By Geoffrey Ekenna and Emma-Enyinnaya Appolos:
• IBB to declare presidential ambition in June
• Northern leaders move against Jonathan
Indications have emerged that the United States Government might support former Military Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, for the presidency in 2011.
This was gathered by the Nigerian Compass last week just as another source told our correspondent that former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, is only three months away from declaring his presidential ambition for 2011.
An impeccable source, who is close to Buhari, revealed the position of the US on the two-time presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to the Nigerian Compass on Thursday.
The source said that discussions were on with some foreign groups that have promised to inject funds into Buhari’s campaign for the election.
It was gathered that it was in the bid to concretise the support for Buhari that the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders, visited Babangida recently.
Sanders’ visit to the retired General in Minna, the Niger State capital, was to indirectly intimate Babangida of the position of the US on the 2011 elections, especially the presidential election, and give a hint on the likely direction her country was looking at for the emergence of the president next year.
It was gathered that in order to ensure that there were no upheavals before the election, Sanders told Babangida to help keep the military in check to forestall a takeover of government.
It was learnt that the plan of the US is to ensure that none of the power centres in the 2011 elections, was left out in reaching a decision on who to support for the presidential election.
In this regard, arrangements have been concluded to also ensure that former President Olusegun Obasanjo would not be left out of the scheme of things.
For Obasanjo, some of his lieutenants, while in office, who were considered as having performed creditably, are being positioned to be a part of Buhari’s team in 2011, if he emerges the winner of the presidential election.
Among those being considered are the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu; and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai.
Both men are at present on self exile.
A source told the Nigerian Compass, “I have been told that the US government has shown interest in Buhari’s presidential bid for 2011.
“Why they took that position I do not know.
“But I gathered that in the process of discussion with some of those that were considered critical to the continued co-existence of Nigeria based on the outcome of the 2011 election, some of Obasanjo’s men were reportedly considered, with a mandate to draft them into Buhari’s camp before the election.
“And among the Obasanjo men are Ribadu and el-Rufia.
“The US’s recent visit to IBB was to read the riot act to him and some other Northerners who may be working in another direction due to the health situation of President Umaru Yar’Adua.”
It was gathered that the US believes that the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, should be left to complete the four-year term he won with Yar’Adua.
Some other leaders in the North were also told the position of the US Government, the Nigerian Compass learnt.
Buhari was personally invited as the leader of the opposition by the US Government, to the inauguration of Senator Barack Obama as the President of the United States last year.
The source said that the US’s major reason for throwing its weight behind Buhari appears to be the respect it has for the retired General.
The thinking also is that with the various developments within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), including the different positions being canvassed by the party and its members on Yar’Adua’s illness, it would be difficult for it to produce an acceptable candidate from the North for the 2011 election.
The source said the US is conscious of the perceived goodwill Buhari enjoys in the North and in most other states of the federation.
The source added that once the mega party agreement is finalised, the plans to have a Buhari presidency would be kick started.
But there are strong indications that Babangida may declare to run for the 2011 presidential election between May and June this year.
That is even as feelers emerged that by the inauguration of the Presidential Advisory Board by Jonathan, the North may have shut out Obasanjo from the power game concerning Yar’Adua.
Sources close to the Minna-based General told the Nigerian Compass on Sunday that Babangida may be declaring his intention to run for the seat in the next three months.
The source, who claimed to have spoken to Babangida a few days ago, said that what could delay his declaration would be the need to be certain that Yar’Adua will not be seeking a second term in 2011.
According to him, “IBB is still consulting some key figures. What is important again is to be sure that the President is not going for a second term. As at now, nobody is sure of what the health of the President is currently and what he may decide to do in the future. But I can tell you that Babangida assured me that within the next three months, he would have finished consultations and make a public statement on the issue.
“I must also tell you that he has been under pressure to run for the presidency, particularly since the position of the North became threatened due to the ill health of the president.”
It was gathered that the secret moves to draft Babangida into the race is now a source of worry to other Northern leaders with the ambition of running in 2011.
Such Northern leaders include former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and Buhari.
The source further said, “That will be the end of the road for Atiku basically because if IBB runs, Atiku will not run. That is because it was IBB and a few others that raised Atiku up in the customs. So, Atiku may not run against him.”
But contacted on the phone, Babangida’s spokesman, Mr. Kazeem Afegbua, said that the former military president was not yet ready to speak on the matter.
Afegbua said, “We are not ready to speak on the matter now.”
It was further gathered that the choice of Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd.) as the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council by Jonathan was a move by the power brokers in the North, to whittle the influence of Obasanjo on the Acting President.
Although Danjuma and Obasanjo have been the best of friends from their time together as Chief of Defence Staff and Head of State respectively, their relationship took a negative turn when Danjuma left Obasanjo’s cabinet controversially, as the Minister of Defence and worked for the stoppage of the third term plot of Obasanjo in 2006.
A measure of their soured relationship was the denial of Daisy, Danjuma’s wife, of a second term ticket to the Senate during Obasanjo’s tenure.
Daisy also stood against Obasanjo’s third term ambition.
Sources said that it was to curtail Obasanjo’s influence in a “Northern Presidency” that the North picked such elements as Danjuma, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and Alhaji M.D. Yusuf as members of the PAC.
Another source said, “Do you think that it is a coincidence that Danjuma, who fell out with Obasanjo a few years ago, is heading a committee that has M.D. Yusuf and Bamanga Tukur?
“Remember, Obasanjo retired Yusuf as the Inspector General of Police during his tenure as Head of State.
“Although Obasanjo will never accept it, the truth is that he has lost out in the current power equation.
“That is just because the North insisted that it is their slot and they would do anything they want with it.”
In a related development, some Northern leaders have concluded plans to work against Jonathan so he does not get full presidential powers.
Sources told the Nigerian Compass that the Northern leaders are working in concert with the Yar’Adua camp in the Presidency to thwart any move to grant Jonathan full presidential powers.
It was learnt that already, a memo to this effect, detailing the many wrong moves they suspect Jonathan would make if he becomes the defacto president, has been sent round the Northern establishment.
The memo said that it is by ensuring that Jonathan’s status does not change “that the suspected unholy alliance between Jonathan and Obasanjo can be curtailed and contained.”
A source privy to the document said, “The group is confident it will not need to do too much to succeed in convincing the Northern establishment that a Jonathan presidency is in effect Obasanjo’s third term in disguise.
“They have vital information in support of their assertion, including the ministerial slots and other key positions such as that of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), already earmarked for some key players in the past administration of Obasanjo.
“Indications are that el-Rufai has been penciled down for the power ministry, while a very close friend and ally of el-Rufai, Hassan Tukur, is being slated for the position of the SGF.
“Hassan and el-Rufai were regular visitors to the Government House, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, in the heat of Obasanjo’s third term bid when Jonathan was the governor of Bayelsa State.”
It was also alleged in the document that Hassan and prominent businessman, Mr. Femi Otedola, were compiling the list of cabinet members.
The source added, “The Yar’Adua group has also alerted the Northern establishment of a possible vendetta agenda of a Jonathan presidency with Obasanjo as the godfather and in control.
“They claim that Ribadu, a key member of Obasanjo’s team, might return as head of the EFCC to settle scores with perceived adversaries.
“They have also reached out to key figures in the Niger Delta who are said to be somewhat receptive to the idea that Jonathan should serve out the current tenure in an acting capacity and not as a substantive president.”
It was learnt that the group has constituted a number of strategic committees to work on various aspects of the plan.
The intention is to take full advantage of what they consider a major weak point of Jonathan, “which is his provincial profile.”
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