Atiku Positions as Alternative to Buhari, Meets Babangida in Minna

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By Laleye Dipo in Minna    

Former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Sunday pressed ahead with his quest for the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP), nomination for the 2019 presidential election, with a meeting with former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), in Minna, capital of Niger State.

Atiku’s visit, which his campaign officials said was private, was part of an elaborate strategy to position him as the most viable alternative to President Muhammadu Buhari, who is believed not only to have incumbency advantage but might also be helped to retain his seat by the dearth of strong opposition to his stool.

The former vice-president was accompanied by some members of his presidential nomination campaign organisation to the Hilltop residence of the gap-toothed former army general who is also an influential member of the PDP and is believed to be neck deep in a search for a viable alternative to the president.

Although officials of both Babangida and Atiku did not tell the outcome of the closed door meeting, which lasted for three hours, THISDAY learnt that the presidential ambition of the latter was discussed and preliminary observations made on the chances of Atiku.

Several supporters of the Waziri Adamawa had stormed Babangida’s residence, turning the place to a carnival of a sort, singing and dancing.

THISDAY gathered that they were however, disappointed when the presidential hopeful did not brief them after the meeting. 

“I am not happy at all because we have been waiting for him for the past four hours. He could not even wave at us,” said Nabila Mohammed, an Atiku supporter who was at the Babangida residence venue of the meeting.

But Atiku’s media assistant, Paul Ibe, explained that there was no need for any briefing since the visit was a private one.

However, THISDAY learnt that the meeting discussed the plan of some former generals who were in power before and who are dissatisfied with the performance of the president, and are, therefore, looking for a replacement for him.

Among the former generals routing for the ousting of Buhari are Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who earlier in the year wrote to the president to perish the idea of a second term, having failed to perform above average in the last three years.

Other prominent ex-generals presently associated with the coalition, according to findings, include Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma, former Head of State Abdulsalami Abubakar, General Zamani Lekwot and General Joshua Dongoyaro.

It was learnt that because of their disagreements with some key policies of Buhari administration, the ex-generals had formed what a source called “a strong coalition against Buhari’s second term ambition in 2019.”

The plot, according to sources, is spearheaded by Obasanjo, who had accused Buhari of non-performance.

It was gathered that the ex-generals, some of whom served under Obasanjo in the military, had been holding surreptitious meetings for over a year now on how to stop Buhari.

Investigations revealed that several of the meetings held in Abuja while a few elements in the coalition have also met overseas to perfect strategies on how to stop Buhari at all costs.

Part of the plot, according to sources, is to mount a campaign of non-performance, highlighting the many weaknesses and drawbacks of the current administration with a view to discrediting it.

Obasanjo, who has accepted the daunting task of being the brain-box and face of the coalition, has been harping on the economic performances of the current administration, declaring them as appalling.

The insecurity challenge, especially the herdsmen attacks, also offers the coalition a massive outlet to bark at the administration.

Atiku, being a former vice-president and a former para-military officer, is said to be positioning himself as a viable alternative to Buhari, flaunting his credentials not only as an associate of the former generals but also as a tested public officer who could be trusted to carry out the vision of the ex-generals given his background.

The former vice-president had formerly told his party National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, last week of his interest in the presidential slot of the party.

He had been doing the rounds, visiting governors elected on the party’s platform and telling them that the party stood a better chance to unseat Buhari with him as the PDP candidate.

The lingering quarrel with his former principal, Obasanjo, is however, said to be a major stumbling block to Atiku’s chance of leading the ex-generals’ charge against Buhari.

THISDAY, however learnt that some of the former generals are prevailing on Obasanjo to give Atiku a second chance. The conditions for this, it was learnt, were the main focus of the meetin Sunday.