THE MIX OF CANDIDATES
Gradually, the dull political firmament over the presidency in 2011 is stirring up as some gladiators eying President Umaru Musa Yar’adua’s plum job have started oiling their political machines to take a shot at the presidency. Others are still weighing options, dusting off their existing political structures and support base before the big launch into the political sea.
Worthy of mention in the fresh political gamble are the former military president Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB); two-time presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) but now in a new party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), General Mohammadu Buhari; former Vice President and 2007 presidential candidate of the Action Congress (AC), Atiku Abubakar; and the former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu.
Their posters are out in some parts of the country, attesting to the fact that the coast is getting clearer for fresh political shot at the presidency by the politicians, some of whom have been hibernating due to political calculations that appeared to have necessinated restraint.
Babangida has kept sealed lips on his ambition for the 2011 presidency, but sources close to him said the former military president is getting set to throw his hat in the ring for the 2011 presidential contest. The Minna Hiltop dweller picked the form for the 2007 presidential election but coiled back into his shell when President Umaru Yar’Adua emerged on the scene.
He was widely quoted then as saying that he could not be contesting the slot when his “younger brother” was involved. The former military president has so far maintained the spirit of brotherhood with Yar’adua, even as sources said he might not be comfortable with some of the political decisions of his administration.
It was learnt that Babangida does not want to be openly linked to any sort of opposition to Yar’adua’s government and that even if he does not agree on certain decisions by the government; he cannot be seen to be openly condemning the government.
Sources even had it that the former President could once again be forced by circumstances or political considerations to support the second term aspiration of President Yar’Adua in the event he signifies intention to continue in office.
But now, Babangida, according to available information, is set to declare his aspiration for 2011 presidency. Sources said he might have been encouraged by the probability that Yar’adua might back out of the race for second term owing to his present state of health.
Babangida, according to sources, was surprised by the kind of solidarity and love showed him during the death of his wife Maryam. The sources add that some persons used the avenue of the consolation visits they paid to him to convince him to discuss political issues, specifically to convince him to take a shot at the presidency in 2011.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is no doubt in the race for 2011 presidency.
Though he has not made a categorical declaration, his posters are a common sight in many states. Besides, with the level of interest Atiku displayed in 2007, one needs no prophet to predict that he will not leave the presidency project to chance.
However, although some of his posters are reading Action Congress, people still doubt which political party’s platform the former Vice President plans to use to prosecute his presidential ambition. He perceivably faces a dilemma regarding the choice of a political party platform. Many observers contend that Atiku is still battling to have a clear political base ahead of 2011.
But head or tail, he has a soft landing in his Action Congress, on which platform he contested in 2007. Atiku still commands followership because his antecedent, particularly the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) connection has worked and still works for him.
The influence of the AC is however fast dwindling in the North which s supposed to be Atiku’s stronghold. It is believed to be so bad that his attempt to form government in his state Adamawa was thwarted by his political adversaries in his former political union, the Peoples Democratic Party. There are however pockets of places that AC won elections into state and national assemblies.
But with the rising profile of AC in the south west where Bola Tinubu has great influence, it is in doubt that Atiku would not get automatic ticket on the AC platform the way he got it in 2007.
General Mohammadu Buhari, the two-time presidential candidate on the platform of the ANPP, was the rallying point of the party in the north before his recent defection to the Congress for Progressive Change, a party yet to find its feet.
As it were, Buhari would fly the presidential flag of the CPC in 2011, a development which observers said would pose more challenge to the no-nonsense retired military officer turned politician who failed to actualize his ambition in his two previous outings in a bigger and more surefooted ANPP.
His supporters fear that for him to prosecute his presidential ambition on his new party, he needs more than luck particularly as most of those who once contributed to his efforts to become president are still in the ANPP and will now be his rival, and the ANPP still controls three states in the north, namely Borno, Yobe and Kano.
It was even speculated that the presidential ambition of the Kano State Governor, Ibrahim Shekarau finally sent him packing from the ANPP after two years of cold war between him and the party leadership.
His exit was not unexpected. Political analysts even wondered why it took the former Head of State that long to leave the ANPP when it was obvious that they had long ditched him.
In the wake of the 2007 presidential election, Buhari who felt shortchanged had approached the election petition tribunal that the poll was rigged in favour of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). While he was still perfecting his papers with his lawyers, his running mate and National Chairman of the party Edwin Ume-Ezeoke said the ANPP would join the Yar’Adua administration to form the Government of National Unity (GNU), a contraption that became Yar’adua’s way of dowsing the wave of opposition against him.
ANPP’s decision to be part of the GNU was perceived as a disclaimer on Buhari and an attempt to weaken his support base by his people. This was especially so because his running mate who was supposed to be part of Buhari’s litigation against Yar’adua opted out of the litigation.
The former governor of Abia state, Orji Uzor Kalu is another personality with an undying ambition to rule Nigeria, having governed his state Abia for eight years. When the PDP on which platform he rode to power in 1999 and 2003 shut him out towards 2007, Kalu formed his political party, the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and became its presidential candidate during the 2007 election.
He didn’t win the presidential election, but his party made impressive outing by winning two states, Abia and Imo. His support base is the South East but it will be far from enough. Observers believe that Kalu needs much more than the South East to realize his presidential ambition in the face of the overbearing influence of the ruling PDP and the resounding victory polled by All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA in Anambra governorship election.