2023 And The Generals’ Last Dance

Updated: Jan 17, 2023
By Abdullahi Malumfashi
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56 people eating Nigeria like termites 

– Hamza Al Mustapha

The year was 1998.

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.

The year is 2023.

Obasanjo has just released a 24-page document endorsing his favoured candidate which the media didn’t pay much heed to. Already, he’s been criticized by a section of the press. He has no right to endorse a candidate after his role in the alleged 3rd term debacle, they said. Him going back on his word and supporting Atiku in 2019, despite describing him with having “a propensity to corruption” is still fresh in the mind of Nigerians. To many, it is akin to the old General going back to his own vomit.

READ: The Mistake That Might Cost Atiku the 2023 Presidency

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.

Abdulsalami is busy chairing the National Peace Committee. IBB is out of the country for medical check up and also to avoid the intensity of the elections. This is the first time the General has done so in 30 years. It is also the first time in 20 years that Buhari won’t be on the ballot.

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?

Only time will tell.

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