By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
There is anxiety within the ranks of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, over the disposition of four of the country’s powerful retired army generals concerning the choice of the party’s 2019 presidential candidate.
Three of the four retired generals namely, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar, were pivotal to the emergence of the fourth general, that is, General Olusegun Obasanjo, as the first President of the Fourth Republic in 1999.
The four, who have, individually and sometimes collectively, played significant roles in the political evolution of the country, are, however, yet to engage a unanimity on an aspirant with a view to defeating General Muhammadu Buhari. The inclination of the generals towards the PDP is, however, said to be now taken for granted.
Former military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida
Sources within the camps of the leading presidential aspirants in the PDP told Sunday Vanguard, at the weekend, that the generals are still bristling with bemusement after losing the chairmanship of the PDP to the “boys” led by Governor Nyesom Wike. In the wake of that, it was gathered that the generals, despite their own separate issues with one another are said to be inclined towards coming together to push a common aspirant.
“I can tell you that as of now they have not reached a decision,” a source embedded in the campaign of one of the leading presidential aspirants told Sunday Vanguard.
While the generals, individually or collectively, lack the electoral prowess to swing elections with none of them able to win elections on their own, their influence comes from the money and political allegiances that they nurtured while in power or the IOUs present political players owe them.
In the light of their waning political fortunes, the generals, it was gathered, have put all options on the ground, including the possibility of the once unthinkable choice of Atiku Abubakar.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo
Other presidential aspirants on the radar of the generals include Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Taminu Turaki. Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso’s antecedents are said to be far out of consideration for Danjuma who a source said has been particularly peeved by the religious and ethnic proclivities of the present administration.
“For Danjuma, the earlier consideration was for a northern Christian in the mould of General Yakubu Gowon, but reality has dawned on him and is now inclined towards a liberal northern Muslim,” another source also embedded in the campaign of another presidential aspirant disclosed.
Kwankwanso’s aspiration had been known to be fronted by associates of Obasanjo, especially on the basis of the perception that a northern hardliner was best suited to break Buhari’s grip on the North.
All the major aspirants on the platform of the PDP have made repeated private and public visits to the four generals all of whom, even if they have their own differences, have the common bond of loathing a second term for the incumbent President.
However, given the high stakes involved for them, Sunday Vanguard gathered that the generals are weighing their options with the determination of making sure that they come to an agreement on an aspirant that would succeed both in the PDP convention and at the general elections.
The quartet of the generals is said to be mindful of the influence of the “boys” who now control the PDP, especially following Governor Nyesom Wike’s victory with Prince Uche Secondus at the last national convention of the PDP. They are said to be as such determined to be realistic in their options and demands on the PDP “boys.”
“The generals know that this is not 20 years ago when their word was law and they could tell someone like Wike ‘do this’ and he scampers to do their will. Those boys of 20 years ago are now men and have their own interests,” a highly placed source embedded in one of the leading presidential campaigns disclosed.
The aspirants, while working on the generals, are also said to be negotiating with one another. Many of the leading aspirants have visited one another with the common issue of the visiting aspirant and his host passing off to one another the possibility of considering the other for his Plan B if the principalities as the generals are so referred to do not favour them.
On the way the generals would go, Sunday Vanguard learnt that all the presidential aspirants were for now waiting with anxiety on how the generals would decide. But whatever choice the generals make, multiple sources in the different campaigns said that none of them would buckle if they do not get the nod of the principalities who have for more than one generation almost always decided the political direction of the country.