Presidential aspirants in the Peoples Democratic Party, such as Attahiru Bafarawa, Ibrahim Dankwambo and Senate President Bukola Saraki, appear to be competing for the endorsement of retired leaders of Nigeria, hopping from Minna to Abeokuta, where coincidentally the ex-leaders have their homes on the hilltop.
Only one PDP presidential aspirant has made a distinctive difference: adding former President Goodluck Jonathan to his endorsement itinerary. The others have made Minna and Abeokuta hilltop palaces, their favourite destinations.
Senate President Saraki, who is still coy about his presidential ambition, was the second among the latter group to join the endorsement train to the hilltops, when he visited former military president General Ibrahim Babangida on Wednesday 8 August.
Former governor of Sokoto, Bafarawa had beaten him to the front seat, when he visited Obasanjo on Sunday 5 August. As he confessed, he had learnt from Obasanjo leadership school in the past, a lesson that made him to save about N11.5 billion in his state, which he bequeathed to his successor. He came to learn more as he hoped to clinch the PDP presidential ticket to square up to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in next year’s February election.
Obasanjo, who considers himself probably the best leader Nigeria ever had, even gave his guest some extra leadership lessons. He charged Bafarawa to strengthen the leadership qualities he identified in him, including humility, diligence, selflessness and lack of discrimination
Saraki followed on Wednesday 8 August to the Minna Hilltop home of Gen. Babangida.
In a tweet about his mission, Saraki said he “Dropped in to pay my respects to General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Always happy to be with a father and leader”.
On Monday, Saraki surfaced in Abeokuta to meet former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has floated his own party and has turned himself into a rallying force for anti-Muhammadu Buhari politicians. Cornered by media men on the purpose of the visit, he dropped a not too-honest excuse. He said he came to see the grand Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, which was formally opened last year.
“You know I missed the official opening of the library and that is why I have decided to come and see the place and honestly it is beautiful. We are very proud of what he has done here,” he said.
A day after Saraki left Abeokuta, Gombe governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo also came knocking at Obasanjo’s hilltop home, along with a retinue of aides. The two-term governor and former accountant-general of the Nigerian federation is the latest declarant for the highest position in the land.
He is expected to jet to Minna Hilltop soon, following the trail of other aspirants.
In Minna on Monday night, General Ibrahim Babangida also hosted another presidential aspirant, Attahiru Bafarawa, former governor of Sokoto State. Bafarawa visited Obasanjo last week, with the former leader urging him to improve on his leadership weaknesses.
Yusuf Abubakar, Director Media and Publicity for the Bafarawa Campaign Oragnisation(BCO) said the Minna trip was in continuation of Bafarawa’s political consultations on his presidential aspiration.
Abubakar said that Babangida and Bafarawa, met behind closed doors at the host’s hilltop residence and their discussion was fruitful.
The media aide said that Bafarawa was accompanied on the visit by the Director General of BCO, Sen. Paul Wampana, Mrs Becky Igwe, Alhaji Sani Kabiru, Dr Amanze Obi and Dr Iliya Stephen, among others.
Atiku Abubakar, another presidential aspirant who paid a second visit to Babangida on 2 July and had used all available fora to earn Obasanjo’s blessings got his hope dashed when Obasanjo openly opposed his ambition.
Obasanjo said Atiku should never count on his support.
In an interview with Premium Times, Obasanjo swore he will never support Atiku and the doctor of theology also invoked God to buttress his position:
“How can I be on the same side with Atiku?” Obasanjo asked. “To do what?”
“If I support Atiku for anything, God will not forgive me. If I do not know, yes. But once I know, Atiku can never enjoy my support,” he added.
“I know Atiku very well. And I have mentioned my position with Atiku. My position has not changed,” he said.
On a personal note, he added, “If my children are getting married, he has sent representatives. If his children are getting married, I have sent representatives. That is social. That is not political.
But “on political ground, my position has not changed. If I support Atiku for a political office other than the one I supported him in the past when I did not know him,” maybe, but not “now that I know him, God will not forgive me.”
Since 4 August came out openly to disrupt Atiku’s campaign, campaign activities and footworks have slowed down a bit.