A former Nigerian military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, has criticised the recent setting up of the South-west regional security initiative, Amotekun, saying it is not sustainable.
Mr Babangida also dismissed the current government’s claim of curbing the insurgency in the North-east.
Amotekun was set up by the South-west governors to combat the security menace in the region.
Mr Babangida commended the initiative but faulted its sustainability even though many Nigerians have said the initiative is an appropriate solution to the country’s security challenges.
He said the governors may not be able to foot the needed expenses for this new security outfit on the long run.
“They must equip them, you must pay them salaries. You must give them all the welfare they need. That is going to be a problem for the states. Where will they get the money to foot those bills?
“If they have succeeded in convincing the federal government to put out some part of the revenue for the purposes of that, I can understand that, but if they take it on themselves, it is going to be a problem,” the ex-military president said Monday night during an interview programme, Newsnight, on Channels Television.
He described the initiative as an “overstretch of security functions” and suggested the revitalisation of the existing security forces in the country.
“What we need to do is to have a closer look. We have a lot of security outfits; we have the army, the mobile police, the National Defence security, we have a whole load of them. I think they should be assigned specific responsibilities to lessen the financial burden this initiative would cost the government of the states in the long run,” Mr Babangida, who annulled the June 12, 1993, presidential poll, said.
Mr Babangida also dismissed the federal government’s claim of winning the war against insurgency as he quoted the recent complaints of a governor from the region.
“I think a lot needs to be done, quite frankly, because if what we read in the papers or listen to on radio are true, there are still some challenges in most of these areas assumed to be security stabilised.
“What they need to do is to get a lot of intelligence information. It looks to me that there are people who are thinking for the insurgents. We need to find out who are thinking for them, who are leading them, and who are supplying them weapons and ammunition to put a stop to this. That is probably the way I assess it,” Mr Babangida said.
Mr Babangida, in the same interview, said Nigeria has done well even though its choice of leadership in this democratic dispensation still left much to be desired.
He said Nigerians need a reorientation of what politics is, to be able to select leaders beyond political or ethnic affiliations.
“The unity we sowed from fighting to remain united, we didn’t do much in trying to get people to indoctrinate them through political interactions. So, the moment we reintroduced politics, the first thing that came to our mind was what political parties or political system used to be before the civil war. We saw that as a starting point, and once we see that we could hardly change it,” he said.
Mr Babangida said for Nigeria to remain united, “Nigerians must ensure the selection of leaders with convincing visions for the masses at different levels of governance.”
“The whole thing depends on the leadership selection; one of the things I would have loved to see is if you want to pick a leader, you should be able to assess his thoughts about the country, the unity, (that) he will not jeopardise it, try to use everything within his powers legitimately to make sure that the country remains one.
“Our selection of leadership is the most important thing; political, military and economic leadership. Once this is strong, and everybody in this sector believes in this country, I think we won’t have a problem,” he said.
No fear of coup
He also dismissed the possibility of soldiers staging another coup d’ état in Nigeria.
“It is no longer in their psyche, it is no longer acceptable in Africa and in the world generally, so he (soldier) is intelligent enough to know that if he stages a coup, the country will be ostracised in the community of nations, there can be an uprising in your own country, so it’s no longer fashionable.”
He also noted how different military leaders keyed into their predecessor’s vision to actualise “some of the military legacies seen today”.
He said this was unlike “how democratic governments quickly abandon their predecessors’ policies even if it suits the interest of the people on the altar of political or ethnic affiliations.”
He cited how “his administration actualised Muritala’s Muhammed’s vision of making a neutral ground like Abuja the capital of the country to foster unity.”