President Goodluck Jonathan has intervened in the public feud between the two former rulers and retired army generals – Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida, trying to prevail on both men to desist from publicly expressing their differences. They both exchanged words last week, calling each other fools.
Embarrassed and eager to defuse the tension, report said Jonathan had intervened on Saturday, making separate telephone calls to Obasanjo and Babangida, who are also chieftains of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, on Saturday.
A presidency source disclosed that Jonathan had to intervene before the quarrel between the former presidents degenerates into their making disclosures and allegations that would embarrass government and its functionaries, past and present, apart from placing national security at a risk.
Babangida actually began the trouble last Wednesday at a news conference to mark his 70th birthday in Minna, Niger State, when he said that Obasanjo’s eight year tenure was a huge waste. He used the occasion to take a swipe at Obasanjo’s administration of Nigeria as a civilian president. He said Obasanjo’s administration spent $16bn on electricity without result, adding that if his own regime had the enormous revenue available to the Obasanjo government, he would have given Nigeria power.
Obasanjo fired back on Thursday saying, “They got me the papers and I read them. It is a little bit unlike Babangida. 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.’ I am torn between which of the two verses I should follow in this respect.”
Babangida however retorted saying, “One may excuse his (Obasanjo) present outburst as the effusions of a witless comedian.”
Obasanjo who was the president between 1999 and 2007 was also a military head of government from 1976 to 1979. Babangida was military president from 1985 to 1993 when he “stepped aside” from power following the popular protests that greeted the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential poll by him.
On Sunday, Pa. Reuben Fasoranti, the Octogenarian leader of the Yoruba social and political organization, Afenifere, described the feud as a “show of shame.”
There are fears that the war of words between the two elder statesmen might result in a major crisis within the military and even the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to which they both belong, and by extension, the country at large.