same reason why General Obasanjo participated and got elected; and now General Buhari.
“It is therefore very curious that promoters of President Goodluck Jonathan’s aspiration would attempt to demonise and stigmatise former military leaders and cast aspersions on them in order to malign their reputation. This is very unfair.
“Fact is; the military fought a civil war to keep this country together. What I suffer today is a consequence of the injuries I sustained during the Nigeria Civil War. I am not sure there is any patriotism that is more than that. Some of us were prepared to die for the country.”
Babangida reminded pro-Jonathan campaigners that the idea behind the formation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) started in his home.
He said those parading themselves as democrats today had all participated in military governments
The statement added: “For record purposes, and without sounding immodest, the idea of a PDP that has now become the ‘largest party in Africa’ started in my home, here in Minna.
“With the support of my fellow colleagues, we prepared the way for this democratic process that has now led us to where we are presently.
“We built the democratic infrastructure and architecture. Those who are parading themselves as democrats today, all participated in military governments.”