PRESIDENTIAL RACE: IBB BACK WITH ANPP
General Ibrahim Babangida
There are very strong and reliable indications that the last may not have been heard of the presidential ambition of ex-military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, Saturday Sun can reveal.
The adoption of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as the consensus candidate of the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) may after all not have ended the desire of the retired General to run.
Sources have revealed that the retired General will any moment from now announce his defection to the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) as pressures on him to toe this line have not ceased.
Babangida, from impeccable sources would not likely survive the pressure to decamp to another party to ensure the north actualises its plans to produce the president in May at all costs.
Saturday Sun can authoritatively report 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.
But beyond that lost battle, the calculation now is that the north feels cheated and has the clear signs that the candidates of the opposition parties from the north vying for the presidency might not make any impact to unseat President Goodluck Jonathan. The way out of the possibility of losing is to beef up the fight in choosing another candidate of a more formidable war chest to slug it out with the PDP and eventually capture power.
Sources close to the Babangida camp said that his supporters have been putting pressure on him to take advantage of the opportunity the amendment of the ANNP constitution presents and defect to the party. 'Leaders of the ANPP are disposed to a candidate that could win the presidential election', the source revealed.
The forces behind this plot 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.
The ANPP had amended its constitution and added a provision that any former head of state that wishes to pursue his presidential ambition in the political party was free to do so. The party had delayed its national convention, so that PDP would conclude its own, to make room for aggrieved members of the party to come over the ANPP.
Saturday Sun was reliably told that the Babangida camp believes that since the retired army officer would not press his presidential ambition in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) he would not have breached any agreement if he defects to the ANPP.
Sources revealed that after the NPLF forum announced Atiku as consensus candidate, some leaders of ANPP started lobbying Babangida's supporters to prevail on him to come over to the party and pick its presidential ticket. Among ANPP leaders who want Babangida and in the forefront of the lobby is Borno State governor, Alhaji Modu Sheriff and former Kogi State governor, Alhaji Abubakar Audu. These two top shots of the ANPP, sources revealed, were instrumental to the emergence of Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu as the 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 reenact 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.
Babangida camp's calculation
The Babangida camp 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 since President Goodluck Jonathan defeated Atiku at the primaries of the PDP, to pick the presidential ticket, it rendered the NPLF plot to have a president of northern extraction take over power from May 29 a nullity.
The belief is that in an election where Babangida squares up with Jonathan, northern political leaders would have no choice than to pitch their tent with him. Sources 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 may be the beneficiary of the suspected defeat of Atiku at PDP primaries, since the North may switch its support to the Congress for Political Change (CPC), in a presidential election where Jonathan and Buhari are candidates of their political parties.
Anger against Ciroma committee
The Babangida camp revealed that the General's supporters are insinuating a deliberate shortchange, betrayal and back stabbing by the nine members of the Malam Adamu Ciroma committee. They accused the group of making a decision against the run of play, insisting that the committee didn't adhere to due process in its choice. These aggrieved Babangida diehards say 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 Babangida.
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 had 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.
It was after the Sallah break, the committee started sounding discordant tunes. First, members of the group, it was gathered, were divided between conducting an open ballot and or secret balloting. Some of them reasoned that on account of their ages, they should not be afraid of conducting an open ballot, but Chief Audu Ogbeh, reportedly argued in favour of secret balloting to allow the members free choice.