Magazine article New African

Nigeria: The Battle for 2007; the Battle for Nigeria's Presidential Seat in 2007 Has Begun in Earnest and Early Indications Are That It Is Going to Be Dirty. Pini Jason Reports

Magazine article New African

Nigeria: The Battle for 2007; the Battle for Nigeria's Presidential Seat in 2007 Has Begun in Earnest and Early Indications Are That It Is Going to Be Dirty. Pini Jason Reports

Article excerpt

On 7 May, stalwarts of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), including Gbenga Obasanjo, the son of President Olusegun Obasanjo, resplendent in their billowing agbada, descended on Yola, the capital of Adamawa State. The event was the public declaration for the PDP, by retired Brig-Gen Mohammed Buba Marwa, a native of Michika in Adamawa State and former military governor of Lagos State. Adamawa is a PDP stronghold with Boni Haruna as governor, but on the eve of 7 May, the state governor banned Marwa's declaration. The problem was that Marwa was not just declaring for the PDP. The event was actually to kick-start his presidential campaign. He is one of the Northerners raring to succeed Obasanjo in 2007.

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Marwa's trouble is that Vice President Abubakar Atiku, another top contender, is also from Adamawa State and Governor Haruna is an Atiku loyalist. In fact, in 1999 Atiku won the Adamawa State governorship election with Haruna as his deputy. When Obasanjo picked Atiku as his running mate, Haruna succeeded Atiku as governor. And since Marwa declared interest in the presidency, Adamawa has become a state Nigerians expect to be one of the battlefields for 2007.

From Minna in Niger State, is another presidential contender, the Maradonna of Nigerian politics and the country's former military president for eight years, Gen Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. Speaking mainly through ventriloquists, the man known as IBB has slowly built a nationwide campaign structure made up of his erstwhile military friends.

Although IBB has not made a categorical statement about his presidential ambition, he has engaged in a thinly veiled dogfight with Atiku since 2003 for Obasanjo's seat. Another of Marwa's problem with the Adamawa State government is that he is suspected to be IBB's decoy to undermine Atiku in his home base. One of IBB's associates told New African: "Yes, IBB would love to be back in power if the environment is favourable. If not, he would throw his weight behind Marwa." Yet Marwa, a known loyalist of IBB, insists that he is nobody's proxy.

Whereas Atiku controls the Peoples' Democratic Movement (PDM), a movement founded by Obasanjo's late deputy, Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, and whose members form the major plank of the PDP platform, IBB is reputed to have a lot of money and is spending it generously. But the Achilles heel of both men is the man they want to succeed. Reliable sources say that Obasanjo has vowed that neither Atiku nor IBB would succeed him. Observers point to the emergence of damaging reports about both Atiku and IBB. In April, Atiku's media adviser was fired by Obasanjo for disassociating Atiku from a scandal over the sale of federal government houses in highbrow Ikoyi, Lagos, in which the siblings of Obasanjo's wife, Stella, were implicated. Obasanjo's relationship with Atiku has been an uneasy one following his indecisiveness over whether to support Obasanjo during the presidential primary contest of 2003. Last May, the report of an enquiry ordered by Abacha into the disbursement of oil earned during the Gulf War was published by the Nigerian magazine, The News, and was less than flattering to IBB. Obasanjo is believed to be scouting for his own candidates and the presence of his son at Marwa's declaration was interpreted as an endorsement of him.

Meanwhile, Gen Mohammadu Buhari, who contested the seat with Obasanjo in 2003, is still in the reckoning for 2007. He continues to contest Obasanjo's 2003 victory in the Supreme Court, but his chances in 2007 depend on how much support he garners from his All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). …

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