By Stephen Ubanna
President Muhammadu Buhari may find it an uphill task to convince Olusegun Obasanjo a former President and Ibrahim Babangida, a retired Army General and former military President to support his re-election bid in the 2019 general election This is because of the constant attacks on the duo as having impoverished the country and their refusal to provide basic infrastructural facilities in the country when the resources was available to execute such projects without blinking an eyelid.
Buahari, had accused the duo of having wasted the enormous foreign exchange revenue of the country during their years in office. The aggrieved President had declared that if the former political leaders had invested wisely on infrastructural development of the country, things could not have been all that too bad. He noted that Nigeria had the money and human capital that could have turned things around in the country if they had invested on Infrastructure.
The President may have spoken his mind about duo through Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President at Minnesota, United States recently . Armed with official data obtained from the ministry of Finance, Osinbajo who was rechoing the President’s voice had said that between 190 and 1998, which falls between the period Babangida and late General Sani ruled , the country realised about $200 million as against $140.1 billion got between 199 and 2009 under the thenPresident Obasanjo and late Musa Yar’Adua Administrations. Osinbajo also disclosed that the Jonathan Administration generated about $381 million between 2010 and 2014 from oil sales. An angry Vice President was said to have told his listeners that the former political leaders did not effectively utilise the funds to build on infrastructure in the country.
But political associates of Bangida in particular, may not have found the assessment of the Administration by Osinbajo funny. Mohammed Jallo, a former National Chairman of the defunct National Democratic Party, NDP, had lambasted Obasanjo for opening his mouth too wide to abuse Babangida nd Obasanjo , who had contributed meaningfully to the infrastructural development of the country.
He disclosed that Babangida set the stage for the infrastructural development in of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, including the building of Aso Rock, the Seat of power in Nigeria. He also cited other projects that were executed by Administration with the country’s oil revenue which included the third Mainland bridge in Lagos,and the Epe power plant. This is in addition to Federal Housing projects , scatered in various parts of Lagos state and the dualisation of Federal roads in the state ‘ The Babangida Administration, he disclosed was also responsible in financing the building of the Nigeria National Petroleum, NNPC, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Nigeria Development Insurance Corporation, NDIC, Corporate Headquarters in Abuja. The aggrieved politician further cited the multi-million naira Shiroro, Kanji and Gembu Dams in Niger, then military President home state. It was also to the credit of the Administration to have built the Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company and the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas plant in Bonny, Rivers state. It was not surprising why the Administration was regarded in both official and unofficial circles as Nigeria’s ”golden era of infrastructural development”. He was said to have challenged Buhari and Osin bajo to point at one project the Administration had built in the last three years instead of pointing accusing fingers on past Administrations for its woes. ”Everybody in APC wants to be a leader. They want to be President, they want to be governors, they have no plan for Nigeria and the people”, he said.
Interestingly, the same past political and military leaders, Buhahari had described as failures in their years in office are the same people he needs their support to actualise his re-election bid in the 2019 general election bid. He was said to have sent Orji Uzor Kalu, a former governor of Abia state, and now Chieftain of APC, to Babangida, the former military President at his hill top country home in Minna last September. It was learnt the politician had met with the statesman behind closed doors to discuss the Buhari re-election project.The Abia politician who could not hide his mission of being in Niger state said he was in the state to solicit Babangida’s support for President Buhari’s re-election bid. He boasted that he was convinced of his support in office to Buhari in 2019 to finish his second tenure in office.
The Katsina state born politician and President Federal Republic of Nigeria, was said to have sent another group to Obasanjo’s country home at Otta, Ogun state. The Magazine learnt that the team had entered into the former President’s Otta home and requested to have a closed door audience with him but was turned down.
It was gathered that Obasanjo had asked the Buhari emissaries to disclose their mission of coming to see him before his visitors but kept quiet. A source privy to the visit disclosed that Obasanjo left the entourage to another room where he had a private political meeting with a set of politicians who had visited him.
Eye-witness account disclosed that when he came out of the meeting and the Aso Rock visitors were still waiting for him , he joking asked : You have not gone, you are still around. The Buhari foot soldiers were forced to leave when it became obvious that the former President would not grant them audience.
Babangida and Obasanjo were central to Buhari’s victory in the 2015 general election and may have made up their mind to withdraw their support from him in 2019 because of their estranged relationship.
This is evident going by the responseS of Babangida to Kalu’s plead for support for Buhari re-election bid. According to him, Babangida ‘s response to his appeals to support the incumbent President’s re-election bid was ” blue and white”. Kanu , who was never hot of words to say when cornered for an interview with Journalists volunteered ”we have discussed and he said he is thinking about it, ” stressing that” February 16, 2019 is still a long way to go” as to make any commitment to any politician. Babangia may have tactically spoken the mind of Obasanjo other retired military Generals when he said ”we will continue to talk” without making a categorical statement of going to back him up.
It would be recalled that in the 2015 general election, Buhari had visited Obasanjo, Babangida and Theophilous Danjuma, a retired Army General and former Chief of Army Staff and whoalso served as former President Obasanjo’s minister of Defense to solicit for their support. He never sent any foot soldier to these statesmen to solicit their support. Take his visit to Babangida’s hilltop home where the duo made rib cracking jokes :” old Generals never die”. All that jokes appear to have gone as Buhari may not have seen any need to solicit for their as he believes he could win the 2019 Presidential election without their support because of his alleged achievements which is there for people to see.
Bukola Saraki, Senate President and and one of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, Presidential Aspirants in the 2019 general election fears that Nigeria would be more divided than ever if the Katsina born politician is re-elected in 2019. He noted that at present the country was not united under him, insisting that what the country need now is someone who could make everybody feel a sense of belonging. Attahiru Bafarawa, a former governor of Sokoto state and another PDP, Presideential Aspirant said it would be wrong for anyone to canvass for support for Buhari Presidential ambition, with the”damaged the economy” while he watches with his economic management team.
Notwithstanding the retired Army Generals and other political allies withdrawal of their support to Buhari in the 2019 general election, Nuhu Rbadu, a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, who contested the 2011 Presidential election on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, said” it would in the best interest of the country for Buhari to win the 2019 general election. He described the Administration ant-corruption war as the most difficult job to do , adding that ”it takes a man of integrity to make a success of it”.
But the fear that Buhari of the ruling APC may want to win the 2019 Presidential election at all costs may have sent a wrong signal to the international Community that Nigeria may disintegrate . Abdulsalami Abubakar, a retired Army General and former Head of State shares the same view .
At a recent maiden lecture orgagnised by the Staff and Students of Abubakar Post Graduate Students’ Hall of University of Ibadam, titled ” Collaborative peace Building in Nigeria” , the former Head of State cautioned politicians against disrupting 2019 general elections, saying ”we have no other country to run to should the country be engulfed on fire”. He noted that ” no matter how good those managing the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC are, if things are well managed as they are , it might be difficult to have a credible election in 2019”.
Appealing to oliticians to be conciliatory in their relationship and utterances , he stressed that it is the only way to have acceptable election results in 2019.