Buhari visits IBB in Minna
Saturday, December 31, 2005

In what may seem the final confirmation of the end of a 20-year-old bad blood between former head of state Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and his successor in office, General Ibrahim Babangida, the Daura, Katsina State-born Buhari Tuesday made a stop-over at the Hilltop family home of the Babangidas in Minna, Niger State.

It is the first time Buhari would be visiting the Babangidas in almost 40 years that he has known them.

Buhari whose visit has since then elicited so much excitement in the camp of the Babangidas as well as the ANPP hierarchy was received by both the former military president and his beautiful wife, Maryam.

The visit which is also the first time either Buhari or Babangida would be visiting each other at home is a direct fallout of the recent reconciliation efforts of Abia State Governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu. In fact, Buhari was on his way back to Kaduna from Umuahia, the Abia State capital, where he and Babangida had met with Kalu to bury their many years of mutual antagonism.

The two Generals who led the coup that toppled the civilian government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in December 1983 have never seen eye to eye since IBB overthrew Buhari as head of state in what was considered then as a treacherous palace coup in August 1985.

In fact, it was speculated that Babangida had pulled all the corks to ensure that Buhari did not win the 2003 presidential election when he ran as the presidential flagbearer of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP).

The Babangida camp is said to believe that as a Fulani who never forgets an injustice, Buhari still bore a huge grudge against IBB. That perceived bad blood has defined the relationship between the two former heads of state for the last two decades.

Kalu in the mix
Kalu’s reconciliation of the two Generals, coming barely a week after the same Kalu had also reconciled Biafran warlord Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and for Vice President Dr. Alex Ekwueme is another major step in the Abia Governor’s newest move to bring together political leaders, statesmen and men of goodwill to help douse the tension in the polity, especially as the country marches towards the defining 2006/2007 period.

For the first time in recent memory, Kalu, last week in Enugu, brought Ekwueme and Ojukwu together to shake hands, embrace and bury their differences to enable them concentrate more on the task of rescuing the country from the precipice than dissipating energy in egoistic battles that might not serve the country and its people any good.

An aide of the governor who was close to the recent reconciliation meetings quoted Kalu as saying that “when things begin to go amiss in a country, it is the duty of all men of goodwill to work together to save the situation”.

He, however, noted that it would take some statesmen of equal goodwill to bring these men of good will together.

According to him, this has become even more germane now that virtually everyone appears to have been silenced either by intimidation or by some other means.
The closing of ranks of these otherwise political foes, therefore, appears to be sounding the death knell on several months of free reign of political intimidation as an official state policy. It has also sounded the whistle on an era of divide and rule which seemed to have gained ascendancy in recent times, especially with the swelling opposition to the speculated third term ambition of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

In the last few months, the country had been polarized along zonal, ethnic and regional lines. “Although the presidency has pretended to be unhappy with the situation – as evidenced by the recent order of the PDP banning its governors from attending sectional meetings – the role that very government allegedly played in the organisation of the last Southern Governors and leaders summit in Enugu suggested that Aso Rock might indeed have been profitting from this division. I think it encouraged a divide and rule situation which helped to checkmate opposition to the government in Abuja,” a top political office holder from the South east told Saturday Sun.

Beyond party formation
Confronted on the fact that what might indeed be happening now is a realignment of political forces ahead of the 2007 showdown, an aide of Governor Kalu insisted that the present moves must be viewed from a broader perspective than party formation and 2007.

“The leaders agreed to put aside their individual differences and ambitions – whether real or speculated – and think Nigeria first. There is tension in the land and these people have agreed to bury their differences, as men of goodwill, to come together to ensure the survival of democracy in the country… they reviewed the situation in the country as very unhealthy and have agreed to come together to salvage it”, the aide explained

The objective
According to Dr. Kalu, the man at the centre of the reconciliations, “the aim is to ensure that tension is doused in the land… We must do everything to ensure that the military have no excuse to stage a come back into our politics again… I might be against some of the things the Obasango administration is doing, but I also know that even the worst form of Obasanjo is better than the best form of military regime”.
Kalu continues: “Anything that creates the environment for the military to come back must be resisted with all that we have,, as such a come-back would take our country back by at least another 20 years”.

The Abia State governor said that while he does not support the excesses of the Abuja government, he would not subscribe to removing it undemocratically, adding that the problem of the Obasanjo administration is rooted in the fact that the president “has surrounded himself with sycophants who don't’ really like him but are only too scared to disagree with him.. these are the people misleading him”.

Waiting for Abuja’s reaction
Although Saturday Sun could not get an immediate reaction from the presidency over the new wave of reconciliations, a leader of one of the motley of groups campaigning for an IBB presidency come 2007 reasoned that “It is natural for those in power to get jittery and uneasy each time the opposition camps begin to unite. It is usually a promise of a more co-ordinated opposition. Now, no government in power would feel too comfortable with that. And I don’t think Obasanjo is – even when he too could desire that the tension in the polity is doused”.

Although Kalu was not a part to the Enugu summit of Southern governors and political leaders, he is said to be gradually creating a political earthquake of sort in the polity, with his resolution of two of the most well known personality clashes in the country. This is against the backdrop of the fact that many people and groups have failed over the years to reconcile the men.

The IBB camp equally feels this reconciliations across the country can’t have come at a better time than now when there is increasing tension over the North/South divide and the central government appears to be unwittingly opting for the divide and rule approach.

twitterfacebook twitter google