President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, has revealed details of who said what during a recent meeting his principal had with all living former presidents and heads of state.
The leaders and Buhari held the meeting on October 23, 2020 over the EndSARS protest crisis.
At that meeting were Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Chief Ernest Shonekan, Abdulsalami Abubakar and Goodluck Jonathan.
In an article he entitled ‘#EndSARS: Inside PMB’s parley with former heads of state’ and released on Friday, Adesina said the meeting was very touching and poignant.
“For about two weeks, the country had been suffused with unrest, later violence, precipitated by what began as legitimate protests against police brutality, code-named #EndSARS. In the words of the President, the protests were later ‘hijacked and misdirected’ by hidden hostile hands, who wanted to destabilise the country.
“Lives had been lost in scores, countless public and private properties burnt, there was murder and mayhem everywhere. So it was needful that all former leaders of the country meet to put heads together, and fashion pragmatic ways forward”, he wrote.
On who said what, Adesina explained that Gowon in his opening remarks thanked President Buhari for accepting to host the meeting and said that the protest which started peacefully was later taken over by “organized miscreants” in Lagos and other parts of the country.
“Peace and genuine protests by youths have been hijacked,” he quoted Gowon to have lamented, adding that he “wished the youths had stood down after their initial requests had been granted by the government.”
He said that Buhari in his remarks after Gowon’s opening remarks, gave the former leaders a comprehensive brief on all that had happened since the protests began, up to his address to the nation, which had come up only the previous night.
Adesina reinstated what he had earlier reported as what Obasanjo said during the meeting.
According to him, Obasanjo commended Buhari for his speech over the EndSARS protest.
“You made points that I believe need to be commended. You said peaceful protests were part of democratic practice. You also indicated that the demands of the genuine protesters had been accepted, and you were working on implementation,” he quoted Obasanjo to have said.
He added that Obasanjo said the activities of hoodlums who hijacked the protests should be condemned, “as they took away the protests from those who initially planned them.”
On the job and economic situation in the country, Obasanjo said the interventions being made were good, but not far-reaching enough for a population of 200 million people.
“We need heavy local and international investments to make the impact we need to make. Our Foreign Direct Investment is inadequate. And we need to get better results in security, so that the investments can come,“ he submitted.
Adesina said, “When it was the turn of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) to speak, the President called out to him: ‘Ibro, it’s your turn.’ There was general laughter. That must have been how the President addressed his colleague as Comrade-at-arms in the military.
“IBB condoled with the families of those who died in the protests and riots. But he expressed concern on the quality of intelligence available to the security agencies.”
Babangida said, “With adequate intelligence, some of these things can be nipped in the bud,” adding: “I commend the government for the efforts so far, to end the protests.”
Chief Ernest Shonekan was brief in speech according to Adesina, saying that preventive actions were to be considered for the future, rather than curative.
He added: “please call us for more of these meetings. We need to frequently discuss very important national issues.”
General Abdulsalami Abubakar also talked about the need for intelligence gathering and synergy among the security agencies, whom he says should avoid “multiple mandates.”
Adesina quoted Jonathan to have in his remarks begun by saying he didn’t have the confidence to call the former leaders “my colleagues.” So, he opted for “my most senior colleagues.”
“He commended the broadcast of the previous night, and asked pertinent questions: what led to the crisis? How do we stop such in future, even after the Buhari administration?”
The president’s spokesman said that Buhari rounded off the meeting with remarks,thanking all the former leaders for their contributions, which he said had all been well noted.