Northern Govs set hurdles for Atiku
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Taye Obateru, Emeka Mammah & Umar Yusuf
LAGOS—DESPITE his emergence as the consensus aspirant of the Mallam Adamu Ciroma-led Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential ticket, Atiku Abubakar was, last night, facing fresh hurdles to his long sought presidential aspiration.
Vanguard learnt that his erstwhile boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo and some of the region’s governors were working from different directions against him.
It was gathered that some of the governors were particularly miffed at the choice of Atiku by the Ciroma committee as they saw it as an outsider seeking to take over a house he had abandoned.
Vanguard enquiries among some of the Northern governors and their allies revealed that Atiku would have to work hard to win their support. In his native Adamawa State, Atiku was, as at yesterday, not confident of the support of the PDP establishment as controlled by Governor Murtala Nyako.
Atiku was, nonetheless, maintaining the bounce he received from the Monday endorsement by the Ciroma committee. After receiving the endorsement of the Mega Progressive Peoples Party, MPPP, the former Vice President told Vanguard that he would shock his enemies in Adamawa and across the country.
He further assured that the mutual interests between him and the governors would help him to overcome President Goodluck Jonathan at the forthcoming PDP primaries.
Among the governors believed to be opposed to Atiku were Governors Sule Lamido of Jigawa, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa and Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto. The trio who met in Dutse as part of their regular consultative meeting on Monday and Tuesday were surprisingly quiet on the emergence of Atiku as the NPLF choice aspirant.
An informed source described the meeting of the trio as a post-consensus political arrangement to shore up an alternative to Atiku.
Director of Press, Government House, Dutse, Umar Kariya, however, cited common political and development interests for the meeting of the trio. Two of the governors, Nyako and Lamido are known associates of President Obasanjo while sources claimed that Wamakko was predisposed to Jonathan on account of the President’s solidarity with him on his legal battles at the post-election tribunal.
Kyari told Vanguard: “They are leaders in the party and they came to discuss PDP things. What they are saying is that they want the firmness of the PDP to continue and their next meeting will come up in Abuja.
“They are by their positions leaders of the party and naturally when ever such high party men come together they would discuss the position of the party and really from what is obtaining on the ground as we head towards the primaries, they will discuss how the party will conduct the primaries as a family.”
The perceived non-interest of many of the governors to Atiku it was learnt, was being linked to his non-involvement in the process of the emergence of many of them as governors in 2007. At the time of the 2007 elections Atiku was presidential candidate of the Action Congress, AC, and had battled them in the field.
The sentiment against Atiku was equally shared in some States typically, Kaduna whose Governor, Yakowa, told Vanguard that the choice of Jonathan was a settled matter for the State.
The governor said: “For me and for us here in Kaduna, our position is very clear. The Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was until recently, the governor of this state and now, he is the number two citizen and he is together with the President on the same ticket and we are solidly in support of Jonathan/Sambo ticket.
“We are in a democracy and even here at the council chambers when we (the Northern Governors’ Forum) debated the issue, we discovered that every Nigerian has the constitutional right to aspire to be anything from President to councillor.
By so doing, everybody is exercising his constitutional right. In the process, you can dialogue with one another. I am sure that democracy allows that.”
Mixed reactions in Adamawa
In Adamawa, Atiku’s home state, mixed reactions have trailed his endorsement. While the State Chapter of the PDP described the endorsement as a welcome development if it is in the best interest of the North, the state government has kept sealed lips on this issue.
Chairman of the party, Umaru Mijinyawa Kugama who spoke to Vanguard in a telephone interview said the party will soon call a stakeholders meeting to come up with a position statement.
Adamawa State government has, however, kept sealed lips since the endorsement was announced a few days ago.
Senior Special Assistant, Media, to Governor Murtala Nyako, Alhaji Aminu Iyawa, referred our correspondent to either the secretary to the state government SSG or the commissioner for information.
In Kano, indications emerged that Kano PDP under the current leadership of Farouk Iya may not support Atiku candidacy as the consensus candidate of the North during the forthcoming party primaries.
An impeccable source close to PDP chairman in Kano explained that Kano had always voted for unity, and would not go out of its way this time around.
The source said: “Kano voted for Abiola in 1993, voted Obasanjo in 1999 and 2003 against home boys in the persons of Bashir Tofa, and late Abubakar Rimi. The patriotism has not waned over time.”
Most governors in the North Central Zone who had earlier pledged support for the Jonathan/Sambo ticket at the presidential primaries appeared indifferent to the emergence of former Atiku Abubakar as candidate of the Northern Political Forum.
Investigations at some of the government houses in the zone showed that most of the governors were standing by their initial resolve and were working towards achieving it.
An aide to Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State was emphatic on his boss “unshakeable commitment” to supporting the Jonathan Sambo ticket.
He told Vanguard that given his age and reputation as a man of his words, Jang could not go back on his promise on the matter. “He is a democrat who believes in the due process but he is also known to be a man of his words and he cannot at this time turn his back on a cause for which he had declared support.”
Meanwhile, Chairman of the PDP in Plateau State Dr. Haruna Dabin has cautioned against allowing the issue of PDP consensus candidate for the North to send wrong signals to party members in the Southern part of the country.
He told Vanguard that while the party remained neutral in the matter, it was important not to send wrong signals to other parts of the country and make it look like it is a North-South matter.
Atiku was nonetheless unmoved, yesterday, describing the perceived opposition as inconsequential.
Speaking through his spokesman, Garba Shehu, the former Vice-President said: “Atiku will surprise everyone in Adamawa and in the race as a whole. First they said we will not get the party membership, then we got it. Then it came to waiver, we got that one.
“When they started this consensus process, we were rated as not being there. We like being underrated. Adamawa will be the first to fall on Atiku’s feet. Just wait and see.”