By Kingsley Omonobi & Chris Ochayi
ABUJA—THE successful presidential declaration of General Ibrahim Babangida at the Eagles Square, and the unprecedented crowd that attended it elicited shock and disbelief among the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Some of them were said to have expressed surprise that Babangida could still mobilize so many Nigerians.
Vanguard gathered that a suggestion was made to the PDP leadership to scuttle Babangida’s presidential declaration by fixing the party’s NEC meeting for 12 noon to coincide with the timing of the declaration and to cause confusion in the IBB camp.
It was further learnt that the national leadership of the party applied wisdom and kicked against the suggestion.
As early as 9.00 a.m, the Eagles Square had started receiving thousands of delegates from the 36 states of the country and Abuja with several of them brandishing placards and mobile billboards’ in support of General Babangida’s 2011 bid.
By 11. 07 am when General Babangida eventually made his grand entry into the square, accompanied by Chairman of the occasion by former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, one of his daughters and a retinue of aides, the ovation that greeted him almost brought down the rooftop of Eagle Square.
The next 10 minutes that followed was that of celebration, dancing, with various cultural groups representing people from the North, East South and West trying to outdo each other with cultural displays and dances, all in celebration of the man IBB.
As these delegates continued to troop into the square, the question on everybody’s lip was, will the governors, National Assembly members, at least from the North show up and not allow the massive turnout be blighted with insinuations that IBB was on his own?
These questions were eventually answered with time as firstly, the Governor of Niger state, Babangida Aliyu whom many media reports have touted to have dumped IBB for President Goodluck Jonathan, made a loud entry into the arena and climbed the podium to the ecstatic toothy smiles from former military President Babangida.
He was followed shortly by the governor of Zamfara state, Alhaji Aliyu Shikafi and moments after, both governors were joined by Adamawa state governor, Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd), with a large retinue of the aides, supporters and well wishers.
A sizeable number of both former National Assembly members as well as those who are currently serving were also there.
Security arrangements which enabled a hitch-free declaration, was very tight as plain clothes security operatives and the Nigeria Police personnel applied civility in screening supporters, delegates, and the various IBB organizations that entered Eagle square to show their support.
In his speech, Chairman of the IBB campaign Organization, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, welcomed the teeming crowd on behalf of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, noting that yesterday’s event had signaled the take off of IBB’s campaign and “by the special grace of God, we shall canvass the nooks and crannies of this country. We shall carry the message of General Ibrahim Babangida”.
His words, “We have in the last 17 years, witnessed a nation that has continuously decayed. We have witnessed a country where we have 16 generations of NYSC graduands who are unemployed. We have a situation where our institutions of education have collapsed. The health system has collapsed. The security of lives and property has been abandoned”.
“The country is at the verge of total collapse. We therefore need a leader, a leader that is courageous, a leader that is a nationalist, a leader that has experience, a leader that is capable of saving Nigeria . A leader that has a proven record of performance”.
To the youths in particular, he said, “It is in your power to install the President of the federal republic of Nigeria . It is your responsibility to make sure that we abide by the rules of our party as our party has zoned the presidency in 2007 to the north. Anybody attempting to steal it, we shall resist him”.
More detail later