Yerima, IBB, Obasanjo: Fresh facts have emerged on how former President Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Nigerian Leader, General Ibrahim Babangida worked for the emergence of the then General Muhammadu Buhari as the candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in the build-up to the 2007 presidential election.
Former Zamfara State Governor, Senator Ahmad Sani Yerima, gave this revelation on Friday, December 29, 2023, while featuring on the second edition of ‘Inside Sources’ on Channels TV anchored by former Presidential Aide, Laolu Akande.
Obasanjo, who had already anointed Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as the PDP presidential candidate, rooted for Buhari to emerge as the opposition candidate, believing that would give him a less tedious ride to win the presidency for his party as he didn’t want Yerima, also a top contender in the ANPP then, to go head-to-head with Yaradua.
The then-governor of Zamfara State, Senator Yerima, had on October 27, 1999 introduced Sharia law in his state, and 11 other states in the north with majority Muslim populations, including those of Kano and Kaduna, followed suit, which made Yerima’s popularity to soar in the north and positioned him ahead of others as a likely winner in and general elections.
However, against the popular belief that Yerima was far ahead in the race as posited by political analysts, there was a dramatic turnaround which led to him stepping down at the party’s convention.
Narrating what happened to Akande on Inside Sources, Yerima said it was a result of a prior commitment he made to an unknown request for a favour from IBB as initiated by Obasanjo, which he said he couldn’t turn down.
He said, “The Arewa Consultative Forum had a meeting in Kaduna and it announced President Muhammadu Buhari as the sole candidate of the North and set up a committee to go around the contestants in various political parties and talk to us to please step down for Buhari so the North can have a single candidate.
“They came to me and I listened to them and I said I would think over it. But President Obasanjo, you know made sure he brought General (Ibrahim) Babangida who is still alive and begged him for me to step down. He was in PDP and I was in ANPP.”
When asked if it was true that Obasanjo didn’t want him to run against Umaru Yar’Adua, his preferred candidate in the PDP, Yerima affirmed the notion as true, saying, “Yes, he didn’t want me to run against Yar’Adua.”
According to him, Yerima said from the information he got, it was clear Obasanjo was afraid of his candidature because of his soaring popularity among his people.
“At that time, the security report showed him according to my information that because I had all the delegates in my hand, except Kano and Katsina, I left for Buhari, at that time. I had all the state chairmen of ANPP of all the 36 states and Abuja supporting me. The government knew that if I got the ticket, it was going to be a very difficult task for PDP to win for Yar’Adua to become president.”
“Then, Obasanjo sent an aircraft to bring IBB and requested him to please, talk to me so I can step down for Yar’Adua. But I didn’t know until after I stepped down and Babangida sent the late Engr Abdulkadir Kure, the former governor of Niger State, and even the former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, they were sent to come to me and to beg me to step down,” Yerima said.
When further asked if Buhari was aware of all the background political scheming, Yerima said, “Yes.”
He went further, “IBB first called me and said, ‘Senator Yerima, I said, yes, sir, IBB, I have your number,’ then he said, ‘You know I’ve never asked you for any favour in my life? I said, yes, sir. He said I am going to ask you for one favour, I said I’ve done it for you, sir.’ I didn’t know what favour he wanted to ask from me. He said, ‘Okay, I won’t tell you on the phone, but I’m going to send Bafarawa and Engr (Abdulkadir) Kure to you to inform you.’”
Narrating how their visit went, Yerima said, “They came to me in the night after 8 o’clock, and after greetings, I asked my people to go out and they said IBB sent them to me, I said yes, he said you were coming. They said, ‘The only favour he wants you to do for him is to step down for Buhari tomorrow, the convention is tomorrow.’ I said, oh my God! Please, tell him I’ve accepted, I’ve committed myself that I was going to do the favour for him.”
“Then, they said ‘No, he said whatever your answer is, we should call him and you will tell him by yourself.’ And they called IBB and I told him, ‘Sir, tomorrow, I will step down for Buhari.’ Immediately they left, I went to the national chairman, Chief Chief Ume-Ezeoke, and I told him that tomorrow I was going to step down for Buhari.
“He said, oh my God, and he started dancing. I didn’t know he was promised the vice presidential candidate. And that night, he told Buhari and Buhari was telling me that he didn’t believe me until I climbed the podium and announced it because they changed the programme at the convention venue, the Eagle Square.”
On how he broke the news to his supporters, Yerima said it was as he planned it at the convention venue, as he said the party had already concluded plans, even with a changed timetable of the programme to suit their interest.
“The timetable was opening prayer, then, there would be the national chairman’s opening remark, then all the candidates will start talking. But they changed the programme, and after the opening prayer, they said Yerima was going to speak. So, they called me first and asked me to talk. And I announced my stepping down and I appealed to all other candidates to also step down and they did, and Buhari became the only candidate,” Yerima concluded.