Barring last minute change of political war strategies, former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, is set to actualize his desire to take over governance from the incumbent President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, an indication that he may not support the plot to make the president stay in office for another term of four years.
This fact emerged in the light of a reported breakdown of talks between Babangida and President Obasanjo over succession plans in 2007, with the Minna-born general attempting to seek the president’s support for his own political ambition in 2007. The Presidency was said to have made three attempts towards enlisting the support of the former military president for the on-going process of constitution amendment with intent to enshrine three terms of four years for the president and state governors, whereas, the talks had reportedly reached a deadlock on account of IBB’s insistence on trying his luck in the next presidential race with the president’s backing.
A source close to the Minna-born general confirmed the talks between him and the president, disclosing further that the two had held telephone conversations on the issue, with IBB adducing reasons why he also needed Obasanjo’s support to be president. Among the reasons adduced by IBB, according to the source, is that he had fully supported the incumbent president to capture power twice (in 1999 and 2003) and hence, could not possibly wait till 2011 before attempting to contest the presidency as proposed by the emissary of the president who reportedly held meetings with him in Minna.
It was disclosed that Babangida was approached by the president’s men with a bait that he should back the plan to retain President Obasanjo in power for another term while his own presidential ambition would be realised with government backing in 2011. Sunday Tribune learnt that IBB, in declining the proposition, had expressed doubt about the workability of such arrangement, while he was said to have asked the president to, at least, support his own desire to be president once and then hold him in trust on his ability to protect his interest, after he (Obasanjo) must have bowed out of power.
The former president was said to have told President Obasanjo’s men that he has resolved to contest the presidential election because of his burning desire to make up for his past mistakes and thus, redeem his image while alive. Babangida, as disclosed further, reportedly stated that since Nigeria occupies a strategic position in the international community, the country would still require a leader as dynamic as President Obasanjo in 2007, and hence referred to himself as such a leader, while he was said to have stressed that the leadership that he would propagate, if given the mandate to rule again, is such that would promote not only Nigeria, but Africa in general.
Babangida had, last Thursday, granted interview to selected media organisations, seizing the opportunity to drop a hint about his preparedness to contest the presidency in 2007, even as he spoke subtly against the on-going attempt to introduce three terms of four years into the Nigerian constitution. Meanwhile,the public may soon be awash with alleged financial misdeeds of President Olusegun Obasanjo if the incumbent’s camp decides to use corruption allegations to eclipse General Ibrahim Babangida’s presidential ambition.
Since the groups working for the extension of Obasanjo’s tenure in office have consistently pointed to the unending corruption allegations against Babangida as what would make his challenge a non-issue when campaigns begin, the Babangida camp is also beating its chest that if corruption allegations are the aces of the Obasanjo camp, then it would be a battle of who could squeal more than the other on the issue of corruption.
Sources within the Babangida camp, who craved anonymity, said “Nigerians would be shocked with the amount of ugly dossiers on the incumbent in the management of public funds by the time the real battle begins between the two gladiators.” They were confident that their principal, Babangida, has enough security report on his former senior in the military that would make the issue of corruption against Babangida a child’s play. According to one of the leaders of the Babangida camp: “They (Obasanjo’s camp) have been saying that corruption allegations against him (IBB) are talk-shop gist. We are waiting and since everything is fair in war, our oga too may not have any choice than to tackle them with what he has against them.”
Beyond the shores of the country, Babangida is believed to be in possession of incriminating information on the financial activities of the incumbent, which may be released to the public, if it is discovered that the Presidency is sponsoring negative publication against Babangida, using the corruption issue. Our sources however, said that Babangida would not go out of his way to engage the president in a dirty fight, unless the Obasanjo camp carry ouy their agenda. Allegations of corruption have leeched on to Babangida since he left office about 13 years ago, but he is reportedly poised to prove that the current government may be worse than his in the management of public funds.
With a smile on his face, one of the leaders of the Babangida group told the Sunday Tribune that their principal, IBB, “is very ready for whatever is being planned by Obasanjo’s group. “Before he (IBB) declared his presidential ambition, which he shelved for this same Obasanjo in 2003, he knew that the corruption thing is what they are going to use against him to get their third term. “We shall show Nigerians who is more corrupt between the two of them. If they think that they have dossiers on us, just wait and see.”