2023: Anxiety in APC, PDP as Generals lean towards Obi, Labour Party

December 12, 2022

About 78 days to the 2023 presidential election, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are still uncertain whom the former Military Generals are supporting for the presidency.Since 1999, the retired Generals have played a role in who becomes the Nigerian President.

In 1999, the retired General decided that former Military Head of State, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo should become the President, even when the democratic culture was against it.

Obasanjo, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, defeated Chief Olu Falae of AD/APP, the preferred candidate of the democratic culture. Since then, the retired Generals had decided, overtly or covertly, who becomes the President of the country.

In 2003, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) squared it up against then president Obasanjo in his second term. Buhari did the same against the Late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan in 2007 and 2011, respectively.

In 2015, Gen Buhari recorded an upset when he defeated the incumbent Jonathan and repeated the same feat against Atiku Abubakar in 2019.

Unlike previous elections in which two major political parties dominated the poll, things have changed as the political space has widened to accommodate more parties and candidates. Eighteen political parties and their candidates are jostling to succeed Buhari.

But the race has been reduced to a four-horse race. They are: Peter Obi running on the platform of the Labour Party (LP), Bola Tinubu, All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku of the opposition PDP and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People Party (NNPP).

To this end, every presidential candidate had gone to pay homage to the retired Generals, especially Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Theophilus Danjuma, Abdulsalam Abubakar, Abubakar Gusua and many more.

A chieftain of the APC and former Minister of Works and Housing, Chief Adeseye Ogunlewe in a previous interview said the military had always had their hands in who becomes the president of the country.

He said: “There has never been 100 per cent zoning in any election in Nigeria. In 1999 and 2003, Alex Ekwueme contested against former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

In 2011, Abubakar Atiku contested against President Jonathan. The issue of zoning doesn’t matter at all for anybody who is a serious contender… you can still contest. The party can never and the Constitution does not allow discrimination to that level. You cannot say we have zoned and only that area would bring candidates.

“It is not like that. Everybody who believed there was a decision to zone to the South West in 1999 is not correct because the original structure of G37 was led by Ekwueme and no Yoruba man was at the forefront of that struggle at that time.

Bola Ige also joined them later, but the main actors that fought against national structure, apart from NADECO, was the G37 and it was coordinated and managed by Ekwueme.

“When it came to decision-making, Ekwueme and Shagari were President and Vice-President foisted by the military. When the military wanted to give back, they would give it to people they drove away from the government? They believed it would be dangerous. That is why they decided to give it to someone, who was part of them. That was why they gave it to Obasanjo, who can protect them.

“There is an underlying decision-making process in Nigeria that is not known to all of us- everybody wants to protect himself. How do you allow someone that is perceived as your enemy to take over the government of the country and the power of the presidency is too enormous to be toyed with. Everybody is being careful.

“Probably, in the next 10 years, most of the generals who participated in the coup would have gone. Maybe, Nigeria would have been more stable. They are still very predominant in the government of Nigeria.

“They cannot excuse themselves. They cannot pretend that they don’t care. They must care. They must anticipate probable problems and that is what is playing out in Nigeria, which people are not seeing.

“But it will take time for them to exit and there will be a fresh set of people who did not participate in all the atrocities the military had committed since 1966. Until all of them leave the stage, Nigeria cannot have proper democracy because of their fear. I really appreciate all their fears.

Look at the history. They foisted some people; they removed them from power.

They gained grounds; they established, they have oil blocs and they are now wealthy to determine who is going to succeed them or who is going to be president of Nigeria and you want them to give it to somebody they don’t trust? It is difficult.”

According to a source, ahead of the 2023 polls, the retired Generals have zeroed on a candidate, and Olusegun Obasanjo is the one communicating that to Nigerians.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has spoken highly of the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi, even though all other major presidential candidates have visited the Generals.

The source claimed that the Generals were resolute on the choice of Peter Obi as Presidential candidate, a position that former President Olusegun Obasanjo is always communicating.

The source said Obasanjo represents the Generals and if you listen to and read what Obasanjo says, it indicates that the Generals have endorsed Peter Obi.

The former President had always warned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to conduct an election that would not be generally acceptable.

The Generals’ position as communicated by Obasanjo is that the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi stands a better chance to change the fortunes of the country.

A retired General told Sunday Telegraph that “you don’t expect all the Generals to speak on the same issue at the same time. They have taken a position and their position is being communicated by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

“They have met and listened to all the major presidential candidates and they Nigehave taken their decision on who to support.

“They are also a serious bloc of support for the Presidential election, especially. If you had watched well no other Presidential candidate had been mentioned by the Generals for support. The only mention of the Generals in support of the Presidential candidate is Peter Obi to the extent that there was an allegation that Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma gave Obi a private jet.

Meanwhile, one-time Commandant, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Nigerian Army, Major General Ishola Williams (rtd), has said that the absence of a retired General on the ballot constiute one good thing about the 2023 general elections.

General Williams, made this known in an exclusive chat with Sunday Telegraph in response to what he makes of the development.

“This is good for Nigeria,” General Williams enthused. “It is the first time that nobody knows who will become the President of Nigeria. Secondly, the first time that there are three political parties unlike the previous years where two parties dominated others and you consider others as mushroom parties. Although the Constitution of Nigeria does not allow for an Independent candidate, it allows them an option of a third party unlike when the dominant parties are foisted on them.

He continued: “Also, one of the three candidates is younger, in age and in terms of exposure is less than the two others and is giving them a run for their money.

“Furthermore, if you read the lip and the body language of the president, he has said that everybody should vote for the party and candidate of their choice. He has indeed shown that he is for nobody and is for everybody.” (Text, excluding headline: Sunday Telegraph).

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