Elder statesman and Ijaw leader Chief Edwin Clark yesterday challenged former Military President Gen. Ibrahim Babangida to a public debate on national issues.
Gen. Babangida through his media aide, Prince Kassim Afegbua, suggested that Clark was suffering from old age for blaming the Boko-Haram insurgency on him and some leaders of the North.
The statement was issued in response to Clark’s speech at the State of the Federation lecture organised by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) in Abuja last week .
Clark said the comments attributed to Gen. Babangida were at variance with the very positive and patriotic feedback he received from Nigerians after the lecture.
Clark challenged Gen. Babangida to direct his energy to finding solutions to the Boko-Haram violence instead of abusing him.
He said Gen. Babangida’s reaction showed miscomprehension and misconception of his opinions and the challenge thrown to the leaders of the North on the need to resolve the Boko-Haram menace.
Speaking through his Legal Adviser, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, the elder statesman recalled that he met with the Niger Delta militants in the creeks in what later led to the amnesty programme.
He challenged Gen. Babangida to organise a peace meeting with the Boko-Haram members to prove that he is a great patriot that he claims to be.
“Ordinarily, Gen. Babangida should have joined many other Nigerians who applauded Chief E. K. Clark for crying out over the wanton loss of lives being experienced daily over the senseless killings of Nigeria’s women and children, Christians and Moslems alike.
“Chief E. K. Clark is committed to the unity of Nigeria and peace within its borders. This was aptly demonstrated when some youths in the Niger Delta took up arms against the Federal Government of Nigeria, resulting in the near total shut down of oil production; crude oil production which normally stood at 2.5 million barrels per day was reduced to 700 thousand barrels daily. Chief Clark led a delegation of Niger Delta leaders into the creeks to appeal to the youths to lay down arms and embrace peace.
“Chief E. K. Clark also went to the creeks with the then Vice President, now President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, particularly to Okerenkoko and Camp 5 (which was the headquarters of the militants), thereby laying the foundation for the late President Yar ‘Adua’s amnesty programme.
“Therefore, amnesty did not come on a platter of gold, but through the genuine determination of the leaders of the Niger Delta, led by Chief E. K. Clark. Today, crude oil production in Nigeria has risen to about 2.7 million barrels per day.
“It is therefore imperative, irrespective of the name calling, to restate what was said at the NIALS lecture on the state of Nigerian federation that “Gen. Babangida and other Northern leaders must speak out, be proactive as well as demonstrate genuine commitment to address the challenges posed by the Boko Haram.’’ This is more so as precious lives of Nigerians are being wasted daily across the country in Borno, Yobe, Sokoto, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Abuja, Bauchi, etc.
“Furthermore, Chief Clark’s challenge to the leaders of the North above is predicated on the misguided statements of some of the Northern opinion leaders since the inception of this administration. For example, in October 2010 during a build up to the last presidential election, Alhaji Lawal Kaita, a prominent Northern leader, promised to make Nigeria ungovernable if the President did not come from the North. And as if on cue from Lawal Kaita, several other leaders of Northern Political Leaders Forum, headed by Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, of which Gen. Babangida is a prominent member, followed suit with similar reckless comments which might not only threaten peace in Nigeria but also Nigeria’s very existence.
“Recently in March, Lawal Kaita issued another threat to the effect that the only condition for Nigeria to be one is for the presidency to come to the North in 2015.
“It is in this vein that Chief Clark speaks to his good friends in the North, including General Babangida once again, irrespective of Gen. Babangida’s threat of litigation, that they should openly condemn Boko Haram and join hands with the Government and good people of Nigeria towards finding a lasting solution to the challenge posed by the Boko Haram menace. Any laxity on their part would, either wittingly and unwittingly, potentially put them out as accessories to the present security scourge in the Northern part of Nigeria.
“If this simple advice above is urgently heeded, it will save Gen. Babangida the need to wear uniform once again at the age of seventy one to fight for the unity of Nigeria.
“Let General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida step forward and offer his services to his Nation at this time of need. That is the road for the true patriot to tread.