In recent times, he has become more visible and just last week he was in Abeokuta to attend the 54th birthday ceremony of the governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel. At the occasion, he said he was still consulting on 2011 and that he had not yet made up his mind. Analysts, however, say the visit was arranged for him to touch base with the political class in the South West. As head of state, between 1985 and 1993, it was under his watch that the June 12, 1993 election said to have been won by late MKO Abiola was annulled. Therefore, appeasing the South West may be a strategy to launch his aspiration to occupy Aso Rock in 2011.
In 2006, he had made a feeble attempt to get the ticket of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to contest the 2007 presidential election, a ticket that was eventually given to President Umaru Yar’Adua, then governor of Katsina State.
Analysts believe that Babangida has slim chances of getting the ticket. The North, determined to produce PDP’s candidate for 2011, is shopping for a good candidate that has nationwide acceptability. Babangida’s quest may not get the nod of power brokers in that part of the country. He needs regional support to make any progress.
There are key groups in the country and in PDP whose interests appear to be at variance with Babangida’s quest. Political analysts say the first person Babangida has to contend with is ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. In the present dispensation, Obasanjo is a factor. He nominated most members of the newly inaugurated Federal Executive Council (FEC). With the current sour relationship between Acting President Goodluck Jonathan and the Vincent Ogbulafor-led PDP NEC, Obasanjo is expected to play a stabilising role. That also means that he will have influence on the choice of the party’s candidate for 2011.
One reason Obasanjo will not be comfortable with Babangida becoming president in 2011 is that he may not want anybody that will equal his record as leading Nigeria both as a military head of state and as a civilian president. Obasanjo ruled for three and half years as head of state and eight years as civilian president making a total of 11 and half years. Babangida ruled for eight years as military president. Just one term of four years as civilian president for him will mean that he would have ruled Nigeria for 12 years. With that he will not only equal Obasanjo’s record but will beat it by the number of years in office.
Besides Obasanjo, Babangida’s primary constituency, the military, is not likely to support him. Key actors in this constituency are Muhammadu Buhari, whom Babangida overthrew in 1985 and Abdulsalami Abubakar, who ushered in democratic rule in 1999. Both Babangida and Abdulsalami are from Minna, Niger State. The military played a leading role in the emergence of Obasanjo as PDP candidate in 1999. Before Obasanjo was released from prison to contest the party’s presidential primary election, Alex Ekwueme, Second Republic vice president and leader of G-35 that founded the PDP, was the leading presidential aspirant. A source said it was the military that worked on the civilian leaders of the PDP to drop their support for Ekwueme. Though the military no longer wields that level of influence in the party or in the country, their support or lack of it for Babangida can determine his fate in 2011.
It is instructive that Babangida has gone to the South West. Though June 12 is no longer a very strong factor in South West politics, if Babangida decides to run, he will have to contend with the radicals in the region who are yet to forgive him for annulling that election. The fear is that those elements will mobilise voters against him. It is for this that the Northern elite may not back him. If he does not get consensus of support from the North, being a military tactician, he will not run. It is this consensus he referred to as consultation. It is a process that is on-going and its outcome will