‘ACN presidential candidate, Nuhu Ribadu, steps down’

By Tolu Ogunlesi

Being text of a piece written for April Fools Day 2011, previously unpublished, until now.

Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) presidential aspirant, Nuhu Ribadu this morning pulled out of the April 9 presidential race, citing the “urgent need for the opposition to unite against a ruling party that has done more ruining than ruling in the last 12 years.”

Mr. Ribadu made the announcement in a terse statement sent to media organisations.

Mr. Ribadu’s action, coming barely 48 hours after another contender, Pat Utomi, stepped down, is being seen by analysts as a definite game-changer in the forthcoming elections.

“Now there’s no way Mr. Jonathan is going to win in the first round,” said Ian Kiddin, Eastern Africa expert at the George Bush Center for Global Policy and Peace Studies in Texas. “With Mr. Ribadu stepping down for Mr. Buhari, the chances of a major Jonathan-favouring split in Northern votes are significantly reduced. The best the president can get on April 9 is a run-off.”

Many Ribadu supporters were taken by surprise, and social networking sites were abuzz with debate about the announcement. Members of Team Ribadu, the campaign’s youth wing, were sighted gathering outside the campaign office, wearing black armbands. “This is a paradise for disappointment,” one of them said, parodying the title of Mr. Ribadu’s bestselling memoir, ‘A Paradise for Maggots’, which tells the story of his quest to rid Nigeria of corruption as head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

But not everyone was taken by surprise. “Ribadu has been pulling a lot of strange moves lately,” someone tweeted. Mohammed A, 26, one of a crowd of young people who gathered to chant “Sai Buhari” outside the Buhari campaign office in Lagos quipped: “Let’s face it, this should have happened long time ago. Ribadu is simply a less-experienced version of Buhari; he should wait for his time.”

Expectedly, the Buhari camp has hailed Mr. Ribadu’s decision. “We are delighted by the move, and it is now no longer a question of ‘if’ Mohammadu Buhari will become President, but ‘when.’ And we now know the answer to that question: May 29, 2011.”

Pastor Tunde Bakare, Mr. Buhari’s running mate who had, a few weeks ago, described the PDP’s campaign rallies as a “farewell party”, told journalists that he had a dream in which he saw President Jonathan and his wife “packing their belongings into Ghana-must-go bags, and boarding a canoe for the creeks of Bayelsa.”

Reactions have also come in from unexpected quarters. Spokesperson for the Lagos State chapter of the Broom-Sellers Association of Nigeria, Rukayat Olanshile, said the executive council was in an emergency meeting and would be addressing the press later today.

The PDP presidential campaign organisation declined to comment on this development, but reports have emerged of a sudden flurry of activities at the organisation’s headquarters, and at the presidential villa. Inside sources say that the President has cancelled a planned appearance at a pre-wedding party being hosted by the Nigerian High Commission in London, for Prince William and Kate Middleton, and originally scheduled for tomorrow. Rumours of a meeting between the First Lady and popular hip-hop musician D’Banj could not be confirmed as at press time. 

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