Abuja — FORMER President Ibrahim Babangida, yesterday, slammed elder-statesman Chief Edwin Clark over his allegation that some Northern leaders including him, Babangida, were soft on the Boko Haram insurgency.
In a stout rebuttal to the assertion, Babangida alleged that sense may indeed have departed from Clark and hence his disregard for the historic role he (Babangida) played in unifying the country.
Affirming that he had no reason to play politics with the issue having left the 'political industry', Babangida traced the difficulties of the Jonathan administration to divisive people he said were of the same mindset with Clark, who have prevented the present administration from seeking reasonable counsel from those that could help it.
He specifically alluded to former Heads of State who he claimed were not being consulted by the present administration.
Babangida spoke in response to Clark's claims last Wednesday that some northern leaders were behind the increasing spate of violence in the country.
Clark spoke as guest speaker at the second State of the Federation Lecture organised by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, NIALS.
Clark had specifically challenged Babangida and former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari to condemn the activities of the Boko Haram group that has claimed responsibility for the insurgency campaign in many parts of the north.
Clark noting the joint declaration by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Babangida on the spate of insecurity had said at the lecture:
"Boko Haram preceded Jonathan. It started in 2002 when Obasanjo was President. It was there when Yar'Adua was also ruling. It is not synonymous with Jonathan. I had expected that somebody like Babangida should have spoken since. I thought he would have spoken with his friend Buhari. Two of them have been meeting. So why is he now with Obasanjo?
"At 72, Babangida said he will wear uniform and fight for the unity of Nigeria, he should therefore stand up now and condemn Boko Haram from the bottom of his heart, not with Obasanjo. Obasanjo has gone to Maiduguri to meet the people, why has Babangida not gone?" he asked.
But responding yesterday, in a statement issued by his spokesman, Kassim Afegbua, Babangida said:
"The statement reportedly credited to Chief Edwin Clark on Friday, August 3, 2012 in several newspapers and online media to the effect that General IBB has a hand in Boko Haram, is the subject of this response. We are ashamed to state here that rather than coming up with plausible and efficacious solution[s] to the insecurity in the country, what the self-acclaimed elder statesman came up with was buck-passing, such odium and rancid outburst, to the extent of trying to accuse General Ibrahim Babangida on the Boko Haram menace. We view this misguided and senseless statement in very bad taste and we take very strong exceptions to his drooling and implied conclusion.
I 'll not work against Nigeria's unity, stability
"For the purpose of putting the records straight, General Ibrahim Babangida, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, former President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces and civil war hero, does not and will not have a hand in anything untoward against the unity and stability of the Nigerian State. Having seen it all in life, and now enjoying his retirement in Minna, Niger State, General Ibrahim Babangida has paid his dues by serving his fatherland to the best of his ability at various times in the history of the country.
"Having invested so much in the unity and stability of the country, to the extent of fighting in the civil war to keep the country together, it is out of place for anyone, least of all an old man of Edwin Clark's nomenclature, to input directly or indirectly that the great IBB should prove his innocence on the Boko Haram menace.
"We want to believe that Chief Edwin Clark was quoted out of context, but if indeed he did say what was credited to him, we are forced to accept the conclusion that on account of his age, his senses have since departed him. He needs our empathies and not sympathies. We have since known Chief Edwin Clark to be a loose cannon in public discourse. He deserves our pity.
"We were expecting Chief Edwin Clark to use the opportunity of his forum to advance solutions to the insecurity situation in the country with particular reference to the Boko Haram crisis. General Ibrahim Babangida has offered several approaches and methodologies to addressing the precarious situation both in public and private, and had stated without equivocation that dialogue would serve as a better tool than this militant approach which is not yielding appropriate result.
"He had also stated that President Goodluck Jonathan should use some of the respected Muslim clerics in the North as middlemen to reach members of Boko Haram and appeal for calm and understanding, in the interest of the unity and stability of the system. Needless to state that Government is a huge institution with several options open to it. And the earlier we discard this old method of reactionary approach and adopt a proactive one, in handling sensitive situations such as the one under reference, the better it will be for the country.
"With ethnic mindset of a Chief Edwin Clark, we can understand why the country appears fixated and why there has not been nationally accepted approach to combating this Boko Haram menace. Anyone who sees the Boko Haram menace as strictly a Northern affair would be exhibiting crass ignorance about leadership in a multi-ethnic configuration like Nigeria."
Babangida who reiterated the need for a collective responsibility in nipping in the bud the problem, said, "the earlier we began the patriotic process of viewing challenges as collective responsibility, the better it would be for getting solutions to the problem. When ethnic jingoists speak and reason in the manner that Chief Edwin Clark did, then we have a huge problem on our hands.
"Former President, General Ibrahim Babangida has no hand in the present challenges facing President Goodluck Jonathan, and the insecurity in the country. In fact, it is IBB's belief that some of the problems were inherited by the present administration. IBB has since left the political turf for the younger generation of Nigerians. He has said repeatedly that he will no longer be an applicant in the political industry in Nigeria until Allah calls him home.
"Rather than crucify General IBB for nothing, Chief Edwin Clark should blame the corruption in the system and the several incompetence and inadequacies of the present system.
Instead of buck-passing and playing the blame game, we expect Edwin Clark to advise the government of the day to do more of consultation with former presidents, opinion moulders and leaders of thoughts across the country with the aim of getting lasting and integrated solutions to our problems.
Let it be noted that further implied statements and misplaced accusations from Chief Edwin Clark would be greeted with litigation. A word is enough for the aged."