All is not well within the camp of former military dictator and Peoples Democratic Party presidential aspirant, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, as many of his former supporters have deserted him. SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that the campaign is also experiencing some hiccups as the Evil Genius is believed to be weary of committing more of his personal money into the bid.
Among those that were initially pencilled down for appointment into the campaign but reportedly opted out due to irreconcilable differences included a former Brig.Gen. Halilu Akilu(retd.), who was to head the security unit of the campaign and Chief Duro Onabule, who was at the outset slated to lead the media team.
Akilu was the Director of Military Intelligence when Babangida was the head of state, while Onabule was the Chief Press Secretary.
It was also learnt that many other loyalists of the former military ruler who had presided over the country for eight years (1985-1993) were not happy with the way the campaign office was being run.
Besides, our correspondent gathered that some of Babangida‘s juniors in the military had asked him to drop his ambition, saying the former general was only famous, but not popular among the citizenry.
While some of those who stayed away from him were said to have adduced personal reasons for their action, others said the ambition of a former Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili to become Babangida‘s running mate was causing ripples in the camp.
SUNDAY PUNCH findings showed that it was because of this that Odili brought Chief Raymond Dokpesi to head the campaign office to enable the former to know the day-to-day happenings in the camp.
Dokpesi had led Odili‘s campaign office when he was running for the presidency in 2007.
Odili, it was further learnt, is yet to drop his presidential ambition and is hoping that Babangida, who annulled the June 12, 1993 presidential election considered to be the freest and fairest in the country, would make him his deputy.
His confidence was said to have been fuelled by the assurances by Babangida, who has been described as a leader that cannot be trusted, that he would rule for only four years and relinquish power to someone from the South-East.
Interestingly, the promise, it was learnt, is pitching Odili and a former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani against each other.
Both are said to have the belief that whoever becomes Babangida‘s deputy in the next dispensation, will automatically be the country‘s president in 2015.
Nnamani is said to be banking on the roles he played to kill the alleged third term ambition of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007, while Odili is relying on his deep financial pocket.
In fact, it was alleged that Odili is the largest financier of the Babangida-must-be-president project.
Dokpesi, it will be recalled, only recently said but for Obasanjo‘s intervention in 2007, Odili would have won the PDP presidential primaries.
He said the former President had even congratulated Odili in advance, saying that security reports had shown clearly that if they went to the poll, he would have defeated Umaru Yar‘Adua, who later became the president.
Meanwhile, Nnamani has declared that his relationship with Odili remained cordial, adding that until the party‘s standard-bearer emerges, the concern of who becomes Babangida‘s deputy would not arise.
The former Senate President in a text message to our correspondent described the theory as empty.
He said, “Babangida is an aspirant not a presidential candidate. The issue of running mate does not arise at this point until a candidate emerges. Dr. Peter Odili and I have very cordial relationship.”
In a related development, those expected to finance Babangida‘s campaign have started taking back seats.
A retired Major General (name withheld), who was also a former military administrator was said to have made a tactical withdrawal from the project.
Though he was said to have donated “a substantial amount in the past,” a source said the General has had a rethink and had stopped attending meetings called by Babangida‘s loyalists.
This, it was further learnt, had restricted activities in the campaign office, a situation said to have been worsened by the refusal of the Minna-born General to release his money for the electioneering.
The source said, ”You know the general does not love spending his personal money. Moreover, he too is having the fear that he may not go far in the race and so, he does not want to lose his money.
”That is why I think the man has been very careful in this regard. Apart from this, you know he still believes that Nigerians have not really forgiven him because of the way he treated them when he was in power.
“And being a man who hardly trusts people since he too is cunning, he is afraid that people are out to benefit from him.”
A former governor of Cross River State, Chief Clement Ebri, who is believed to be one of Babangida‘s loyalists, when contacted told our correspondent that he was not ready to speak on the issue for now, while the Director Media and Communications, Babangida‘s Campaign Organisation, Kassim Afegbua, did not pick his call.
Also the text message sent to Afegbua’s phone was not responded to as at the time of going to the press.