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Vol 42 No 17

Published 31st August 2001


Nigeria

Northern Lights

The north wants to rule again but its two strongest candidates are deadly rivals

General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida is once more at the centre of Nigerian politics. As he celebrated his 60th birthday in Saudi Arabia on 17 August, many northern Nigerians were asking him to run for the national leadership, to reverse what they see as the region's marginalisation under the southern President, Olusegun Obasanjo. 'IBB' is the wealthiest and probably the most influential of the six northern leaders who wish to restore the region's political dominance. Babangida's wife, Maryam Babangida, had planned a grand birthday at the family mansion in Minna, Niger State. This was reluctantly abandoned when her husband judged a star-studded party provocative. It would have played badly in the newspapers, which report growing demands for Babangida to appear before the Chukwuifudu Oputa Panel (AC Vol 42 No 15) to respond to allegations of involvement in the murder of journalist Dele Giwa in October 1986. Friends and business associates confirm that Babangida is considering running for the presidency. The question is when. In 2003, he would almost certainly be up against Obasanjo, who would enjoy the advantages of incumbency and the machinery of the People's Democratic Party which, though unimpressive, is much stronger than those of the rivals, the Alliance for Democracy and the All People's Party. Obasanjo could hardly match IBB's war chest; he is not rich as Nigerian politicians go, yet his re-election campaign will surely raise the necessary naira.

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