Now that it appears that the rather belated realisation has finally dawned upon General Ibrahim Babangida that his much sought after return route to Aso Rock is strewn about with untold obstacles, all of which, are stacked against his ambition, and beyond his immediate scope of control to displace. He must now have arrived at the realisation, if not, the conclusion, that in matters pertaining to the pursuit and attainment of such lofty ambition, the bullet, rather than, the ballot is a much more dependable ally.
But even he, must realise, as a man in tune with global events, that in the current World Order, shooting one’s way to power, in territory such as Nigeria, is no longer in vogue. So for him, it appears, there is to be; neither a resurrection of his political ‘remains’ nor a ‘second-coming’ after the manner of his erstwhile boss, mentor, friend, foe, and occasional collaborator, and latter day ‘peace-envoy’; General Olusegun Obasanjo.
What this then means, in practical effect, is that the field of putative candidates seeking to vie for presidential office in 2011, has now been thrown wide open. But whether or not, the abandonment of ambition by General Babangida will result in a level playing field for all candidates remains to be seen. But whatever the case, General Babangida’s renunciation of ambition, must, for many of these candidates, represent a mix of welcome and tremendous news. Particularly, for those candidates, who although beholden to him for many years, have – privately or secretly – harboured ambitions of their own; but were precluded from giving expression to such, due to a sense of loyalty to him or as a result of their dependence upon his expansive patronage.
Another class of aspirants, who will also be elated by the General’s withdrawal of ambition, are those, who whilst not beholden to him have, nonetheless, been in awe or even terror, of his huge material advantage typified by his supposed stupendous wealth and its tremendous influence in the sphere of Nigerian politics. So now, disparate camps of candidates, made up of those beholden and those not beholden to him, can now heave a collective sigh of relief at their new found freedom to seek the actualisation of their respective ambitions.
But whilst one mountain of an obstacle has been removed from out of the path of their ambition, their remains on their part, still to surmount, another mountain in the form of the incumbent president. For in a real sense, the viability of their ambitions, does in large part, depend on the present president’s electoral plans and ambitions. But, considering the assumed severity of some of the – media reported – challenges which presently confront him, it would seem improbable, although not, impossible, that he would seek to renew his current tenure in office.
This then being the case and on a balance of political probabilities; it would not seem too farfetched, I think, to postulate that come May 2011, there may very well be a different Helmsman at the rudder of controls of our national Ship of State. It also appears reasonably safe to assume, particularly, in the face of present and prevailing geo-political zoning arrangements; that the next president, irrespective of the political platform he/she adopts to mouth his/her bid for office; will in all probability be sourced from the North. In order that that geo-political zone may complete the residue of its eight year ‘allocation’ and ‘occupancy’ of presidential office. After which period, occupation of the office of president will revert to the South; or more specifically to the South-East geo-political zone for fulfilment thereof.
If the above postulates are in any way correct, and even if only remotely so, then, it is almost a forgone conclusion to expect that the candidacies of General Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku will be renewed as part of their perennial quest for presidential office and power. But rather surprisingly, to the names of these persistent political aspirants can be added, and this on the strength of recent reports in the Nigerian press (if credence is to be attached to them), the name of Colonel Abubakar Dangiwa Umar.
The very mention, nay, inclusion of Colonel Umar’s name in this regard is interesting to say the very least. For at no time, as far as one is aware, has he ever provided an indication, or displayed an inclination, for partisan politics or elective office. Indeed, not even when he was an integral part of General Babangida’s regime, during which he could have had the pick of political jobs on offer had he wished; but he showed no desire for such preferment.
And neither did he consider the attainment of ‘General’ rank within the Nigerian Army of such importance or sufficient an inducement, to preclude his entering into a major contention with his former functional boss over the outcome of the 1993 presidential elections and the direction of the nation thereafter. Indeed, that particular contention was to result in his relinquishing his commission; bringing to an abrupt end, his military career. So now it is something of a surprise to hear his name mentioned as a possible contender for the presidency in 2011.
But Since Colonel Umar’s somewhat premature and ‘principled’ departure from the armed forces, he has busied himself with the novel pursuit of farming ostriches. This by any standards seems a curious choice of occupation, particularly, for one who during the course of his military career was accustomed to operating at the centre and dominating the circumference of the circle of Nigerian political power. But, on closer reflection the tending of ostriches is not a vocation so far removed from running a nation like Nigeria. As there are to be found, some interesting parallels, between these birds and the Nigerian political class, as shall soon be revealed.
To be continued and concluded in Part II …