By SUNDAY ODIBASHI
Nigeria’s former Head of State and military President, retired General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB), may have endorsed former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Abubakar Saraki, for president in 2023. An aide to IBB disclosed to National Daily that the former head of state is perceived to be supporting Saraki, former Governor of Kwara State. The aide, who was in Minna during the 80th birthday of the former head of state, added that the elder statesman has firm belief in Saraki’s leadership skills and networking across the country.
Retired General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) had in an interview with ARISE Television on his 80th birthday specified the qualities of the next President of Nigeria in 2023. IBB in that interview expressed his vision of a good Nigerian that should be president of the country in 2023. He prescribed that the next president should be a person who travels across Nigeria, has a network of friends in every state, has vast knowledge of the economy and a good politician who can talk to Nigerians. IBB prescribed the age bracket of the next president to be in the 60s, noting that he has already seen one or two, three persons that fit into the specified criteria.
IBB in the interview declared: “I have started visualising a good Nigerian leader.
“He should be a person who travels this country and has friends in every state of the country; a person who is very vast in the economy, a person who is a good politician who is ready to talk to Nigerians.
“I have seen about three already. The person should be in his 60s and I believe if we get such a person, Nigeria will get it right.”
He was relatively ambiguous if Nigeria can find such a president in 2023 but expressed optimism that such a person would make himself available.
The Aide of the former president said that consultations have been going on between Saraki, IBB and other elder statesmen on the 2023 presidential project, just like any other potential presidential aspirants in the various political parties. He stated that Saraki “is a good boy to IBB, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and some other retired Generals.” The Aide, however, stated that Dr. Obasanjo is not supporting anybody yet, noting that with time, the position of the former president would be known.
Meanwhile, IBB has declared that he is no longer involved in partisan politics but has assumed the role of an elder statesman. He, however, stated that the person Nigeria needs as president must believe in the unity of the country. This, he said, was the criterion for bringing former President Olusegun Obasanjo on board as Nigeria’s president in 1999.
It was pointed out that the former Senate President provided vibrant leadership in the Eighth Senate of the Nigerian National Assembly. Saraki, it was also pointed out, provided developmental leadership when he was Governor of Kwara State, invited and resettled the Zimbabwean White Farmers expelled by the late President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. This was cited to have facilitated the development of agriculture in Kwara State during the Saraki administration.
However, the former Senate President may have a strong contention with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who also has sufficient of the IBB prescriptions for the next president of Nigeria, with grassroots appeal across the country. Though, Atiku may not fall into the age category stipulated by IBB.
Saraki will be 61 years old in 2023 when the presidential race is contested and won.
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IBB also disapproved of the idea of zoning or rotation of the president, insisting that emphasis should be on competence and capacity to deliver. According to IBB, what Nigerians need is a leader with competence and the capacity to lead, it doesn’t matter if such a person is from Ukpilla or Minna. This appears a strong case for minority identity.