Nigeria’s former leaders, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday advised Nigeria’s President-elect, Bola Tinubu, to become president for all Nigerians once he takes over the mantle of leadership of the country.
The three former leaders in separate interviews, also urged Nigerians to be patient with the incoming administration at it settles in for the difficult job of redirecting the country.
Stressing that Nigeria is currently polarised, in his remarks, Babangida said that Tinubu needs all the skills to be able to unite the country, expressing the view that Nigeria has some of the best brains that he can tap from to revamp every sector, including the military.
“As Commander-in-Chief, he needs to take a good look at the armed forces to reorient them, retrain them and reorganise them because the armed forces have undergone a lot of processes that need to be put together and make them more efficient,” he stated.
He also urged Tinubu to reorganise the civil service, but added that he was sure Tinubu will do what he needs to do to make Nigeria a better country. Babangida further urged opponents of the president-elect to accept the results of the last election.
He said that although Nigeria started well as a nation, there had been some ‘mishaps’ along the way, including the recent practice of the monetisation of the election process.
The former head of state called for a reform of the electoral process, including massive voter education, expressing worry that of the over 90 million registered voters , the number of persons that came out was less than half of the total figure.
Babangida maintained that Nigeria remains blessed with everything it needs to survive, urging the new administration to redesign the economic system in Nigeria.
“I wish the new administration well. Let them put Nigeria first and the welfare of Nigerians should be paramount. Leadership at all levels is missing,” he argued , stressing that although some leaders know what to do , they should strive to rally Nigerians behind them.
The former Nigerian leader urged his countrymen to be patient, but said Nigerian leaders should have moments of reflection. He also said he had no regrets as Nigeria’s former leader.
“ The only advice is to be patient and continue to support the new government but if they see things going wrong, they should cry out as usual, but be objective about it,” he said.
Babangida further urged the incoming government to open up the economy and give Nigerians a direction on how it intends to solve unemployment, inflation, among others.
On his part, Gowon said he was satisfied that 60 years after, Nigeria still remains as one entity and called for massive support for the incoming government.
“As far as I am concerned, I am satisfied that we are still existing as a united nation after the little fracas. Thank God we made it to 60 years and I hope we make it to the next 60 years, though I might not be here. But that is my belief: to keep Nigeria one and to strive to make a better country.
“Do your best, be a loyal Nigerian, love Nigeria-good or bad. Whatever it is. If it is bad, try to make it better and if it is good, try to make it the best. This is my attitude and this is why I have always supported every government that started in this country and I will continue to support them,” he explained.
Jonathan, who spoke extensively on the election process, called for a reform of the system to ensure that persons appointed to the commission are not only of impeccable character , but go through a rigorous screening process.
“I know there are issues bordering on the election, some are happy, some are not. Some are feeling other ways,” he stated.
He added: “In my own time in 2015, my senior officials, people who worked with me , there was this fear that after losing election, what will be their fate.
“Will the new government just throw us into jail without even giving us fair hearing, because government is next to God and could decide to do anything. That fear was in the mind of people. Some people said should I stay, or run away?
“But this is different because it is the same party that has taken over, so the tension we faced then, Buhari may not face the same tension. Yes, there may be some who may have issues that bothee them. But on the average they won’t have that kind of feeling. But it was tense and by this time , I already conceded defeat, so that was completely over.
“I knew why I conceded defeat because I was more interested in the country than myself which I also advise every politician, because without a country, there will be no president.
“The problem we have is the electoral management body and the security. If two soccer teams are playing and the referee decides to look the other way, they will injure themselves. You must not allow it.
“The electoral management body shares more than 60 per cent of the blame because if they do their work well , the politicians will have no choice than to follow the rules, they and the security and the courts.
“I believe one day we will get there, but I feel sad now that our electoral process is still wobbly. We have migrated from card reader to BVAS, which is a superior technology. Why do we still have problems?
“For manual voting, we have problems, electronic we have problems, so where is the problem coming from? It’s the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC). INEC has to sit up so as not to throw this country into conflagration one day,” he posited.
Jonathan contended that the companies which build the machines during the elections, should be allowed to manage them, since they will want to protect their image, noting that the alleged redeployment of one IT staff of INEC during the last election wouldn’t have arisen if that was the case.
On how to resolve electoral disputes, Jonathan stressed that he was worried that elections in Nigeria are still very contentious and controversial, noting that Nigeria should be leading Africa in terms of democracy and be able to conduct free and fair polls.
He admitted that Nigeria’s election conduct remains one of the worst in the world, insisting that the system must convince people who lose elections that they truly lost. He also pointed out that frustration arising from election could lead to unpalatable outcomes.
He said if he had the chance and Mahmud Jega’s tenure had run out during his time, he planned to make the process of appointing the person for the INEC top job more thorough.
Meanwhile, the wife of the president-elect, Senator Remi Tinubu, has said she is hopeful that her husband will succeed as president, especially with the prayers of Nigerians.
Stressing that the country’s commonwealth belongs to the entire people of Nigeria, Tinubu’s wife stated that her family will not need Nigeria’s money to survive, since according to her, they are already blessed.
“The commonwealth belongs to everyone. God has blessed my family. We don’t need the wealth of Nigeria to survive, but to do the right thing and I promise you on this altar that with your help and with the help of God, we will set this nation on the right path.
“ We need your prayers. I can tell you, I, for one, I am a silent worker. I am not a noise maker but I listen and I hear. It is not out of pride, but it is about what the journey meted on us. We’ve been bruised. Our bodies are not like the same again. But once the spirit is strong…,” she stated.