Members of the House of Representatives opposed to a third term for President Olusegun Obasanjo and the governors are expected have met in Abuja to brainstorm on the consequences of former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida recent expression of interest in the 2007 presidency. Babangida had in an interview last weekend, faulted the several proposals of the National Assembly Joint Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, including the third term agenda, even as he vowed to contest the presidency in 2007.
Even though the agenda for the meeting was hazy as at press time, THISDAY reliably gathered that the meeting has a lot to do with the Babangida interview, particularly his pledge to contest the 2007 presidential election on the platform of "any party." Speaking to THISDAY yesterday, one of the key members of the anit-third term camp, otherwise known as "Forum 2007," Hon. Farouk Lawan, described Babangida'sdeclaration as capable of increasing the fortunes of Forum 2007.

He said: "He (IBB) has given us support. It is an encouragement. The man came out clearly to say it (third term) cannot work. And anybody who comes out to say such a thing, and coming from a person of IBB's stature, who is not used to talking...all along he had refused to say anything, but he has now come out publicly, not only to say that it will not work, but that he is also going to run." Lawan added , "You remember in 2003 he insisted that he was never going to run against his former boss.

So, indirectly, he has said 'even if his boss is going to run, he (IBB) will run against him (Obasanjo),' meaning that he is not supporting his boss to run." On the possibility of Babangida's declaration having an adverse implications for Forum 2007, he said: "I don't think there would be any implication. If any, it will be that the third term agenda has failed, and when it fails, other Nigerians vying for the presidency will come out," adding, "I don't think Nigeria is short of candidates good enough for the presidency, so, if that happens, somebody else will emerge and will take over."

But, speaking to THISDAY yesterday, some other key members in the camp of anti-third term legislators in the House lamented what they saw as threat now posed by the Babangida interview to their "fragile coalition." "As you know, our coalition is a fragile one with some owing their loyalty to Babangida, (General Muhammadu) Buhari, as well as Turaki (Vice President Atiku Abubakar). We had been united to fight a common cause, and that is to stop this third term agenda," said one of the key lawmakers, however adding, "but now that IBB has declared ahead of the others, I don't know how we are going to handle the suspicion it is going to generate."

The legislator however disclosed that the situation would be formally tabled this (Monday) night when the over 120 members of the Forum meet at a yet-to-bedisclosed venue in Abuja. "I can assure that we are going to handle the matter maturely. We are not unmindful of the fact that our opponents (pro-third term legislators) are waiting in the wings to cash in on whatever crisis we wreak on ourselves. By the time we meet tomorrow (this) night, we shall thrash out all the issues about who is and who is not contesting in 2007," he added. Confirming the development, another key member of Forum 2007 who said he didn't want his name in print expressed worry that the Babangida interview may have done more damage to their cause than good, even though he conceded the interview had its good points.

Forum 2007 is battling to hold on to at least 121 members of the House of Representatives in opposition ostensibly to frustrate their colleagues on the other side of the divide from polling the two-thirds majority required to make the recommendation valid. The House of Representatives is made up of 360 members. The calculation in the ranks of Forum 2007 is that it should be easier for them to hold on to 121 members, their for their pro-third term colleagues to get 240 votes, which is the two-thirds majority required to pass any motion on the floor of the House. Buhari contested but lost the 2003 presidential election on the platform of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).

Atiku has been locked in a battle with his party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while Babangida, even though also of the PDP, has said that he would not mind contesting in 2007 on the platform of "any party." It would be recalled that Babangida had in the interview, among other things, expressed reservations at the activities of the Senator Ibrahim Mantu-led National Assembly Joint Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution and predicted defeat for the matter whenever it comes up for debate on the floors of both chambers of the National Assembly.

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