A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and publicity secretary of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Chief Ebenezer Babatope, has charged the new Nigerian Service Chiefs to take up the task of properly securing the country. In this interview with OLADIPUPO AWOJOBI, Babatope also urged the Federal Government to go back to the report of the 2014 Constitutional Conference. Excerpts…
What can you say about the way the Federal Government is handling the issue of insecurity in Nigeria?
We now have new Service Chiefs, let them put in their best and ensure that Nigeria is secured. They must be professional in their approach, quick in their reactions and understand that security is the heaviest task before Nigeria and the armed forces.
As an elder statesman how do you think the nation’s economy can be handled and what is your assessment of the Federal Government?
There is not much the government can do and I will not want to say the government is doing badly on it because COVID- 19 is taking too much from us. But we must cut our coats according to our cloth so that we can control the resources that are available to us. We must not be extravagant and we must not think we are in the past, when we could spend recklessly.
There have been agitations by some sections for Nigeria to be divided. Do you think we have what it takes to remain as a country or we should go our separate ways?
If you are talking of division of the country, I don’t agree to that, we have to pull ourselves together and remain as a country. If we go our separate ways it would not be good; we were not created in such a way that we should divide the country. We should live together, unite and put ourselves together.
We had a Constitutional Conference in 2014, would you advise the Federal Government to go back to that report or organise another conference?
If we say we want to organise another Constitutional Conference there is no assurance that we will implement what the conference says. The 2014 conference was very good. It tackled several problems of Nigeria and suggested solutions to them. I think it was wrong for President Muhammadu Buhari not to implement the report of the conference. If we should go for a new Constitutional Conference, we would be wasting our money. Let us see what has been tackled in the last Constitutional Conference and let us see how Nigeria can move forward from it.
2023 is around the corner and people like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu are being encouraged to contest for the position of the President and some other people are saying that it would be the turn of the South East in that year. What is your take on this?
Unfortunately, my comment on Asiwaju Bola Tinubu would not be relevant because I don’t belong to the same political party with him. Tinubu is in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and I am in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I am very concerned about ensuring that we do the best for Nigerian people. If Tinubu is interested to be the president of Nigeria, he has every right to contest for whatever he wants to contest for. He is in a different party from mine, so I cannot agitate for him, I will agitate for my party. I will support the PDP to present a candidate and we are going to ensure that a PDP man becomes the President of Nigeria in 2023. The PDP president would be able to manage the affairs of the country having passed through such in the past. We know our mistakes and we will ensure that we don’t make such mistakes again.
Talking about the PDP, would you support a candidate from the South West, South East or South South?
Our prayer is that God should give us someone who will be able to manage Nigeria and ensure that we have peace in the country. The issue of South West, South East and others is very important, but if we draw it up too much it can destroy the country.
Would you say the Federal Government is handling the issue of the Fulani Herdsmen properly?
I am concerned about the fact that we should not allow people to gravitate towards what can actually destroy this country. The Hausa/Fulanis should not think that they have the right to terrorise this country because the President of the country is Hausa/Fulani. President Muhammadu Buhari should let people know that he is fair minded enough to ensure that there is peaceful coexistent in the country. I don’t know who these Fulanis are. They maim people and carry them away, trouble and kill them, but this will not solve the problem at all. I want to appeal to the people of the country that we should come together and ensure that we nip this in the bud. We should ensure that we have harmony and that Nigerians are able to live together in peace.