Nigeria’s former military president General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida has debunked claims that he has retired from active politics.
Gen Ibrahim Babangida on the presidential Election Day Saturday April 16 had announced that he was finaly withdrawing from active politics, saying that it was time to give young generations the chance to build the country.
Answering questions after casting his vote at the Up Hill polling station, Sabon Gari, Minna, Babangida had also touched on many national issues including advocating for a two party system for the country in the future as well as need for states to control their own police.
But Speaking over the Easter holiday in London, Babangida’s spokesman, Prince Kazeem Afegbua, Babangida said he had no intention to retire from politics yet.
Responding to questions on London based Black Television station, Ben Televisionen, Afegbua snapped: “How can Babangida retire from serving the people? He is an elder statesman, a founding member of the PDP ever before many of those craving for political top posts now even ever know the PDP?.
He added that the ‘evil genius’ as he is fondly called would always be there to work with those in government to proffer solutions to challenges such as employment, infrastructure and developing the next generation of leaders”.
According to Afegbua, Babangida has no power to volunteer by himself from PDP as the the former military dictator would need to engage his team before any such announcement of his retirement is ever going to be discussed.
Afegbua also denied that the former leader had engaged in any party activity that is contrary to the constitution of the PDP. He added that as a statesman, any activity engaged by the former leader should be seen as attempts to to strengthen the nation’s democratic system.
General Ibrahim Babangida, also called for an end to violence being witnessed in some parts of the Country including his state of Niger.
In addition, Prince Kazeem averred that the efforts by the General must be appreciated by the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) and called on all party members to go out in large number and vote.
The NWC has no power to sanction him as they could not do same during the zoning debate in the party.
However, in a different development, Babangida’s son, Mohammed has got his name creeping into the mainstream of Nigerian political terrain.
It has just emerged that Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State has engaged in a political batter- trade with Babangida’s family in order to secure the support of former president Ibrahim Babangida for his second term bid.
Governor Aliyu has reportedly promised to help Mohammed, the former president’s son, to succeed him in 2015, according to a report in NEXT.
Mr Aliyu, who is a cousin of Mr Babangida has also contacted Mohammed’s two sisters, Aisha Shinkafi who is married to the governor of Zamfara State, and Halima, the last child, to seek their support for his re-election. Aminu Babangida who is the second son is said to be largely unavailable because he mostly lives abroad.
Sources say although the former military President has not made any public comments in support of Mr Aliyu’s candidacy, Mohammed’s siblings have begun in various ways to campaign for the incumbent who is the PDP candidate in Tuesday’s election.
Halima is reportedly more excited by the idea of her brother becoming the state governor in four year’s time and has taken the matter to heart, campaigning a little more vigorously for Mr Aliyu’s reelection.
On the eve of the gubernatorial election Monday night, she met with some opinion leaders in Zone C, which is overwhelmingly a CPC stronghold, to convince them of the merits of voting back the governor.
Our source said she made the argument that it is better for the incumbent to get a second term than allowing anyone else from another zone to win the polls which might deny the zone their chance for another eight years.
The governor has been eager to reverse the tide of opposition against the PDP in the zone. The first non PDP senator in the state emerged from the zone during the parliamentary election, and the people voted en masse for Muhammadu Buhari two Saturdays ago.
Mrs Shinkafi has also made phone calls to many opinion moulders, urging them to support Mr Aliyu’s bid.
The Babangida children have for the most part lived in Minna, but their father’s birthplace is Wushishi which falls under zone C.
According to the PDP zoning arrangement in the state, the zone is billed to produce the next governor of the state after the tenure of the incumbent who hails from zone B.
Sources say Mohammed has since gone to Wushishi to acquire a PDP membership card so that he would be well placed to launch his campaign from there at the appropriate time.
The governor who assumed office in 2007 has had an uneasy relationship with retired General Babangida whom he had on more than one occasion traduced in the media. He once suggested that Mr Babangida’s tenure as president contributed to the backwardness of the north.
The governor has never shown the former president the kind of fawning adoration he got from the previous governor of the state, Abdullahi Abdulkhadir Kure, who treated the Babangidas like royalty.
Unlike Mr. Kure who got the job partly as a result of the support of Mr Babangida, Mr Aliyu, a lifelong bureaucrat owed his position to the patronage of Olusegun Obasanjo who was then Nigeria’s president.
Mr. Babangida had preferred another candidate, Muhammadu Gunna, who won a controversial PDP governorship primary but couldn’t contest in the election because he was under investigation by the EFCC for money laundering.
However, as the governorship election approached the governor’s popularity waned, no thanks to a series of unkept promises and the Buhari phenomenon which engulfed most of the north. His confidence of winning the polls nosedived when in two successive elections he lost in his polling unit.
Since then, the governor has sent emissaries to all those with whom he has had a falling out. About a week ago, he sent delegates to meet with the former governor, Mr Kure, to ask for his forgiveness. The emissaries reportedly quoted copiously from the Quran to convince the former governor on the vitues of forgiveness.
A source who was at the uphill mansion of the former president two months ago, said Akeem Afegbua who is Mr Babangida’s spokesperson had walked in to ask Mr. Mohammed when he intends to begin his campaigns.
According to this source, Mr Mohammed had chuckled, but another friend from the INEC office who was there said, “we are making preparations. We already have a warehouse of campaign material.’’
When NEXT contacted Mr Afegbua, he denied that there is such a deal.
“You must know that the governor and the General are cousins. And in what way has Mohammed campaigned for the governor? Has he said anything publicly?’’
Reminded of the comment he made on the day he came to visit, Mr. Afegbua said: “I was just joking.’’