In spite of all the hype, the event of the year became a non-event. It turned out to be a huge joke. Twenty-five out of the 28 Peoples Democratic Party governors and most stalwarts of the party boycotted former military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida’s declaration of his intention to contest the 2011 presidential election. The poor attendance was such that even the Maradona, in his address, lamented that not all the people who were invited for the ceremony turned up. After the ceremony, some of the Babangida supporters from outside Abuja were seen quarreling over financial promises that ought to have been given to them through their coordinators.
Most of Babangida’s closest associates and members of the PDP National Working Committee did not attend the declaration that was characterised by unruly behaviour by the supporters of the former military dictator. The event started at 11am. In spite of the fact that the PDP National Executive Committee meeting was shifted from 10am to 2:50pm because of Babangida’s declaration, many other prominent politicians from the six geopolitical zones also shunned the ceremony.
The three governors that attended the event at the Eagle Square in Abuja were Dr. Aliyu Babangida (Niger); Alhaji Mamudu Shinkafi (Zamfara) and Alhaji Murtala Nyako (Adamawa). The supporters, who included those from Ondo, Abia, Ekiti and Edo states, accused their leaders of bringing them to Abuja to suffer.
The few notable politicians in attendance included a former President of the Senate, Chief Ken Nnamani; an ex-Rivers State Governor, Dr. Peter Odili; a former-governor of Niger State, Abdulkhadir Kure; a former governor of Nassarawa State, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu; and an ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Ghali Na’Abba.
The top associates of the former military ruler who were absent were his kinsman and former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd.); his former deputy, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu (retd); a former chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Mike Akhigbe.
Besides the aspirant, who limped to the podium to deliver his address around 1am, other speakers at the event were Nnamani and Na’Abba.
Their speeches, our correspondents, observed, did not elicit much reactions from the crowd.
Babangida suffers from radiculopathy, a condition caused by the compression of a nerve in the spine. Its symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling and weakness along the course of the nerve.
After the ceremony, some of the Babangida supporters from outside Abuja were seen quarreling over funds that ought to have been given to them through their coordinators.
The angry supporters said that they had also been persuaded to attend an earlier pro – IBB function in Ibadan, Oyo State, without being paid.
They added that they were promised that the money meant for them for their presence in the Ibadan rally would be given to them in Abuja.
They alleged that they had spent all their money on hotel accommodation and feeding and vowed that they would not allow their coordinators to leave the venue of the ceremony without settling the issue of their entitlements.
One of the delegates, Idowu Roberts, said, “We were promised N6,000 when we went to Ibadan. But we did not get a kobo. Our leaders told us that IBB did not give them any money. They told us that the money would be paid together with the one we would receive in Abuja.
“We arrived in Abuja yesterday (Tuesday). I have paid N6,000 for hotel and spent N3,000 on feeding. They are telling us again that IBB has not paid them. They said they would forward our names to the general.”
But as Babangida declared his ambition, a group, the Democratic Alliance for Good Governance, said that the former military dictator had a hidden agenda.
The group, in posters pasted in Maitama, Gariki, Eagles Square and other parts of Abuja, warned that a vote for Babangida would be a vote for tenure elongation.
Some of the posters read “Different faces of IBB: The evil genius strikes;” “Do not be deceived, Maradona, the actor is at it again;” and “Nigerians beware, the military are back, again.”