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‘IBB’s regime favoured Nigerians, that’s why we want him back’

Posted by By JOSSY IDAM (Jidam 14 @ yahoo.com) on 2005/04/25 | Views: 600 |

‘IBB’s regime favoured Nigerians, that’s why we want him back’


Chief Reagan Ufomba makes no pretences about his love for former military president Ibrahim Babangida. Presently, he is the South East coordinator of The Nigerian Project – a group campaigning for IBB’s return as president in 2007.

Chief Reagan Ufomba makes no pretences about his love for former military president Ibrahim Babangida. Presently, he is the South East coordinator of The Nigerian Project – a group campaigning for IBB’s return as president in 2007.

He comes across with blazing guns as he tackles those who rehearsh unbstantiated myths and fables as they grope about in search of concrete substance to nail the gap-toothed General on. But he insists that the former head of state remains undaunted.

Excerpts:
What’s The Nigerian Project “ all about?
Well, The Nigeria Project is an amalgam of all groups yearning for IBB to become President in 2007. It comprises of the Redemption Group, Project 007, and many others. At a time, we decided to come together. The aim is to give the struggle a better focus, better administration and better understanding…

In fact, in November, all the groups met in Abuja and we all agreed to come together as The Nigeria Project. But as you know, in politics there will always be disagreements here and there.
With disagreements erupting from the group, do you still think all is well.
I strongly believe The Nigeria Project is still on course.
Your man –IBB - was in power for eight years. What else does he really want?
Well, we’ve just heard of Eyadema who spent more than 30 years. For us, he was a military president. We want him to be a democratic president based on his antecedents -his past performance. We believe his administration favoured Nigerians and Nigeria.
We want a re-enactment of those qualities which saw Nigeria blooming. We want someone like him who’s tested and trusted.

A Maradona?
Yes, even when you call him Maradona. At least, Nigerians know that he dribbles. It is for them to put a Keshi, Amokachi to tackle him. He’s acceptable to Nigerians and that’s why we want him back.
But his regime was characterized with massive corruption and tyranny. How do you score his eight years?
Well, IBB scored 85 percent in his eight-year rule as a military head of state. That’s our view. If you look at what we‘re struggling for today, those were IBB’s ideas. And that was about 15 years ago. IBB is a man who lived ahead of his time. He proffered original ideas. We want him to come and push them forward.
But does it surprise you that his regime is largely viewed as a colossal failure. To borrow a proverb from MKO Abiola, his transition was like an elephant giving birth to a mouse. His efforts to hand over to a democratically elected civilian government came to a jarring end.

I don’t think people like you are being fair to IBB and history. We all know the indices that make a bouyant economy. We know how much the naira was to a dollar. We know how much we bought petroleum products and what it took for an importer to bring in goods from outside this country before the abolition of import licence and all that. IBB brought a lot of reforms to Nigeria.
Anybody saying his regime was a colossal failure is not being fair to him. Don’t just judge him on the fact that his transition programme was aborted. We shall credit the fact that the same election was acclaimed to be the freest and fairest.

Yeah, “freest, fairest”, you said. But everything came to nought.
Yes. Something must have given birth to that. That must have been for some certain reasons which we believe must be patriotic. Because you can’t remove the fact that IBB’s a great, patriotic Nigerian. The decision he took must have been expedient.
But isn’t about time he made a clean breast of what really happened. Nigerians still want to know why he scuttled June 12. Until he sincerely, tells Nigerians what really happened, that date remains a question mark. And generations to come will still query it.

Well, that won’t be mature for him to do. Some of us have spoken on that. Ask me: nobody has told us why there was coup in 1966, why Ironsi was killed, why Shagari’s administration was toppled, why there was so much attempt to even kill IBB while he was in power. We regard this thing as part of history.
We were all alive in this country when the election was conducted. We all knew that there was a lot of pressure both by the military and the civilian populace to truncate that move. We’re happy he’s alife today and that the country is moving forward.

The EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu early in the month (last month) clearly said IBB won’t be president again in Nigeria. What’s your reaction?
Well, that’s the most reckless statement that can come out of a public officer of that standing. Ribadu owes Nigerians an apology. We’ve done a rejoinder and we have given him (ultimatum) to apologize to IBB, to apologize to us the followers or we take legal steps against him. I think he’s overstepping his bounds. His job is to investigate and bring people to book. When he now constitute himself into the “Federal Republic of Nigeria”, and now dictates who should become president, who should become governor and how a man and his wife should sleep, then he has to watch it. We have given him forty-eight hours to revisit the matter.

Have you really put Ribadu on notice, or are you just blowing hot airs like politicians often do?

Not like that. We’re very serious about the matter. We’ve taken out some advertorials and asked our lawyer to write him under The Nigerian Project. We believe that IBB is the best man to govern Nigeria in 2007. Ribadu is only echoing his master’s voice. We know it.
Could you be specific –drop names and stuff.

(Visibly angry) No need. But we know where Ribadu is coming from. We know those he’s loyal to. We know those urging him on for this suicidal mission. And we’ll match him word for word, action for action.
Could you elaborate a bit. Are you really implying that Ribadu is fronting for someone?

Well, it still beats our imagination how an Assistant Commissioner of Police who is only in charge of a segment of the Police Force can come up and make such a sweeping statement without somebody highly placed backing him. We believe he has something to tell Nigerians.

The man has already said something weighty. While speaking to some Nigerian professionals, he reportedly described IBB as a crafty man who probably used surrogates to bank looted money and acquire property abroad.

We need proof on this. I think he was simply trying to give a dog a bad name in order to hang him. But I want to tell him and Nigerians that IBB is unchangeable. We’re solidly behind him. We’re already mobilising Nigerians to rise against Ribadu and his cohorts. And they must not succeed. If a man is intelligent, credit him and tell the world so. Don’t tell us the man is crafty. What’s the meaning of the word?
I guess it means someone who’s skilled in deception, cunning, unreliable.

(Voice rising): That doesn’t apply to IBB. Ribadu is wrong.
Another albatross on IBB’s neck that his critics often refer to is the Gulf War oil windfall. Professor Okigbo’s report even indicted him on this. May we know your reaction?
Well, IBB was only the president. He wasn’t the governor of Central Bank and he wasn’t the minister of Finance. And if we must talk in specifics, how long was the Gulf War? How many months? What was the price of crude? How many barrels did we sell? And how much does it amount to? You see, some of these things ought to be substantiated. We know how much crude sold that period. So, go and do your mathematics and get back to us.

Doesn’t it worry you that most of IBB’s social welfare programmes -DFRRI, SAP, MAMSER, Mass Transit and so on were largely exaggerated?
I think the problem we have in Nigeria is that of continuity. If successive regimes had continued with those programmes, we would have seen how well the man meant. Like I have often said, this was a man that lived ahead of his time. We still see his boreholes – we call them “Haenia pumps”. We still see his rural roads all over the place. It was for somebody to start where he stopped which was definitely neglected by successive regimes. That’s a Nigerian problem. It’s not IBB’s problem. You talk of NDE, you won’t tell us people were not employed. You can talk of all the reforms he struggled to bring about. Those are the things we’re all struggling to do today.

Privatization, commercialization - what you call SAP was a very laudable programme. But it was a skeleton which wanted Nigeria to give it flesh. But we refused to do that and say it was a bad idea. To some of us, IBB is a man who lived ahead of his time. And some of us are yet to see the vision which he saw years ago.
IBB is reputed to be very slippery. And this earned him nicknames such “Maradona” and “Evil Genius”. He threw the political landscape of the country into a perpetual flux. Politicians were segmented into Old and New breeds. He banned and unbanned. Political Parties were formed and jettisoned with flourish. With all these, do you think Nigerians would like to have the man they hardly trust as president again in 2007?
Who would Nigerians want to have? You see, you talk of IBB, they say “No, No”, you talk of Obasanjo, they say” No, No”, and even Buhari, they say “No, no”. And these are the same people who have continued to criticize our past leaders.

If all the leaders we have are bad and Nigerians are good, I think it’s time we look at ourselves and decide who’s actually guilty. But if all our leaders are bad, something must be wrong with us. Let me come down to specifics: IBB was someone who wanted the best for the country. Like the perfectionist he is, he didn’t want to handover to a system that was corrupt, jaundiced - a system that would not work. That’s why he carried out those experiments.

But eventually, he left. What do we have today? Do we have a system that is better? If we had given him the chance to get a system that would work, by now Nigeria would have moved forward.
You’ve just said he wanted to handover to a civilian government. A civilian won the June 12 election and he went ahead and scuttled it. That’s the problem.

Well, I don’t know if Nigerians want to know the truth. If they do, they should know that the election was inconclusive. No result was announced to show that there was a winner.
He had the instrument of office at his disposal. The electoral umpire at that time, Professor Humphrey Nwosu, is still alive. Don’t you think he and IBB should be summoned to tell Nigerians what really happened? And do you honestly think he wanted to handover?

Think of it: if IBB didn’t want to handover to an elected civilian government, he wouldn’t have erected all the democratic structures we all saw in all the local governments. There were party officers in all the local governments - SDP, NRC. Those were not make-shift structures. This shows he meant well. He wanted to put structures that are enduring. Somehow, he wanted it done well. Maybe, he overrated Nigerians. He.. maybe, he thought they too can be perfectionist just like himself. Maybe that was the mistake. But if you also ask me: It was not IBB who truncated the June 12 election. Some people went to court and rendered the election inclusive.

Members of your ethnic group are largely yearning for one of their own to be president in 2007. By campaigning for IBB now, are you not working against the aspiration of your people - Ndigbo?
I’m not the only one who’s working for IBB’s return. And if you ask me: I want an Igbo to be president. I’m for this any day. But we’re talking of individuals now. We are talking of IBB and others we’ve not seen now. I am for IBB because I believe he can deliver. He has the capacity to reform Nigeria and turn things around for the better.

You’re sounding contradictory. How can you be supporting IBB and be for an Igbo presidency in 2007? What efforts have you made to realise the dream of your people?
Well, we’re all talking. It’s not by war. We have to come to a consensus. We have to look at the individuals coming out for presidency. We have to x-ray them and put them at per with individuals coming out from other zones. We will pick the best out of the lot. And I tell you: what Igbos want is not just an Igbo presidency or president of an Igbo extraction. They want to end the long years of marginalisation which the Igbo nation has suffered. I want to tell you that IBB is best suited. Under his reign, we had the best - the juicy positions. I think he’s a friend of the Igbos and that’s why people like me want him to come back.

IBB appears to be romancing two political parties - PDP and NDP. Under what platform is he going to run for the 2007 presidential election?
The good thing is that IBB is a Nigerian. Secondly, he’s not an ex-convict. So, he’s free to contest for election in any political party he likes. Whatever it is, we know IBB’s a PDP member. We want him to run under PDP.
But the party may set a new goalpost that might rule him out.
We’re master strategists. We’ll go the other way and make sure he becomes the next President.

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Comments (3)

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.