Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has fired back at General Ibrahim Babangida in a reaction to the comments made by the latter about him and his eight year rule. In an interview on his 70th birthday, General Babangida had compared his administration with that of Chief Obasanjo and concluded that the Obasanjo administration was visionless and his time as President was much better than that of Obasanjo.
According to Chief Obasanjo, General Babangida was just being foolish and rather than condemning him or getting angry at him, he should be shown sympathy rather than anger or condemnation as he was showing characteristics of being foolish at the age of 70.
Speaking during the visit of an American Team on an inspection of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta, Obasanjo said he had decided not to respond to Babangida. He however said he changed his mind so that he would not consider himself wise.
Former President Obasanjo disclosed that his attention was drawn to the General Babangida’s comments by someone who called him. He said “when somebody phoned me and said this was said, I said don’t believe it. He said check on all the papers and I said get me all the papers, they got me the papers and I read; it’s a little bit unlike Babangida”.
Speaking further, he said “but if Babangida had decided on becoming a septuagenarian, that he will be a fool, I think one should probably do what the Bible says in Proverbs chapter 26, verse 4. It says don’t answer a fool because you may also become like him.
When you go to the same Proverbs chapter 26, verse 5, it says answer a fool so that he will not think he’s a wise man. So, I am now torn between which of the two verses I should follow in this respect. Some of the things he said unfortunately were not well thought-out.
For instance, he talked about our energy. When I was the military Head of State, I built Jebba dam; built Shiroro dam, I prepared the foundation of Egbin plant which President Shagari completed and commissioned. That time the money we were making was not up to the money Babangida was making annually for his eight years and yet we built two dams.
Because it was important, you know that power is the driving force for development and for any developing country. But since the building of Egbin power plant, until I came back in 1999 there was not 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.
I also read where he said in his time, he gave the dividends of democracy and at the same time he regretted. When I read that, well 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 a regret to the grave.
“Then as elected president, I built Papalanto, Omotosho, others and I started five what they called Independent Power Stations which were stopped for two and a half years. Now that the present administration has started building a new power project at Uyo. As a country, Nigeria should be adding nothing less than 1,500 megawatts annually. South Africa with a population of 50 million generates 50,000 mega watts.
As at 1999, we met 1,500 mega watts before we took it up to 4,000 mega watts. 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”.
And apparently reacting to allegations made by Malam Nasir El-Rufai at the hearing of the Senate Committee probing the affairs of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Chief Obasanjo admitted that he blocked the sale of Nigeria Airways because he believed that the sale would have put Nigeria in further debt.
He said “I blocked the sale of Nigeria Airways, not that I attempted to block the sale of Nigeria Airways. When I was military head of state, Nigeria Airways had 32 aircrafts, by the time I came back as elected President of Nigeria, Nigeria Airways had only one aircraft.
“One of the 32 was a wide bodied aircraft, they have all gone and the report on which we worked is here, the amount of money we will have to pay if Nigeria Airways was sold, what we would get out of it is less than 10 percent of the debt we have to pay. That will be the debt Nigeria tax payers will have to pay; that will not be the way to run the affairs of this country. I won’t run my own affairs that way, so I opted for liquidation. So, it was bankrupt, 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. So, if I owe you 10 dollars and what I sell when I am liquidated is two. That’s what you get. So, I did not allow normal privatization or sale because it would have put very heavy burden on Nigeria.
“So, Nigerians should know that and in fact my administration should be commended for that. It’s not that I did not allow that sale because the law establishing it is sale and liquidation is also a form of sale”, Obasanjo said.