Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) is a stalwart in the murky terrain of Nigerian politics. Sitting on the gilded stool of an elder statesman, politicians pander to him and grovel for his attention. At the turn of each election cycle, his Hilltop mansion on the outskirts of Minna, Niger state, becomes something of a “political Mecca” where entourages of power-seeking politicians visit on ”pilgrimage” just to include their names in coveted headlines that read “IBB endorses…” Almost kingmaker-like, they mill around him for recognition, and he rarely disappoints them.
On Thursday, he anointed another politician for the seat of president come 2023. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was the individual he endorsed, describing him as the kind of good man that Nigeria needs to run smoothly. IBB gave the recognition after members of Osinbajo Grassroots Organisation (OGO) visited him at his abode in Niger state.
For an elder statesman like IBB to speak so glowingly about an individual it should be sacred and impactful, yet it felt almost pedestrian. Because of the former military dictator’s history of almost always anointing any politician that deems him prestigious enough to pay homage.
Here are some presidential aspirants who have been endorsed by IBB:
“RIBADU, NIGERIA NEEDS TO TURN HER FORTUNE AROUND”
Ahead of the 2011 presidential election, IBB backed the return of the presidency to the north, following the demise of Umaru Yar’Adua while in office. He claimed Goodluck Jonathan, who was seeking re-election after finishing his late principal’s tenure, should not run because the ticket belonged to Yar’Adua and the north, by extension.
Hence, he endorsed the candidature of Nuhu Ribadu and Fola Adeola of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) after the duo visited him at his home in Minna.
He described the candidates as “the pair that the country needs to turn her fortune around”.
“I endorse generational change, which Alhaji Nuhu Ribadu and Alhaji Fola Adeola stand for. I have strong faith in them, and I believe they can deliver the goods,” IBB had said.
“Someone asked me who my candidate is, and I analysed the situation. The fact is that the country needs people of your age (young) to take over the leadership of the country.
“I believe we have to allow generational change, which the ACN candidate represents. That is why; I endorsed and supported Alhaji Ribadu and Alhaji Fola. We have faith in them and we have hope in them.”
ENDORSED BOTH BUHARI AND JONATHAN IN 2015
With a few days to the 2015 presidential election, a visit by Muhammadu Buhari, then-presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), spurred IBB to endorse the former’s ambition.
Osinbajo, the then-presidential running mate of the APC, was first to announce the claim in a tweet, saying, “General Babangida has thrown his weight behind General Buhari. He says Buhari is the right man to move Nigeria forward”.
Dino Melaye, former senator representing Kogi west senatorial district and then APC member, re-echoed Osinbajo’s claims.
“IBB endorses Buhari, IBB says ‘We will all support Buhari to be president,’” he wrote.
In a shocking twist of events, a couple of weeks later, IBB also slammed his seal of approvalon Jonathan, who was seeking re-election to the office of the president.
He said Nigeria is in “safe hands” with Jonathan as the president.
“I was touched when you visited me in Germany after nine hours of surgery, and you came again to visit me after I returned to see how I am faring,” the former head of state said.
“You have made a very good decision to visit Minna during your presidential campaign because Minna is known for producing presidents, beginning with your namesake President Azikiwe, who was born in Zungeru.
“And since then, most of the presidents of Nigeria have one thing or the other, they come here to ask for blessing, and I will offer this blessing to you, Mr President.
“When we were doing nocturnal activities for the PDP, this house held several meetings.
“My family and I are proud of this. I commend the party for being very strong.
“I see in PDP a party, an organisation devoid of religion, division. You have shown leadership; even when others break up, you have remained strong.
“Jonathan and I share a common passion which is that Nigeria remains strong, united and indivisible. I wish you well. Nigeria under Jonathan is in safe hands.”
MET WITH ATIKU IN 2017
In December 2017, IBB received Atiku Abubakar, then an aspirant for the 2019 presidential election, at his abode. After a closed-door meeting, several accounts of the meeting rented the media.
But Kassim Afegbua, spokesperson to the former military dictator, revealed that his principal had “a very useful political discussion”.
“Number one, IBB will not discourage anyone from seeking office. IBB will encourage anyone to seek election,” Afegbua had said.
”They had a very useful political discussion. IBB also has a good relationship with Atiku. It’s not good to play politics with the relationship of people.”
BACKED SARAKI AHEAD OF 2019 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
After the “very useful political discussion” with Atiku, IBB then hosted Bukola Saraki, then president of the senate and a presidential hopeful, in his abode and declared he was “convinced that you have what it takes to be president”.
He praised the former Kwara state governor as “more than prepared for the office” due to his political experience.
“You are much more than prepared because you have been a governor in a state, a legislator and a Senator,” Babangida said.
“You have been holding the senate for the past three years very well, and the senate has been working very well under you. I’m, therefore, convinced that you have what it takes to be president.”
“You spoke of three important things that are very dear to me and those of us who fought to keep this country together, the issues which are unity, economic development and security.”
ENDORSED ALL PDP PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRANTS FOR 2019 ELECTION
In 2018, as the race for the PDP presidential ticket approached a crescendo amongst aspirants, a succession of them visited IBB to feather their ambitious caps, and the former military dictator was generous enough to endorse all of them.
Aminu Tambuwwal, governor of Sokoto, was given IBB’s “blessings” to contest the party’s ticket and, by extension, Nigeria’s presidency.
“I am very proud that you belong to the generation that wants to keep Nigeria as one. You have a good team to keep that; I have no doubt that Nigerians will give you the opportunity to put these good ideas for the good of the country. You know the country. You understand the challenges of the country. I trust you will work based on your conviction for this country. You have my blessings, and I will keep monitoring to ensure you don’t deviate,” IBB had said.
Taminu Turaki, the former minister of special duties, visited Babangida on July 17, 2018. Like Tambuwal, Turaki solicited the support of the former military leader, saying he has all that is needed to improve the country.
During the visit, Babangida endorsed him while saying the agenda of the aspirant is capable of transforming the country.
“I am endorsing you because your road map can lead Nigeria to prosperity,” he had said.
“We were taught in the military that the unity of Nigeria must not be compromised; the programmes in your agenda are capable of transforming Nigeria. From your agenda, I believe you mean well for this country. I think if you are given the chance, Nigeria will witness tremendous development.
“Even though I have adopted you and you emerge as the president, I will follow you up so that if you derail, I will remind you of your promises.”
Ahmed Markarfi, former governor of Kaduna state, also paid a visit to Babangida at his residence in Minna on August 4, 2018. During the visit, Makarfi highlighted some of his plans to deal with the country’s challenges.
The former military dictator said Makarfi restored his hope of a new Nigeria, adding that the ex-governor has his blessings.
“I was almost losing hope in the country. As a military man, I wouldn’t. But having heard from the distinguished senator, I have become more enlightened and emboldened to say we have hope in Nigeria,” he had said.
“OSINBAJO, THE KIND OF GOOD MAN NIGERIA NEEDS TO RUN SMOOTHLY”
After the meeting with OGO on Thursday, IBB described Osinbajo as someone he respects because he has good intentions for the country.
He added that Nigeria needs a leader like Osinbajo to run the country.
“I know the vice-president very well. He’s a good man. I have spoken with him a couple of times, and I respect him. He is a good man, and we need good men to run this country — somebody you can learn from, somebody you share a common conviction with, and he has this passion for this great country,” Babangida said.