There are still some months to go, but next year's presidential election in Nigeria is poised for a lot of excitement. It is bound to feature an off-barracks combat among retired generals; the same group chat held the Nigerian state to ransom for over 30 years! The signs are that the influence of the military in Nigeria's politics will remain as pervasive as money and will cake quite some time to wane.
President Olusegun Obasanjo, himself a retired general, threw his hat in the ring this April as a contender after many months of procrastination. After a suspenseful interlude, during which he said, he was consulting God to direct him whether to go for a second term, he finally declared his interest on 25 April.
While the nation waited on him to get his divine inspiration, the charade for which the late General Sani Abacha was famous, was replayed.
First, a group of women from Obasanjo's ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), led by Josephine Anenih, the wife of the minister of works, Chief Tony Anenih, better known as Obasanjo's "enforcer-in-chief", went to "beg" Obasanjo to run for a second term. The women claimed, that they had received God's revelation that Obasanjo was the anointed leader!
To give it an unmistakable touch of divinity, this was followed by a delegation of some PDP stalwarts, ministers and governors who, like loyal disciples, trooped to Obasanjo's Ota Farm house on Good Friday (29 March) ostensibly to "persuade" him to run for a second term.
Critics, including influential members of his ruling parry, condemned the trip as mere sycophancy reminiscent of the Abacha rented crowd. The speaker of the House, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na'Abba, with whom Obasanjo has had a running battle, did not attend. Also absent was another hardline critic of Obasanjo, the youthful governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu.
The severe criticism which the Obasanjo "persuaders' drew, forced their man to rest the issue of whether he would run or not, for one whole month. And then it came on 25 April!
As Obasanjo was finally declaring his hand in an elaborate ceremony in Abuja, General Muhammadu Buhari (who ruled Nigeria from December 1983 to August 1985), was also declaring his candidature in his Daura hometown, Katsina State, for the opposition All People's Party (APP) ticket. Buhari is regarded as the candidate of the conservative North which has been uncomfortable with, and severely critical of, Obasanjo's government.