Irate students in Abeokuta, Ogun State yesterday disrupted a campaign rally for former military dictator Ibrahim Babangida. The students then chased away Babangida’s ragtag band of campaigners from the ancient town in the southwest state of Ogun.
The students, who are members of the National Association of Nigerian Students, mobilized from various higher institutions in the state and invaded the rally organized by supporters of the former dictator.
Arriving at the Ibara neighborhood where the rally was in progress, the students sent the few pro-Babangida campaigners packing. Several eyewitnesses disclosed that the demonstrating students sang anti-Babangida and student solidarity songs before tearing down Babangida's posters and dismantling canopies erected by the campaigners.
One source told Saharareporters that the Babangida supporters put up an initial resistance, then surrendered. “They were completely outnumbered by the students,” the source said.
Babangida, who ranks as one of the hated politicians in Nigeria, recently earned the widespread condemnation when he stated that Nigerian youth were not capable of running the country.
During his 8-year rule as a military dictator, Babangida closed down national universities for several months at a time, rusticated students, fired academics and routinely jailed popular professors as well as student activists opposed to his style of governance.
One of the protesting students told Saharareporters that the attack on Babangida’s rally “is part of our continuing protest over the fact that he annulled the election of an indigene of Ogun state, Bashorun M.K.O Abiola.” Abiola, a multi-millionaire telecommunications mogul, won the presidential post in an election on June 12, 1993 that was adjudged the most credible election in Nigeria’s history. But Babangida who claimed that he had to cancel the election in the interest of Nigeria’s unity scuttled Abiola’s presidency.
The streets of Abeokuta are not the only places where Babangida's ambition to run for office is facing mass resistance. Militants in the Niger Delta are also organizing to thwart his candidature.
A press statement issued by Cynthia Whyte earlier today has declared Babangida's chief campaigner, Raymond Dokpesi, a persona non grata in the oil-rich delta. The group threatened to attack Dokpesi's business interests in the Niger Delta in the coming days.
Babangida's attempts to use popular social network sites like Facebook have met with colossal failure as well. Very few Nigerians "like" his campaign’s Facebook page. A Facebook user, Rasheed Hassan Olalere, complained on his status earlier today: "IBB, continue deleting message(s). The way you deceived Nigerians in 1985 you can't deceive Nigerians again, IBB. You are the worst leader in Nigerian history. Continue [to] block and delete Nigerians’ comments."
Mr. Olalere was furious about the penchant of Babangida's campaign staff for deleting critical messages left on his Facebook pages by angry Nigerians. Last month his campaign staff also blocked his Youtube page from receiving comments after Nigerians left an avalanche of negative posts.
Saharareporters had recently revealed how the former dictator continues to use different schemes to con Nigerians into believing that he possesses the integrity to run for office. Even so, Babangida has seen his candidacy rejected at every turn all over Nigeria.
“Babangida’s political posture does not inspire confidence even in those who want to support him,” said a former ally of the former dictator who said he is considering pitching his tent with a different candidate. He added, “Babangida seems to me to be a general in retreat.”
Candidate Babangida has been confined to his hilltop mansion, unable to physically attend campaigns after he was humiliated at Ogbe stadium in Benin, Edo state capital.
Threats by students in Ibadan forced Babangida to cancel a campaign appearance there last month.