FORMER Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), allegedly lured former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar into a political battle with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo prior to the 2007 general election, the United States diplomatic mission in Nigeria was quoted to have reported in a dispatch to the States Department.
While allegedly secretly encouraging Atiku into a political spat with Obasanjo, Babangida was also at the same time allegedly hobnobbing with Obasanjo with the hope of getting his endorsement for the 2007 presidential contest, according to the United States cable obtained by Wikileaks and downloaded to the internet.
The revelations were the outcome of interactions between US Consul-General in Nigeria at that time, Mr. Brian L. Browne and notable political stakeholders in the country in that period.
Among those in contact with the US senior diplomat was Prof. Ukandi Damachi, allegedly a close
confidant of Gen. Babangida and a former staff of the University of Lagos now into private business.
Damachi was, yesterday, said to be out of the country to Geneva, Switzerland.
Associates of Babangida and Atiku preferred not to enter the fray yesterday following the new political unity that was forged between the two men ahead of the 2011 presidential election.
The cables arose from the US mission’s observations on the political future of Atiku which the US diplomat reported as dimming on the basis of his troubles with then President Obasanjo.
The leaked American cables disclosed how pro-Obasanjo elements in the administration in 2005 allegedly looked with expectation towards the investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, FBI, into the alleged relationship between Atiku and US Congressman William Jefferson with the hope that the investigations would indict Atiku.
In his distress, Atiku, according to the cables, allegedly sought alliance with Babangida, who in turn was said to have promised to secretly support Atiku while at the same time allegedly hobnobbing with Obasanjo with the alleged intention of getting political mileage from the latter.
Extracts from the leaked cables downloaded into the internet pertaining to Obasanjo, Atiku and Babangida reads thus:
Cable S E C R E T LAGOS 001425
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/07/2015
TAGS: PGOV PREL NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIAN VP’S POLITICAL FUTURE DIMS
Classified By: Consul General Brian L. Browne for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).
1. (S) Summary. A long-standing consulate contact said pro-Obasanjo hardliners in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were eagerly waiting information from the FBI they hoped would incriminate Vice-President Atiku. In his political distress, Atiku is reaching out to former head-of-state Ibrahim Babangida (IBB). The contact, who is close to Babangida, said this is the type of situation in which Babangida thrives. Babangida will secretly support Atiku while informing Obasanjo of some of what Atiku is up to —this way hoping to score points with the President. End
2. (S) In a September 1 meeting with the Consul- General, Professor Ukandi Damachi opined the PDP appeared to be moving up its timeline from early next year to right now to dump VP Atiku. He said Obasanjo loyalists believe the FBI’s investigation of Congressman Jefferson will unearth evidence of misconduct by VP Atiku. The rumour circulating among the political elite is that the USG will come down hard on Atiku’s wife, purportedly a U.S. citizen, for tax evasion.
This should be enough to finish Atiku, Damachi smiled.
3. (S) Atiku has been making overtures to former head-of-state Babangida, Damachi’s political boss. Atiku wants to gather anti-Obasanjo allies to form a new political alliance of political heavyweights such as himself and IBB. Of course, IBB’s strategem is not as coarse and is more Machiavellian than Atiku’s. Damachi said IBB will likely give Atiku assurances of support in hopes of enticing Atiku into battling Obasanjo.
Simultaneously, IBB will also keep his lines open to Obasanjo, informing him of some of Atiku’s plans. IBB hopes to keep Obasanjo and Atiku feuding so that they enervate themselves. At the same time, IBB figures he can better position himself in Obasanjo’s future political calculations if he is seen as helping Obasanjo by feeding him information on Atiku. Damachi said IBB would begin to perfect this strategy the weekend of September 2-3 when most of the Northern elite, including Atiku, would be attending a series of weddings in Kano. IBB, Damachi said, would encourage Atiku to start his own party as a way of not allowing Obasanjo to bury him and as a way of remaining in the hunt for 2007.
4. (C) With Atiku under siege, IBB feels he has more room to manoeuver. IBB’s instincts are correct but he overestimates his ability to spin this situation to his liking. Both Atiku and Obasanjo are aware of IBB’s legerdemain and will not be taken by his expressions of support. Thus, while IBB may enjoy the gamesmanship of political intrigue, his vaunted mastery of the craft has actually restricted his ability to act effectively and will unlikely advance his position appreciably. End comment.
5. This cable has been cleared by Embassy Abuja.