The band of military loyalists of former military ruler, General Ibrahim Babangida, who were known in his days in office as Babangida Boys, have joined the push of the influential figures moving to see the former military leader out of the 2011 presidential race.
Nigerian Tribune sources revealed that who displayed their unflinching support for General Babangida while in office had reached out to their former boss and declared the need for him to serve as a bridge builder in the 2011 presidential race rather than being a loser. It was gathered that while the former military governor of Kaduna State, Colonel Abubakar Umar, had written to Babangida, asking him to withdraw from the race, others had chosen different means to inform the Minna General to quit the race.
Sources also confirmed that the President of the Senate, Mr David Mark, had asked to be counted out of IBB’s political moves long ago. He is said to be of the belief that the time has come for IBB to play the role of a statesman, who could be consulted on issues rather than being an active participant that would hold an executive position.
It was further learnt that most of the acclaimed IBB Boys had distanced themselves from his repeated bid to return to Aso Rock because they believed that such a move would rake up old wounds.
A source close to a number of the generals who are known as IBB Boys said that with the manner in which Babangida left office in 1993, there would always be controversy whenever he attempted to regain the presidency.
“We cannot deceive ourselves, there was commotion leading to IBB’s stepping aside in 1993. Those who felt aggrieved by his actions leading to the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election would wish themselves dead rather than see IBB return to office. It is a potential issue that could further polarise the country,” a source who has been monitoring the exchanges between IBB and his former boys said.
The source said that former military officers who served under Babangida had not been enthusiastic about his possible return to office because of the larger effects such a development would have on the country.
Another source also said that rather than live the life of a statesman, Babangida had decided to throw himself into the race where younger figures like President Goodluck Jonathan and Mallam Nuhu Ribadu were already making waves.
“Many of us were also not happy that while a lot was expected from IBB during the crisis that engulfed the nation as a result of the prolonged illness of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, he remained in the dark and only declared interest in the presidency after Yar’Adua’s death.
“The period of Yar’Adua’s illness would have provided the best opportunity for Babangida to bounce back into positive reckoning of Nigerians when they would easily have forgotten his past errors. But because he was not seen as having played a stabilising role at that time, his past has continued to make the headlines,” the source said, adding that rather than being seen as one of those who stabilised the nation, IBB was mentioned as one of those who allegedly masterminded the secret return of President Yar’Adua to Nigeria on February 24, even when his health had not improved.
Sources said that while key former IBB Boys, including Senate President Mark, Senator Tunde Ogbeha and former military governor of Lagos State, Brigadier-General Raji Rasaki, had identified with President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2011 race, others who were not that visible politically had told Babangida to avoid being humiliated in the race.
“It would have been better for his political image if he was defeated by somebody like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was his senior in the force. But for him to be defeated by younger elements, that would diminish his political standing and rubbish his ego. The well-known IBB would be demystified and that is not good for him, that is why many of his close associates are advising him to withdraw from the race,” a source close to many IBB Boys said.
It was gathered that many of his military loyalists were already advising IBB to utilise the opportunity of the consensus option by the North to disqualify himself from the race and then start playing the role of a statesman.
Another option said to have been suggested to IBB was that he could capitalise on the so-called ambiguity in the zoning formula of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to withdraw.
“When these guys were serving in the military, nobody talked of North or South. It remained a united Nigeria. But you can see that IBB is now reducing himself to fighting a sectional cause. It is painful to those you refer to as his boys,” a source said on Sunday.