Billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola, has commended former Head of State, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, for the decision taken over the political issue caused by the prolonged sickness of former President, Umaru Yar’Adua in 2010.
The businessman in his forthcoming book scheduled for release in November disclosed how the former military President directed him to tell the Vice President at the time, Goodluck Jonathan, to sit on the vacant seat of the president during the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
The failure of late president Yar’Adua to transfer power to his vice while on a medical trip caused tension across the country as a result of the power vacuum.
Otedola who disclosed why business personnel should engage with politicians added that such relationships will benefit the country.
He wrote, “Entrepreneurs’ outreach and dialogue with political leaders, among many positives, will ensure stability and social coherence, guaranteeing economic progress.
“Worried by the tension and uncertainty, I decided to do something on my own.
“In the first week of February 2010, I went to Minna, Niger State, along with Hajia Bola Shagaya, to commiserate with General Babangida over the death of his wife, Maryam.
“At his Hilltop residence, we spoke on a wide range of issues but I told him I needed to discuss an urgent and vital issue. He took me to his study, where the two of us were alone. I told him the state of the nation had been agitating my mind.
“I asked Babangida how can we get out of this logjam that the political heat is too much.
“Calm and resolute, IBB replied: ‘Femi, advise your friend that when he gets to the council chambers next week for the FEC meeting, he should go and sit on the president’s chair’. I found that fascinating and assured him I would pass the message across. I travelled back to Abuja by road in the evening and went straight to have dinner with Jonathan. I did not waste time in delivering Babangida’s message to him. He nodded and asked me: ‘What do you think?’ I laughed and said, ‘Be a man, Your Excellency. Go and sit on that chair.
“He looked at me for some time and responded that he would think about it. A week later, on Tuesday, February 9, the National Assembly adopted the famous ‘Doctrine of Necessity to make Jonathan acting president pending the return of Yar’Adua from his medical leave. Behind-the-scene moves by prominent Nigerians preceded this decision. The legislative resolution was unprecedented but the nation had been tensed up. The fault lines were so stoked that an unusual solution was needed to address the unique situation.
“With Jonathan now legally empowered to act as president, there remained the critical optics: would he stand-in for the president confidently and authoritatively? Or would he try to maintain a subdued outlook? The following day was the FEC meeting.
“As Jonathan entered the council chamber, he made to sit on the chair of the vice president, his usual seat. As the protocol officer pulled out the chair, Jonathan marched towards the seat reserved for the president. And he sat on it.
“That was the moment Jonathan took control of power. By that act, he sent a strong signal to all Nigerians that he was now in charge. The same day, Jonathan even reshuffled the cabinet.”