IBB was in the last stage of his 8 years rule. His tenure is almost coming to an end. The clamour for a new Government was high. His Structural Adjustment Policy has affected the livelihoods of many. The economy was failing, the Naira weakened and the inflation and debt profiles kept rising. There were fuel queues everywhere in the country. ASUU had just came back from a strike. The political atmosphere was tense.
The two major political parties were gearing up for primaries. Even though the Government favoured the SDP, no one knew what was going to happen in the primaries. The Commander in Chief hasn’t opted for a candidate, but it was clear he does not want one to win. Or at least the cabal in his Government don’t.
That was the tense atmosphere in which the National Convention of the party was to be conducted in Jos. One of the aspirants, Abiola, is a wealthy Yoruba politician. He’s travelled almost the whole length of the country campaigning.
Before that, he was a godfather. He has supported or played a prominent role in the past three changes of governments, including supporting and financing the 1983 coup which brought Buhari to power. His influence and network of politics date back to the second republic.
Yet there was one problem. Abiola, a southern Muslim wasn’t wanted by one section of the country. It required deals made with some of the power brokers in the north led by Shehu Yar’adua and co to see him coast to victory. It was agreed that he would pick one of them as his running mate, and he agreed.
Yet, immediately after the politician clinched the ticket, the story changed. Abiola reneged and picked his running mate, Babagana Kingibe a Kanuri Muslim from Borno.
This naturally annoyed the power brokers. But the task ahead was more important; the Military must not be around the government again. So they forged ahead. Atiku, one of the aspirants in the primaries, stayed behind. Abiola’s major opponent in the elections was a powerful businessman from the north, Bashir Tofa.
Jumping from one controversy to the other; the campaign trail blazed through the country. It was perhaps up until that moment, the most expensive campaign in history. With his network of media houses across the country; the message of ‘Hope’ was preached.
But the campaign wasn’t without allegations and rumours. From ties to drug cartels, corruption scandals or even rumours that the election won’t hold. It was alleged that a section of the country will rather scuttle the elections and install an interim government to be led by a General than hand over victory to Abiola. Even former Head of State Obasanjo, who was from the same zone as Abiola warned that “Abiola is not the Messiah that Nigerians are looking for”.
Yet, nothing could stop MKO. He was not named the Are Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland (Chief Military Leader) for nothing. His generous donations and the building of mosques made him popular in parts of the country.
With his signature flowing Agbada, he moved across all states in the country supported by his son Kola, who played a vital role in mobilizing the youth, just like his wife Kudirat with the women. He criticized the Structural Adjustment policy of the Government, while his opponent supported it. At one point, his opponent was even said to be supported by the Government with a network of cabals who felt uncomfortable handing over the country to him. The fear of death lingered in the air. Yet the campaign finished on a strong note.
And then D-Day arrived.
Despite the strong campaign, the election remained unpredictable. No one knew what was going to happen. Despite the strong campaign, the election remained unpredictable. No one knew what was going to happen. It was perhaps one of the most important elections in the nation’s history. The apprehension was real. Voter turnout was low but the elections were termed credible by many International bodies. There were logistics and technical challenges, yet no serious violence was recorded.
But when the results start trickling in, the sign was clear. Abiola won in Borno, Niger, JIgawa, Benue and other states in the north, even though he was contesting against a northern candidate. He also won other Western States of Ogun, Oyo and Ondo.
Abiola was coasting to victory.
That was when the calls for the cancellation of the elections started. The opposition shouted foul. Yet, the writings on the wall were clear. He was the presumed winner of the 1993 Presidential elections.
The rest was history.
The year was 2022.
PMB was in the last stage of his 8-year presidency. His tenure is almost coming to an end. The clamour for a new Government was high. His Cash policy has dealt with livelihoods. The economy was failing, the Naira weakened and inflation and debt profile rising. There were fuel queues everywhere in the country. ASUU just came back from a long strike. The political atmosphere was tense.
The two major political parties were gearing up for primaries. Even though the Government favoured the APC, no one knew what was going to happen in the primaries. The Commander in Chief hasn’t opted for a candidate, but it was clear he does not want one to win. At least the cabal in his Government don’t.
That was the tense atmosphere in which the National Convention of the party in Jos to be chaired by the national chairman was to be conducted. One of the aspirants, Tinubu, is a wealthy Yoruba politician. He’s travelled almost the whole length of the country campaigning.
Before that, he was a godfather. He has supported or played a prominent role in the past two changes of governments, including supporting and financing the democratic coup of 2015 which brought Buhari to power. His influence is second to none, and his political network dates back to the third republic.
Yet there was one problem. Tinubu, a southern Muslim wasn’t wanted by one section of the country. It required deals made with some of the power brokers in the north led by Nasir El-Rufa’i and co to see him coast to victory. It was agreed that he would pick one of them as his running mate, and he agreed.
Yet, immediately after he clinched the ticket, the story changed. Tinubu reneged on the agreement and picked his running mate, Kashim Shatima, a Kanuri Muslim from Borno. It was a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
This naturally annoyed the power brokers. But the task ahead was more important; the PDP must not be near the governance again. So they forged ahead. Amaechi, one of the aspirants defeated in the primaries stayed behind.
Jumping from one controversy to the other; the campaign trail blazed through the country. It was perhaps up until that moment, the most expensive campaign in history. With his network of media houses across the country; the message of ‘Renewed Hope’ was preached.
But the campaign wasn’t without allegations and rumours. From ties to drug cartels, corruption scandals, there were even rumours that the election won’t hold. It was alleged that a section of the country will rather scuttle the elections and install an interim government to be led by a retired General than hand over victory to Tinubu. Even former Head of State Obasanjo, who was from the same zone even warned that Tinubu is not the “kind of leader Nigeria needs at the moment.”
Yet nothing could stop the Asiwaju. He was not named the Jagaban of Borguland for nothing. His generous donations and the building of mosques made him popular in parts of the country.
With his signature cap, the politician visited every state in the country. His son, Seyi, played a central role in mobilizing youth just like his wife Remi, did with women. He criticized the Cash swap policy of the Government, while his opponent supported it. At one point, his opponent was even rumoured to be supported by a network of cabals who felt uncomfortable handing over the country to him. The fear of death lingered in the air. Yet the campaign finished on a strong note.
And D-Day arrived.
Despite the strong campaign, the election remained unpredictable. No one knew what was going to happen. It was perhaps one of the most important elections in the nation’s history. The apprehension was real. Voter turnout was low and the elections were termed credible by ECOWAS and other International bodies. There were logistics and technical challenges, yet no serious violence was recorded.
But when the results start trickling in, the sign was clear. Tinubu won in Borno, Niger, Jigawa, Benue and other states in the north, even though he was contesting against a northern candidate. He also won other Western States of Ogun, Oyo and Ondo.
Tinubu was coasting to victory.
That was when the calls for the cancellation of the elections started. The opposition shouted foul. Yet, the writings on the wall were clear. He was declared the winner of the 2023 Presidential elections.
Nigerians should vote for whoever they like from whichever party. Nobody will be allowed to mobilize resources and thugs to intimidate people in any constituency. That’s how I want to go down into Nigeria’s history, as a leader.
IBB had just successfully booted out of power. Shamefully too. After spending 8 years in power, he has run out of favour with Nigerians. Unlike the dashing young soldier who snatched power from his Head of State, promising change and doing away with unpopular policies by his predecessor, the General was now accused of the same crimes as his predecessor.
The stringent hardship experienced by a ‘locally grown’ Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) has ruined the economy. Oil price is 11 naira per litre, almost triple the price it was a year ago. One dollar is equivalent to 17 Naira. Yet, that wasn’t what even chased him out of power.
The June 12 elections did.
You see, after spending 8 years in charge (outlived by only Gowon, who coincidentally was booted out similarly), IBB had promised a return to civil rule. Except this was the longest, most complicated transition in history.
Political parties have been formed and dissolved. Second Republic politicians were allowed to participate in politics, then were banned again. Presidential primaries were conducted and then annulled. The transition date was fixed, yet postponed. Thrice.
And finally, when the elections were allowed to hold against all odds, they were cancelled.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Riots erupted in parts of the country over continued military stay and the annulment of what many believed to be the fairest election of them all.
Babangida had no choice but to leave. But not without hurriedly putting an ‘alien’ Interim National Government in power. Nigerians had no choice, and neither did Babangida.
Thirty years later, that is the single thing the Babangida administration is remembered for. Not the several thousand kilometres of roads constructed, the creation of 11 states and several MDAs, the Local Government reforms, or even the movement of the seat of power to Abuja come close.
Programs and policies like the SAP or MAMSER (Mass Mobilisation for Economic Recovery, Social Justice and Self-reliance), or the Better Life Program for the African Rural Woman midwife by his wife are remembered.
Somehow, June 12th became Babangida’s legacy, whether he wants it or not. This is what happens at the end of each administration. The President gets to be defined by one and just one legacy project.
Whether it is Balewa with his Pro-African foreign policy, Gowon and his three R’s of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation after the civil war, or Murtala/Obasanjo’s return to civil rule at a time when the whole of Africa was ruled by Military Juntas.
Shagari’s Presidency was defined by mismanagement of the economy and incessant corruption, while Buhari’s was known for its War Against Indiscipline.
While Shonekan’s rule was too short-lived to exert much influence, Abacha’s rule was synonymous with dictatorship and looting. Abdulsalami’s successful transition program was all he needed to have a legacy, which he still enjoys to date.
Obasanjo’s legacy could be debated, depending on who you ask; either the telecommunication revolution, the establishment of Anti-Corruption Agencies or the debt relief of $18 billion (I choose the latter).
Jonathan’s legacy is largely undebated. Conceding an election in which he probably might dispute the results and drag on, he chooses peace over his ambition. My ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian, he said. That earned him an enviable place in Nigeria’s history.
Which begs the question, what will Muhammadu Buhari’s legacy project be?
Is it the reclaiming of Nigerian territories captured by Boko Haram, the agricultural revolution (all thanks to the Anchor’s Borrower’s Program), the overzealous fight against corruption, the railway rejuvenation, massive infrastructural works which saw the completion of the Second Niger Bridge, the acclaimed yet unsuccessful autonomy to Local Governments or the recent Siemens power project brokered by the late Abba Kyari or even the Ajaokuta–Kaduna–Kano (AKK) pipeline?
The honest answer? None.
In a few years, people might have forgotten about all of them (except for the AAK power project and the Siemens power deal), and Buhari himself knows that.
That is why his antics and tactics have begun to change recently. As a retired General, it was ironic that Buhari was the one who recognized June, 12th and its actors and bestowed upon them their fitting garlands.
As someone who was elected based on the support of others while claiming to have no ‘Naira or dollars to give out delegates’, it was ironic that the President chose to remain neutral in a convention that produced his party’s flag bearer and successor, the first to do that in modern history.
For someone who claimed the ‘dog and the baboon’ will both be soaked in blood if he is not elected, it is ironic that he now believed Nigerians should vote for ‘Nigerians should vote for whoever they like from whichever party”
That subtle change is not lost on many, who believed Buhari intends his legacy to be that of a committed democrat.
Imagine the statement; Here lies Muhammadu Buhari, the reformed democrat who fought his party for Nigeria’s democracy.
Tempting huh? Because that’s exactly what it is for Buhari. While Jonathan was sabotaged from within his party and was ultimately defeated, here was a President who stood tall and fought his party till they were ultimately defeated in the polls.
The noninvolvement of his closest aides and appointees in the Asiwaju campaign, the nonchalant attitude of the President himself, his body language and utterances, and most of all, the cash swap policy all point towards the fact that Buhari wants his party to lose so he can reclaim his image and leave a legacy.
“We suffered in his rule…but at least he made sure that our votes count.” Something Nigerians won’t say for whoever ultimately succeeds him.
Whether this strategy will work, remains to be seen in the polls.
Abacha, the Head of State, had just died. Abdulsalam Abubakar, the Former Chief of Defence Staff, was in charge.
He quickly enacted a transition to a civil rule program to replace what many believed to be a sham by his predecessor.
There was only one problem. Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 election, had just died in detention. The situation was delicate, and there was a need to appease growing tension in the West.
To do that, they had to ensure a candidate from the South West not only emerged as the candidate but also won. There was only one person for the job. Former Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo.
Obasanjo had been Head of State before and had handed over power to civilians at a time when military juntas were common in Africa. He co-chaired the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, worked to end apartheid in South Africa and was a candidate for the position of UN Sec Gen. Most importantly, he is someone the Generals believe they can trust.
So they supported him.
The Generals set to work. The man had been holed up in prison since 1998 on trumped-up treason charges. He was quickly released and picked up in a Presidential plane. Of course he went on a mini tour to thank eminent Nigerians for calling for his release.
He soon declared for the Presidency afterwards. The Generals had a hand in that too. Not only did the Generals ensure Shinkafi, the candidate of the other party, withdrew in favour of Olu Falae to set up a South Western battle, they also ensured he emerged victorious in his own primaries against a much prepared and perhaps a better suited Ekwueme.
From being bankrupt and ‘broke’, he visited all states of the Federation in helicopters and private jets in an elaborate campaign that culminated in being elected President on 29th May 1999.
The rest was history.
The same thing happened in 2003. Even though they had a brief fallout when in 2007, Gusau and IBB all wanted to replace Obasanjo, they later rallied around his candidate.
In 2011, the Generals all supported Jonathan over their colleague, Buhari. It was the time for the minorities, after all.
The same happened in 2015 when they all suddenly remembered Buhari was one of theirs and supported him. He won.
By then, the Generals were unstoppable. They could make whomever they want President and dethrone any sitting one who dared oppose them. That group of had decided every election. From IBB to Obasanjo, to Abdulsalam, Ali Gusau, and TY Danjuma, they were the real deal.
No one dared declare a contest without making the political pilgrimage to Minna tophill and Otta farmhouse.
Then 2019 happened.
While they collectively supported Buhari in 2015, they all fell out with him in 2019. Obasanjo implored him to ‘consider a rest.’ TY Danjuma resigned his chairmanship of the Presidential Committee on North East Initiative (PCNI) and asked citizens to ‘defend themselves or die’. Babangida was…Well, Babangida was his usual Maradona.
They all endorsed Atiku. And he failed woefully. It was the beginning of the end for the Generals.
As for the others, they are nowhere in sight. Ali Gusau couldn’t secure the gubernatorial ticket for his son in Zamfara, nor can he boast of winning the state for the PDP. TY Danjuma is nowhere to be found, now that he has fulfilled his wish of foisting his own unpopular candidate Gubernatorial Candidate on his state.
Even smaller Generals like David Mark are missing in action. Only the likes of Bode George, who can’t be compared to the old breed, are left. Clearly, the steam is running out for the senior generals, and old age is catching up with them.
With Buhari retiring, Obasanjo’s influence waning, IBBs health fading, Abulsalami’s focus shifting, TY Danjuma’s interest changing, and Gusau’s magic dying, this might be the last elections influenced by the Generals.
Or perhaps we will witness the baton handing to younger Generals, like Dambazau, Sadique Abubakar or Buratai. They have come of age already and are all backing the same candidate.
Will their candidate win? Will this be the last election without the influence of the generals?
I felt I should leave Lagos for him. In fact, I could easily have taken over Lagos, but I did not.
Atiku Abubakar, 2018
The year was 2003.
The duo of Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar were gearing up for their reelection campaign. The two had a falling out, but all that was over (it required some prostration and begging). The aim was to be re-elected, and all other issues will be sorted out later. Except there was one problem.
Their party, the PDP is not popular in the South West, where Obasanjo hailed from. Even though the party won the Presidential elections with the bulk of the votes coming from the North West in 1999, it lost the South West.
Heck, Obasanjo even lost his polling booth to the AD candidate, Olu Falae who was seen as the Yoruba candidate. To avoid seeming defeat and further embarrassment, Obasanjo gave his running mate the orders to recapture the West.
And recapture he did. All the South West States fell like a House of cards.
When we came to power in 1999 South-western states were controlled by the AD. And when we were approaching the 2003 elections, I told my boss, give me the chance to take over the South-west. And he gave me that authority, and I took all the states with the exception of Lagos. Why? Because Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and I came a long way from the SDP, PDM, and all of that, and I felt I should leave Lagos for him. In fact, I could easily have taken over Lagos, but I did not.
That was in 2018 when Atiku was contesting against Buhari, whom Tinubu helped bring to power.
Atiku has since regretted his decision, but it proves far too late. The single decision not to snatch Lagos in 2003 when their party had the resources, the Federal might, and the manpower to do so comes back to haunt him in 2023.
If anything, that decision made Tinubu what he is today; the Jagaban. The creation of 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) and the later withholding of the state’s allocation, the implementation of the Lagos Blueprint all wouldn’t have been possible if Tinubu had not been reelected.
Most importantly, without being reelected in 2003, Jagaban’s political empire wouldn’t have been formed.
Since leaving office in 2007, Tinubu has dedicated his resources and might to expanding his empire. From having the whole South West in his purse to spreading his tentacles to the North. Supporting Badaru in Jigawa to Oshiomole in Edo or Faleke in Kogi (nearly), and Mai Mala Buni in Yobe, you name it. The experienced politician has spread his influence to all regions of the country.
While Atiku was busy contesting for elections — including ironically on Tinubu’s AC platform in 2007 when he was denied a ticket by his own party — Tinubu was simply bidding his time and getting his cards right.
And the time is here.
Apart from the fact that he has a nationwide network of supporters, he is the only one who can match Waziri’s wealth and influence.
Tinubu might be contesting for the first time, but he has been strategizing long for what he considers alifelong ambition’. These include amassing massive amounts of wealth and influence, making deals with Presidential candidates — sometimes at the detriment of his own part—and simply waiting for the right time.
The man has succeeded in backing the eventual winners of every Presidential Election since 2011 including dethroning a sitting one.
That alone speaks volumes of the man’s readiness.
The biggest mistake of Atiku turns out to be the trump card Tinubu needs. Without 2003, the man won’t have become ‘Nigeria’s Machiavelli’.
A mere look at the list of 1999 Governors who were dethroned in 2003 will convince you.
Is it the Elder statesman Olusegun Osoba of Ogun who is politically relevant, or Tinubu’s ally from Osun, Bisi Akande? The only member of the class of 1999 governors who is still active politically is Niyi Adebayo, Nigeria’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment.
Guess who influenced his appointment? You guessed right, the Jagaban.
The electoral umpire then, FEDECO, had just approved the formation of 5 parties to contest the 1979 elections. The parties were the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), which was believed to have the ‘support of the Military Government,’ The ‘Opposition’ Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), and the socialist-based People Redemption Party (PRP). The Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP) was the least known among the 5.
UPN’s Awolowo appeared the oldest (Zik is older) and the one who had planned for that moment the most. His greatest strengths were his ability to mentor and groom other disciples. Being from the West, he had the full backing of the region, where he was expected to win with a landslide. Support elsewhere? Not so much. During his campaign, he couldn’t even visit the North and had to resort to throwing pamphlets from a helicopter. His choice of a non-northern running of the same faith as him was even more controversial.
NPN’s Shagari was perhaps the most experienced. He had held important government positions, including serving as the Finance minister (where he succeeded Awolowo), the most important position after the then Prime Minister. His strongest selling point was his status and that of his party as ‘unifiers’ (his party’s slogan was “One Nation, One Destiny.) His simplicity and brutal honesty, unaccustomed to a politician, were his greatest undoing. Being from northern Nigeria, he was expected to win the majority of votes in the region. His choice of an Igbo architect was a master stroke.
Zik as the NPP candidate is the only Igbo in the race and the underdog. Many thought he probably wouldn’t win but could affect the polls significantly enough to cause a rerun. After all, he only decided to contest after his tribe’s exclusion in the Presidential race. His oratory skills and his exposure were his biggest strengths. His failure to secure an alliance proved costly. Notwithstanding, the choice of a former northern University Vice Chancellor from Kaduna and being sure of the votes in the east many presume will play out to his advantage.
For the PRP candidate, he was perceived as a local champion who would only win in his home state. Aminu Kano’s strengths lay in his ability to mobilize and communicate with the masses in their local dialect. He is an honest table shaker, a trailblazer, and a revolutionary. The red-cap-wearing gentleman used the utmost loyalty he extracted from his followers to his full advantage. He compensates for what he lacked in a formidable running mate in strong party machinery run by intellectuals like Chinua Achebe.
The best man ultimately won.
The year is 2022.
The electoral umpire, INEC, had trimmed the number of political parties from 92 to 18. The leading ones are the APC which had the backing of the ruling administration, the opposition PDP, the worker’s Labor party, and the hitherto unknown GNPP.
The APC’s candidate, Tinubu, appears to be the oldest (Atiku is older), yet the one who had planned for the moment the most. His greatest strengths are his ability to mentor and groom disciples, putting them in strategic positions in the government, and his mass mobilization skills. Being from the West, he is expected to have the full backing of the region, where he will most likely win with a landslide. Support elsewhere? Not that great. He couldn’t even visit the East during his Primaries campaign. His choice of a northern running of the same faith will probably return to haunt him.
The PDPs candidate is seemingly the most qualified. He’s held many important national positions, including the post of the most important person after the President. His strongest skills are his perceived credentials as a “unifier.” His simplicity and brutal honesty, unaccustomed for a politician, is perhaps his greatest undoing. Being from northern Nigeria, he will probably win the majority of votes in the region. His choice of an Igbo medical doctor is a genius masterstroke.
The Labour party’s candidate is the only leading Igbo candidate and also the underdog. He probably won’t win the elections but might significantly affect the polls enough to cause a rerun. He only contested after the alleged lopsidedness and bias in his former party. His oratory, exposure, and ability to mobilize the youth are his biggest strengths. His failure to secure an alliance with the West will probably prove costly. Notwithstanding, his choice of a former University Chancellor from Kaduna and being assured of the votes in the East will play out to his advantage.
The NNPP candidate is perceived by many as a local champion who will win only his home state of Kano. He is also considered a ‘trouble maker, and a ‘bulldozer.’ His greatest strength is his ability to mobilize and communicate with the masses in their local dialect. The red cap-wearing gentleman will also use his followers’ utmost loyalty to him to his full advantage. He compensates for what he lacks in a formidable and vibrant running mate in strong party machinery run by intellectuals like the Alkalis.