I performed better, says IBB
FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday condemned stinging attacks on his administration by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida whom he accused of presiding over worse regime as military president.
Obasanjo, who spoke to journalists in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital, said contrary to Babangidaâs view, âmy administration performed better than his own.â
But in a swift reaction yesterday, Babangida said the records of their administrations could speak for themselves as to who (Babangida or Obasanjo) actually destroyed the countryâs economy.
Obasanjo, who commented on other issues, explained why he liquidated the Nigeria Airways. On the African Union (AU), Obasanjo who returned on Wednesday from the regional bodyâs meeting in Ethiopia disclosed that it seriously lacks enough funds to carry out its functions.
Speaking at the premises of his Presidential Library after playing host to some Americans who paid an inspection tour to the library, Obasanjo expressed regret that Nigeria with the population of about 165 million is generating less than 4,000 megawatts of electricity. He assured that if President Goodluck Jonathan administration could continue with the power programme his past government initiated, âI am sure that in two yearsâ time, we would get to 10,000 megawattsâ.
Babangida, while speaking to reporters at his Minna home during his birthday ceremony on Tuesday, was quoted to have condemned Obasanjoâs eight-year tenure as not only a waste, but lacked focus.
But in his reaction yesterday, Obasanjo said: âNormally, when I read these things I donât believe them. Yesterday (Wednesday) when somebody phoned me and said this was said, I said I didnât believe it. He said check on all the papers (newspapers) and I said get me all the papers and they got me the papers, and I read them.
âIt is a little bit unlike Babangida. But if Babangida had decided on becoming a septuagenarian that will be a fool, I think one should probably do what the Bible says in Proverbs chapter 26, verse 4 that donât answer a fool because you may also become like him. When you go to the same Proverbs in chapter 26, verse 5, it says answer a fool so that he will not think heâs a wise man. So, I am now torn between which of the two verses I should follow in this respect.
Obasanjo continued: âSome of the things Babangida said, unfortunately, were not well thought-out. For instance, he talked about our energy (electricity). When I was the military head of state, I built the Jebba Dam and the Shiroro Dam, I prepared the foundation of Egbin power plant which President Shehu Shagari completed and commissioned. That time, the money we were making was not up to the money Babangida was making annually for his eight year-tenure and yet we built two dams.
âBut since the building of Egbin power plant, until I came back in 1999, there was no any generating plant for almost 20 years and Babangida spent eight years out of that. Now, he has the audacity to talk about anybody, I think that is unfortunate.
âI also read where he said in his time, he gave dividends of democracy and at the same time he regretted. When I read that, I said Babangida should be pitied and shown sympathy rather than anger or condemnation because the old saying says a fool at 40 is a fool forever and I would say a regret at 70 is regret too late. Well, a regret at 70 is regret to the grave.â
On electricity, Obasanjo explained that âas elected President, I built Papalanto, Omotosho and other plants and I started five independent power stations which were stopped for two and a half years.â
According to him, âas a country, Nigeria should be adding nothing less than 1,500 megawatts annually. South Africa with a population of 50 million generates 50,000 megawatts. Nigeria, with a population of about 165 million we are not generating 4,000 megawatts. My administration in 1999 met 1,500 megawatts before we took it up to 4,000 megawatts. What we started they are now allowing it to go on. I believe if they continue with the programme that we left, in another two years, we will get to 10,000 megawatts.â
Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Nasir el-Rufai was last week quoted to have accused Obasanjo of preventing the privatisation of the Nigeria Airways.
In reaction to this, the former president explained: âI blocked the sale of Nigeria Airways. When I was Military Head of State, Nigeria Airways had 32 aircraft, by the time I came back as an elected president of Nigeria, Nigeria Airways had only one aircraft.
âThe amount of money we would have to pay if Nigeria Airways was sold, what we would get out of it would have been less than 10 per cent of the debt we would have to pay. That would be the debt Nigerian tax-payers would have to pay and that would not be the best way to run the affairs of this country. I wonât run my own affairs that way, so I opted for liquidation. So, it was bankrupted, it was liquidated, in which case, whatever you gain from liquidation which is also a form of sale, it means the burden will be shared by all the creditors and everybody.
â If I owe you $10 and what I sell when I am liquidated is $2, thatâs what you get. So, I did not allow normal privatization or sale because it would have put very heavy burden on Nigeria. Nigerians should know that and in fact my administration should be commended for taking that decision.â
In a statement issued by his media aide, Kassim Afegbua, yesterday in Abuja, Babangida said while it is not his tradition to join issues, it became very pertinent to put the records straight.
âIt is certainly not in the tradition of Gen. Babangida, such a refined gentleman officer, to join issues with his subordinates and superiors, but for the price we owe history, this riposte becomes appropriate and necessary. We expected Chief Obasanjo to react to the substance of General Babangidaâs submissions and not deploy this distractive strategy to shy away from the real issues at stake. The statistics of the government they both ran at different times, speak for them. The history of Chief Obasanjo is an open sore that is irredeemably contrived in several incongruities and contradictions. When he pleaded with Babangida to be given another chance to extend his tenure, Babangida was not a fool then. When he was released from prison and granted state pardon, bathed in cerebral ornaments and clothed in royal beads and later crowned as President of Nigeria, Babangida was not a fool then. Now that he is at the extreme of his thoughts and engagements, he can decide to dress Babangida in borrowed robes. But the histories of both of them, when put to public scrutiny comparatively, Babangida is far glowing and instructively stands poles apart from Obasanjo. In terms of decency, finesse, class, distinction and general conduct, Babangida could be described in the superlatives but for Obasanjo, God bless Nigeria,â he said.
He continued: âFor a man who cannot possibly tell his true age, one may excuse his present outburst as the effusions of a witless comedian trying effortlessly to impress his select audience. On the issue of performance, Obasanjo cannot contemplate a comparison of his conquistadorial and largely acquisitive regime that plundered our hard-earned state resources, with that of Babangida government with verifiable record of achievements.âThe Guardian