Although the military left power in 1999, the nation’s former military presidents remain influential in the political process. This also holds true for some retired military personnel in the country. As individuals and a collective power bloc, their sphere of influence in the country and even beyond is considerable. And, With a member of their class, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, very much in the fray for the Presidency again this year, it is only natural these power brokers take more than a passing interest in the 2015 General Elections, especially the presidential race.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
Perhaps because he is the only former military head of state to have been elected President, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo is unarguably the most visible ex-military ruler in the run up to this year’s general elections. While Obasanjo has not categorically backed any presidential candidate, he has apparently fallen out with President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“A man of considerable standing in national, African and even global affairs, Obasanjo’s backing in this year’s presidential race remains coveted by the leading candidates, even if we don’t know what Baba wants now,” a member of the PDP who pleaded anonymity told The Dream Daily.
As it became apparent that the earlier scheduled February 14 Presidential Election date was no longer feasible and would be rescheduled, allegations in the media had it that some power brokers in the country were working towards setting up an interim national government (ING), which, they claim Obasanjo was interested in heading.
However, the former President came out strongly to debunk the claims, insisting that the 1999 Constitution, which the country currently operates on has no provision for the ING, stressing that he was not interested in such unconstitutionality.
Following the shift of the general elections to this month, Obasanjo lifted a self-imposed political commentary gag. Since then, he had dramatically quit the PDP and partisan politics, preferring now to be regarded as an elder statesman who will continue to speak against anything he deems wrong with the country.
Although he continues to insist that President Jonathan initially misread the Boko Haram insurgency as a localised opposition to his government and denounce corruption in the country, Obasanjo’s recent public speeches on this year’s elections have been cryptic. For instance, at the two-day Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) held recently in Dubai, Obasanjo said: “I believe that our election, when it comes less than two weeks ago from now, will bring about a change; either change of policy or change of direction or change of regime or change of personality.”
This has, however, fuelled speculations that the former President may have pitched his tenth with the All Progressives Congress (APC), who electioneering slogan is “Change”.
Nevertheless, the former President has declined to endorse any presidential candidate, insisting at the Dubai event: “ I will decide who I will vote for when the time comes for me to vote. When the time comes for me to endorse anybody, I will say who I endorse. People are putting words into my mouth and for now I will spit it out.”
Gen Ibrahim Badamasi Babagida
Having had his name linked with the rumoured ING scheme, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, earlier in March, issued a media statement wherein he dissociated himself from the ING rumours. IBB, as he is fondly called, insisted that he had quit partisan politics politics in 2011 at the age of 70, considering that after his eight-year unbroken rule as military president he had seen it all.
He said: “When we introduced the idea of an interim government during our time as a military government, we had in mind to enthrone a democratic government in the shortest possible time in sync with the agitations of the people, after the inconclusive elections of 1993. That was a stop-gap measure because we were determined to quit office at the set date of August 27, 1993. Having left office since 1993 and with the benefit of hindsight, I think what we did was auspicious enough to reassure our people that we were ready to leave office and keep the country going. The end result of our patriotic action is another topic for another day. Suffice it to say that the circumstances we found ourselves in 1993 are totally different from what obtains today in our democratic journey as a nation with flourishing opportunities.”
Although he has been courted by both the PDP and the APC, former military President, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida has not openly endorsed any presidential candidate in this year’s election. Instead, he has expressed support for the election to go on as rescheduled and canvassed support for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which has come under fire from several quarters over its preparations for the general election.
As the campaigns also threaten to turn ugly, IBB has called on “all the political parties to conduct themselves within the ambit of the law,” stressing that “they must continue to educate their members and the electorates on how to make the forthcoming elections more credible than previous ones.”
Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar
It appears that rather than throw his lot with either the PDP or the APC in this year’s election, former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, is more interested in keeping up with his growing image as an African statesman who could be trusted with taking the message of the global community to all parties in any election anywhere in the world, including his own country, Nigeria.
In this wise, Gen Abubakar has, apparently, been in the forefront of keeping the relative peace in the country as the 2015 campaigns continue. He has been meeting with major stakeholders in the political process and chaired the peace accord signed by the two leading presidential candidates, President Jonathan and Gen. Buhari.
And in another move to douse tension being generated by the on-going political campaign in the country, especially the presidential race, the international community turned to Gen. Abubakar. His brief? To take former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, with the global community’s concern on the elections, to President Jonathan and the APC candidate, Gen. Buhari.
Starting with the President, Gen. Abubakar took Mr. Mbeki to Aso Rock where the trio held a closed-door. Thereafter, Gen. Abubakar also took Mr. Mbeki to Kaduna for a similar parley with Gen. Buhari.
While all parties to these meetings declined to speak with the media on their discussions, The Dream Daily gathered that they were all held in connection with March 28 presidential elections.
“For the man credited with returning the country to civil rule and who has thereafter built a reputation as a credible international election observer, I think Gen. Abubakar is not supporting any candidate in the presidential election,” Ayo Adegoke, a public affairs analyst told The Dream Daily.
“This is what many of us expect of him, against the backdrop of his work as a credible election observer around the world for international organisations like the UN since leaving office in 1999. He is a man of peace who wants us to hold a peaceful election in this country and is working with all stakeholders to achieve this. I can’t think of him supporting Jonathan against Buhari or Buhari against Jonathan in this contest,” Adegoke added.