IBB'S SUPPORTERS WANT HIM TO JOIN ANPP
The adoption of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as the consensus candidate of the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) notwithstanding, there are indications that the last may not have been heard of the presidential ambition of ex-military president, General Ibrahim Babangida.
Sources have revealed that the retired General will likely join the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) if he eventually succumbs to the pressures put on him by his supporters.
Saturday Sun found that Babangida's supporters feel betrayed and angry that members of the NPLF committee saddled with the responsibility of picking one person among the former head of state, Atiku, Kwara State governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki and former National Security Adviser, General Aliyu Gusau, chose another presidential aspirant when Babangida not only ranked highest in the criteria listed but also has large following across the country.
The Babangida camp said that despite the fact that the former military president had not only promised that he would accept the decision of the NPLF and also congratulated Atiku on his emergence as the consensus candidate, his supporters have been putting pressure on him to take advantage of the opportunity the amendment of the ANNP constitution offers and defect to the party. They claim that leaders of the ANPP want a candidate that could win the presidential election, and therefore argue that since the NPLF was not fair in its choice, Babangida could, as well, renege on his promise to accept its choice of consensus candidate.
So much credence was given to the new move in a chat Saturday Sun had with a major player in the IBB camp, who, rather played safe, admitted that there is, indeed, a plan in that direction. He also revealed that there was a high powered meeting at Minna, in the home of IBB on Thursday night to finetune the arrangement. The source assured: 'There is something like that in the offing. I cannot tell you definitely for now, but I know it is the major agenda in a meeting we would hold this night in His Excellency's home. We are moving towards that. But no definite decision yet. I promise to update you on the development later. But for now, just be sure something like that is cooking and soon Nigerians will hear more from our camp.'
Saturday Sun was reliably told that the Babangida camp believes that since the retired soldier would not press on with his presidential ambition in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he would not have breached any agreement if he defects to the ANPP. The ANPP had amended its constitution and added a provision that any former head of state who wishes to pursue his presidential ambition in the political party was free to do so. The party has delayed its national convention, so that PDP would conclude its, to make room for aggrieved members of the party to come over.
Sources revealed that since the NPLF announced Atiku as consensus candidate, some leaders of ANPP have started lobbying Babangida's supporters to prevail on him to come over and pick its presidential ticket. ANPP leaders in the forefront of the move to win Babangida over are Borno State governor, Ali Modu Sheriff and former Kogi State governor, Abubakar Audu. These two top shots of the ANPP, sources revealed, were instrumental to the emergence of Dr. Ogbonna Onu as national chairman of the party and wants a formidable presidential candidate in next year's election.
It was gathered that the ANPP leaders want to re-enact what happened in 2003 when former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari picked the presidential ticket, despite the fact that he joined the party not long before the primaries.
Confirming that there are pressures from Babangida's supporters nationwide for him to defect to another party, Prince Kassin Afegbua, director of communication, IBB Campaign of Organisation, said: 'There are pressures on General Babangida to defect to another political party. However, the hierarchy of the campaign organisation does not support that, for now. They want to respect the standing agreement entered into before the consensus agreement.'
With the anticipated migration, one of the leaders of the ANPP told Saturday Sun that the destination of the northern elders is the political party. According to him, the northern leaders are aware that it is going to be tough defeating an incumbent president at the primary election of a party in which he is the leader.
In this direction, the elders from the North have always shown keen interest, though secretly, in what goes on in ANPP. It was against this background that when they were shopping for a credible party chairman, the idea of bringing Dr. Onu was supported.
Since he became the party chairman, he has brought his experience and integrity to bear to refocus the party and reclaim all the states it lost to PDP and to wrest power from the ruling party.
Our sources say that Babangida is considering the option of joining the ANPP, as he reckons that he may eventually end up as northern preferred/consensus candidate in the 2011 presidential election. The calculation is that President Goodluck Jonathan would defeat Atiku at the primaries of the PDP, to pick the presidential ticket, which would defeat the NPLF's plot to have a president of northern extraction take over power from May 29, 2011 .
The Babangida camp believes that in the event of Atiku losing to Jonathan, the ANPP offer would give the former military president the opportunity to face the president in the presidential election proper. The belief is that in an election, where Babangida squares up with Jonathan, northern political leaders would have no choice but to pitch their tent with him. The schemers in this new agenda also revealed that such development would also see Atiku, Gusau and Saraki indirectly working with Babangida, believing that he would return to the PDP if he wins the election.
It was gathered that Babangida's supporters are pressing it on him that if he refuses to join the ANPP and picks its presidential ticket, Buhari maybe the beneficiary of the feared defeat of Atiku at PDP primaries, since the North may switch its support to the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), in a presidential election where Jonathan and Buhari are candidates of their parties.
Rage against Ciroma committee
The Babangida camp, apart from the outward display of support, acceptance and togetherness with the Ciroma decision, are inwardly insinuating deliberate shortchange, betrayal and backstab by the nine members. They accused the group of making a decision against the run of play, insisting the committee never applied due process in its choice, otherwise the outcome would have been different.
The aggrieved Babangida diehards confirmed that media reports on how members of the Ciroma committee voted were true. They contend that members of the committee chose to adopt secret ballot, in order to execute the plot of not picking their candidate.
Sources revealed that Babangida started losing out in the consensus arrangement when the Ciroma committee decided to visit the states to get additional information about the preparedness of the aspirants, which was beyond its brief. It was learnt that rather than meet with major stakeholders in the North, especially the Northern Governors' Forum, the committee selected a handful of Emirs and some other traditional rulers.
Saturday Sun gathered that the committee, in investigating the structures of the presidential aspirants in the consensus option, observed that Babangida had offices in 29 states, while Atiku has in 18 states. Saraki and Gusau were said to have offices in 12 and 14 states, respectively. Also, the committee observed that Babangida had supporters spread across the country, especially those he empowered while in office. Based on these findings, Babangida was the favourite of members of the Ciroma committee before the Eid-el Fitri holiday.
After the Sallah break, the committee started having discordant tunes, Saturday Sun can reliably reveal. First, members of the group were divided between conducting an open or secret balloting. Some of them reasoned that on account of their ages, they should not be afraid of conducting an open voting arrangement, but Chief Audu Ogbeh, reportedly argued in favour of secret balloting to allow the members free choice.
How Ciroma group compromised for Jonathan
Reliable source has it that the presidency has a hand in the outcome of the North's consensus arrangement. The deed was done through the instrumentality of a mole and agent of the president in the Ciroma committee, who pretended to be committed to the North's plot to pick a consensus candidate who would defeat Jonathan at the primaries.
According to our findings, the Jonathan/Sambo group has always been afraid of Babangida emerging as the consensus candidate because of his clout. This explains why the group embarked on propaganda against Babangida and his past. to stop Babangida, the presidency mole in the consensus committee made sure that any other candidate but the former military president emerged.
How the lot fell on Atiku
President Jonathan's decision to contest the 2011 presidential election had prompted the three northern zones to form a body that would fight for the political unification of the region, in order to have a common candidate. The group started from what was called G3, which was later G4. After some time, the group was expanded to G15 to accommodate a number of persons who were considered as opinion moulders in the North. The composition of the group cuts across political party affiliations. From the expanded G15, the number was reduced to G9, with Ciroma as the chairman of the group. The nine wise men are Ciroma, the chairman, M. D. Yusufu, Buba Yaro Mafindi, Audu Ogbeh, David Jemibewon, Magaji Dambatta, M. Z. Anka, Bello Kirfi and Jibril Salihu.
Operating under the auspices of the NLPF, the group took it upon itself to go round the country in search of opinions that would shape its decision of choosing a consensus aspirant among those interested in becoming president from the North, to give President Jonathan a run for his money and counter his incumbency advantage.
The Ciroma committee had a daunting task trying to fashion out how to tackle the consensus issue. Setting out the criteria for choosing the right candidate was also as difficult as getting the members to understand what rationale would be used to justify any choice, in the aftermath of the debates and discussions. Initially there were logistics and secretariat challenges, which were sorted out. The terms of reference were spelt out by the NPLF members. They declared that they would not want to have anyone who could be swayed by financial inducement or under any pecuniary considerations.
Our finding is that Atiku had a greater control of the secretariat because it was principally composed of his political soul mates. The funding of the secretariat, sources revealed, was borne by Atiku and sometimes by Babangida. Much of what the Ciroma committee relied upon came from the secretariat. With this setting, Atiku became easily the favourite of the group, especially after the sallah break.
The fight ahead
The Jonathan camp, after the choice of Atiku was announced, had jubilated. However, sources revealed that even as the Jonathan camp thinks Atiku would be an easy ride, such confidence maybe its undoing, as there could still be a change.
Owing to the waiver controversy Atiku is involved in, with some people saying that the process has not been concluded, the other aspirants - Babangida, Saraki, Gusau - maybe allowed to go for the PDP screening. If Atiku scales the hurdle, the other three aspirants from the North would then step down from the presidential primaries. However, in the event that any hitch stands in the way of Atiku, the NPLF would substitute him. It was gathered that this is why Babangida may not join the ANPP immediately, until the PDP finally picks its candidate.