Leading aspirants in the race to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national chairmanship have demonstrated a common belief amongst political analysts that indeed, politics in the land still revolves round the cult personalities of retired military Generals.
By Dirisu Yakubu
WITH the only exception of Chief Bode George, leading chairmanship aspirants had at one time or the other time in the past two weeks, visited the trio of Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar in search for their respective blessings and endorsements.
Out of the three, only Babangida, passes for a founding member of the PDP as neither Obasanjo nor Abdulsalami played prominent role in the formation of the party in 1998. General Babangida, who presided over the transition programme that culminated in the annulment of the June 12 Presidential election believed by many to have been won by late business mogul, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, teamed up with pro-democracy forces to form the G-34 that later morphed into the PDP.
He is believed to have supported the party in its embryonic stage. In 2007, he declared interest to run as a civilian president but lost out in the race principally to Obasanjo’s opposition whose preference, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua would go on to win the presidential election.
Given his failure to bounce back to political reckoning, Babangida announced his retirement from active politics and announced his readiness to play the statesman in the affairs of the nation. As for Obasanjo, his taming by a crop of young politicians whom he earlier helped into national reckoning culminated in his resignation of membership of the PDP and ultimately from active politics, few years ago.
Focal point of reference
However, in spite of their passive roles in the determination of who gets what, when and how, the big Generals remain the focal point of reference for all but a few aspirants gunning to replace Senator Ahmed Makarfi in the December convention. It all started when ex-Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, smartly outdid his rivals by heading straight to Minna, the Niger State capital, to kick-start his chairmanship campaign. At the Hill-Top residence of Babangida, Daniel made it known to him that his endorsement and blessing would go a long way in the determination of who gets the nod of the party’s delegates at the convention.
Not one to let such an opportunity elude him, the former military president wasted no time in giving his guest what he craved by describing him as “a breath of fresh air” and my “incoming Chairman.”
With the news yet to settle, Tunde Adeniran, a Professor of Political Science and former Minister of Education followed suit with a visit to Babangida for the same mission.
Perhaps, the aspirant with the biggest entourage so far has been Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, the media mogul who is also in the race for the chairmanship of the party. Dokpesi visited both Babangida and Abdulsalami and reiterated his interest in the crowded race for the plum seat.
But Abdulsalami, the retired General loved so much for relinquishing of power to an elected civilian government, gave Dokpesi a simple message to take home: The PDP has failed in its opposition role as a political party. Whatever informed this positioned is however left in the imagination of analysts as it were, as he (Abdulsalami) is not a known card-carrying member of the PDP.
Not left out of the race is Professor Taoheed Adedoja who penultimate week visited Babangida and Abdulsalami and followed it up with a visit to Obasanjo at his Abeokuta’s residence. Is this a confirmation of the assumptions in some quarters that politics in the land is yet to evolve? Is it true after all that though they may have bowed out of power but men of yester years are still the sole determinants of the goings-on in the polity?
Elsewhere, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) looked in the direction of another retired General to fly its ticket in the 2015 general elections. Today, the party has not hidden its preference for the same man to seek a fresh four-year tenure come 2019, thus lending credence to the belief that the military remain the determinant of the collective destiny of Nigeria even in the post military era.