The battlefronts in respect of 2019 presidential contest are widening further with former military president, Ibrahim Babangida aka IBB advancing to be recognised earlier today but only to withdraw in what must be a tactical manoeuvre. The clumsiness of the second statement that sought to annul the first statement suggests that IBB must have come under pressure shortly after the much better presented first statement. It is most unlikely that a media assistant to a former military president such as IBB, Obasanjo or any former leader for that matter would contemplate issuing such a weighty statement without express clearance. Even media aides who enjoy the chummiest relationship with their bosses would never do that once the subject matter is a serious public issue. To that extent, those who ignore the retraction would not be infracting much on interpretive reporting. More so that the contrary statement did not differ vastly from the initial one except that it did not carry the categorical pronouncement urging President Buhari not to contest in 2019 or specifically canvassing for a generational power shift. The question is if IBB would have issued any statement at all if not those two issues.
Whether the retraction is taken seriously or disregarded, it must have been an additional nightmare for the president. OBJ’s letter is bad enough. For IBB to add his own can only be nightmarish, whether admitted or not. Those who think this way believe that the moral burden of continuing beyond 2019 would be too much for President Buhari. Not if IBB was the chief organiser of the coup that removed the president from power in 1985. That coup is reported to have been so successful that no ants around the seat of power were even hurt, suggesting how much control the coup leader had as against Buhari who was the Commander-in-Chief.
Beyond that earlier tackling of each other between Buhari and IBB, other voices such as those of Rev. Father Mbaka, Pastor Tunde Bakare who was Buhari’s Vice-Presidential candidate in 2011 presidential contest, Anthony Cardinal Okojie, Ghali Na’Abba, former Speaker of the House of Representatives and Dr Iyorchia Ayu, former president of the Senate have equally cautioned against the president contesting in 2019. Added to the acrimony between the National Assembly and the Presidency since the presidency filed its appeal against the discharging of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, for false declaration of assets, the nightmare under reference is better imagined than described. In the case of the National Assembly, the nightmare is already playing out with budget passage receding and embargo on confirmation of presidential nominees intact. Only God knows what next in the light of Kwara State governor’s statement that if their people ask them to leave the All Progressives Congress, (APC), they would leave. People are wondering where the smoke driving that fire might be coming from if not the Senate President, Kwara being his state!
Central to the voices that have been heard loudest which are those of General Babangida and General Obasanjo is a consensus that President Buhari should forget about 2019 which would have been his Second term. Buhari might be packing his bags to go but then who replaces him? On this question, the two former heads of state are not likely to succeed in dictating to the president who to support and transfer or invest with the advantage of incumbency in the 2019 contest. Although Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, the intellectual arrowhead of the Buhari caucus has distanced himself from his posters recently sighted across Nigeria, critical observers say it is no more than display of niceties and political good talk rather than the truth. A well located but uninterested observer told Intervention that Kingibe’s denial was smoothness of the wisdom of the learned, not real denial. And that there is just no one else the cabal around the president would trust as to hand over power to beyond him.
Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Senator Bukola Saraki cannot be on the cabal’s list of a successor to Buhari. That leaves just Aminu Tambuwal, the governor of Sokoto State who is not as abrasive and autocratic as Nasir el-Rufai, his Kaduna State counterpart in addition to Kingibe. While acknowledging that Tambuwal has less baggage and few enemies, his prospects in an election in which an Atiku Abubakar could be a candidate to beat is not rated bright. In any case, it is pointed out, Tambuwal might not be such a trusted material by the cabal, having had his own share of reservations about a particular appointment the president made from his state and reportedly being a frequent guest of Rivers State governor, an opponent of the president’s party.
Kingibe seemingly being the only one available to inherit the Buhari political estate is argued to be the trigger of IBB’s statement and no statement politics. In fact, the analysis is that what is playing out now is IBB rejecting the likely emergence of Kingibe. “You cannot have been close to IBB and then move over to become the leading intellectual of the Buhari regime and expect IBB to accept it” is how another political leader put it, pointing out the fact that this could not be possible because of a life time feud between IBB and President Buhari. The analysis came with a warning that if Buhari is not careful, “they” will organise and elect someone over and above his head in 2019 which is what the speaker says would happen.
For one, OBJ must have flown out of the country by now. While out there, he would be briefing key global players on the infractions of the Buhari regime. Intervention was asked if there is anyone on the Buhari regime with the clout to counter what OBJ might be saying, especially if they are the truth or if what he says represent the consensus of the Nigerian elite back home? Two, the president is already very weak from the herdsmen crisis in particular. Whether it was organised to undo him or whether it is a conflict with a different agenda, he came off it as a supporter of herdsmen militia unleashed on Nigeria. Coinciding with the pattern of appointment in the security sector, it is doubtful if any experts in strategic communication can clean the president’s image.
Three, in addition to OBJ, IBB has now entered the fray. Each of these individuals has got clout as much as own baggage but their baggage being what President Buhari is supposed to have cleaned up leaves them on higher contextual standing. If Buhari is not as level headed as Goodluck Jonathan, he might opt to take them on in a manner that could cause further hardship to the grasses whenever elephants fight.
Four, in entering the battlespace, IBB, for instance, insisted on specifying the age for the next president. That might have to do with the imperative of a technical knockout for Kingibe but which makes foremost presidential aspirant Atiku Abubakar a collateral damage of a war between he, (IBB) and Buhari. Atiku is feared to fight back. If he does, it widens the battlefronts in relation to 2019 and the associated power struggle. The scenario could get more frightening should other former presidents such as Gowon, Shagari, T Y Danjuma, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Ernest Shonekan and Goodluck Jonathan were to take different and conflicting positions or strategies. While there is thus a consensus that Buhari getting another term could break the country as former Senate President, Dr Iyorchia Ayu put it, there seems to be no consensus on how Buhari takes his exit.
Those like OBJ are talking of a coalition, others are talking of the political parties, some like Mathew Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto are cautioning the politicians against overstretching the patience of the military and there is just no certainty about anything. Since the much celebrated return to democracy in 1999, every four years, the country literally goes to war just to elect a president, something that much richer and more developed countries with even nuclear capability at stake do with so much ease. What a country!