Sunday, August 5, 2012

STATE OF THE NATION: OBJ, IBB reach out to past heads of state, eminent Nigerians

Ex Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo
*Inaugural meeting to hold after Ramadan
*’Why peace move may hit brick wall’
*Prof. Akinyemi proposes Eminent Persons Group
Consequent upon the continuing insurgency in the northern part of Nigeria, coupled with the “internecine crises raging across the land”, former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida have intensified efforts to mobilize other former heads of state.
This latest mobilization drive by both men would be extended to cover other national leaders of thought in the country.
Though our source was not told the modalities that would be used to “determine how the leaders of thought would be selected”, it was nonetheless suggested that “both men are reaching across the broad spectrum of Nigeria’s leadership cadre with a view to finding lasting solutions to the plethora of highly combustible issues confronting the present administration”.
Possibly, according to what was suggested by information made available by a very dependable source close to both men, the inaugural meeting of the leaders, expected to hold immediately after this month of Ramadan, “may crystallize into a new body whose mandate would go beyond solving the immediate challenges confronting Nigeria”.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, had told our source in September 2010, at the height of the zoning crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that “time has become ripe for Nigeria to have a NATIONAL EMINENT PERSONS GROUP, NEPG”.
According to Akinyemi, who spoke to our source again yesterday, “The proposal I made in 2010 is today very much relevant because the time has come for Nigeria to have such a body.  You would recall that in an interview with you in May, I reminded you of the same idea which would go a long way to help resolve some of the problems confronting the government of the day; as well as some of the perennial challenges that are becoming a part of Nigeria’s crises-laden life”.
He continued: “Such a body would be completely apolitical and would operate separately and distinctly from the NATIONAL COUNCIL OF STATES, NCS.  In the NCS, you have state governors and past leaders some of whom have openly shown their preference for political platforms and as such, some of the arguments and discussions at the NCS would likely be shaped by party positions.
“But a NATIONAL EMINENT PERSONS GROUP would be constituted in such a way that political cleavages would not be brought in since almost all the leaders in such a body would not be known to have political affiliations.  These leaders would also be the ones to go back to their respective communities to preach peace as well and give a feed back to the body on the potential issues that are likely going to create larger national crises.  Though it would be advisory, such a body is likely to go very far because it would be divorced from the day to day politicking that seems to becloud everything we try to do in this country”.
On Obasanjo and Babangida’s peace initiative, Professor Akinyemi said “any initiative at a time like this for peace to reign in the country makes a lot of sense”.
In separate interviews with some national leaders, our source was made to understand that whereas the move initiated by Obasanjo and Babangida is a welcome one at a time of national crises like this, the “down side is that it did not enjoy broad consensus”.
A two-time minister from North West Nigeria, who insisted on talking on condition of anonymity, said: “I think both men know what they are trying to do but they should have involved past leaders like General Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, General Muhammadu Buhari, Ernest Shonekan and General Abdulsalam Abubakar.  If they had collectively issued that statement of last Sunday, it would have carried more weight.
“The two leaders are known members of the PDP.
“One had served for eight years as President while the other attempted to get the party’s ticket on two separate occasions.  Now, when the two men come out to issue a statement on the state of the nation and the need for peace, is it not their party that is at the centre of governance?  The roles of the two men while they were leaders, when looked into critically, can not be divorced in any way – just as roles played by all past leaders – from the present state of affairs in the country”.
Another very vocal Second Republic legislator told our source that “they should have broadened the scope of their move.  It would sound funny if you now begin to say Buhari or Shagari has joined forces with both men to seek peace.
As if mindful of the sentiments voiced by those concerned about the stature of Obasanjo and Babangida, a source close to both men said: “Moves are already on and contact being made with past leaders.
“Both leaders know that the challenges confronting Nigeria today require all hands to be on deck and they suggested that in their statement of last Sunday.
“Yes, a tree can not make a forest and that is why they are also reaching out.  What is wrong in a peace initiative?  This is Nigeria and whatever people do, some are bound to find faults.  The country needs all hands to be on deck now”.
Last Sunday, both former presidents had issued a statement raising concerns about the state of the nation and all but said the present administration was clueless.  They advised that President Goodluck Jonathan should scale up his efforts.

Ibrahim Babangida, former Nigerian head of state

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